Twenty-five years ago a British farmer by the name of David Cundall overheard a group of American World War II vets discussing how they had buried a squadron of unused Supermarine Spitfire fighter planes in the jungles of Burma. The plan was to leave them there until the RAF needed them, at which time they could be dug up and pressed into service. But as the war ground to a halt and newer planes replaced the Spitfire, there was never a need to retrieve the hidden aircraft. So, they’ve stayed there, buried under 40 feet of soil, ever since. That story struck a chord with Cundall, who was a farmer at the time, and for some reason felt compelled to go looking for the lost planes. Two-and-a-half decades, and $210,000 later, he has found them, and the discovery has exceeded his imagination.
Cundall started his search about 15 years ago, making regular trips to Burma, which is now known as Myanmar, to comb the jungles there. Earlier this year, he finally found what he had been looking for but while he expected to locate about 20 planes, he has actually discovered nearly 140. All of them are still stored, wings folded back, in their original crates and are wrapped in wax paper and covered in grease. That has kept them in near mint condition, even after being buried in the jungle for nearly 70 years.
After the discovery, Cundall petitioned the government of Myanmar for permission to begin excavating the vintage planes. They have recently granted him that permission, and he is now free to start the process of digging them up and shipping them home. And why exactly would he want to dig up all of those old planes? Because each of the Spitfires is estimated to be worth about $2.5 million when sold to a collector. That makes the entire find worth roughly $350 million.
It seems this lost cache of British fighters may not be the only one either. According to the “Business Insider” story linked to above, there are rumors that more than 230 Spitfires were buried somewhere in Queensland, Australia, as well. To date, none have been found, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from searching.
[Photo credit: RAF via WikiMedia]