Burmese Spitfire excavation to start soon

A Spitfire Mk XIV at Duxford (Photo Brian Proctor (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)).

Since the announcement last April that some 20 Spitfire Mk XIV had been found buried in Burma, very little information has been available concerning this extraordinary discovery. Some observers were understandably sceptical, given the lack of information and rumours stating that there could be 60 or more such Spitfires to be found.

These last few days, more information has appeared in British press. It would seem that the excavations should start at the end of the month and will take up to two years. A contract has been signed between David Cundall, the British enthusiast who discovered the location of the buried aircraft, and the Burmese government.

The first part of the operation should unearth 60 aircraft (instead of 20 as initially thought): 36 in Mingaladon, 18 in Myitkyina and six in Meikthila.More aircraft are supposed to be excavated later. The Burmese government is expecting to recuperate one aircraft for display in a museum, as well as half of the remaining aircraft. David Cundall’s company DJC will recuperate 30% while Burmese partner company Shwe Taung Paw will keep the remaining 20%.


Permanent link to this article: https://www.worldwarbirdnews.com/2012/10/19/burmese-spitfire-excavation-to-start-soon/


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    • exgrum on October 19, 2012 at 9:03 PM
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    Wow! I wonder what mark Spitfires these are?!

    1. Spitfire Mk XIV mostly.

    • Clive Williams,The Pippins, Staithe Road, Hickling, Norfolk, NR12 0YJ on October 24, 2012 at 5:02 PM
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    In the 1980’s at Woking Surrey I met with Mr Penny, a Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot, who was recovered once from the English Channel and once from the beach at Beachy Head, both in lost Spitfires and returned through Shoreham by Lysander to Kenley. He earned the name Flt.Sgt. “Bad” Penny for the habit of keeping on turning up! Thereafter he flew Mk 1 Spitfires modified for the desert in North Africa and next encountered many Spitfires as a Flt.Lieut.Penny in Singapore at the end of matters when he had the task of arranging for UNOPENED, CRATED SPITFIRES TO BE TIPPED OVERBOARD FROM A BACK END OF AN AMERICAN DESTROYER. Could any of Mr Cundall’s Spits be connected with Mr Penny’s experience? I arranged for him, with his failing eyesight to sign a book for B o B flyers at the Imperial War Museum. When downed at Beachy Head, he was told by the M.O. at Kenley that he might experience sight problems later for the ME 109 had managed to make a hit on the back of his head at the point where optic nerves were vulnerable. Moorfields confirmed the Kenley M.O.’s diagnosis. He was for some time a steward and manager at a shooting club in Bisley. I believe the old “Bad Penny” said that as many as 25 boxed Spits went into the sea off Singapore. including perhaps some of the original B o B craft and the same ones which had been modified for the desert against Irwin Rommel and Afrika Korps.

      • Paul Grogan on November 9, 2012 at 11:24 AM
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      Just add a little more to the story about Spitfires being dumped overboard after the second world war. I used to work with a chap called George Russell (sadly died of a heart attack in 1978) and he was with the Royal Navy posted to Australia / Singapore at the end of the war. He told me he was part of the crew responsible for pushing airframes and engines – all crated up and never used – off the back of the aircraft carrier. Apparently, they used to steal all the Rolls Royce engine tools kits out of the crates and sell them for their beer money!

      • Rex Barron on December 14, 2012 at 11:27 AM
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      Unfortunately for this story there is no Penny, Flt lieutenant or otherwise, listed as a BoB pilot or aircrew.
      If you you had seen the aft deck of a WW2 US destroyer you would realise that fitting one 35 foot crate would have been bloody hard work let alone trying to fit more than one.

    • Geoff. on November 7, 2012 at 9:07 PM
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    My neighbour told me he heard that loads of crated spits and others where dumped off the coast of australia by the RN never read anything anywhere about them though ?

