Supermarine Graveyards

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Is anyone else out there aware of 2 aircraft graveyards that contain significant numbers of Supermarine products that remain untouched to this day? One contains a number of complete Swifts that were bulldozed into a very large crater then covered - I've seen the photos. The second - so the rumour goes - contains a very large number of (mostly new) Spitfires that were buried complete when they became surplus to requirements at the end of WW11 - a large hole was dug close to the end of a runway and they too were bulldozed in. They probably havn't stood the test of time as well as the Swifts. Don't know how true the latter story is but recent scientific evidence suggests that something substantial is down there.
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These sorts of stories surface from time to time... Little ever seems to come from them. Railway tunnels full of fighters in packing cases, anyone? Flood.
Profile picture for user HURRICANE 477

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It's a shame that most never surface, but I think that these rumours were just spread round to give a glimmer of hope, by 'Die-hard' fans of the compnay, I'm sure that ther's plenty of them on thin site. But you never know?

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"Castle Bromwich......former aircraft manufacturing plant....now a car producing plant....concrete car parking area laid over a filled in hole....Spitfires, spares and Merlins....swear it's true, guv, saw 'em pushed in there...etc" Anyone care to elaborate on this sketchy outline?

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SUPERMARINE The Swift story is certainly true - some aircraft were upright, others on their side and some flipped right over. The Spitfires I've heard about were not at Castle Bromwich but a former RAF base that used to manufacture Spitfires.

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Why would they bulldoze a number of Swifts into a hole? I know they were a little unreliable but ...... (oops that's got me into trouble before now!) Could this be the aviation worlds answer to the mythical strategic reserve of steam locos? (Speaking of which there were also tales of myserious underground hangars where Lightnings were seen to taxi into and then disappear once the doors were closed- but I think that's another thread!) ;)
Profile picture for user HURRICANE 477

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Well if anybody's got any real proof, post a photo. I bet that not one which contains real proof will be posted.(please prove me wrong someone.;) )
Profile picture for user mmitch

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Originally posted by 682al "Castle Bromwich......former aircraft manufacturing plant....now a car producing plant....concrete car parking area laid over a filled in hole....Spitfires, spares and Merlins....swear it's true, guv, saw 'em pushed in there...etc" Anyone care to elaborate on this sketchy outline?
I heard the same story about the Hawker factory at Langley. The Ford Truck factory was supposed to have been built on a foundation of Merlins in crates! But the question for all these stories (at least in the UK) is if there was shortages of everything after the war, why would they bury good scrap metal? mmitch.
Profile picture for user Flood

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Originally posted by mmitch I heard the same story about the Hawker factory at Langley. The Ford Truck factory was supposed to have been built on a foundation of Merlins in crates! But the question for all these stories (at least in the UK) is if there was shortages of everything after the war, why would they bury good scrap metal? mmitch.
Maybe they were Packard Merlins under lend-lease rules - same as the Corsairs, Hellcats, Avengers tipped overboard from carriers on their way home? But then that won't account for the Seafires, etc, that were also ditched... Flood.

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Castle Bromwich This one seems to come about all the time...afterall it was from this area that the equipment required to build new Spitfire main spars was 'found' which has enabled so many to continue. I spoke to a gentleman a couple of years ago who had been a building contractor at Castle Bromwich during the 90s. They had been order to clear some ground and they came to the floor of an old building....he tells me that they found a merlin in a packing crate complete with some paperwork. He does not know what happend to the engine as his boss then 'took over' and disposed of it!!! There are a few people who say that the location of remains are known but the people in charge of the area want to keep any monies that are made from selling recovered parts...fair enough for some of it to be ploughed back in to the local area...but they wanted the money in advance and vastly overvalued what is believed to be there. If this is true then while there is any possibility of any money to be made then the engines and/or airframe parts will simply carry on rotting!!!

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If it was Supermarine I would guess that it would be Chilbolton, their main flight test airfield. Its been pretty much untouched reciently. As for langley the Ford factory closed several years ago, no merlins seem to have surfaced though. I have heard the same sort of stories, railway tunnells, burried B17's near Popham etc.
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As a slight aside,a number of early Swifts were shipped off to Australia to act as ground targets during Operation 'Buffalo',the controversial test-dropping of a number of atomic weapons at Maralinga.You wonder whether anything of them might survive,and whether they would be safe to handle.

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SWIFTS The Swifts are all in Australia - dont know how or when they got there. Perhaps somebody who knows the service history of each aircraft might be able to shed more light?

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SWIFTS Buried in sand as complete airframes - think your right about the safety bit!

