During the desperate
days of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, the Hawker Hurricane
was the workhorse of the RAF's Fighter Command. More British
squadrons were equipped with the Hurricane at this time than
with the Spitfire and Hurricane pilots accounted for many
more German aircraft than their Spitfire equipped brethren.
The Hawker Hurricane was designed by Sidney Camm in the early
1930's to an Air Ministry requirement for a fighter aircraft
to be built around what would become the Rolls Royce Merlin
engine. The design used structural elements already proven
in the reliable and rugged Hawker Hart and Hawker Hind families
of biplane aircraft. The Hurricane entered service with the
RAF in 1937 and by the beginning of World War II sufficient
Hurricanes were in front line service to allow the RAF to
offer a credible threat to the Luftwaffe.
During the disastrous campaign in France, Air Vice Marshall
Dowding commanding RAF Fighter Command was loath to commit
planes and pilots to what quickly became apparent to be a
one sided fight. As the situation became ever more desperate
pressure on Dowding prompted him to deploy a few Hurricane
squadrons to the front line in France, retaining the less
numerous Spitfire equipped squadrons for home defence. Although
out numbered the Hurricanes sent to France showed that they
and their pilots were fully capable of putting up a very stiff
resistance to the Luftwaffe.
The Hurricane was not as fast as either the Spitfire or its
most dangerous opponent the Messerscmitt Bf 109 but was very
manoeuvrable. The Hurricane was also a very solid and rugged
plane that could take a good deal of punishment and operate
from very poor airfields whilst its traditional methods of
construction meant that it was simple to maintain and repair.
The Hurricane's eight guns were also better placed than those
of the Spitfire to deliver a telling concentration of fire
which coupled with its stability as a gun platform made it
a dangerous opponent. During the Battle of Britain, Hurricane
squadrons were, if possible, directed against German bombers
while the faster Spitfire's took on escorting fighters.
As a fighter the Hurricane had near enough reached its maximum
potential by 1940 but its heavy and rugged air frame lent
it well to development into a dangerous ground attack and
tank busting air craft. Hurricanes were also used as single
use interceptors launched from Merchant ships and saw extensive
service with the RAF in the Mediterranean and Far Eastern
theatres of war as well as with many foreign air forces.
Below are the details of the Hurricane Mark I that fought
in the Battle of Britain.
Type: Single seat monoplane fighter
Powerplant: 1,030 hp Rolls Royce Merlin II V12
Maximum Speed: 318 mph
Maximum Altitude: 36,000 feet
Range: 460 miles
Armament: 8 x .303”/7.7mm Browning machine guns.