Aircraft enthusiast David Cundall’s efforts to recover the British Supermarine Spitfires reportedly buried in Burma at the end of World War II will be funded by Wargaming, the creator of the award-winning games World of Tanks, World of Warplanes and the upcoming World of Warships, the company announced yesterday.
The investment will allow Cundall and the Burmese authorities to jointly progress this unprecedented heritage project, and in the process, possibly solve a long-standing mystery of the Pacific theater as well as a unique perspective into the role of the British Royal Air Force in World War II.
Cundall is no stranger to aviation archaeology. Since 1974, he has tracked down and excavated several Spitfires, Hurricanes and even a Lancaster Bomber – all of which crashed in the UK in WWII. In the late 1990s, he heard rumors of buried Spitfires in Burma and decided to pursue the story. During the next 14 years, David would track down surviving eyewitnesses, conduct geophysical surveys of the sites with help from the University of Leeds including Dr. Roger Clark, senior lecturer in geophysics, and research associate Dr. Adam Booth (now at Imperial College London), and comb through archival records. He would ultimately make 16 trips to Burma (now Myanmar) in his search for the planes – and permission to excavate them. On Oct. 16, he signed a historic agreement with the Myanmar government in Naypyidaw, granting him permission to survey and excavate the planes.
Wargaming, a company known around the world for its flagship PC MMO action game, World of Tanks, and the soon-to-be-released World of Warplanes, has made military history and authenticity a hallmark of its company focus since its formation in 1998. A veteran of military-themed video game titles, the company provides its players with unique online gaming experiences coupled with meticulously researched and authentic military vehicles.
Outside of video games, the company has also worked with a number of organizations dedicated to military history and preservation, including most recently the U.S.S. Iowa and the National World War II Museum, to name a few.
Tracy Spaight, director of special projects at Wargaming, has spent the past several months traveling with Cundall back and forth to Myanmar and the U.K. Wargaming will soon launch a blog detailing Tracy and David’s various adventures. The blog – authored by Spaight – will provide a first-hand account of living and working in Myanmar, archival sleuthing in the U.K., a look inside the discipline of conflict archaeology, the geophysics of surveying, and the actual excavation work in Myanmar, which is expected to commence later this fall or early next year. The blog also will shine a spotlight on the Burma Campaign, the so-called Forgotten War of WWII.
Spaight said: “Wargaming is delighted to be working with David Cundall, the University of Leeds, and the extraordinary archaeology team we’ve assembled. We are looking forward to the adventure ahead and to sharing our progress with the Wargaming community.”
“The Wargaming team shares my passion and excitement for military history and historic preservation,” Cundall said. “Their commitment to these values and the generous funding they provided to underwrite the entire project have helped make this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity a reality. I am looking forward to returning to Mynamar with them and hope to bring these legendary warbirds back to the U.K.”
Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming, said the sponsorship is mutually beneficial.
“Since its founding, Wargaming has been dedicated to bringing military history alive, whether through video games or more recently through historic preservation and educational initiatives with museums,” he said. “When we learned of David’s long quest to track down the Spitfires, we reached out to support him, not only to recover the planes if they are there, but also to help tell the story of the air war in Burma – which is of great interest to our community.”