Hawker Hurricane XIIa – going, going, gone?
Tags: '5771', .303, 111 Squadron, 1918, 1938, 2011, 250lb bomb, 300mph, 500lb bomb, aircraft, aluminium alloy, architectural, Aviation, Battle of Britain, Belfast Truss, Browning machine gun, Canada, Canadian, Canadian Car & Foundry Company, concertina doors, Dark Earth, Dark Green, David Lee, Deputy Director, Duxford, England, Europe, fabric-covered, First World War, first-class cricket, Fury Monoplane, G-HURI, hangar, Hangar No 3, Harrier, Hawker, Hawker Fury, Hawker Hurricane, Historic Aircraft Company, Hitler, Hurribomber, Imperial War Museum, IWM, John Arlott, Kestrel, linen, Merlin 29, Merlin engine, Mk XIIa, museum, Northolt, P.1127, Packard, Parkard Merlin 29, Platinum Fighter Sales, RAF, red dope, RFC, Rolls-Royce, Royal Air Force, Second World War, Sir Sidney Camm, Sky, Spitfire, steel tube, Temperate Land Scheme, Vickers-Supermarine, warbird, wooden, WW2
As a type, the Hawker Hurricane was probably the most important aircraft ever designed by the incomparable Sir Sidney Camm. Setting aside the supreme elegance of the Fury, and the technical tour de force of the P.1127 / Kestrel / Harrier line, the argument is simple. Without the Hurricane, the RAF does not win the Battle of Britain. Hitler dominates Europe, and the course of world history is changed. The Hurricane (originally called the ‘Fury Monoplane’) was the RAF’s first 300mph fighter, but was a half-generation older than it’s stablemate, the superb Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire. Built with proven fabric-covered steel-tube and wooden space-frame technology, rather than the stressed-skin aluminium alloys of the Spitfire, it was available for service with the RAF squadrons by 1938 (111 Sqn at Northolt were the first Hurricane unit). There were 32 Hurricane squadrons during the Battle of Britain and only 19 equipped with the Spitfire.
Here we can see the Historic Aircraft Company’s Hurricane XIIa, a Canadian Car & Foundry produced example being hangared following a display at the historic Duxford Airfield of the Imperial War Museum. I was very fortunate this day, in that I was in the company of my good friend David Lee, former Deputy Director of IWM Duxford; that’s rather like having John Arlott available to tell you about first-class cricket (or Joe Torre tell you about baseball)! The Mk XIIa, G-HURI, ‘5771’ was built in 1942, and is powered by a U.S-built Packard Merlin 29 of 1,300hp, (Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlins during WW2) giving it a top speed of around 340mph. The aircraft is finished in the RAF’s ‘Temperate Land Scheme’ from the early war years of Dark Earth/Dark Green on the upper surfaces and Sky on the undersurfaces. As you can see from the red-doped linen patches on the leading edge of the wings, this mark of Hurricane could carry 12 x .303 Browning machine guns, although, when used as a fighter bomber (2 x 250lbs, or 2 x 500lbs bombs) the outer pair of Brownings were usually removed, due to weight considerations. This aircraft was ‘struck off charge’ in 1947 by the RCAF, and was bought by a group of enthusiasts. Eventually, ‘5711’ came into the possession of the Historic Aircraft Company, and a long-term restoration brought it back to close to its original state. It is shown in the colours of No. 126 Squadron (as a Hurricane IIb), which flew over Malta, during that island’s long fight to resist invasion during WW2. It was the first Hurricane to revisit Malta in modern times, and also flew in an air display in Russia, to mark the service of the Hurricane there (both with No. 151 Royal Air Force, and with the V-VS).
The Historic Aircraft Company have announced that this aircraft is now for sale. It is being advertised by Bonhams, the famous auction house, as being included in their December, 2012 sale at Brooklands, a site for ever associated with aviation. According to Tim Schofield, of Bonhams, it is expected to make somewhere in the region of 1.4 to 1.7 million Sterling. HAC say that they need the funds to support projects such as their Hawker Fury. I quite understand the need to support new aircraft restorations, but it is sad to see old favourites depart (the Hurricane is likely to be sold abroad).
Hangar No 3 at Duxford – where G-HURI is headed to – is a very interesting object itself. Built in 1918, during the First World War, when Duxford was an RFC training base, the hangar is of the ‘Belfast Truss’ type, with two bays, and wooden concertina doors at either end. As well as being of note in architectural terms, the hangar admits a great deal more light than modern structures.