The Hawker Hurricane was the unsung hero of the Battle of Britain and provided the backbone of the Royal Air Force during this time. The Hawker Hurricane went on to fulfil a number of different roles with the Mk IID ‘Tank Buster’ proving one of the more successful variants.
February 1936 saw official trials begin, which saw the Hurricane comfortably beat high speed performance predictions and as a result an order for 600 Hurricanes was placed on the 3rd June 1936, and by the end of June the aircraft was named the Hurricane. One of the conditions for the order was for the plane to be installed with a Merlin II engine. This meant a delay as a redesign was required for certain parts of the plane. However 16 months after the order was placed, the first production Hurricane I flew on the 12th October 1937.
No. 111 Squadron based at Northolt, Middlesex were the first to receive the new Hawker Hurricane I, which by December 1937 had one flight operational, and by the end of January 1938 was completely re-equipped. two more squadrons received the new plane and by the end of 1938 RAF Fighter Command had received around 200 planes.
When war broke out in September 1939, the RAF had 19 squadrons fully equipped with Hawker Hurricanes, and Nos 1, 73, 85 and 87 Squadrons had been sent to bases in France. The Hurricane was also the first aircraft of the RAF to shoot down a German plane over the Western Front, when on the 30th October 1939 a Dornier DO 17 was shot down by Pilot Officer P.W.Mould.
During the “Phoney War” little action was seen. However this all changed when the German’s began their push westwards during May 1940. This saw six more Hurricane squadrons immediately sent to France with two more to follow. This however was to see the RAF lose around 200 Hurricanes.
August 1940 saw the Battle of Britain begin with the fate of the British Isles dependant on the outcome. During this battle the Hawker Hurricane was to shine as even with other air and ground defences combined it was to shoot down more enemy aircraft. A tropical version of the Hurricane was to appear with a number of changes including a larger coolant radiator and this served with the three Squadrons that had been sent to defend Malta.
The following version of the Hurricane was to appear with a Merlin XX engine and a new wing able to house twelve 0.303 machine guns and a lengthened fuselage. With the new wing the Hurricane was able to hold two 500lb bombs. Further development saw the twelve machine guns replaced by four 20-mm cannons and this was dubbed the Hawker Hurricane IIC.
|“Like all pilots who flew and fought in the Hurricane, I grew to love it. It was strong, highly maneuverable, could turn inside the Spitfire and of course the Me 109.”
1942 saw the Hurricane given a new lease of life as the IID ‘tank buster’ appeared. A new wing was designed to enable a anti-tank gun under each wing and a 0.303 machine gun to help with aiming. This new plane was to prove successful against both German and Japanese armour.
The last production version of the Hurricane the IV had a ‘universal wing’ that turned the plane into a specialised ground attack aircraft and had either a Merlin 24 or 27 engine. One of the weapons this new wing was able to take were rocket projectiles and this weapon was first used operationally on a Hawker Hurricane IV.
Over 14,000 Hurricanes had been built serving in almost every threate of war, as well as serving with a number of other countires including Russia, Finland and Turkey and Hurricanes built in Canada had a Packard built Merlin engine. It is a tribute to the Hurricanes original development potential and development during the war that it was not until 1947 that the aircraft was eventually replaced, twelve years after the first flight of a prototype Hurricane
Courtesy : Classic War Birds