The Oakey Legend
With the Second World War now at an end, Australia became home to thousands of military aircraft that had become surplus to Australia’s post war needs. Some were thrown in lakes, dams and disused quarries, many were bulldozed into the ground, whilst hundreds more dumped out at sea.
However, hundreds of aircraft were sent to Aircraft Depots all over Australia to be turned back into components or scrapped and melted down. 6 Aircraft Depot (6AD) at Oakey was no exception. By mid-1946 just over 550 Mustang, Kittyhawk, Boomerang and Spitfire aircraft were sitting at 6AD awaiting disposal.Research has shown that Austral Brass, the company contracted to dispose of the aircraft underestimated the time it would take to dispose of the aircraft at 6AD.
As they were bound by a contractual deadline for the disposal of the aircraft, this led to a yet undetermined quantity of aircraft pieces being thrown into disused coal mine shafts or nearby rubbish tips by the disposal gangs. For years, stories have surfaced regarding the fighters rumoured to have been buried by airmen who were upset that the planes were being scrapped after World War II.
According to a couple of legends, the airmen put the planes in crates and buried them in either mine shafts, tunnels or pits. These stories have been around for a long time and known to a great many people. Apart from local townsfolk, local historians, historical societies, historical aircraft enthusiasts, museums, as well as current and former Australian Defence Force Personnel from the Australian Army and Air Force, have all heard about the buried Spitfires. Not every story is exactly the same, but what's amazing, is they’re all pretty close. It’s these stories that are fueling our search for these elusive Spitfires.
What makes this story so unique
We've developed five different theories as to why the aircraft were buried. Some are as they’ve been described to us, whilst others are our own theories based on research material.
The first is purely for posterity, to preserve the aircraft for future generations.
The second, the Brisbane Line theory. Let’s just suppose that the Air Force, as part of a long term strategy, were instructed to conceal a number of aircraft in the ground in case of a full-scale Japanese land invasion, or in case of future threats to Australia. With Oakey sitting so close to the supposed Brisbane line, what better place to conceal brand new Spitfires than just near Australia’s last line of defence.
Third, a stockpile for use years after their burial in case of a nuclear attack on Australia.Fourth, demobilisation. These personnel had just lived through World War II. After six years all they wanted to do was go home, back to their families and get their lives back on track. Going home was so tantalizingly close. The only thing stopping them was clearing out the base. The quickest way to fix that was to dump the aircraft and leftover parts anywhere they could.
And fifth, that the company behind the scrapping of aircraft at Oakey, Austral Bronze, was facing a contractual obligation and simply had to get rid of the aircraft as quickly as they could to meet their looming deadline. Of course there’s a chance that there were a number of different teams burying Spitfires at different locations for different reasons. Until we locate an aircraft, the reasons behind its burial will remain a theoretical one.