    • Clive Williams on November 8, 2012 at 4:49 PM
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    Mr Penny was very clear about the spits which were apparently taken from RAF Changi in Singapore to be loaded onto a (U.K./USA/AUSSIE Destroyer and then pushed off the back of said destroyer by his RAF blokes.

    • James wilberger on November 21, 2012 at 6:38 PM
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    According to the Burma spitfire Facebook the dig has been pushed back until jane 1st 2013 because the water table is to high .

    • Rex Barron on December 13, 2012 at 6:53 PM
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    The first thing to be dumped at the end of hostilities is excess ammunition. Under peace time regulations ammunition is expensive to store and transport, so armies dump and Governments turn a blind eye. There are entire reefs made of dumped ammo in the Pacific, the thought of somebody drilling down to see what is at the end of a radar picture next to Burma’s International airport scares and horrifies me.

    The time lines don’t see to match up on this story……..Slims army just made it to Rangoon at the end May they beat the monsoon by a few hours, it would have taken two to three weeks to secure and clear Mingladon airfields (there were three in a triangular pattern) for use as there were booby traps and they had been hammered by USAAF B17’s and RAF Liberators. The Japs capitulated on the 2 October. So someone ordered a large number of Spitfires from Castle Bromwich and shipped them to Rangoon without any paperwork or manifests of any kind just as the existing Beaufighters and Spitfire Squadron that had been flown in from India were ordered to cease air patrols and concentrate on ground attack as total air superiority had been achieved.

    RAF Mingladon stayed in British hands until the 1950’s and was Burma’s main airport, so you have to ask yourself why, with all the facilities, hangers all weather runways etc etc they took perfectly good Spitfires off the cargo boat and promptly buried them when the RAF had every intention of staying on as long as possible.

    • Clive Williams on December 14, 2012 at 3:56 PM
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    Mr Penny was, before the war, involved at Brooklands, where one of his first jobs was to carry some of the family of lucky folk who went up for a fifty bob circuit and bump trip, with Mr Penny along for the ride on his motor bike with pillion passengers for five bob a go.At lunchtimes at the famed regular pub on the Byfleet Road, the pilot passed over control to young Penny and he learned to fly around the Brooklands track if anyone turned up for a flight at lunchtime, so cutting his flying teeth. In 1939 he joined the R.A.F. and was based at Kenley, as a Flight Sergeant. He was promoted Flt.Lieutenant after home service and served in the Western Desert at that rank, and in Singapore. I was asked to speak to Mr Penny about getting his name in the BoB autograph album at The Imperial War Museum, which he did, by taxi from Moorfields Eye Hospital intransit to Waterloo Station after a consultation on his eyesight. Woking RAF charity knew Mr Penny. The autograph-hunter for the BoB book phoned me to express his thanks for introducing Mr Penny to the project from IWM.

      • Rex Barron on December 14, 2012 at 4:23 PM
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      Mr Penny may be all that but he did not participate in the Battle of Britain in any flying capacity. I have the entire list of those who flew during the accepted BoB dates including age, nationality, aircrew status, number of confirmed kills and probables and postings through what is some times a very short career.

    • Paul Grogan on December 14, 2012 at 10:24 PM
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    Jst to clarify my point a little more, my friend George Russell was definitely on a British Royal Navy aircraft carrier when he was party to pushing Spitfire airframes and engines off the back and into the sea.

    • Mike Hallums on January 10, 2013 at 10:51 PM
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    My father, Victor John Hallums, was an engine fitter on 177 squadron Beaufighters based in Burma. He told me that after the war had ended they were flown to an airfield near Chittagong and buried. He said 32 big holes were bulldozed by the Americans and the Beaus were pushed in, then covered up. Then the groundcrews were flown home in Liberators, which took days. He said that before they left they became so bored so a few of the engineers converted a small aircraft air compressor to a piston engine. On the day they left for home they tied it to a post, started it and left it running.

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