While the Spitfire steals the spotlight an unappreciated workhorse is defending Britain’s shores from the marauding Luftwaffe. Enter the Hawker Hurricane!
Designed and built in the early 1930s, the Hawker Hurricane was the RAF’s workhorse during the early part of the second world war. While not as glamorous as the Supermarine Spitfire, the Hurricane was a sturdy and dependable aircraft, equally at home in a dogfight or conducting ground attack missions.
It was constructed from a network of steel and duralumin spars, covered with doped fabric. This made it remarkably easy to repair in the field, allowing ground crews to patch up damage without retiring the aircraft from battle. It could also be disassembled, transported by ship, and then reassembled without specialised equipment, allowing it to be transported back and forth across the British Empire.
The fabric-covered spars allowed incoming fire to pass through the wings without causing serious damage, allowing the Hurricane to take a serious beating before being shot down.
A battery of eight wing-mounted .303 machine guns gave the Hurricane a powerful broadside, although this would prove inadequate against later marks of cannon-armed Bf 109.
During the Battle of France and Battle of Britain, the Hurricane would be overshadowed by the clean lines of the Spitfire but would account for 60% of all Luftwaffe casualties. As more Spitfires became available, the Hurricane was dispatched to far-flung corners of the Empire, from the Far East to North Africa, where it’s reliability gave it an edge in tropical climates.
The Hurricane would receive numerous modifications over the course of its service life. The Mk.IIA and B increased its armament to twelve machine guns and added racks for 250lb or 500lb bombs, while the Mk.IIC replaced the machine guns with four 20mm cannons.
One notable modification that primarily saw service in the Desert was the Mk.IID, which fitted two 40mm cannons in under-wing gondolas, allowing it to smash up tanks and light vehicles with ease. These became affectionately known as “Flying Tin Openers.”