Stories of buried aircraft just ‘legend’

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iol scitech feb 20 Spitfire AFP Stanley Coombe, a 91-year-old former British soldier who is one of eight people who said they have seen the buried British Spitfires, poses in front of displayed research materials.

Yangon - A British Spitfire enthusiast vowed on Tuesday to continue searching for the World War 2 planes in Myanmar after the project's sponsor pulled out saying stories of buried aircraft were just “legend”.

David Cundall said he remained “very confident” about the prospects of finding the iconic single-seater aircraft at Yangon airport in the Mingaladon district of the city, despite splitting with the project's backer.

Online game company Wargaming withdrew its support for the search on Friday saying there was no evidence of truth in rumours that dozens of Spitfires were buried in 1945 by Britain, the former colonial power in what was then Burma.

But Cundall - a farmer and aircraft enthusiast who has spent nearly two decades chasing the Spitfires - slammed the decision and insisted the hunt would go on.

“Wargaming came into this for publicity. They are not Spitfire enthusiasts at all,” he told a press conference in Yangon, adding that he would contribute to funding the project out of his own pocket.

“I have interviewed eight eyewitnesses and I am convinced that they are telling the truth. They were all here in the war or just after the war. They are all pointing to the same area,” he said.

He said surveys at Yangon's airport had recently identified two large metal objects, but no digging had yet been undertaken.

The remaining team - including a local businessman - are now awaiting the arrival of a European company that will conduct a specialist radar search, he added.

Cundall, who has compared the rumoured hoard to the 1922 discovery of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb, in January lifted hopes of a find when he said a box discovered in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina appeared to contain man-made objects.

But the area has since been found to be a rubbish “dump site”.

“It was not actually a Spitfire and we had never said it was a Spitfire,” Cundall said, adding surveys would continue in the area.

In its statement on Friday Wargaming said that no surviving witnesses had actually seen planes being buried and that its research in British archives had failed to produce any evidence of the arrival of the aircraft in Myanmar in the latter months of the war. - Sapa-AFP

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