Designed by Sir Sydney Camm the Hurricane would provide the Royal Air Force with its first monoplane fighter and play a pivotal role for Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. Flown by a number of 'aces', including Douglas Bader, the type would spend twelve years in RAF service in a variety of roles. Discover 35 Hawker Hurricane facts from its designer to restoring one today.Legendary Designer
Sir Sydney Camm, the chief designer at Hawker Aircraft Limited, was the man behind the Hurricane. He would also be involved in the design of a number of other well known aircraft such as the Hawker Typhoon and Hawker Hunter, he also played a part in the development of the Hawker Harrier.
Based on the Hawker Fury biplane early designs of a monoplane aircraft to be powered by a 1,000-hp Rolls-Royce PV.12, later known as the Merlin, were originally known as the Fury monoplane before being developed into the Hurricane.
The Hurricane prototype (K5083) made its maiden flight on the 6th November 1935 at Brooklands with Hawker's chief test pilot George Bulman flying the 1,025-hp Rolls-Royce 'C' engine powered aircraft, minus its armament of eight machine-guns.
First Hurricane Squadron
When the first four Hurricanes entered service on the 15th December 1937 with No. 111 Squadron, RAF Northolt it was the first Royal Air Force monoplane fighter. It would also be the first RAF aircraft with eight machine-guns and the first to fly faster than 300 mph.
First Radar Interception of the Second World War
When a flight of No. 46 Squadron Hurricanes were scrambled from RAF Digby to intercept nine Heinkel He 115s, shooting down six, on the 21st October 1939 it would be the first successful interception using radar by Fighter Command during the Second World War (1939 – 1945).
Hurricane Prototype (K5083) © ww2images.com
First Aerial Victory on the Western Front
Flying from Vassincourt, France on the 30th October 1939 Pilot Officer Mould of No. 1 Squadron shot down a Dornier Do 17P which would be the first German aircraft shot down over the Western Front during the Second World War.
First RAF Ace
Flying Officer Edgar Kain, known as Cobber Kain, who flew the Hurricane with No. 73 Squadron became the first Royal Air Force ace of the Second World War when he shot down his fifth aircraft in March 1940. He would shoot down a further 12 aircraft before he died in a flying accident on the 7th June 1940 aged 21.
During the Battle of Britain whilst serving with No. 151 Squadron , Flight Lieutenant Roddick Lee Smith flew two cannon armed Hurricanes during this period. One was (L1750) which had two 20mm cannons and (V7350) which had four 20mm cannons.
Fighter Command's Only Victoria Cross
Flight Lieutenant James Brindley Nicolson would be the only Fighter Command pilot to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War. This was for his actions on the 16th August 1940 when, despite his Hurricane Mk I (P3576) being damaged by Messerschmitt Bf 109s, he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 before bailing out.
During the Battle of Britain decoy airfields were set up to fool the enemy into attacking these instead of their real target airfield. To help make these look authentic a number of full size mock Hurricanes were placed at these locations.
Hurricane Mk I (P3428) © ww2images.com
Flown by Douglas Bader
Squadron Leader of No. 242 Squadron during the Battle of Britain Douglas Bader flew the Hurricane Mk I, during this period he is credited with 11 aircraft destroyed, 4 damaged and 1 probable.
Sir Keith Park's Personal Aircraft
During the Battle of Britain Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park who commanded 11 Group, Fighter Command would often visit airfields under his command in his own Hawker Hurricane Mk I (P3854) OK-1.
Top Scoring Battle of Britain Squadron
Equipped with the type it was No. 303 Squadron that would be the highest scoring squadron during the battle claiming 126 aircraft. This achievement was all the more remarkable as the squadron didn't become operational until the 31st August 1940.
Hero of the Battle of Britain
During the battle Hurricanes flew around 35,000 operational sorties and would shoot down 55% of all German aircraft claimed, more than other aircraft, including the Supermarine Spitfire , and ground defences put together.
The famous author flew Hurricanes with No. 80 Squadron and with five victories would become an RAF ace. Due to injuries suffered in an earlier accident which had seen him out of action for around 5 months he was discharged from the Royal Air Force. He would later become Assistant Air Attaché at the British Embassy in Washington D.C.
Sea Hurricane (AE962) © ww2images.com
With the Rolls-Royce Merlin in high demand two proposals were suggested that saw alternative engines considered for the Hurricane. The first was the Napier Dagger engine during 1940, with 1941 seeing a proposal for a Bristol Hercules powered Hawker Hurricane. Neither of these would progress further than the drawing board. A Rolls-Royce Griffon powered Hurricane was also considered but went no further with the Hawker Typhoon being preferred.
16 Different Variants and Sub Variants
Originally designed as a fighter the Hurricane, like a number of other aircraft, would be used in other roles. These included night fighter and the Hurricane fighter-bomber with the latter being nicknamed 'Hurribomber'.
