Hawker Hurricane Squadron in flight

Hawker Hurricane Squadron in flight

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Hawker Hurricane Squadron in flight

Here we see nine of the twelve Hawker Hurricanes of a standard RAF Fighter Squadron, flying in the pre-war 'V' formations of three aircraft each.

No. 1 Squadron RAF

Number 1 Squadron, also known as No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron, is a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It was the first squadron to fly a VTOL aircraft. [6] It currently operates Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth. [6]

    (1915–1918)* (1915)* (1915) (1915) (1916)* (1917) (1917) (1918) (1918) (1918) (1918) (1918)* (1922–1925) (1922–1925)
  • France and Low Countries (1939–1940)* (1940)*
  • Channel & North Sea (1941–1945)
  • Home Defence (1940–1945) (1941–1944)* (1944) (1944)
  • France and Germany (1944–1945)*
  • Biscay (1944–1945) (1944–1945)* (1982)* (1999) (2001–2014) (2003)*

The squadron motto, In omnibus princeps ("First in all things") reflects the squadron's status as the RAF's oldest unit, having been involved in almost every major British military operation from the First World War to the present time. These include the Second World War, Suez Crisis, Falklands War, Gulf War, Kosovo War, and Operation Telic (Iraq).

One of the Biggest Air Battles in History – the Battle Of Britain in 38 Great Images

It may be almost impossible to imagine today, but not long before the Nazi campaign against Britain got underway, Hitler mused that England might capitulate to Germany without putting up much of a fight at all.

Apparently he underestimated Winston Churchill, the British prime minister, much the same way he would later underestimate Josef Stalin, when he invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

Britain wasn’t about to give up control of the skies easily, quietly or quickly. Although Germany had the Luftwaffe, which was equipped with excellent aircraft, when up against the fighter planes of the Royal Air Force (RAF) it was no contest.

German Heinkel He 111 bombers over the English Channel. 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-0678 CC-BY-SA 3.0]

Nonetheless, Hitler ordered the bombing of Britain to commence on July 10 th , 1940, and the two countries fought almost constantly until October 31 st , when victory went decidedly to Great Britain. It became known as the Battle of Britain, an aerial campaign that was, in some respects, a fight for Britain’s very soul as a military champion on the right side of history.

By the time the conflict subsided, almost 3,000 civilians had lost their lives.

It was a gruelling campaign for both sides. But the RAF had Spitfires and Hurricanes and skilled pilots to steer them, and it wasn’t long before Germany’s fantasies of an easy fight evaporated like so much dust in a sandstorm.

The Battle of Britain is not only an example of the RAF’s skill. It was the first battle fought solely in the air, a battle that cost Germany more than 1,500 fighter planes. Hermann Goering, chief of the Luftwaffe had mistakenly, just like his boss, thought that Britain would be quickly and easily defeated.

He soon realized Germany was in for the fight of its life, a fight that of course it wound up losing, in 1945 when it completely surrendered to the Allies.

A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by by Pilot Officer J D Bisdee, as he dives on a formation of Heinkel He IIIs of KG 55 which had just bombed the Supermarine aircraft works at Woolston, Southampton. 1940. [© IWM (CH 1826)] A still from camera gun film shows tracer ammunition from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by Flight Lieutenant J H G McArthur, hitting a Heinkel He 111 on its starboard quarter. These aircraft were part of a large formation from KG 53 and KG 55 which attacked the Bristol Aeroplane Company’s works at Filton, Bristol, just before midday on 25th September 1940. [© IWM (CH 1823)] Messerschmitt Bf110 fighter of Zerstörergeschwader 76 heavy fighter squadron over the English Channel, Aug 1940. These were the first fighters with the shark’s mouth that inspired the RAF in Africa and the AVG in China.

