Postcards from Slough
Postcards from Slough

Hawker Hurricane built at Langley

In the mid-1930s, RAF Fighter Command consisted of 13 squadrons equipped with obsolete biplanes such as the Bristol Bulldog, Hawker Demon and Hawker Fury. In 1935, the Air Ministry issued Specification F.36/34 for a new high speed monoplane single seat fighter.

 

Sydney Camm, chief designer at Hawker Aircraft, who was constantly working on new fighter designs, submitted the prototype of the Hurricane. It was powered by the new Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and designed to carry eight machine guns in the wings.

 

The prototype, registered K5083, flew in November 1935 and the Air Ministry placed an order for 600 aircraft which was later increased to 1,000. The first production Hurricane, L1547, flew in October 1937.

Image from Grace's Guide

 

The prototype was originally referred to as the Merlin

 

Performance Hurricane prototype K5083

Powerplant      1 x 900hp Rolls-Royce PV-12 driving a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller

Maximum speed     315 mph at 16,200ft

Ceiling            34,500ft

 

The aircraft weighed 5,672 lbs and could take off in just under 800 ft. It could climb to 15,000ft in 5 minutes 42 seconds.

 

In 1936, Hawker Aircraft Ltd bought Parlaunt Farm, Langley, to build an airfield and factory. It was completed by the end of 1938. The factory produced one Hurricane per day but production was up to five per day by 1942.

The Battle of France

In September 1939, The RAF had 18 squadrons of Hurricanes and the first of six squadrons were sent to France to help stem the German invasion. They were joined in May 1940 by four more squadrons but the German Blitzkrieg had gained momentum by now and all the Hurricanes were withdrawn to Britain by the middle of June.

 

Hurricanes were next involved in Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of British, French and Belgian troops from Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain which is covered in another page. During the Blitz the Hurricane became the main night-fighter until more specialised aircraft were developed.

Hurricane I of 2e Escadrille ‘Le Chardon’ Regiment 1/2 Belgian Air Force, Diest, 1940

Hurricane I of the Finnish Air Force

 

This aircraft was one of twelve supplied to Finland in 1939 to help in their fight against the Soviet Union during the Winter War. Later the two countries would unite against the threat of invasion by Germany.

The Battle of the North Atlantic

When France fell, a major priority other than the Battle of Britain was the protection of convoys in the North Atlantic. These convoys were bringing desperately needed supplies from North America to Britain and the Soviet Union but, with little or no air cover, they were vulnerable to attack from U-Boats and long-range Focke-Wulf Fw200 bombers.

 

A stop-gap measure came in the form of Hurricanes launched from a catapult on a merchant ship to intercept the bombers. After the sortie the pilot would then make for nearest landfall or ditch in the sea hoping to be picked up by one of the ships. The aircraft were known as ‘Hurricats’ by the pilots. Later, true Sea Hurricanes were produced, fully equipped to be operated from newly-available escort carriers.

Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk1A ‘Hurricat’ of the Fleet Air Arm Merchant Ship Fighter Unit, RAF Speke, 1941.

Sea Hurricane I P3114 code M of No 800 Squadron FAA, RNAS Gosport, 1940

Sea Hurricane I, Z7015

Owned by the Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden

In the desert war in North Africa in 1942, Hurricane MkIIs fitted with four 20mm cannon and provision for two 250 lb bombs proved successful in the ground attack role against German and Italian armour In Europe, Hurricanes flew night-time intruder or ‘rhubarb’ missions flying low over France attacking targets of opportunity such as railway lines and military installations.

Hurricane IID BP188 JV-Z 6 Squadron RAF, Egypt 1942 fitted with 40mm cannon under each wing for attacks on enemy armour.

Hurricane IID, BE581/JX-E Night Reaper

This aircraft  was flown by the Czech ace Flt Lt Karel ‘Kut’ Kuttelwascher DFC, RAF No 1(F) Squadron, Tangmere in 1942. He flew intruder operations and in 15 missions ‘Kut’ shot down 15 enemy bombers.

A handful of Hurricanes flown by valiant pilots and ground crews defended Malta from June 1940 until early 1942 when reinforcements finally arrived.

Built in Canada, this Hurricane I has the civil registration G-HURI and belongs to the Historic Aircraft Collection at Duxford. It carries the military registration of Z5140 and squadron code H-AC representing one of the defenders of Malta.

In September 1941, two RAF Hurricane squadrons, 81 and 134, were sent to Russia help in the defence of Murmansk. During this deployment the RAF pilots shot down 15 German aircraft for the loss of one Hurricane. Soon after, 2,952 Hurricanes were supplied to the Soviet Union under a Lend Lease agreement.

A Hurricane IIB Z2585/42 of the Soviet Union

In 1942 Hurricanes were sent to Asia and fought throughout the war. The machines were becoming obsolete by now and there performance was further hampered by the fitting of tropical air filters under the nose.

A Hurricane IIC fitted with a tropical air filter and painted with Pacific theatre markings sent to the Far East in 1942.

14,451 Hurricanes were produced including 2,750 produced by the Gloster Aircraft company, 300 by the Austin Aero Company and 1,551 by the Canadian Car and Foundry, Ontario. Sea Hurricane numbers are a little bit sketchy because many were conversions from machines built as Hurricanes. The best number of custom-built Sea Hurricanes that the author can find is 885.

 

Other than the UK the Hurricane served the forces of several countries including: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Finland, India, Iran, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Soviet Union and Turkey.

Hurricane IIC PZ865

This aircraft was the last Hurricane ever built and wore the inscription ‘The Last of the Many’ below the cockpit as it left Hawkers at Langley.

 

Performance Hurricane IIC

Powerplant      1 x Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine

Maximum speed     340mph at 21,000 ft

Range             600 miles

Ceiling            35,600 ft

 

Armament consisted of 4 x 20mm cannon and provision for 2 x 250 lb or 2 x 500 lb bombs. Only 13 Hurricanes worldwide are maintained in airworthy condition, 6 of which are based in the UK.

The Poppy Appeal

To learn more about the Poppy Appeal, buy products of remembrance or to make a donation that generate funds for the good work of The British Legion please visit:

 

www.poppyshop.org.uk

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Postcards from Slough gratefully uses images from Grace's Guide.

www.gracesguide.co.uk

 

 

Postcards from Slough contributes material to British Listed Buildings and uses the site for cross referencing purposes.

www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk

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