In the late 1920s, Hawker Aircraft’s chief designer, Sydney Camm, developed a biplane fighter known as the Hornet as a counterpart to the successful Hart light bomber. Following evaluation, an initial order for 21 aircraft was placed in 1930 with a change of designation to the Fury (to comply with the Air Ministry’s policy of naming fighters with words beginning with “F”). The first production machine took to the air on 25th March 1931 and two months later the Fury Mk1 entered RAF service with No 43 Squadron at RAF Tangmere.
Powered by a 525 hp Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine, the Fury was the first RAF fighter capable of exceeding 200 mph in level flight. It was light on the controls which gave it an outstanding aerobatic performance and was immensely popular with those who flew it. Armament comprised 2 x .303 in Vickers machine guns with 600 rounds per gun.
The Fury Mk2 incorporating various aerodynamic improvements and powered by a 690 hp Kestrel entered service in 1936. Owing to the financial constraints of the 1930s, only six RAF squadrons were equipped with Furies (three with the Mk1 and three with the Mk2) until superseded by Gladiators and Hurricanes in 1938/39. Furies also saw service with the air forces of seven other countries, however. Three machines delivered to Spain took part in the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of the Yugoslav Air Force took on the might of the invading Luftwaffe in April 1941 and, also in 1941, Furies were used by the South African Air Force against Italian forces in East Africa. A total of 275 aircraft were built.
No 1 Squadron, RAF Tangmere was re-equipped with the Fury in 1932, a year after 43 Squadron. Over the next six years, these two squadrons took part in the annual Hendon Air Pageant with great credit and won a good many air defence and gunnery competitions. Of particular note was No 1 Squadron’s success in winning the formation aerobatics competition at the International Aviation Meeting held at Zurich in July1937 – the first time the Air Ministry had authorised participation at such an event by an RAF unit.