Cundall (r) near Spitfire site in Myanmar
Cundall (r) near Spitfire site in Myanmar

A team of aviation enthusiasts searching for a horde of buried Spitfire planes in Burma have found a crate which may hold the key to the mystery.

The search party, led by farmer and businessman David Cundall, believe the crate may contain one of the iconic planes, which were buried following the end of World War Two.

The crate was found in a swampy region of northern Burma, during a dig which commenced last week. Although a camera has been lowered inside to take a look, the box is full of muddy brown water and the researchers were unable to glean any conclusive footage.

However the researchers know the Spitfires were buried in crates and are convinced they have found a plane, given the size of the container.

Cundall called the crate find "very encouraging", adding: "It will take some time to pump the water out ... but I do expect all aircraft to be in very good condition."

Although there are currently only 70 known air-worthy Spitfires in the world, it is thought that up to 140 of the fighters could lay concealed in burial sites around Burma.

Under the terms of a deal struck with the Myanmar government, Cundall could bring home 30 percent of the total haul.

He explained how the Spitfires came to be buried in the ground at the end of World War II.

"Basically nobody had got any orders to take these airplanes back to (the) UK. They were just surplus ... (and) one way of disposing them was to bury them," Cundall said.

"The war was over, everybody wanted to go home, nobody wanted anything, so you just buried it and went home. That was it."

Spitfire in flight during World War II
Spitfire in flight during World War II

Accompanying Cundall on the dig is veteran Stanley Coombe, who was stationed in what was then Burma when World War II finished. He claims he witnessed the burial of the aircraft by United States troops.

"It is very exciting for me because I never thought I would be allowed to come back and see where Spitfires have been buried," Coombe said. "It's been a long time since anybody believed what I said until David Cundall came along."

Excavators hope to recover up to 60 planes from the mud of Myanmar during the expedition.

It is believed that 36 Spitfires are buried nex to Yangon's international airport, with six more in Meikthila in the middle of the country.