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The good news for today

There are a whole bunch of intact, carefully packed Spitfires coming home to roost. It may be the case that parts are swapped into a couple to get some in the air quickly, but my bet is that all 20 will fly within then next 15 years.

And there may be a lot more of them if they can find the other sites.

28 comments to The good news for today

  • M. Thompson

    The greatest symbol of Britain flies again.

  • According to EUReferendum the story in the Telegraph was seriously garbled.

    I wonder if it will turn out that these are the Spitfires that Israel sold to Burma in 1954 or thereabouts ? If so they will certainly have had an interesting history. First with the Czech squadrons of the RA, then with the IAF during the War of independence and then with Burma.

  • Errol Cavit (@errolwi)

    Lots of warbird-geek discussion (including plausible claims to have seen the radar scans) at Key Publishing(Link)

  • Paul Marks

    I should not need to give the political back story to Burma – but, thanks, to the standard disinformation from the msm (led, in this case, by the BBC) I have to.

    We are told that the reason Burma is poor and isolated (and, for example, these Spitfires have not been dug up) is because of “colonialism” and “right wing military rule” (to be fair the words “right wing” are rarely used, although they are sometimes for example on “comedy” shows such as the “Newsquiz” which are dominated by Mr J. Hardy and other Marxists, normally it is just IMPLIED that Burma was under “right wing” rule).

    In reality….

    Burma prospered under British rule, and it also prospered again after the Japanese (who came in using “anti colonialist exploitation” propaganda similar to that of the BBC and so on) were pushed out by General Slim (or “Fat Boy Slim” as the young student scum wrote as the defaced his statue during one of their riots).

    Burmese prosperity was ended by the SOCIALIST REVOLUTION of 1962 which brought the SOCIALIST General Ne Win to power.

    “Paul do you have to bring politics into everything?”

    Sadly, given the level of disinformation in the education system and the msm, I do.

    Now Paul will retreat and leave nice people to discuss the relative merits of Spitfires and American Hellcats – and how they both used Rolls Royce Merlin engines (and so on).

  • Dale Amon

    No, the Burmese Spitfires are pretty much accounted for. These are WWII Spits that were reported to have been buried unassembled in their original packing cases at the end of the War. One of the caches has been found and confirmed by borehole. That site has between 12 and 20, depending on whether the extra 8 were also buried.

    This is confirmed information.

    There has been discussion of this search in the war bird community off and on for many years.

    There are reportedly quite a few other sites where equipment was buried at the end of WWii, particularly some American sites where boxes of unused engines and parts and bit of airframes were dumped in trenches and just bulldozed over, but this is the only one I know of where the aircraft were carefully packed for recovery.

    There is also fairly strong evidence that fully loaded He111’s and other aircraft are buried underground under the runway of the airport in Berlin where the facilities were
    simply bulldozed by the allied occupiers at the end of the war to get the runways back in operation as quickly as possible.

    There are thousands of intact airframes scattered over the ocean floor, particularly in the Pacific. At the end of the war they just took load after load out to sea and dumped them over the side. Some day someone will start finding and retrieving those, given the advances in undersea technology like the film maker Cameron’s submersible.

  • Jim

    I’m sorry but the geek in me couldn’t let that Paul Marks comment lie (even if it was on purpose) – US Hellcat fighters had a radial engine, which is completely different to the inline Merlin engine in the Spitfire. The P51 Mustang did however use a Merlin engine, albeit one built under licence in the States.

  • LCB

    Jim beat me to it. All carrier aircraft, such as the Hellcat, used by the USN during WW2 used radial engines, at least all that I know of.

    I’m not sure why, but I always assumed it was because loss of coolant in an inline engine would be catastrophic over the ocean; the pilot being found on an endless sea was not likely early in the war. Over land the pilot could bail out with a decent chance of survival.

  • LCB

    Stuff like this is the only thing that makes me envy people like Branson. “Hey, I’ll pay to restore 19 of the Spits if I can have one!!!!”

    The Spit MKii has always been my favorite airplane. Nothing else just looks like it was meant to fly like the Spit…

  • Dale Amon

    Ah, but now you are talking to a serious warbird geek! The early marks of the P-51 had the Allison engine. Interestingly enough those aircraft, although often said to have not been as good, were actually better at some tasks. They apparently performed much better at low levels than did the better known later P-51 marks with the Rolls Royce engine.

    Different jobs, different engines.

  • Dale Amon

    However these appear to be 8’s and 14’s, not 2’s. Which makes sense as these were late model ones. Also, most of the articles I have read are written by people who don’t really know this stuff very well. The best number I know on the number of flying Spit’s is somewhere around 90+, not the 35 or 45 some of the articles on the net indicate.

    I expect the next issue’s of Fly Past and The Aeroplane will have some solid and knowledgeable info in them.

