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Artefact of the Month

HAWKER HURRICANE P3179

Late morning on 30 August 1940, No 43 Squadron, based at RAF Tangmere, was airborne and engaging enemy aircraft over East Sussex. At 1150 hours, one of its Hurricanes, flown by twenty year old Sergeant Pilot Dennis Noble, was seen to dive away from the battle. Noble, sadly had been shot and killed in his aircraft and was therefore unable to pull out of the dive. His aircraft crashed vertically into the pavement of Woodhouse Road, Hove, near Brighton.

Dennis Noble originated from Retford Nottinghamshire and joined the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve, aged eighteen, in 1938. He learnt to fly at weekends and in his holidays and moved to London to work in a radio shop. He continued his flying training at Redhill aerodrome until he was called up at the beginning of the war in September 1939. He was trained as a fighter pilot to fly the powerful Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 and on 3 August 1940 was posted to his first squadron, No 43, the ‘Fighting Cocks’ at RAF Tangmere.

He described in a letter to his sister, dated 19 August 1940, eleven days before his death, “how [Tangmere] is the busiest sector in the group at the moment… we work more or less 24 hours a day, and it’s pretty tiring… the first day I went into battle I was shot down. I had seven holes in the machine, but I was okay… anyway, I learned more in those few minutes than ever before. It was a fine experience. I shot down my first machine last Friday [16th], a dive-bomber… yesterday I attacked another dive-bomber, and just as I was about to strike the decisive blow my guns failed to work. Fortunately I was able to dive away before I was caught napping… “

In August 1940, following his death, Dennis Noble was buried in Retford. However, when Keith Arnold, (the Museum’s Head of Maintenance) led an excavation of the crash site in November 1996 substantial remains of the pilot were found. A second funeral, with full military honours, took place in Retford on 22 January 1997.

SERGEANT PILOT DENNIS NOBLE’S HURRICANE, P3179, IS DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S BATTLE OF BRITAIN HALL AS A MEMORIAL TO THOSE OF THE ‘THE FEW’ WHO WERE KILLED DURING THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN.

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