Saturday, 14 April 2012

Spitfires buried in Burma during war could be returned to UK



Spitfires buried in Burma during war could be returned to UK

Many good things look to be coming out of the recent political shift taking place in Burma and the diplomatic visit from the Prime Minister a few days ago.  One of the more minor results - small in the grand scheme of things but of great interest to the likes of you and me - is the potential repatriation of no less than 20 Supermarine Spitfires that were buried in the Burmese jungle at the end of the Second World War.

Spitfires in Burma, August 1945
That's right - a whole squadron-worth of Spitfires that were shipped out to the RAF in the Far East early in 1945 currently lie under several feet of Burmese soil at the disused airfield from where they would have flown in the last months of the war.  Except they never did.  They never even made it out of their crates to be reassembled and military aviation historians who are helping to investigate the possibility of their recovery believe that they will be waxed, greased, wrapped and therefore perhaps in the same condition as when they came off the boat in 1945.  If true, it will certainly make restoration that much easier!

These twenty Spits - almost half as many as are currently airworthy worldwide - never saw action as it was feared, even as late as July 1945, that a Japanese invasion of Burma was being planned.  Rather than let valuable war materiél fall into enemy hands it was decided to bury them as they were.  A matter of weeks later the atomic bombs ended the war and the aeroplanes have remained undisturbed ever since. 



The thought of increasing the number of flyable Spits by almost 50% sounds almost too good to be true - all the more so given the time-capsulesque nature of this discovery.  By the sounds of it things seem to be moving fast, though, and these twenty lost Spitfires - probably Mark VIIIs, which were among the most numerous variants in the Pacific theatre at the time - could be back in the country and undergoing well-deserved restoration very soon.

5 comments:

  1. It does indeed sound almost too good to be true! I am pleased you have your ear to the ground on things like this - or they would pass me by! Your blog is always such a trove :)

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  2. Mr Robot and I are thinking of going to Burma now the opposition no longer oppose tourism; my grandfather came from there and never got to go back, so I've always wanted to go to his hometown for him.

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  3. Great news indeed. I was at Duxford for the Spitfire Diamond Jubilee and shall never forget seeing 16 Spitfires in the air at once.

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  4. That would be great if those planes made it back to the UK and were put together and flown. The military always packed things to last at one time. Nowadays I do not even think any government goes through the extremes they once did to preserve things.

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  5. Your blog is fascinating and a pleaseure to peruse! There was a beautiful Mk IX on display in front of the War Museum in Athens for years (it's now at the Air Force Museum). I seem to remember reading (in The Aeroplane or Flypast) that this was the most authentic preserved Spitfire as it contained no parts fabricated post-war. My dad, as a kid, recalled seeing Spits in action against ground targets during the Greek Civil War in the late 40s.

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