A flight of German Do-17 Z bombers of Kampfgeschwader 3 over France or Belgium, possibly en route to Britain, September-October 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-343-0679-14A / Gentsch / CC-BY-SA 3.0] Supermarine Spitfire Mark Is of No. 610 Squadron based at Biggin Hill, flying in ‘vic’ formation, 24 July 1940. [© IWM (CH 740)] Hawker Hurricanes of No 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force, based at Wittering, Cambridgeshire, followed by a similar formation of Supermarine Spitfires of No 266 Squadron, during a flying display for aircraft factory workers, October 1940. [© IWM (CH 1561)] A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by by Pilot Officer J D Bisdee, as he dives on a formation of Heinkel He 111s of KG 55 which have just bombed the Supermarine aircraft works at Woolston, Southampton. The rearmost aircraft of the leading ‘staffel’ receives a burst of machine gun fire from Bisdee, as shown by the streaks of light from the tracer bullets. Its port engine is also on fire. [© IWM (CH 1827)] A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I, flown by the Commanding Officer of No. 609 Squadron RAF, Squadron Leader H S Darley, as he opens fire amongst a formation of Heinkel He 111s of KG 55 which have just bombed the Supermarine aircraft works at Woolston, Southampton. [© IWM (CH 1829)] A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by Flying Officer Tadeusz “Novi” Nowierski (formerly Polish Air Force) as he closes in on a formation of Dornier Do 17Zs of KG3 south-west of London at approximately 5.45 pm on 7 September 1940, the first day of the Blitz. Tracer bullets from the intercepting Spitfires can be seen travelling towards the enemy aircraft which were heading back to their base after bombing East London and the docks. [© IWM (CH 1820)] A Dornier Do-17 medium bomber dropping a string of bombs on London. 20 September 1940.

A portrait of Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park while commanding RAF squadrons on Malta, September 1942. In Germany, he was supposedly known as “the Defender of London”. [© IWM (CM 3513)] A Spitfire aircraft going down after being hit by a German Heinkel III in a dog fight. [© AWM 044727] A Spitfire pilot of No. 610 Squadron recounts how he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110, Biggin Hill. September 1940. [© IWM (HU 104450)] Bf-109 after an emergency landing on its way back to France across the English Channel. 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-344-0741-30 Röder CC-BY-SA 3.0] Bomb with sign Extra-Havanna für Churchill. August 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-342-0615-18 Spieth CC-BY-SA 3.0] British fighter Supermarine Spitfire flies in front of the cab of the German Heinkel He 111.

British pilots running towards their fighters (Spitfires) on the air-raid alarm.

Camera gun footage of a Ju 87 Stuka being shot down by an RAF fighter, 1940. [© IWM (C 2418)] Destroyed German bomber Heinkel HE 111 [Av Franz Hollerweger CC BY-SA 2.0] German Do 17 bomber and British Spitfire fighter in the sky over Britain. December 1940. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1969-094-18 Speer CC-BY-SA 3.0] German Heinkel He 111 flying towards their targets in the United Kingdom.

German Heinkel He 111s which went into service in 1937. Some 6000 Heinkel He 111s were built but were found to be a poor match for Hurricanes and Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.

German Officer examines the bullet holes on the fuselage of Heinkel He 111. The damage was caused by 7.69mm machine guns of British aircraft. [Via] Ground staff refueling a Messerschmitt Bf 110. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-404-0521-19A Koster CC-BY-SA 3.0] Hawker Hurricane Mk I aircraft of No 85 Squadron, Royal Air Force on patrol during the Battle of Britain. [© IWM (CH 1510)] Hawker Hurricane Mk Is of No. 242 Squadron during the Battle of Britain, 1940.

Hawker Hurricanes of No. 85 Squadron RAF, October 1940. [© IWM (CH 1500)] Heinkel HE-111 aircraft of the Luftwaffe being shot down during the Battle of Britain. [Canada. Dept. of National Defence Library and Archives Canada PA-] Hurricanes of No. 85 Squadron in flight in search of the enemy, October 1940. [© IWM (CH 1499)] Sergeant Schnell Siegfried of the 4.JG2 Squadron presents the marks of victories on the tail of his Messerschmitt fighter Bf 109E. [Via] KG 76 on their way to the target, 18th August 1940.

Pattern of condensation trails left by British and German aircraft after a dog fight. [© IWM (H 4219)] Spitfire pilots pose beside the wreckage of a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, which they shot down as it was attacking a Channel convoy, 1940. [© IWM (CH 2064)] Supermarine Spitfire Mark Is of No. 610 Squadron based at Biggin Hill, flying in ‘vic’ formation, 24 July 1940. [© IWM (CH 740)] Supermarine Spitfire Mk VBs of No. 131 Squadron RAF being prepared for a sweep at Merston, a satellite airfield of Tangmere, Sussex. June 1942. [© IWM (CH 5879)] The Crew and a ground staff of the Luftwaffe prepare the start of the bomber Junkers Ju-88. [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-402-0265-03A Pilz CC-BY-SA 3.0] The front of a Heinkel He-111 medium bomber in flight during a bombing mission to London. November 1940.

Two Dornier Do 17Z of the KG76 Squadron on London’s West Ham sky.

