Aircraft of the Month
The Hawker Hurricane was the first fighter monoplane to see service with the RAF and the first capable of exceeding 300 mph. The brainchild of Hawker’s designer Sydney Camm, the prototype, K5083, made its first flight from Brooklands on 6th November 1935 with George Bulman, the company’s chief test pilot, at the controls and not long thereafter the RAF ordered 600 machines. Powered by the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the first production aircraft entered service with No111 Squadron in December 1937.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, 497 Mk 1 Hurricanes were in service, most of which were deployed to France where many were destroyed during the German offensive of 1940. Aircraft production was prioritised, however, and by August of that year, a total of some 2300 had been delivered. With 32 Hurricane squadrons compared with just 19 Spitfire squadrons pitted against the might of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane formed the backbone of Fighter Command and destroyed more enemy aircraft than all other RAF aircraft types combined.
In October 1941 when it became clear that the aircraft was becoming outclassed as a pure fighter, it was modified to carry bombs under its wings and assigned to the fighter-bomber role. Further modifications took place in 1942 to accommodate 2 x 40 mm cannon for use against armoured vehicles and yet more the following year to enable the carriage of air-to-ground rocket projectiles. Thus this magnificent flying machine’s operational life was extended until the end of the war.
A grand total of 14,533 production Hurricanes were built. Many served with allied air forces – nearly 3000 being dispatched to the Soviet Union for use on the Eastern Front.
The Museum’s Mk1 replica honours Hurricane L1679 which flew with No 1 Squadron from April 1939. The squadron deployed from Tangmere to Vassincourt in France shortly after war was declared and was initially employed on counter-air patrols in the Metz area. L1679’s first successful engagement took place on 3rd March 1940 when her pilot, Flying Officer Soper, shared the destruction of a Heinkel 111. From 10th April, she was flown exclusively by Fg Off Paul Richey who destroyed a Dornier 215 on 10th May on his first sortie of the day and a Dornier 17 on his 5th. It was following this last engagement that L1679 was badly damaged during a forced-landing by Richey near Mezieres. She was destroyed on the ground four days later.