Hopes of finding a forgotten squadron of Second World War Spitfires, originally designed and built in Southampton, have soared after the discovery of a crate which may hold the key to the mystery.

As previously reported, the lost Spitfires, entombed in boxes, were buried at various allied bases on the orders of the British high command at the end of the war in South East Asia.

Aviation enthusiasts, who have spent the last 15 years searching Burma, now known as Myanmar, for the buried Spitfires, have now discovered a crate in a swampy region of the country.

A camera has been inserted into the box but the images only show muddy brown water but researchers know the Spitfires were buried in similar crates and are convinced they have found a plane, given the size of the container.

According to some reports anything up to 140 of the famed fighter, designed by R. J. Mitchell at the former Supermarine works at Woolston in the 1930s, could lay hidden underground in Burma.

The quest to find the lost Spitfires was led by Lincolnshire farmer, 62-year-old David Cundall, who explained how the legendary fighters came to be buried at the end of the Second World War.

“Basically nobody received any orders to take these airplanes back to UK,” said Mr Cundall.

“They were just surplus and one way of disposing them was to bury them. The war was over, everybody wanted to go home, nobody wanted anything, so you just buried it and went home. That was it."

Eventually the aircraft could be re-assembled and then flown for the first time, after being lost and buried for almost 70 years.

Today only a handful of Spitfires, worth anything up to £2m each, remain in flying condition.

Hidden below ground in an old bomb crater, the fighters have yet to be fully examined but it is hoped they are still in pristine condition, protected by purpose-built cases and wrapped in waxed paper.

During a visit to Burma, the Prime Minister David Cameron secured the historic deal, which will see the aircraft dug up and shipped back to the UK.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Spitfire9 is arguably the most important plane in the history of aviation, playing a crucial role in the Second World War.

“It is hoped this will be an opportunity to work with the reforming Burmese government to uncover, restore and display these fighter planes and get them gracing the skies of Britain once again.''

Conceived by the design engineer R. J. Mitchell at the Supermarine Aviation Works in Woolston, Southampton, the Spitfire became the symbol of the nation's dogged determination during the Second World War when pilots fought and won control of the skies during the Battle of Britain.

Throughout the conflict the Spitfire became the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in Europe, the Mediterranean, the Pacific and South East Asia.