'Flying Can Openers'
One of the more successful variants was the Hurricane Mk IID which was armed with a pair of 40mm Vickers 'S' anti-tanks guns and a single 0.303-in machine-gun to assist with aiming. It performed its first operational sortie on the 6th June 1942 in the hands of No. 6 Squadron, so effective was this type against enemy armour they would be nicknamed the 'Flying Can Openers'.
Known as the Hawker Sea Hurricane the Mk IB was the first of the variant that could be used aboard an aircraft carrier, it would be the Fleet Air Arms first single seat carrier fighter. It would also serve aboard merchant aircraft carriers and catapult aircraft merchantmen ships.
This was the nickname for Sea Hurricane Mk IAs that served aboard catapult aircraft merchantmen ships. A rocket propelled catapult would launch the aircraft when needed but as there was nowhere to land back on the CAM ship the pilot would have to bale out or ditch in the sea and await rescue.
Hillson FH.40 Slip-wing Hurricane © ww2images.com
Two Seater Hurricanes
There were four two seater examples produced. These consisted of two Mk IICs modified in the field by the Soviet Union, with the first flying on the 27th September 1946, whilst Hawker built two Hurricane Mk TIICs.
Hurricanes Fitted with Skies
Built in Canada they would have their landing gear replaced with skies as well as having the spinner removed.
A rather unusual modification saw a written off Hurricane Mk I fitted with a third wheel under the nose and a seat either side of the cockpit, one for a second pupil and the other for an instructor. It was then painted in stripes. The idea behind this unusual Hurricane was to improve the taxying skills of new pilots.
One of the most unusual ideas tested on the Hurricane during the Second World War must have been the slip-wing. Known as the Hillson FH.40 Slip-wing Hurricane, this saw a Mk I (L1884) fitted with a top wing. This made the aircraft look like a Hurricane biplane but the extra top wing, which could hold extra fuel and help with lift on take-off, could be discarded when no longer required.
The 15th June 1943 saw No. 527 Squadron, RAF Castle Camps formed and they would use Hurricane Mk I (P2992) painted in a red/orange colour to help calibrate radar.
Hurricane Mk IIC (BE500) © ww2images.com
First Use of Air-to-Ground Rockets
It was the Hurricane Mk IV which would be the first aircraft to use air-to-ground rocket projectiles on operations when they were used on the 2nd September 1943.
Delivering the Mail
As part of Transport Command's No. 1697 (Air Dispatch Letter Service) Flight, 1944 saw a number of Hurricanes underwing tanks converted to store mail.
Laminar Flow Wing Test Bed
Hurricane Mk IIB (Z3687), painted in an all white colour scheme, would be used during 1944 and 1945 to test a laminar flow wing designed by Armstrong Whitworth.
The type would see service with 25 air forces around the world. During the Second World War twelve were used by Romania, who used the Hurricane during 'Operation Barbarossa' in support of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Aside from the Royal Air Force one of the biggest users of the Hurricane was the Soviet Union who received 2,952 examples.
Mk IIC (BE208) of No. 232 Squadron, Singapore flown by Squadron Leader Richard Brooker had force landed at its airfield and ended up in a ditch, the pilot was unhurt, and when the airfield was abandoned as a result of the Japanese advance the aircraft was captured. After repairs it was tested by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service.
Hurricanes of No. 79 Squadron © ww2images.com
Last Hurricane Squadron
12 years service with the Royal Air Force came to an end with No. 6 Squadron. They would perform the last operational sortie of the type on the 13th January 1947 and were the last to have their Hurricanes, which were Mk IVs, replaced. This was two days later on the 15th January 1947 when they received the Hawker Tempest.
'The Last of the Many'
The last example ever built was a Mk IIC (PZ865) at Hawker Aircraft's satellite factory at Langley, Buckinghamshire and would be kept by Hawker and would not see active service in the Second World War. It flew in the King's Cup on the 17th June 1950 in the hands of RAF ace Group Captain Peter Townsend and finished second. It would appear in the Battle of Britain (1969) film before being handed over to the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight on the 29th March 1972 and is still flying today.
When the Canadian Car and Foundry Company hired Elsie as their Chief Aeronautical Engineer in 1942 she became the first women to be employed in such a role and would oversee the construction of Hurricanes at the factory. Elsie would design a number of modifications to ensure the aircraft could still be used during cold conditions. Her work with the type earned Elsie the nickname 'Queen of the Hurricanes'.
During the Hurricanes seven year production run between 1937 and 1944 a total of 13,132 were built in the UK by a number of different companies and 1,451 were built in Canada by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company. This brought total production of the aircraft to 14,583.
Restoring a Hurricane
If you wanted to restore a Hawker Hurricane today to airworthy condition it would take approximately 26,000 hours and cost around £2 million pounds.
Hurricane production line © ww2images.com