Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-5dd2w Total loading time: 0.307 Render date: 2022-05-20T19:54:57.294Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

Spitfires Sprouting in the Burmese Spring: The Real-life Quest for Historic Fantasy Aircraft in Contemporary Myanmar

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 October 2019

Jane M. Ferguson*
Affiliation:
The Australian National University
*
*Corresponding author. E-mail: jane.ferguson@anu.edu.au.

Abstract

In 2013, a group of British aviation archaeologists began excavating in Myanmar in search of some 140 mint-condition crated Royal Air Force (RAF) Spitfire Mk XIV aircraft. According to their story, at the end of the Second World War, Allied forces in Burma were left with these unassembled aircraft. Without the funds to send them home, but unwilling to let the planes fall into enemy hands, they buried the crated planes in Mingaladon, Meiktila and Myitkyina. Like legends of pirate treasure, the story of these buried Spitfires carries with it fantastic aura and intrigue. For aviation fans, the pirate's gold is an iconic aircraft, meaningful in patriotic narratives for its role in the Battle of Britain. This paper will discuss this story as a form of military history folklore which is stoked by the orientalist perception that Burma/Myanmar's decades of military regimes and purported isolation indirectly ‘“preserved” the crated aircraft in time. As this paper will demonstrate, Burmese and others in Southeast Asia have their own legends of buried war materiel and treasure. This point, though largely lost on British aviation enthusiasts in their quest for their Spitfire ‘holy grail’, nevertheless crucially enabled their quest to manifest itself.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © Institute for East Asian Studies, Sogang University 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