BBMF Hurricane (Last Of The Few) tribute to AC/DC Back In Black. :-)

Every few years, each of the aircraft within the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) receives a new paint scheme as a way of highlighting the enormous breadth of history and valiant actions which these aircraft represent. Typically, the BBMF times these repaints to coincide with major aircraft overhauls, and such was the case recently for the Flight’s Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIc PZ865, which returned to its home at RAF Coningsby yesterday following rework at Biggin Hill now marked as a No.247 Squadron night fighter intruder aircraft, coded ‘ZY-V. As the BBMF press release notes…

BBMF’s Hurricane Mk IIc PZ865 first flew on 27th July 1944, the very last of 14,533 Hawker Hurricanes built. Fitted with four 20mm cannons and a Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine, it came off the production line at the huge Hawker aircraft factory at Langley with the inscription ‘The Last of the Many’ painted beneath the cockpit on both sides.

( Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865, ‘The Last of the Many’, on an early test flight in 1944, being flown by Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot, the hatless George Bulman, who had flown the maiden flight of the prototype Hurricane, K5083, on 6th November 1935. Bulman, therefore, flew the first test flights on the very first and very last Hurricanes. Photo via Battle of Britain Memorial Fligt.)

Wanting to preserve the final Hurricane ever built, the manufacturer purchased PZ865 back from the Air Ministry before she entered RAF service. For the next 28 years, Hawker (and its successor companies) used PZ865 in various capacities, including as a company ‘hack’, air racer, display aircraft, and for aerial sequences in films, including the famous movie ‘Battle of Britain’.

In 1972, a combination of limited resources and restricted hangar space at Hawker Siddeley’s Dunsfold facility forced the company to conclude that it could no longer maintain its collection of historic aircraft. The intervention of Duncan Simpson, who was then the Hawker Siddeley Chief Test Pilot, and his astute manoeuvring behind the scenes, gained sufficient permission to allow the Hurricane’s donation to the BBMF, which was then based at RAF Coltishall. In March 1972, before anyone could change their minds, Simpson flew PZ865 to Coltishall and handed the Hurricane over to the Flight. His arrival with this precious piece of British aviation history was unexpected, however. A BBMF Flight Sergeant greeted him as he climbed down from the aircraft saying, “Afternoon Sir, what have we here?” Duncan replied, “It’s a Hurricane, Flight Sergeant, a very special Hurricane, and I’m handing it over to you. Look after it and make sure it’s flying right into the future so that future generations can see it.”

The BBMF has done just that and Duncan Simpson’s wish to have this special Hurricane maintained in flying condition continues to be fulfilled more than 75 years after her first flight. The famous Hurricane went to Biggin Hill at the end of 2020 to undergo a ‘Major’ servicing with The Spitfire Company, which currently holds the MOD contract for ‘Majors’ on the BBMF fighter aircraft types. PZ865 has now emerged from the ‘Major’ in a new colour scheme as an all-black night fighter.

The original ‘ZY-V’ was Hurricane IIC BE634 of 247 Sqn, which was based at Predannack and Exeter in 1942, with her pilots involved in defensive night fighter patrols and night intruder operations over enemy territory. Unusually, the 247 Sqn Hurricanes wore half-sized roundels and code letters over their all-black night fighter camouflage. The all-black night fighter Hurricanes of 247 Sqn were used for night air defence of the Plymouth and Exeter area and for night intruder operations against targets in north-western France.

17 August 1940

Pilot Officer William Meade Lindsley Fiske III, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. (United States Air Force 150918-F-XX999-008)

17 August 1940: Pilot Officer William Meade Lindsley Fiske III died at St. Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, Sussex, England, as a result of injuries sustained in combat the previous day. Billy Fiske was the second American pilot to lose his life in combat during the Second World War.¹

On 16 August, No. 601 Squadron, based at RAF Tangmere, was dispatched by Fighter Command to intercept incoming Luftwaffe aircraft at 12,000 feet (3,658 meters). This was Billy Fiske’s second sortie of the day. He was airborne at 12:25 p.m. In the resulting air battle, the squadron shot down eight enemy Junkers Ju 87 Sturzkampfflugzeug (“Stuka”) dive bombers.

One of the Stukas’ gunners hit Billy Fiske’s Hawker Hurricane with his Rheinmetall MG 15 machine gun. A 7.92 millimeter bullet punctured the Hurricane’s fuselage fuel tank. Fiske was able to fly the damaged fighter back to Tangmere. With the engine out, Fiske glided to a belly-landing at the airfield. He had suffered severe burns this lower body. He had to be lifted from the cockpit by rescuers, with his clothing still burning.

