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

Jane M. Ferguson*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-146
    Number of pages12
    JournalTRaNS: Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia
    Volume8
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

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