AP Archive. 2015. “Myanmar Spitfire Hunters Say Search Has Hit Snag.” Associated Press, 31 July. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thms-Qul4Wc (accessed 18 July 2018).Google Scholar
Assistant Secretary of Foreign Affairs. 1954. Memorandum of Conversation: Stoppage of Burmese Planes at Baghdad. 13 December.Google Scholar
Baker, Chris. 2016. “Inside Wargaming.net and Games That Conquered the World.” Rolling Stone, 20 October. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/inside-wargaming-net-and-games-that-conquered-the-world-126752/ (accessed 20 July 2018).Google Scholar
BBC News. 2018. WW2 Spitfire Pilot Mary Ellis Dies. 27 July. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-44962253 (accessed 6 June 2019).Google Scholar
Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin. 1988. The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms and Why. London: Taurus.Google Scholar
Brockman, Andy, Brown, Martin, Scott, Rod, and Spaight, Tracy. 2015. Assumed Missing Reported Buried: The Search for the Lost Spitfires of Burma. F.37/34 Publications.Google Scholar
Bodenham, Patrick. 2012. “Cameron's Claim on Spitfire Trove Ignites a British Battle in Burma.” The Independent, 28 April. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/camerons-claim-on-spitfire-trove-ignites-a-british-battle-in-burma-7685290.html (accessed 18 July 2018).Google Scholar
Brooke, Michael. 1999. “Fortune Hunters Seek Japanese War Gold Along the River Kwai.” The Seattle Times, 11 March. Available at: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19990131&slug=2941680 (accessed 8 March 2019).Google Scholar
Buncombe, Andrew, and Win Naing, Swan Pyae. 2013. “For Whom the Bell Still Tolls: $10m Quest to Raise Burmese Treasure Lost for 400 Years.” The Independent, 28 October.Google Scholar
Callahan, Mary P. 2003. Making Enemies: War and State Building in Burma. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Castle, Tim. 2011. “Suu Kyi Sees Myanmar Parallels with Arab Spring.” Reuters, 28 June. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-britain-suukyi-idUSTRE75Q51X20110627 (accessed 1 August 2019).Google Scholar
Cernea, Ruth Fredman. 2007. Almost Englishmen: Baghdadi Jews in British Burma. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
Clark, Charles. 2015. “Remember the Guy Who Thought He Found 140 Lost Spitfires, Buried Underground? His Story Came to a Really Depressing End.” Business Insider, 15 September. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/man-who-tried-to-dig-up-140-spitfires-in-burma-2015-9/?r=AU&IR=T (accessed 8 March 2019).Google Scholar
Drury, Ian. 2013. “Buried Squadron of Spitfires Discovered in the Burmese Jungle After Being Tracked Down by a British Plane Enthusiast Could Take to the Skies Again ‘within Three Years.’” Daily Mail, 5 September. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2239771/Dozens-WWII-spitfires-buried-jungle-Burma-flying-years.html (accessed 2 February 2018).Google Scholar
DVB [ဒီဗွီဘီ]. 2013. စပစ်ဖိုင်းယားတိုက်လေယာဥ်အပိုင်းအစ , 22 April. Available at: http://burmese.dvb.no/archives/38659 (accessed 18 July 2018) [Spitfire fighter plane pieces have been found].Google Scholar
Edwards, Penny. 2007. Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation: 1860–1945. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Forces TV. 2012. “Spitfires Buried in Burma To Be Dug Up.” Forces TV, 29 November. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBLJ_Sebarg (accessed 20 July 2018).Google Scholar
Goldstein, Jonathan. 2007. “Memory, place and displacement in the formation of Jewish identity in Rangoon and Surabaya.Jewish Culture and History 9(2–3): 101113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halifax, Justine. 2016. “Hunt for Legendary Spitfires Buried in Burma Is Back On.” Birmingham Mail, 8 June. Available at: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/hunt-legendary-spitfires-buried-burma-11442354 (accessed 18 July 2018).Google Scholar
Hla Thaung, [လှေသာင်း]. 2012. Dynasty Books [The world's first airplane hijack in Myanmar].Google Scholar
Howard, Leslie. 1942. The First of the Few. London: Gravitas Ventures.Google Scholar
Ko Htway, [ကိုေထွး]. 2013. စပစ်ဖိုင်းယားေလယာဥ်တွေကို ဆက်လက်ရှာေဖွသွားမယ် ဒီဗွီဘီ, 24 January. Available at: http://burmese.dvb.no/archives/35676 (accessed 18 July 2018) [The search for Spitfire aircraft will continue].Google Scholar
Linebarger, Paul M. A. 1955. “Air power in the modern Middle East.The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 299: 109117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lintner, Bertil. 1994. Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948. Bangkok: White Lotus Press.Google Scholar
Lusher, Adam. 2012. “Revealed: The Wealthy Backer Helping the Hunt for the Buried Spitfires in Burma.” The Telegraph, 28 October. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9638613/Revealed-the-wealthy-backer-helping-the-hunt-for-the-buried-Spitfires-of-Burma.html (accessed 18 July 2018).Google Scholar
Maung Aung Myoe, . 1998. Building the Tatmadaw: The Organisational Development of the Armed Forces in Myanmar, 1948–98. Canberra: Australian National University.Google Scholar
Maung Tha, [ေမာင်သာ]. 2016. . Available at: https://www.thutazone.net/2018/09/30/ (accessed: 9 March 2019) [The Spitfires under Myanmar's earth].Google Scholar
Min Myat San, []. 2013. [Spitfires: Classic fighter aircraft].Google Scholar
Moggridge, Jackie. 2014. Spitfire Girl: My Life in the Sky. London: Head of Zeus (Kindle Edition).Google Scholar
Overy, Richard. 2010. The Battle of Britain: Myth and Reality. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
Owen, Norman G., ed. 2005. The Emergence of Modern Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.Google Scholar
Popham, Peter. 2013. “Some of Our Spitfires Are Missing: Doubts Over Existence of 160 WW2 Fighter Planes in Burma.” The Independent, 20 January. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/some-of-our-spitfires-are-missing-doubts-over-existence-of-160-ww2-fighter-planes-in-burma-8458772.html (accessed 12 February 2019).Google Scholar
Rhoads, Elizabeth L., and Courtney T., Wittekind. 2018. “Rethinking land and property in a ‘transitioning’ Myanmar: Representations of isolation, neglect, and natural decline.” Journal of Burma Studies 22(2): 171213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rose, Deidre. 2009. “Telling treasure tales: Commemoration and consciousness in Dominica.Journal of American Folklore 122: 127147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Saunders, Ron. 2018 Spitfire: Birth of a Legend. ASA Productions.Google Scholar
Seagrave, Sterling, and Peggy, Seagrave. 2003. Gold Warriors: America's Secret Recovery of Yamashita's Gold. London: Verso.Google Scholar
Selth, Andrew. 1997. The Burma Air Force. Canberra: Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.Google Scholar
Selth, Andrew. 2000. Burma's Secret Military Partners. Canberra: The Australian National University.Google Scholar
Senior, Tom. 2012. “Wargaming.net fund quest for lost Spitfires buried in Burma.” PC Gamer, 29 October. Available at: https://www.pcgamer.com/wargaming-net-fund-quest-for-lost-spitfires-buried-in-burma/ (accessed 20 June 2018).Google Scholar
Sein Pay Tin, [စိန်ေဖတင်]. N.d. [The two of us on an island].Google Scholar
Sluga, Glenda. 1998. “Identity, gender, and the history of European nations and nationalisms.” Nations and Nationalism 4(1): 87111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Martin. 1999. Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity. London: Zed.Google Scholar
Stewart, Charles. 2003. “Dreams of treasure: Temporality, historicisation and the unconscious,” Anthropological Theory 3(4): 481500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stone, Mark. 2013. “Burma Spitfire Mystery Is Solved.” Sky News, 17 February. Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/burma-spitfire-mystery-is-solved-10454358 (accessed 18 July 2018).Google Scholar
Taylor, Robert. 2015. General Ne Win: A Political Biography. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wimon, Sriphaiboon [วิมล ศิริไพบูลย์ (โดย ทมยันตี)]. 1968. คู่กรรม กรุงเทพ บรรลือสาส์น [The Fated Couple].Google Scholar
Winston, George. 2017. “Looking Back on the Hunt for the 140 Buried Spitfires.” War History Online, 27 November. Available at: https://www.warhistoryonline.com/instant-articles/buried-spitfires.html (accessed 8 March 2019).Google Scholar
Wutidet, Gawntongkham [วุฒิเดช ก้อนทองคำ]. 2018. เปิดข้อมูลชัดๆ !! จริงหรือมั่ว !! ภาพกองภูเขาทองคำว่อนเน็ต สือขุมทองโกโบริค้นพบสมัยสงครามโลกเหมือนถ้ำลิเจีย งานนี้มีการปั่นอัพราคา ทีนิวส์, 25 March. Available at: http://www.tnews.co (accessed 20 July 2018) [Clear information released!! True or false!! A photo of the golden mountain is circulating around the Internet about discovery of Kobori's Gold from the World War era. Like Lijia Cave, this event will drive up the price].Google Scholar

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Spitfires Sprouting in the Burmese Spring: The Real-life Quest for Historic Fantasy Aircraft in Contemporary Myanmar
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Spitfires Sprouting in the Burmese Spring: The Real-life Quest for Historic Fantasy Aircraft in Contemporary Myanmar
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Spitfires Sprouting in the Burmese Spring: The Real-life Quest for Historic Fantasy Aircraft in Contemporary Myanmar
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *