They Called Them – Spitfires


David Cundall Makes Spitfire History with Burma-Myanmar Find


                    …by Jim Dean, VT Editor                     …featuring David Cundall


The plane that save Britain in WWII

We ran across this David Cundall story on the BBC last year when we published our first piece on it. It seemed like something out of a dream, scores of brand new Spitfires buried in Burma at the end of WWII.

Even more amazing was the War Department did not lead the way on their recovery, but a stubborn and determined British farmer that made it a life’s quest.

David Cundall has his team in Myanmar now and they are digging up what will hopefully be their first Spitfire.

Despite the water having to be pumped out of their first buried crate, they felt that the gun grease used to protect the planes would still have them in pristine condition. Needless to say we are all waiting with baited breath.

The British government people were Johnny come latelies, but better late than never. They provided some stage two funding to send the recovery teams to Myanmar and assured Cundall that he will be taken care of for his years of out of pocket cost for his search.

And to add to the international expedition, a wealthy computer war game millionaire from Belarus, Victor Kislyi, also jumped in with a half million dollars to fund the initial digs. With luck, possibly a hundred brand new Spitfires might be recovered with many to fly again, literally coming out of their graves to do so.

The next few months will be very exciting ones for WWII historians, and especially all of the hard working  and dedicated combat plane restorers who have kept the air shows running all of these years.

[youtube SgDt4TLVKLA] – Cundall in Burma

Don’t miss the Spitfire gun camera footage at the end of the AP article below.  It’s a gem.


David Cundall – the Man and His Dream

YANGON, Myanmar — AP    An excavation team searching for a stash of legendary World War II-era British fighter aircraft in northern Myanmar said a wooden crate believed to contain one of the planes has been found, full of muddy water.

How much water damage occurred was not yet clear, and searchers could not definitively say what was inside the crate. But British aviation enthusiast David J. Cundall, who is driving the hunt for the rare Spitfire planes, called the results “very encouraging.”

“It will take some time to pump the water out … but I do expect all aircraft to be in very good condition,” Cundall told reporters Wednesday in Myanmar’s main city, Yangon.

The Spitfire helped Britain beat back waves of German bombers during the war that ended in 1945, and it remains the most famous British combat aircraft. About 20,000 Spitfires were built, although the dawn of the jet age quickly made the propeller-driven, single-seat planes obsolete.

As many as 140 Spitfires – three to four times the number of airworthy models known to exist – are believed to have been buried in near-pristine condition in Myanmar by American engineers as the war drew to a close.

The wooden crate was found in Myitkyina in Kachin state during a dig that began last month. Several digs are planned nationwide, including another near the airport in Yangon.

Historical photo of a Spitfire being buried

Cundall said the search team in Kachin inserted a camera in the crate and found water. What else was inside the crate was unclear and pumping out the water could take weeks, he said.

The go-ahead for excavation came in October when Myanmar’s government signed an agreement with Cundall and his local partner.

Under the deal, Myanmar’s government will get one plane for display at a museum, as well as half of the remaining total. DJC, a private company headed by Cundall, will get 30 percent of the total and the Myanmar partner company Shwe Taung Paw, headed by Htoo Htoo Zaw, will get 20 percent.

During the project’s first phase, searchers hope to recover 60 planes: 36 planes in Mingaladon, near Yangon’s international airport; six in Meikthila in central Myanmar; and 18 in Myitkyina. Others are to be recovered in a second phase.

Searchers hope the aircraft are in pristine condition, but others have said it’s possible all they might find is a mass of corroded metal and rusty aircraft parts.

Cundall said the practice of burying aircraft, tanks and jeeps was common after the war.

“Basically nobody had got any orders to take these airplanes back to (the) UK. They were just surplus … (and) one way of disposing them was to bury them,” Cundall said. “The war was over, everybody wanted to go home, nobody wanted anything, so you just buried it and went home. That was it.”

Stanley Coombe, a 91-year-old war veteran from Britain who says he witnessed the aircraft’s burial, traveled to Myanmar to observe the search.

It is “very exciting for me because I never thought I would be allowed to come back and see where Spitfires have been buried,” Coombe said. “It’s been a long time since anybody believed what I said until David Cundall came along.”


[youtube Zv8rFPLN_Fg] – Spitfire gun camera footage


Here is a bonus video that I just found. A German 109 fighter pilot stumbles across the most shot up bomber that his has ever seen, and can’t shoot it down.  Instead of flying the safe route to Sweden 30 minutes away, and internment for the rest of the war, he goes for his British base and makes it. And yes, many years later, these two pilots get to meet each other. This is a treasure.

[youtube _8EkmyoG83Q] – 109 will not shoot down crippled bomber

Editing:  Jim W. Dean


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Jim W. Dean was an active editor on VT from 2010-2022.  He was involved in operations, development, and writing, plus an active schedule of TV and radio interviews.