Saturday 3 August 2024

11am-7pm

IWM Duxford

£100

No additional admission ticket purchase necessary.

Discover the story of the Hawker Hurricane, as it takes to the skies over Duxford.  

In a full day of talks from historians, pilots, artists and more, learn the secrets of this formidable fighter. Get up close to a Hurricane on static display and end the day watching a Hurricane take to the skies in a private display over Duxford's historic airfield. 

Often overlooked in favour of the more glamourous Spitfire, the Hawker Hurricane accounted for over 60% of aerial victories in the Battle of Britain. 

A Hawker Hurricane Mk I in flight.
© IWM

The Hurricane's traditional design, a wood and metal framework covered in fabric, was derived from earlier biplanes, particularly the Hawker Fury.  

While more contemporary fighters, like the RAF's Supermarine Spitfire and Luftwaffe's Bf109, outperformed the Hurricane, it remained a stable and rugged aircraft that could be easily maintained and repaired. 

These attributes led to the Hurricane serving in almost every theatre of the war, finally retiring from service with the RAF in 1947.

Hawker Hurricane V7497 takes off.
© IWM
Hawker Hurricane Mk I V7497 takes off.

Taking to the Skies – 'Hurricane 501' V7497

Issued to 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron in September 1940, Hawker Hurricane Mk. I V7497 had a short-lived career in the skies over Kent during the Battle of Britain. The aircraft flew its first operational sortie on 24 September 1940, four days and six sorties later it would be shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf109. 

V7497's pilot, Pilot Officer Everett Rogers bailed out and would go on to serve as a Halifax pilot in Bomber Command, surviving the war. V7497 was rediscovered during an aviation archaeology dig, and its restoration was completed in August 2018. See it take to the skies again over Duxford in the finale of IWM's Hawker Hurricane Lecture Day.

 

About the Speakers

Portrait photo of Paul Beaver, smiling whilst standing in a blue shirt with his arms crossed.

Paul Beaver

Creating the Hurricane

Paul Beaver is an aviation historian, broadcaster and writer specialising in the 1930s and 1940s. A hands-on historian with his own vintage aeroplane company, both the P-51 Mustang and Supermarine Spitfire feature in Paul's logbook.

Over the years Paul has worked as Editor-in-Chief of Jane’s Defence Weekly and as a freelance war correspondent and documentary producer for Sky News. 

Paul is a committee member of the Air Power Association, and a member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society and the Battle of Britain Historical Society. He has written over 40 books on naval and aviation history.

Portrait of Victoria Taylor, wearing a black jacket

Dr Victoria Taylor

The Hurricane Through German Eyes

Dr Victoria Taylor, is an award-winning historian specialising in British and German aviation during the interwar period and the Second World War.

Victoria served as narrator, co-writer, and historical consultant on the podcast series Inside the Battle of Britain. She has contributed to popular history magazines including BBC History Extra, and co-wrote and presented Spitfire: From the Ashes on BBC Radio 4.

Victoria sits on the Advisory Board for the cross-party Spitfire AA810 restoration project in the House of Lords and delivers teaching on air power to junior RAF officers. She is an ambassador for both the National Spitfire Project and the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust.

 

Pilot Mike Collett in the cockpit of a Hurricane
© Mike Collett

Mike Collett

Flying the Hurricane

Pilot Mike Collett started his career in gliders before taking up powered aerobatics, Mike has won silver as part of the British Aerobatics Team. 

Now a display pilot, Mike has flown with the Great War Display Team in SE5, Fokker Triplane and Junkers CL1 replicas). He regularly flies Spitfires and Hurricanes from IWM Duxford.

Mike will talk you through the intricacies of piloting the Hawker Hurricane, and explain how it feels to sit behind its legendary Rolls Royce Merlin engine.

A portrait of Artist Mark Postlethwaite.
© Mark Postlethwaite

Mark Postlethwaite

Born in Leicester in 1964, Mark’s boyhood ambition was to fly fast jets. When his eyesight prevented him from doing so, he took up photography as a profession. His love of aviation helped afford him the position of Artist in Residence at the Royal Air Force Museum, and at age 27 he became the youngest member of the Guild of Aviation Artists.

Swapping his camera for a paintbrush, Mark soon earned commissions painting for a number of RAF squadrons, including the Red Arrows. This allowed him to realise his childhood ambition when he was given the opportunity to fly in a Bae Hawk. 

He is self-taught, and developed a style based on his favourite artists like the Airfix box art genius Roy Cross. Over the years his work has developed its own style. Over the last 20 years, Mark has become established as one of the world’s leading aviation artists with an acute attention to detail and historical accuracy.