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Actually there was a burst of interest around the Australian Swifts last year as someone was offering complete airframes and parts for restoration! The "rumour" was that there were some complete airframes and other parts still extant (and not buried which was why we were contacted). With the ongoing problem of cockpit instruments giving off radiation in museums it was probably a smart move not to try and import a radioactive Swift!:rolleyes:
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The Soviets used a large number of La-15s (that MiG-15 lookalike with shoulder-mounted wings) for nuclear tests in Kazakstan. A few years ago, a documentary on Kazak environmental and health problems because of Soviet nuclear tests showed quite a few La-15s looking quite well.
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Originally posted by Flood Maybe they were Packard Merlins under lend-lease rules - same as the Corsairs, Hellcats, Avengers tipped overboard from carriers on their way home? But then that won't account for the Seafires, etc, that were also ditched... Flood.
Flood, I would agree with that one. I talked to a 603 (City of Edinburgh) pilot about 3 years ago. A long conversation as I remember missed quite a few aircraft going by but it was worth it. People are better than planes anyday. Anyhow he told me of flying his spit to the back of a carrier off Scotland and then getting ferried back to the coast to do it all over again. The aircraft were lend lease and needed to be off british soil or Britain would be liable for the cost or something like that so he was there to see them pushed of the side of the carrier. Also I contacted a Museum in Scotland about the possible recovery of parts at the end of their runway and I was told they have first pick of the items recovered. They aparently have details of where exactly to look as a small trench was uncovered for some reason an filled back in because of what was there. How true are these stories ??? only the people telling them will know that. But I wouls suggest that the Museum story is true as there was talk about a dig being organised but nothing has come up yet.
Profile picture for user Melvyn Hiscock

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A few points on this thread. As several people have already said these stories crop up from time to time and most have the feel or Urban Myths. I did some work on these in the early 90s and got nowhere with most of them. For example there is supposed to be a railway tunnel in Hampshire that is full of aeroplane stuff. There isn't. All the tunnels are known and all can be accounted for. There was a scrappy storing some stuff in a tunnel on the old Meon valley line but that was not airframes or engines. Secondly there are stories of complete aeroplanes in pits. This is most unlikely since it does not make any sense to bury them complete. You take up way less space by crushing them. There are still some good rumours about engines but at the moment they are still rumours. Lastly, the question of why bury and not scrap comes up often. This is simple. A report in the PRO dated March 1944 says the scrap price of aluminium was £45 per ton and it cost £54 to process it, a loss of £9 per ton. It also says that the estimate at that time for what would be coming onto the market at the end of the war in Europe would be 400,000 tons (poss not just ali but scrap in general). The glut on the market would lower the selling price but not necessarily lower the processing price as much. Add to this the transport infrastructure in the country was knackered by that point and just moving it was a BIG problem. the report discusses dumping as a viable option and remember this is before the end of the war in Japan was being discussed and so the glut would have got bigger. There may well still be caches of stuff but I, for one, won't be holding my breath. MH
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if their is spitfires and stuff buried surely it would mostly be squashed by now like the b17s and p38s in the arctic. intrestingly this also applies to other stuff as well, at strubby their is supposedly the prototype land rover discoveries burried somewhere.

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I think Melvyn's scrap price explanation is spot on. Have a look at my Lancaster front turret in one of the other scrapyard threads. I think the reason this (and others) was dumped and buried, was that there was simply not enough scrap alloy in it to merit the scrappies effort. They had bid for and won whole Lancasters, which had to be cleared off-site within a certain period of time. There happened to be an otherwise unused hole in the ground in the close vicinity and it was just so easy to "lose" the turrets on the way home. It saved on space in the yard, too. And most of the damage to the turret was done by the digger that pulled it out of the hole, so I would not be too worried by the B17/P38 ice cap experience: bent, buckled and corroded, yes, crushed beyond salvation, not necessarily. Here's a more recent pic of the same turret, for comparison.

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SPITFIRES & SWIFTS The jigsaw that is this thread is all beginning to come together. I think Ant has probably got it right about the Swifts. As they were buried in sand, I dont suppose there was too much damage other than that caused by the bulldozer and the drop into the hole - perhaps the Ozzies have now deemed the area safe to dig them up again - this might explain the story about complete airframes in Oz. As for the Spits, I think Troys point about cockpit instruments and the radiation they give off in museums is spot on and tends too support the scientific evidence that I've heard about -over a pint or two - that very sophisticated measuring equipment can detect such anomalies below ground. Add to this the points made by Melvyn and 682 about scrap values at the time and I can now see why the airframes were buried. If they do exist - and I think we are talking about quite a lot - according to the rumours!! I don't think they'll ever get dug up - maybe a link with the Swift story here?? I'm dipping out on this one for good but suggest that those that want to discuss this one further look for a former RAF base in Berkshire that had a bit of a spit history around the end of WW11!