The squadron’s medical officer, Flying Officer Courtney B.I. Wiley, examined Fiske, and administered morphine. He was sent to the Royal West Sussex Hospital in Chichester. Dr. Wiley was “very pessimistic” about the pilot’s chances of survival. Billy Fiske died the following day. For his actions in rescuing Fiske, Dr. Wiley was awarded the Military Cross, and Corporal G.W. Jones and Aircraftsman 2nd Class C.G. Faulkner received the Military Medal.

Pilot Officer William Meade Lindsley Fiske III was buried near Tangmere, at the St. Mary and St. Blaise Church, Boxgrove, West Sussex, England, 20 August 1940.

The Funeral of Pilot Officer W.M.L. Fiske, St. Mary and St. Blaise Church, Boxgrove, West Sussex, England, 20 August 1940.

Billy Fiske’s Hurricane was repaired and was operational within a few days.

A ceremony unveiled a memorial to Fiske at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, 4 July 1941. At the presentation, Sir Archibald Sinclair, Secretary of State for Air, said, “Here was a young man for whom life held much. Under no compulsion he came to fight for Britain. He came and he fought and he died.” The plaque reads, “An American citizen who died that England might live.”

Fiske’s flight commander, Flight Lieutenant Sir Archibald Hope, wrote,

“Unquestionably Billy Fiske was the best pilot I’ve ever known. It was unbelievable how good he was. He picked up so fast it wasn’t true. He’d flown a bit before, but he was a natural as a fighter pilot. He was so terribly nice and extraordinarily modest, and fitted into the squadron very well.”

—”For Our Tomorrow,” Pilot Officer Billy Fiske, Royal Air Force Museum

Painting of Billy Fiske landing his Hurricane. (John Howard Worsley/Tangmere Military Aviation Museum)

William Meade Lindsley Fiske III was born 4 June 1911, at Chicago, Illinois,² the second child of William Meade Lindsley Fiske II, a banker, and Beulah Rexford Fiske. By 1920, the family was living in Montecito, California. Fiske was educated in America, France and England, where he studied economics at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

On Saturday, 18 February 1928, Billy Fiske was in St. Moritz, Switzerland, for the II Olympic Winter Games. He was the driver for the United States five-man bobsleigh team, which set a record for a combined time for two runs on the famous Cresta Run, of 3 minutes, 20.5 seconds. The team was awarded the Olympic Gold Medal.

Billy Fiske was the driver for the Gold Medal-winning United States Olympic bobsled team at the 1928 Winter Olympics at St. Moritz. (Corbis via The Telegraph)

For the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York, the bobsleigh teams had been cut to four men. Also, the number of runs increased from two to four. Fiske was again the driver for the American team. And again, Fiske and his team mates won the Olympic Gold Medal with a combined time of 7 minutes, 53.68 seconds.

Fiske was invited to compete in the 1936 Olympics, but declined. That same year, he and a close friend began development of what would become the ski resort at Aspen, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He was also involved in film production financing in Hollywood.

Fiske was also an automotive sportsman. He ordered a British Racing Green 1930 Bentley 4½-Liter Supercharged (a “Blower Bentley”) to the same specifications as Sir Henry Birkin’s LeMans racing team cars. He drove it to an average speed of 121.4 miles per hour (195.4 kilometers per hour) at Brooklands’ 2¾-mile high-banked track, for which he was awarded the Outer Circuit Banking Badge.

Billy Fiske’s 1930 4½-Liter “Blower” Bentley, GK 150, Chassis Number SM 3918, now painted black. Lady Greville, Countess of Warwick

William M.L. Fiske married Mrs. Rose Bingham Greville, formerly the Countess of Warwick, in a civil registered ceremony at Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, 8 September 1938. (Following Fiske’s death, Mrs. Fiske joined the Women’s Voluntary Service as a truck driver.)

During 1938, Fiske had learned to fly at an airfield near London, and was awarded an Aviator’s Certificate by the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain. With war approaching, he volunteered to serve in the Royal Air Force, claiming that he was a Canadian citizen. He was interviewed by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sir Cyril Newall, and accepted for the Auxiliary Air Force. He was sent to No. 10 Elementary Flying Training School, Yatesbury, Wiltshire, for military flight training, and then No. 2 Flight Training School, Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. Training was in the Gloster Gladiator.

On 23 March 1940, Billy Fiske was granted a commission as an Acting Pilot Officer on probation, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (78092). He joined No. 601 Squadron at RAF Tangmere, 12 July 1940. On 13 July, he was graded Pilot Officer on probation. He flew his first flight with the squadron, and his first in the Hawker Hurricane. Between 20 July and 16 August, Pilot Officer Fiske flew 42 sorties.

On 11 August, Billy Fiske claimed a twin-engine Messerschmitt Bf 110 shot down. On 13 August, he claimed another Bf 110 probably shot down and two more damaged. On 15 August, Fiske and his Hurricane forced a German bomber into a balloon barrage.

Fiske wrote to his older sister, Beaulah (“Peggy”) Fiske Heaton, his reasons for joining the Royal Air Force. He said that the English had

“. . . been damn good to me in good times so naturally I feel I ought to try and help out if I can. There are absolutely no heroics in my motives, I’m probably twice as scared as the next man, but if anything happens to me I at least feel I have done the right thing in spite of the worry to my family—which I certainly couldn’t feel if I was to sit in New York making dough.”

“American Billy Fiske—One of the Few,” United States Naval Institute Blog, 16 August 2016.

Hawker Hurricane Mk.I L1547

Billy Fiske’s fighter was a Hawker Hurricane Mk.I, P3358, with squadron markings UF H. It was from the third production block of 544 Hurricanes built by Hawker Aircraft Limited, Brooklands, between February and July 1940.

The Hurricane Mk.I was ordered into production in the summer of 1936. The first production airplane flew on 12 October 1937. The early production Hurricane Mk. I retained the wooden fixed-pitch propeller and fabric-covered wings of the prototype, though this would change with subsequent models. It was 31 feet, 4 inches (9.550 meters) long with a wingspan of 40 feet (12.192 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 3 inches (4.039 meters). Its empty weight was 4,982 pounds (2,260 kilograms) and gross weight was 6,750 pounds (3,062 kilograms).

No. 601 Squadron Hawker Hurricane Mk.I UF N at RAF Tangmere, circa August 1940.

The Mk.I’s engine was a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 27.01 liter (1,648.96 cubic inches) Rolls-Royce R.M.1.S. Merlin Mk.III single-overhead-cam 60° V-12, rated at 990 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 12,250 feet (3,734 meters), and 1,030 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m., at 10,250 feet (3,124 meters), using 87 octane aviation gasoline. The Merlin III drove the propeller through a 0.477:1 gear reduction ratio. It weighed 1,375 pounds (624 kilograms).

The fixed-pitch propeller was soon replaced with a three-bladed, two-pitch propeller, and then a three-bladed constant-speed propeller. Speed trials of a Mk.I equipped with a 10 foot, 9 inch (3.277 meters) diameter Rotol constant-speed propeller achieved a maximum True Air Speed in level flight of 316 miles per hour (509 kilometers per hour) at 17,750 feet (5,410 meters) at 3,000 r.p.m. The service ceiling was 33,750 feet (10,287 meters). The Mk.I’s range was 600 miles (966 kilometers) at 175 miles per hour (282 kilometers per hour).

The fighter was armed with eight Browning .303-caliber Mark II machine guns mounted in the wings.

At the beginning of World War II, 497 Hurricanes had been delivered to the Royal Air Force, enough to equip 18 squadrons. During the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane accounted for 55% of the enemy aircraft destroyed. Continuously upgraded throughout the war, it remained in production until 1944. A total of 14,503 were built by Hawker, Gloster and the Canadian Car and Foundry Company.

No. 601 Squadron Hawker Hurricane Mk.I UF U, at RAF Tangmere, circa August 1940

¹ Acting Flight Lieutenant James William Elias Davies, D.F.C., Royal Air Force, a Hawker Hurricane pilot assigned to No. 79 Squadron, was killed in action over the English Channel, 27 June 1940. Davies was born at Bernardsville, New Jersey, United States of America, in October 1914. He was the son of David Ashley Davies, a farm manager, and Katherine Isabel Davies. He had a twin sister, Isabella E. Davies. Flying a Bristol Beaufighter, he is credited with 8 aerial victories.

² Most sources cite Billy Fiske’s birthplace as New York City, or Brooklyn, New York. His United States of America Emergency Passport Application, dated 28 May 1924, when Fiske was 12 years old, gives his birthplace as Chicago, Illinois.

This stained-glass window at Boxgrove Priory memorializes Pilot Officer William Meade Lindsley (“Billy”) Fiske III, an American citizen who flew a Hawker Hurricane for the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. He died 17 August 1940 of injuries sustained during air combat the previous day. A plaque at St. Paul’s Cathedral says, simply, “An American citizen who died that England might live.” Billy Fiske was the second American pilot to die as a result of combat action during World War II. (Marker23 via Wikipedia)

6 November 1935

6 November 1935: The prototype Hawker Monoplane F.36/34, K5083, first flew at the Brooklands Aerodrome, Weybridge, Surrey, with Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Paul Ward Spencer (“George”) Bulman, M.C., A.F.C., Royal Air Force Reserve,¹ in the cockpit. The airplane would be named “Hurricane” and become one of the most successful fighter aircraft of World War II.