Headshot of John Thorogood
© John Thorogood

John Thorogood

John Thorogood is the son of Laurence ‘Rubber’ Thorogood. John will tell the story of his father’s RAF career, from piloting Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain to earning his commission and fighting in the skies over India and Burma.

John is a pilot himself, with over 4,500 hours in his logbook. He is co-owner of Hawker Hurricane Mk I V7497, which will be taking to the skies at the end of Lecture Day.

A Hawker Hurricane takes part in an aerial battle with the Luftwaffe.
Illustration used with kind permission of Airfix, Hornby Hobbies Ltd. Illustration licensed by BAE Systems. BAE SYSTEMS is a registered trademark of BAE Systems plc
The box art of Airfix's 1:48 scale Hawker Hurricane.

Airfix

Iconic scale model kit manufacturer Airfix will be present at the Lecture Day, giving you the chance to take home a Hawker Hurricane of your own.

Event Timetable

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Doors open at 10am10:30am11am12pm12:15pm1:15pm2pm4:30pm5:30pm6:00pm6:30pm

Plan your day

Free Tea or Coffee on arrival

Paul Beaver

Creating the Hurricane       

Break

Dr Victoria Taylor

The Hurricane Through German Eyes

Break

Access to static Hurricanes

Pilot talks and live painting session

Q&AAircraft prepare for flying displayHurricane flying displayEvent concludes


About the Hawker Hurricane

Graham Rodgers: "Today, I'm going to be talking about a real hero of the Battle of Britain, but not a Spitfire. This one, the Hurricane. Designed by Sydney Camm and his design team at Hawker. Sydney Camm no less a genius than Mitchell was at Supermarine for the Spitfire.
Indeed, the aeroplane that Sydney Camm had designed bore a fair bit of percentage of the Royal Air Force between the wars. Aeroplanes like the Hind, the Fury, the Audax, the Tomtit, the Demon. All Sydney Camm’s designs.

Obviously bi-planes between the wars had had their day. Aeroplanes going through the air very fast were mono-plane aeroplanes now, and the Hurricane indeed was the first production aeroplane of the Royal Air Force to go through the air at over 300 miles an hour. A lot of questions that I get asked here is what's the difference between a Spitfire and a Hurricane? An impolite answer would be, how long have you got? Very different designs from different design teams.

The Hurricane out a year before the Spitfire, answering to a design specification of a fighter that could carry the machine guns that it could. Now, a Hurricane was designed in a traditional way. If you look at the sides, they are all Irish linen, a Spitfire, all monocoque steel-stressed skin. If you take a picture of a Fury or a Heart or a Demon and you look at the tail of those aeroplanes and you look at the tail of our Hurricane here and the fuselage, you can see the lineage of Sydney Camm’s designs going through them."

Percival Leggett: "The Hurricane, of course, was a mixture of ancient and modern. It had the steel tubular construction and then on top of that was placed the wooden framework, which is very lightweight. And then the fabric people would come with the great length of stuff and simply chuck it over the top.

They were dressmakers, really. It would all be done by hand. The fabric would be pulled down into place and it was all stitched together."

Graham Rodgers: "Now I say the unsung hero of the Battle of Britain - a Hurricane most certainly was. Well over half of every enemy aeroplane destroyed in the Battle of Britain was by Hurricanes, not Spitfires. Spitfires in the Battle of Britain were down to 19 squadrons. Hurricanes, there were 32 squadrons of them. A Hurricane was a real workhorse, a reliable aeroplane. Advantages: it could take more damage than a Spitfire. The sides: Irish linen. Some explosive cannon shells from a Messerschmitt 109, sometimes if it hit the fuselage, it would go in one side and out the other without even exploding.

Coming back to base, another patch of Irish linen, as long as the bullet hasn't damaged any of the control surfaces or the wires inside, just paste and drop another piece on one side and another piece where it came out the other and away the pilot went again. Both the Hurricane and the Spitfire are powered by the same very magnificent 27 litre V12 Rolls-Royce engine. But the Spitfire and the Hurricane both had, because of that engine, an Achilles heel. It couldn't do a negative G dive. So in a situation, if a Spitfire or a Hurricane was chasing a Messerschmitt 109, the Messerschmitt 109 with its fuel-injected Daimler-Benz engine could push its nose into a negative G dive.

