The Buried Treasure of War, literally.

Several news reports have taken my eye in recent weeks. According to British newspapers there are crates buried in the ground in Burma that contain Spitfire planes. They were shipped to Burma towards the end of the war, with the wings separate and to be assembled on arrival. But when the atomic bombs were dropped and the war ended, the crates were buried instead of being destroyed.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has just been to Burma and discussed the excavation and restoration of the planes with the ruling military Junta there. It appears this may happen. Who knows what condition they’ll be in, but it helps that they had been prepared for transport and all the rivets and bolts would’ve been covered in preservative oil.

Whilst following discussion on this fascinating subject on aviation history forums I’ve discovered comments from people with fathers who served in the Navy in WW2. Apparently, with the end of the war declared, crates of brand new planes and tanks and goodness knows what else were dumped off ships into the ocean. They didn’t want it returned to the States where it would depress the manufacturing industry and the need to replace equipment lost in war.

Just today I found an article in the Los Angeles Times about an Italian painting returned to the heirs of the original owner. “Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged By A Rascal,” was created by Italian artist Girolamo Romani around 1538.

Federico Gentili di Giuseppe, an Italian Jew who lived in Paris, owned the painting. He died in 1940 and his sizable collection of art was sold by the collaborationist Vichy government. His descendants have been trying to reclaim his art since the late 1990s. This painting has hung in the Pinacoteca di Brera museum in Milan and was loaned to the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Florida in 2011. It was seized by US Officials and has been returned to the descendants, who intend to sell it at Christies auction house in June. It’s reported to be worth over $3million US. I’m delighted for his descendants and well done to the officials for acting on the opportunity to get the painting back.

This led me to an even more exciting article, also in the LA Times. Apparently there’s a chance that there is a whole collection of art in an old silver mine on what was the Czech-Hungarian border. The collection belonged to Baron Ferenc Hatvany, an Hungarian-Jewish industrialist, and was ‘confiscated’ by Eichmann late in WW2. It may contain works by Monet, Manet and Cezanne and is estimated to be worth over 500 million pounds. They’re going to explore the mine in May.

How exciting! Terrible wrongs are starting to be righted and that fills me with joy. You’d think the world wars of the 20th century were consigned to the history books, but that’s not the case. This coming Wednesday is ANZAC Day here and in Australia. It’s the day when we remember the brave ANZAC soldiers (New Zealanders and Australians) who invaded Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915. It was a disaster and so many glorious young men were killed, both ours and the Turkish men, and yet, it’s remembered here as the day we came of age as a fighting nation. My Great-Uncle was at Gallipoli and he survived, and then he went on to fight on the Somme and survived that too. He was killed about 10 days before the war ended in 1918, having fought since 1914.

After so much loss and so much inhumanity it is lovely to know that precious things are beginning to surface from their hiding places and see the light of peace again.


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