  • Dale Amon

    Also, I think some of these Mark’s are Griffin, not Merlin engined airframes.

  • LCB

    You are correct Dale. I’d heard about this before I read the linked article and got it in my head that they were buried before the Japenese invasion. But I’m not even sure there were Spits in Burma at the time. More likely Hurricanes were the best the British had in Burma then. Dang…now I’m going to have to do a little research on dah webs…

  • LCB

    According to this website prior to the Japanese invasion the fighters were Brewster Buffaloes (what a rotten name for a fighter) and, after Christmas ’41, 30 Hurricanes.

    More I thought about it, of course the Spits were kept for home defense that early in the war.


  • Dale Amon

    The US made Brewsters were also in use in the Phillipines at the time. They were a wretched little fighter and totally outclassed. Interestingly enough, the Finns made good use of them against the Russians in their little side-war.

    There are very few of them still around. The only one I have ever seen is at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island (http://www.cradleofaviation.org/exhibits/index.html). There is also one in a museum in Finland that is a veteran of their war. I believe it was pulled out of a subarctic lake.

    Your confusion was probably natural: whoever wrote at least one of the articles was also a deeply historically confused person as well. If you want trust-worthy info, I recommend Fly Past or The Aeroplane web sites. I’ve not looked yet to see what they have up, but they are folks who know what they are talking about when it comes to aviation history.

  • M. Thompson

    The Brewster Buffalo/F2A was a Navy aircraft, and not operationally flown by the US Army Air Force/Corps. The Dutch flew them in the East Indies, and Marine Buffaloes in VMF-221 were slaughtered defending Midway.

  • Dale Amon

    You may be right. I might have confused them in my mind with the RAF ones in the battle over Singapore. I’m still trying to find some order of battle for the Philippines though. I know they had a lot of outdated aircraft there… I believe they had some early mark B-17’s, but I can’t seem to find the references I am looking for.

    Strangely enough, I find the Buffalo does not even get its own listing in my WWII aircraft encyclopedia and is mostly mentioned for its dichotomous role as Zero-fodder in the Pacific and surprising success in Northern Finland.

  • Bruce

    I hope this story has more veracity than the stories still circulating about crated Harley Davidsons and Jeeps in New Guinea and northern Australia.

    Interesting that they went to the trouble of burying them and not simply burning them if they wanted to deny their use to others.

    There are also wild stories about crated aircraft hidden in Queensland, Australia. Seeing that the area in which they are alleged to be had a huge airfield to which aircraft were ferried under their own power this seems a bit odd.

    That airfield, Oakey, was where my father was stationed at the end of WW2. He occasionally told of the orgy of destruction as hundreds of aircraft there were cut up for scrap when the shooting stopped. Many of the destroyed aircraft had only been flown in in the preceding months, ready for the next move north. The nuking of Japan stopped all that.

    One of his fellow NCOs ended his war driving a large landing barge out to sea every few days and pushing vehicles and spare parts into the deep water east of the Moreton Bay islands. This went on for months also.

  • Paul Marks

    My apologies to Jim and others.

    I did indeed mean the later version of the Mustang.

    I have no idea why I typed “Hellcat”.


  • Dale Amon

    About Burma: they have already got borehole photos to confirm the site.

    About Oakey: The belief is one of the truck drivers put some of the boxed Spitfires into a mine which has long since been sealed up.

    Someone should get the coordinates of the dumping site at sea. There’s probably some good stuff laying around down there.

  • LCB

    Funny how things never change. My brother was stationed at Da Nang when the Navy, or at least some of the units, pulled out. He said they bulldozed a huge hole on the beach and buried a bunch of equipment, trucks and jeeps that they didn’t want to take back…especially the stuff they had “borrowed” from the Army! 🙂

  • LCB

    I wonder if a test pilot named the Buffalo: “D@med thing files like a @#$@#!#)*)( Buffalo!”

    I’d expect the Finns had their way with the Russians because of pilot quality. Early in the the war the Russians were inexperienced, and most of their best officers had been purged by Stalin. Oh…and I’m not sure, but their plans that early in the war weren’t much better than the Buffalo.

  • Petronius

    Packed warplanes have an interesting history. A friend of mine was a test pilot for Bell Aviation in the US durring WW2. The Americans captured a German ME109 in the original factory box when they invaded Italy. The Air Force asked Bell to assemble it to see what they could learn. My friend was shocked at how well built the ting was, even after years of bombing of their factories, etc. the Jerries were turning out perfectly machined aircraft. He said the engine was built like a Swiss watch, and the craftsmanship was far better than anything the Americans were doing.

    Of course, the Americans were turning out their mediocre planes by the thousands, and by early 1944 the ME109 was already being outclassed by superior Allied aircraft.