Designed by Sydney Camm to meet a Royal Air Force Specification for a high speed monoplane interceptor, the airplane was developed around the Rolls-Royce PV-12 engine.

Sir Sydney Camm, C.B.E., F.R.Ae.S. (1893–1966)

The Hurricane was built in the traditional means of a light but strong framework covered by doped linen fabric. Rather than wood, however, the Hurricane’s framework used high strength steel tubing for the aft fuselage. A girder structure covered in sheet metal made up the forward fuselage. A primary consideration of the fighter’s designer was to provide good visibility for the pilot. The cockpit sits high in the fuselage and gives the airplane its characteristic hump back profile. The cockpit was enclosed by a sliding canopy. The landing gear was retractable.

Hawker Monoplane F.36/34, K5083, front view. (World War Photos) Hawker Monoplane F.36/34, K5083, the prototype Hawker Hurricane, photographed prior to its first flight. Note the flush exhaust ports and wooden fixed-pitch propeller. Photograph © IWM (MH 5475) Right profile of the prototype Hawker Monoplane F.36/34, K5083. © IWM (MH-5190) Hawker Monoplane F.36/34, K5083. Left profile. © IWM (ATP 8654D) Hawker Monoplane F.36/34, K5083, left rear quarter view. (World War Photos)

The Rolls-Royce PV-12 (“PV” stood for Private Venture) was a developmental liquid-cooled 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.022 liter) 60° V-12 that would become the legendary Merlin aircraft engine. The PV-12 first ran in 1933 and initially produced 700 horsepower.

The engine was progressively improved and by the time the Hurricane prototype first flew, it was equipped with a supercharged Rolls-Royce Merlin C, Air Ministry serial number 111144. The Merlin C had a Normal Power rating of 1,029 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m, at an altitude of 11,000 feet (3,353 meters), with +6 pounds per square inch boost. The V-12 engine turned a Watts two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller through a gear reduction drive (possibly 0.420:1).

Right quarter view of the prototype Hawker Monoplane F.36/34, K5083, in flight. Photograph © IWM (MH 5190)

An Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) test pilot, Flight Sergeant Samuel (“Sammy”) Wroath (366485), flew K5083 at the Martlesham Heath in early 1936. He wrote, “The aircraft is simple to fly and has no apparent vices.”

In early flight testing, K5083 had a maximum speed of 253 miles per hour (407 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, an reached 315 miles per hour (507 kilometers per hour) at 16,200 feet (4,938 meters), with the Merlin turning 2,960 r.p.m., with +5.7 pounds of boost (0.39 Bar). The speed exceeded the RAF’s requirement by 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour).

The prototype was able to take off in as little as 795 feet (242 meters) and to climb to 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) in just 5 minutes, 42 seconds. It reached 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 8 minutes, 24 seconds. The peak altitude reached was 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). The prototype’s estimated service ceiling was 34,500 feet (10,516 meters)and the estimated absolute ceiling was 35,400 feet (10,790 meters).

In May 1939 Hawker Monoplane F.36/34 K5083 was classified as a ground instruction airframe, with serial number 1112M. Reportedly, it remained in airworthy condition until 1942. Its status after that is not known.

Hawker Monoplane F.36/34 K5083 with “alighting gear” extended. (World War Photos)

The Hawker Hurricane Mk.I was ordered into production in the summer of 1936. The first production airplane, L1547, flew on 12 October 1937. The Hurricane Mk. I retained the wooden fixed-pitch propeller and fabric-covered wings of the prototype, though this would change with subsequent models.

The first production Hawker Hurricane Mk.I, L1547, circa October 1937. This airplane, assigned to No. 312 Squadron, was lost 10 October 1940, when it caught fire during a training flight near RAF Speke. The pilot, Sergeant Otto Hanzli ĉ ek, parachuted from the airplane, but he landed in the Mersey River and drowned.

The Hurricane Mk.I was 31 feet, 5 inches (9.576 meters) long with a wingspan of 40 feet, 0 inches (12.192 meters), and overall height of 13 feet, 3 inches (4.039 meters) in three-point attitude. The wings had a total area of 257.6 square feet (23.9 square meters). Their angle of incidence was 2° 0′, and the outer wing panels had 3° 30′ dihedral. The leading edges were swept aft 5° 6′. The empty weight of the Hurricane I was 5,234 pounds (2,374 kilograms) and maximum gross weight was 6,793 pounds (3,081 kilograms).

