Spitfires found still in crates!

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Master Sergeant
Well almost, the rumours still persist don't they? 8)

Anyway, interesting article found on "The Australian" website today.

Fact or fable: hunt is on for buried Spitfires | The Australian

Fact or fable: hunt is on for buried Spitfires
Ted Strugnell From: The Australian January 28, 2011 12:00AM

IT'S the Lasseter's Reef of warbirds -- a rumoured stash of mint-condition Spitfires hidden underground in rural Queensland.

Many have searched for the legendary British fighters, reportedly still in their crates and hidden since the end of the World War II around the Queensland town of Oakey, but so far nobody has been able to lay claim to what would be a multi-million-dollar find.

They are the remnants of 656 Mark V and Mark VIII Spitfires that were delivered to the RAAF during the war.

RAAF records show that 544 aircraft -- 232 of them Spitfires -- were flown to Oakey to be sold to a scrap metal dealer.

That should have been the ignominious end of arguably the greatest single-place fighter ever built, certainly the most legendary and romanticised. But was it?

Opinions vary on the mystery and stories range from a high-level defence conspiracy among RAAF officers to a single leading aircraftman who hid or buried aircraft because he couldn't bear to see the magnificent machines destroyed.

If hidden aircraft do exist, there are three main possibilities: they are buried; stored in a hidden underground hangar; or secreted in a coalmine.

Not everyone believes they are there.

Toowoomba resident Laurie Wenham, who was employed in breaking down the aircraft prior to melting in 1948, is sceptical there are any planes.

"I do not believe there are any hidden aircraft and various 'sightings' over the years were probably parts or partial aircraft pilfered or purchased as scrap," he said.

But a lifetime Oakey resident, who did not wish to be named, claims to be a reliable witness to the burial site of five aircraft in what may have been a trial disposal near the old Federal Mine.

He did not see aircraft going into the ground, but he saw contractors digging a trench, and a large crate in it.

The contractors claimed a quarter of a century later to have buried the aircraft but could not be contacted for this story.

However, this was enough to prompt Bungunya farmer and pilot David Mulckey to launch an excavation in 2001.

This was the best search undertaken.

It included aerial photographic surveys retrieved from the archives for the years before and after the alleged burial, which indicated substantial digging.

Late access to the eyewitness and misreading of aerial surveys were blamed for the venture's failure.

"As soon as I arrived I realised that we were in the paddock adjacent to, not on, the correct site," said Mr Mulckey, who did not have council approval to investigate the adjoining property.

That property still contained evidence of digging and heavy lifting, even after 60 years, he said, and his aim was to return to at least eliminate this site as a possibility. More recently, another ex-World War II airman has claimed that during an exchange of confidences during an Anzac Day in the 1950s another airman, and lifelong friend, told him he and others had hidden aircraft in a hole in the side of a hill near Oakey.

The underground hangar story centres on reports of a squadron of 16 to 18 Spitfires, supposedly Mk XIVs in crates, hidden in underground storage, with spares and fuel, to be used in retaking Queensland in the event of a Japanese invasion forcing a retreat to the infamous Brisbane Line.

Believers of this theory say the Mk XIVs never saw service with the RAAF because they were specially imported to be hidden.

This version of the story appeared in the Royal Air Force News in the 1980s and British authorities thought it had sufficient substance to send an RAF group captain, wing commander and a technical NCO to Oakey to investigate.

A more likely possibility is that the underground hanger theory developed in the telling and retelling of rumours that a few aircraft had been buried, hidden or dumped in a disused coalmine.

There were plenty of opportunities to do this, because there are numerous abandoned mines within minutes of the airfield.

The number of aircraft and the persistence of the stories from disparate sources suggest it is likely that some aircraft remain.

Private pilot and vintage aircraft restorer Bill Martin, who has possibly done more research on this subject than anyone alive, believes some aircraft exist in some form somewhere in the area.

Mr Martin has photographs of aircraft in the disposal lines at Oakey around 1945 that look like Mk XIVs, and has spoken to witnesses who had seen evidence that Mk XIVs may have been at Oakey, possibly on loan from the RAF for trials.

