This weeks Warbird Stories features the unsung hero of the Battle Of Britain: The Hawker Hurricane:
Tomorrow marks 79 years since the prototype Hurricane, K5083 first flew from Brooklands airfield in Surrey. Building on the success of the Fury line of Hawker bi-planes, featuring similar steel tube construction with fabric covering.
It used the now famous Rolls Royce Merlin engine, developed from the Rolls Royce Kestrel, which powered the Fury line. Construction methods aside, there are clear family lines. There is certainly that familiar tail shape; in fact if you placed another wing above the existing one, the Hurricane would look almost exactly like its elder relatives.
As has been said many times before, the Hurricanes old-fashioned construction methods, while outdated, proved an advantage during the early days of the Second World War. The fabric covering meant that the Hurricane could sustain more damage, and be repaired much more easily than the more modern Spitfire.
The history of the Hurricane is well documented in many sources, so I wanted to mark the types anniversary with a look at the current airworthy examples still flying in this country.
Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight
It seems a good idea to start with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s pair of Hurricanes, as they have been the longest running operators of the type in the country.
I’ll start with the last Hurricane ever produced, Mk.IIc, PZ865. ‘865 rolled off the production line in 1944 with the line “the last of the many” painted on the side. Hawkers bought the aircraft back in 1950. The aircraft was entered in a number of air races throughout the 50s. The aircraft was presented to the Memorial Flight in March 1972, since when it has been displayed in a number of wartime colour schemes, rotated every few seasons.
The aircraft has always been a striking example of the type over the years, with the combination of 4 large cannons in the wings and a number of unique later war paint schemes. It currently wears the scheme of Flight Lieutenant Jimmy Whalen DFC’s Hurricane, marked EG-S. Whalen flew in South East Asia in 1944.
BBMFs other aircraft, also a MkIIc, LF363, has had a mixed history. Another late war aircraft, first flying in January 1944, it is believed to be the final Hurricane to enter RAF service. After being saved from the scrap man, the aircraft was put back in flying condition and led the Battle Of Britain fly-past over London in 1949. After a number of years moving between various squadrons, ‘363 became a founding aircraft of the Memorial Flight in 1957.
With the cannons removed, it was decided that this aircraft would always represent a Battle of Britain aircraft, while ‘865 represented the later war aircraft. Following a landing accident in 1991, ‘363 was out of action for 7 years until 1998 when the aircraft rejoined the flight. The latest scheme, unveiled earlier this year is that of, JX-B of No.1 Squadron, as flown by Sergeant Pilot Arthur Clowes DFM.
Over the years there have been a number of different Hurricanes operating in civilian hands in this country:
Though currently up for sale, Peter Vacher’s Mk1 Hurricane R4118 G-HUPW, remains the most historic Hurricane in the country. Not only is it restored to immaculate condition, ‘118 is also a genuine Battle Of Britain veteran. The aircraft flew 49 sorties during the conflict.
After a series of rebuilds and reassignments in the meantime, The Hurricane was shipped to India to become a training aircraft. That was the plan at least; in reality ‘118 remained in the shipping container and was struck off charge in 1947. It was donated to a university and left outside in a dismantled state, where Peter found the aircraft in 2001.
Over three years, the aircraft was painstakingly restored by Hawker Restorations and made its first flight at Cambridge airport in December 2004. In the following 10 years the Hurricane has been a frequent performer at a number of airshows throughout the UK. The aircraft is currently up for sale; selfishly I personally hope it remains in the UK at least for next years Battle Of Britain anniversary.
Another Mk.1 example of the Type is the Shuttleworth Collection’s Sea Hurricane Mk.1 G=BKTH. This carrier-based version of the Hurricane has the distinctive addition of a tail hook on the fuselage to aid carrier landings. Built in Ontario, Canada, Z7015 came off the production line in 1941. After a couple of years of wartime service the aircraft went to the Loughborough College as an instructional aeroplane.
In 1961 the aircraft was transferred to the Shuttleworth Collection. After a number of attempted restorations, Z7015 finally took to the skies again in 1995 at Duxford. It has been a regular performer at Old Warden ever since, earning an impressive reputation for low and close displays over the years.
Returning to flight in January 2009, Hawker Hurricane MK.IIB G-HHII became part of Peter Teichman’s Hangar 11 Collection at North Weald. The aircraft also became the only flying example of a “Hurri-Bomber.” The Hurri-Bomber, was a modified version of the Hurricane capable of carrying two 250 or 500 pound bombs, they carried out flights over Europe during 1942 and ’43.
BE505 was, like many of the current airworthy Hurricanes, was built in Canada, in 1942. The aircraft remained in Canada and was based there for the duration of the war. The aircraft is finished in the markings of Manston based BE505 of 174 Squadron. Like the rest of the Hangar 11 collection, the Hurricane is displayed regularly in a very spirited fashion, showing how impressive the Hurricane can be.
Hurricane/Sea Hurricane AE977 G-CHTK was built as a Hurricane Mk1 in 1941, after transferring to the Royal Navy; the aircraft was converted to Sea Hurricane X standard. The aircraft was written off during the war and passed through a number of private owners, before ending up with the Freidklin family. The aircraft first flew in June 2000 following restoration at Hawker Restorations. The Hurricane was then shipped to Chino in 2001.
After a number of years based at Chino, AE977 moved back to England, joining the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar collection late in 2012. Its stand out airshow appearance since returning was undoubtedly as part of the Eagle Squadron tribute at Duxford in 2013. The aircraft has recently been repainted into a Battle Of Britain paint scheme ready for the commemorations next year.
Another Canadian built Hurricane belongs to Guy Black’s Historic Aircraft Collection, based at Duxford. Painted as Z5140, G-HURI, a MkXII wears the colours of 126 squadron. Like the Hangar 11 machine, ‘140 stayed in Canada during the war as a training aircraft, before being struck of charge in 1947.
The Hurricane flew again in 1989, following years under the ownership of Stephen Grey; the Historic Aircraft Company acquired it in 2002. Following an 18 month overhaul, it was finished in the current scheme and has been a regular performer on the display circuit ever since. In 2006 G-HURI, along with HAC’s Spitfire Mk.V became the first spitfire and Hurricane to return to the island of Malta since the war as part of the “Merlins Over Malta” scheme.
The latest Hurricane to fly in the UK is G-CBOE, first flying in July in a stunning all over silver Rhodesian scheme at Thruxton, the aircraft was soon painted into a temporary Finnish scheme for an airshow appearance In Finland in August. As it stands this is the only airshow appearance by the machine and it has since been returned to the silver painted scheme. The aircraft is currently up for sale.
It is another MK.XII, built in Canada, following a Crash in 1942 the aircraft was declared a write off in 1943. The history of the aircraft is then lost between then and the 1990s when the wreck was acquired for restoration. Initially started by Hawker Restorations, the restoration was completed by Phoenix Aero Services. It is encouraging to see the Hurricane already wearing two distinctive schemes already.
With the upcoming anniversary of the Battle of Britain, as well as the 80th birthday of the type, we will hopefully see a mass gathering of the UK Hurricane population, perhaps exceeding the previous record four ship at Duxford in 2010.
With 8 current flying examples as well as several more nearing completion it is an exciting time for fans of the Hurricane.
Many thanks to all those who provided me with pictures of aircraft I didn’t have.