The Hurricane Mk.I was powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.II or Mk.III. The Mk.III was rated at 1,030 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 16,250 feet (4,953 meters). The engine turned a propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 3 inches (3.429 meters).

Hawker Monoplane F.36/34 K5083 (BAE Systems)

The Mk.I’s best economical cruising speed was 212 miles per hour (341 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters), and its maximum speed was 316 miles per hour (509 kilometers per hour) at 17,750 feet (5,410 meters) and 6,440 pounds (2,921 kilograms). The airplane’s range was 585 miles (941 kilometers). The Hurricane Mk.I could climb to 20,000 feet in 9.7 minutes.

The fighter was armed with eight Browning .303 Mark II machine guns mounted in the wings, with 334 rounds of ammunition per gun.

“No. 111 Squadron was responsible for the introduction of the Hurricane to the RAF with the first aircraft arriving at Northolt in December 1937, in advance of the official acceptance date of 1 January 1938. The CO, S/Ldr John Gillan, flew L1555 in record time from Edinburgh to Northolt on 10 February 1938.” (Daily Mail)

Peter Townsend described the Hurricane in his book, Duel of Eagles:

“. . . By December [1938] we had our full initial equipment of sixteen aircraft. The Fury had been a delightful play-thing the Hurricane was a thoroughly war-like machine, rock solid as a platform for eight Browning machine-guns, highly manoeuvrable despite its large proportions and with an excellent view from the cockpit. The Hurricane lacked the speed and glamour of the Spitfire and was slower than the Me. 109, whose pilots were to develop contempt for it and a snobbish preference for being shot down by Spitfires. But figures were to prove that during the Battle of Britain, machine for machine, the Hurricane would acquit itself every bit as well as the Spitfire and in the aggregate (there were more than three Hurricanes to two Spitfires) do greater damage among the Luftwaffe.”

Duel of Eagles, Group Captain Peter Wooldridge Townsend, CVO, DSO, DFC and Bar, RAF. Cassell Publishers Limited, London, Chapter 13 at Pages 153–154.

Hawker Hurricanes at Brooklands. (BAE Systems)

At the beginning of World War II, 497 Hurricanes had been delivered to the Royal Air Force, enough to equip 18 squadrons. During the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane accounted for 55% of all enemy aircraft destroyed. Continuously upgraded throughout the war, it remained in production until July 1944. The final Hurrican, a Mk.IIc, PZ865, was flown for the first time by P.W.S. Bulman on 24 July 1944. A total of 14,503 were built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd., Gloster Aircraft Company, Austin Motor Company, and the Canadian Car and Foundry Company.

The final Hawker Hurricane, a Mk.IIc, PZ865, “The Last of the Many!” Chief Test Pilot P.W.S. “George” Bulman also took this fighter for its first flight, 22 July 1944. (BAE Systems) P.W.S. Bulman with PZ865, July 1944. Group Captain “George” Bulman flying the final Hawker Hurricane, PZ865, a Mk.IIc.

¹ Later, Group Captain Paul Ward Spencer Bulman, C.B.E., M.C., A.F.C. and Bar.


P2798 was like so many Hurricanes, built by Gloster, one of 2,750 produced at their Hucclecote factory, emerging in March 1940 after work at 5 MU. It was flown out to France in mid-May to join 87 Squadron at Lille/Seclin. Its arrival coincided with that of its new 'owner', Flt. Lt. Ian 'Widge' Gleed, who was taking up the position of 'A' flight commander. Distinguished by its red spinner, it also carried on the starboard side below the cockpit a small black and white cat kicking a swastika this cartoon character 'Figaro' stayed with Ian Gleed for the rest of his career. Before the squadron returned to England Gleed had scored five air-to-air victories and shared in two others, and during the Battle of Britain added another four and two probables. Promoted to command the Squadron in December 1940 he retained P2798 as his personal aircraft with 87 taking on the night fighter role it had been painted all-black, with a red flash on its nose and what appears to have been a Squadron Leader's pennant on its rudder. He replaced it with a Hurricane II in August 1941, but P2798 stayed with 87 Squadron until it was lost when abandoned by its pilot over Gloucestershire during a night flight on 23 October 1941. Gleed went on to further success, and became OC 224 Wing flying Spitfires in the Western Desert flying Spitfire Vc AB502/IR-G, still carrying his 'Figaro' mascot, he was shot down and killed on 16 April 1943.

Canadian Hurricanes

In late 1938, as World War II loomed over Europe, Great Britain was concerned over the safety of their aircraft factories.