The RAF had a squadron of Mk XIVs in Australia for the defence of Darwin and some of them could have been at Oakey for maintenance at war's end.

Other speculation includes the possibility that a small number of planes were fitted with classified equipment and could not be sold.

A common way of disposing of aircraft was to dump them at sea, but what if one of the drivers used his initiative to deposit his loads in a mine to spend a couple of hours in the local pub rather than on the round trip to the Brisbane wharves?

Lester Reisinger, who has conducted a number of searches, subscribed to the underground storage theory.

"They're there, all right, under the Oakey drive-in theatre," he said. An old mine, The Federal, passed under the now-disused drive-in and was the closest to the airfield. It closed in 1943 and two separate sources believed one driver was never away long enough to make the round trip to Brisbane.

It would not have been too difficult for one man to transfer a crated Spitfire from a truck to an old mine wagon, using the hand-operated gantry for transferring coal from mine carts to railway wagons.

Mr Martin and Mr Reisinger several times spoke to a man who swore he had been into an underground storage facility containing wooden crates on rail trolleys.

However, the witness could not tell whether the crates held complete aircraft, parts, or something else.

Both men believe the witness to be reliable, but because he was taken to the site at night by another man he was unable to pinpoint a location. However, it was only a short walk from the witness's house in Federal Street, near the mine of the same name.

Mr Martin also had an aerial photograph taken in 1945 clearly showing the portal to the Federal Mine still open, with rails, shiny from possible recent use, going into the tunnel.

The mine entrance was collapsed in the 1950s by the Jondaryan Shire Council, and the same aerial photograph clearly shows large crates sitting beside the nearby airfield.

Australian Army Intelligence judged these to be the size of Spitfire crates, but they were not there by 1948. The Spitfire was the only aircraft disposed of at Oakey that was shipped in a single crate.

Ultimately, there are several possible motives, official and unofficial, for hiding aircraft.

There were almost certainly numerous opportunities to do so.

There are a lot of old stories and rumours, a lot of circumstantial, anecdotal and highly speculative evidence, as well as a little physical evidence.

The living witness located so far is testing a memory almost 60 years old.

If the aircraft exist, sufficient resources and modern technology could locate them relatively cheaply and easily, or at least eliminate the most likely place -- the old Federal Mine.

It is also possible the planes have already been spirited out of Australia. Recently, another witness claimed to have seen a shipment from Sydney of three aircraft removed from a hole near Oakey in the 1980s and sold for big money in Britain.

Either way, and like Lasseter's elusive reef of gold, it remains a riddle waiting to be solved.

Ted Strugnell lives in Toowoomba, Queensland, and served 31 years in the RAAF, in Australia and abroad, and a further 21 years with the Department of Defence. Anybody who took part, or who has knowledge of, these or similar events is urged to contact him on [email protected]

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Wolud be great if this was true (mind you this story has been doing the rounds for years!) but I doubt it. Lots of holes (!) in this story, no MkXIV's served in the RAAF, and by the time they would have been available, no possibilty of an invasion would have existed. Also there were NO RAF squadrons defending Darwin with MkXIV's, unless they too were super secret! :rolleyes:
There are stories and rumors of Luftwaffe aircraft hidden underground all over Germany in underground storage and hanger spaces as well. Would be great if just one of them were true. Wonder if we will ever find out.
There are stories and rumors of Luftwaffe aircraft hidden underground all over Germany in underground storage and hanger spaces as well. Would be great if just one of them were true. Wonder if we will ever find out.

Oh, funny - I was just about to write a post, saying approx. the same thing as you. :D
Wanna bet that there's russian and japanese equivalents of these stories, too? :D
Just to 'dampen' your enthusiasm, most of Queensland is under water, and very badly under water, from all that flooding of the last month and this month as well. Toowoomba was hit particularly hard, if I recall the news stories correctly. It that is indeed the case, the condition of any buried Spits won't be very good, if they are there at all.

I'd hate to throw any water on your plans, but apparently Nature has beaten me to it.

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