  • Bruce

    Further on the Oz sea-dumpings:

    On some older maritime charts, these areas are clearly marked. This was allegedly so that fisherfolk would not foul their nets on all that submerged hardware. Every so often one would hear stories from the trawlermen of aircraft being dragged up in nets and having to be cut away.

    One of the close-in “spoil” areas is in fairly deep water, a direct line out to sea from the main cross-island road on Bribie Island. If you look at the map and aerial photos, that road was built over the WW2 airstrip. There are still the collapsing remains of at least one of several large concrete coastal pillboxes on Bribie. Most have fallen into the sea and been demolished as the island has moved around. (It is a sand island).

  • Tedd

    Radials v. water-cooled inline:

    I’m not sure why, but I always assumed it was because loss of coolant in an inline engine would be catastrophic over the ocean;

    That’s probably one factor, along with the slightly lower possibility of a single round completely stopping a radial engine (you can do quite a bit of damage to one cylinder and still develop enough power to fly).

    But there are a lot of other reasons, too. It’s important to first appreciate that the air force and the navy during WWII did not have anything like the kind of unified acquisition process they have today. So there is no reason to expect that there would necessarily be any similarity between the aircraft they flew.

    I’m sure that one of the key factors keeping the navy using radials was simply logistics. There was a high degree of parts commonality and maintenance-procedure commonality among the engines used on all the navy fighters during WWII. The limited space on board ships made that a very important consideration.

    A related factor is that the radial engines were much more modular than the V-12s were. A blown piston or dropped valve could be quickly repaired in situ with the removal of just one cylinder.

    Another important factor is that the advantages of liquid cooling were not as great in those days as they are today. Today, you need a really good reason to use air cooling because liquid cooling allows much more compact configurations, greater structural rigidity (very important as RPMs increase), much tighter tolerances (because of lower and more even temperatures), and more even combustion chamber temperatures (allowing higher compression ratios, greater boost pressure, and contributing to a reduction in NO and HC emissions). But in the 1940s they were not able to exploit those advantages very much, or, as in the case of emissions, they didn’t care about them.

  • Adam Maas

    A couple notes:

    The Finns were the only Buffalo user to operate it at anything resembling its designed gross weight. It was a reasonably hot aircraft as designed, but the US Navy, the RAF and the Dutch all operated their Buffalos with around 700lb of extra gear (radios, self-sealing tanks and extra armor), which seriously impacted performance. A Finnish Buffalo still holds the world record for the most kills by a single airframe with 39.5

    The Finns also achieved success with anoth much-maligned US design, the P-36 Hawk.

    Finnish success against the Soviets was more due to tactical finesse than anything else. With their very limited resources in terms of aircraft & pilots the Finns concentrated on hit & run raids and attriting bombers. The Buffalo and the Hawk were both good designs for this due to weight and good design performance (the Hawk’s Allison-engined sibling was noted for its exceptional dive performance) Their very flexible tactics worked very well against the Russians, who were over-fond of the inflexible and highly-structured fighter tactics that were the rage pre-war (early German successes were for much the same reasons, the Germans having learned from the SCW, everybody else having not done so).

    The FAA operated several Merlin-engined Naval Aircraft, including the Fairey Fulmar, which scored more kills than any other FAA aircraft (ironic given the Fulmar’s lousy air-to-air performance).

    The Bf109 was not built better than US Aircraft, in fact much the opposite. The German aircraft industry was plagued by poor engineering, lousy build quality and a complete inability to manage a development program, all multiplied by a completely disfunctional level of in-Industry political infighting. The fact that they managed to create a couple of unusually advanced jet aircraft is outweighed by the fact that they managed to introduce a grand total of 1 new single-engined fighter design into production during the war (the FW190/Ta152). Even the Japanese did better.

    The Germans were also plagued by their inability to produce aircraft engines as reliable or powerful as US or British designs. The DB601 and DB605 engines were good examples, both engines were roughly comparable to a RR Griffon in displacement but produced power comparable to a similar-era Merlin. For WW2 designs British Inline engines and US Radial engines were significantly superior to the competition.

  • Richard Thomas

    The accounts of out-and-out destruction and waste as provided by Dale and others must surely bring into question the commonly held libertarian belief that defense is a function of the state.

  • LCB

    Thanks Tedd. All makes sense.

    Adam, I remember reading somewhere that the German engines early in the war WERE of high quality. It was only when they started to rely more and more on slave labor that the quality fell off. If you asked me where I read it thought…don’t think I could find it.

    But I whole heartedly agree with everything else you’ve said about the German aircraft industry during the war.

    The Finn airware is really unknown to me. I was speculating previously, especially since we know the Russain army officer corp had been decimated by Stalin. I’m sure it had a major affect on the Russian air force too. I guess my only offer of proof is how poorly the Russain army did during the Finnish invasion until they simply overwhelmed the Finns with numbers.