The Hurricane was regarded as such an important weapon to the British, that early in 1939, the British Air Ministry contracted with the Canadian Car and Foundry Co., Ltd. (sometimes referred to as CCF, or CC&F, or CanCar) of Montreal, Canada to build what would amount to a total of 1,451 Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes.

The RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) had received 19 Hurricane I’s built by Hawker Aircraft in England, before the War started. On 2 March 1939 the British Air Ministry released a manufacturing pattern aircraft (L1848) along with complete plans on microfilm to be shipped to Canada. Production of the Canadian-built Hurricanes took place at the CanCar factory in Fort William (now called Thunder Bay) in the Province of Ontario.

The first Canadian-built Hurricane I (seen below on 8 January 1940) flew its maiden flight at Bishop’s Field, Fort William, Ontario, Canada on 10 January 1940.

The following are excerpts from an article in the Beaver Magazine, June / July 1992 “Hurricane” by David D. Kemp

“…in January, 1940, with World War II only 5 months old, a sleek monoplane fighter aircraft was rolled out at the Fort William Works of the Canadian Car and Foundry Company Limited (CCF). This plane was the first of more than 1,400 such aircraft”

“In November 1938 CCF was awarded a contract to produce Hawker Hurricanes for the RAF at its Fort William plant”

“The initial Hurricane order was for 40 planes, built to Mk 1 specification with British-made Rolls-Royce Merlin III engines and eight .303 Browning machine guns in the wings Rolls-Royce Merlin III engines and eight .303 Browning machine guns in the wings.”

“With the outbreak of war, shipping delays and losses created problems with such a system, and shortages of imported British materials regularly threatened production ”

“The situation was serious by early 1941, and the later Mk 1 machines were shipped without engines, instruments or armaments”

“In time , with new Canadian sources of supply and the introduction of the Packard Merlin built under licence in the United States, these problems were overcome, and in 1942 Hurricanes were leaving the plant at the rate of 15 per week.”

“… in total 160 Mk 1 Hurricanes were built. Most of these were sent directly to Britain, where they were distributed as the need arose rather than being assigned by batch to any one squadron – this being made possible by the interchangeability of components among the British and Canadian-built planes. Twenty were delivered before the Battle of Britain, and participated in the fierce aerial fighting of August and September 1940.”

“Although Can-Car proved itself with the Hurricane 1, most of the aircraft built at Fort William were Mk X, XI and XII variants. These designations were reserved for the Canadian aircraft, and reflect combinations of power plant and armaments which distinguish them from the British-built equivalents. All were equipped with Packard engines, for example the Merlin 28 in the case of the Mk X and XI, and the Merlin 29 in the Mk XII. Both the Mk X and the XI were built with 8 machine guns, compared to the 12 of the XII, but later specific aircraft were modified to carry cannon and rockets as the Hurricane evolved into its intruder and ground attack role.”

“Most of the Hurricane X’s were initially sent to Britain, but some were later tropicalized and used in India. After many requests from the Canadian Government, 30 of these aircraft were also released for use in Canada. These were followed by a batch of 400 Mk XII’s built specifically for the RCAF, and 50 Hurricane XIIA’s, originally intended as Sea Hurricanes for the Fleet Air Arm, but subsequently released for service in Canada. Other Mk XI’s and Mk XII’s were shipped on the infamous Arctic convoys to Northern Russia as part of the some 3,000 Hurricanes supplied to the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1944. In all, between January 1940, when the prototype flew, and June 1943, when the last Hurricane left the plant at Fort William, 1,451 aircraft of various marks were built, representing some 10 percent of all Hurricanes produced and almost half of the Canadian Car and Foundry Company’s total production during the war years.”

At the time of writing David Kemp was an Associate Professor of Geography at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Manufacturer: Canadian Car & Foundry Ltd. Thunder Bay (formerly Fort William)

Number produced: 1,451 (All Marks) Period 1940 – 1942
Following the end of Hurricane production the plant built 835 Curtiss Helldiver Dive-Bombers SBW’s from 1943 – 45 It was a much modified single-engined dive-bomber capable of carrying a 1,000 pound bomb load. It was an aircraft that no pilot particularly cared for.
During the period of 1951 – 1955 the plant produced 555 Harvard 4’s for the RCAF, USAF and the West German Air Force. The last complete aircraft built at the plant was the Beech Mentor 45 Basic Military trainer of which 125 were constructed during 1954-55. Twenty-five aircraft went to the RCAF with the balance going to the USAF.
The Canadian Car & Foundry Plant at Thunder Bay is now owned by Bombardier and currently produces railway rolling stock, subway cars and streetcars.

Squadron of Hawker Hurricanes in Flight

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