Photo: Elsie Esq via Flickr
Hundreds “or potentially thousands” of bombers, fighters and trainee aircraft are still scattered across Britain and intact engines could be recovered by enthusiasts, according to Peter Elliott, the head of archives at London’s RAF Museum.His comments come after 36 Spitfires were discovered in Burma by David Cundall, an aviation enthusiast, 67 years after they were “lost”.
And a pensioner claimed a whole squadron of the planes could be found immaculately preserved under houses in Birmingham. Matt Queenan, 83, said he helped bury the planes in 1950 under instructions from the War Office, greasing them up and encasing them in boxes.
But Mr Elliott said there would be “far more” crashed aircraft to uncover than the number deliberately buried, and raised hopes that many of their parts could still be intact.
“There are hundreds if not thousands,” he said. “What comes up is wreckage but sometimes they are substantial parts of the aircraft structure.
“The main thing is the engine – big chunks of metal, and it is much stronger than the aluminium the aircraft is probably made of. If the aircraft goes in with any force, the engines are probably several feet down.”
He said anyone interested in digging could obtain licenses from the Ministry of Defence, adding that they would probably have most luck in the south of England.
“If you consider the Battle of Britain period, you are obviously going to get a concentration of crashed aircraft in the south of England, but it is by no means restricted to that area.”
Earlier this year, Mr Cundall, 62, found 36 Spitfires in Burma, after spending 15 years and more than £10,000 searching.
“They were just buried there in transport crates,” he Cundall said. “They were waxed, wrapped in greased paper and their joints tarred. They will be in near perfect condition.”
The aircraft will be returned to Britain after David Cameron intervened in favour of their repatriation.
Mr Elliott said he would be thrilled to see any crashed or buried planes recovered and put back to working order.
“It is always nice to see aircraft get back into the air,” he said. “We would be very pleased to see these things being recovered.
“What state they would be in, even if they are buried in packing crates, after 70 years, I don’t know. You are not going to be able to wheel it out of the box, put the wings back on and take it away the next day. It is going to need substantial restoration work.”
His comments are likely to give hope to Telegraph readers who have written in with their suggestions about where more “buried” war planes might be uncovered.
Clifford Bull wrote:
Locals living on the Birchfeild private housing estate near Lincoln tell me that large quantities of aircraft spares, including complete engines, were unearthed when the estate was built in the late eighties.
The estate was built on part of the site of wartime RAF Skellingthorpe, one of the largest disposal airfields of Bomber Command.
There are more than likely vast amounts of aircraft parts, maybe complete aircraft, still buried under the undeveloped part of the site.
Mike Fry added:
After the war the Americans buried loads of unwanted equipment like tents, pots and pans under what is now the sports pitch of Lytchett Minster school in Lytchett Minster. This is an historical fact backed up by local people who were given and still have some of those saucepans today.
And Steve Wood wrote:
I believe there are many tons of bomber parts buried in land adjacent to Holme on Spalding Moor airfield. I was told this by an ex employee of Blackburns Aeronautical (later to become Hawker Siddley and then BAE) The remains were buried following cessation of hostilities 1945. Might be worth investigation.
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