The arteries in the Luftwaffe pilot's eyes might pop, but the Spitfire or the Hurricane could not do that. If a Hurricane or a Spitfire followed the 109 into a negative G dive, the carburettors would flood and the engines would cough and splutter, which is not a good situation in the middle of a dogfight. So when the 109 pushes its nose over, the Hurricane or the Spitfire have to peel over the top, like spinning around a bucket of water to keep the flow in the carburettor into a positive G. The problem with the carburettor wasn't cured, but it was certainly helped by an extremely clever lady called Mrs. Beatrice Shilling, who came up with a design, a toss up between a washer and an olive to put inside the carburettor to help and squeeze the flow of fuel. So it didn't eliminate the problem, but it gave the carburettor engines a lot better chance if you were touching a negative G manoeuvre to catch the 109.

Now, eventually, a Spitfire would catch a 109 in a dive. A Hurricane probably wouldn't. But a Hurricane could out-turn the 109. Because, with the same engine, a Hurricane being 20 or 30% bigger, a Hurricane’s rate of climb was not as fast as a Spitfire’s and in general was not as manoeuvrable. So the tactic then was adopted for the Hurricanes to take on the bombers, more numerous, and the Spitfires to take on the escorting fighters.

This particular Hurricane actually fought in the Battle of Britain, unfortunately did come off second best to a couple of Messerschmitt 109s over Deal, in Kent. The pilot a flight Lieutenant Rodgers - no relation - did survive. The Hurricane evolved quite a bit slower than the Spitfire.

Spitfires, of course, in many marks basically doubled in size and performance between the beginning and the end of the war. The Hurricane not quite so much. The basic design was all the same. There were different marks, different Merlin engines fitted, from 990 horsepower to one of the PR versions in Photo Reconnaissance had a two-speed two-stage supercharger, same as a Mk IV Spitfire and went into photo reconnaissance duties. That Hurricane, for a Hurricane, was particularly fast, about 350 miles an hour. But the performance of a Hurricane, regardless of Mach or what it was carrying, always was a fair bit shorter than a Spitfire or a 109 in out and out speed.

So we’re round the front of the Hurricane now, and I can show you the huge slab-sided, very strong wings. Better than the Spitfire, as far as that's concerned. Grouped together, eight 303 machine guns, four in each wing, one either side. So a very, very stable gun platform.

One other advantage that the Hurricane had over a Spitfire: the hardest thing about flying the Spitfire is putting it down at the end of a very tiresome day, fighting for your life. The wheels start of the outside come down in the middle. You've got a very narrow landing track. As you can see from the Hurricane, the wheels start on the inside and come down, so you have a very wide landing track to land on. As one pilot said, you could be quite ham-fisted when you were putting a Hurricane back down again. Hurricanes were used in every front in the Second World War and in just about every arena, from the heat of Malta to the freezing wastelands of Russia. There were about 14,500 Hurricanes built, and the last one rolled off the production line in about 1944. Without Hurricanes in the Second World War, who'd of known? Serving not only in the Battle of Britain, but as ground attack, as a fighter bomber, fired off merchant ships, off catapults, regularly to do a one way mission. A Hurricane with the pilot in would be blasted off on a catapult to try and defend the merchant convoys, hopefully within reach of land. If he wasn't, he would basically have to try and ditch close to the ship as he could and they would try and pick the pilot out of the freezing water.

And here is what has become of the famous Hurricane, the even more famous Hurri-bomber. The bombs are carried underneath the wings and they are meant to be dropped with pinpoint accuracy.

Another problem with a Hurricane was quite a fundamental one. The cockpit up here, as you can see, is just behind a saddle tank, a big tank of 100 octane fuel. If a Hurricane was hit by an incendiary round in the fuel tank, the fuel tank, of course, would blow up. Now, the pilot has two options. He can either stay in the fighter and burn to death, or he can peel back the cockpit and climb out. But of course, then he's got a 300 mile an hour blast furnace straight into his face. A lot of Hurricane pilots were extremely badly burned. One pilot who was badly burned was a young officer, a 23-year-old officer in the Battle of Britain called Nicholson.

Nicholson had been hit by four cannon shells in his fuel tank. He peeled back the cockpit, climbed out very angrily, but as he climbed out, another Messerschmitt passed straight in front of his Hurricane. He jumped back into the cockpit full of flames, hit the gun button and opened the throttle and shot the enemy aeroplane down. Nicholson did survive, but was very, very badly burned. But he woke up the following day and was informed he'd been awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, the only one in the Battle of Britain and in RAF fighter command in the war time as far as I know.

Pilots used to say you climb in a Hurricane, in a Spitfire, you put it on. Climbing up and over and down into the cockpit is quite a task to climb up over and down. So let's go and have a closer look in the cockpit of a Hurricane."

Percival Leggett: "The big innovation, it was a blind flying panel. In the old bi-planes, you would have an alternator and speed indicator and a rev counter, they would just be randomly dotted around the cockpit. With the Hurricane and everything else that followed, including most of the bombers I think, we all had much the same blind flying panel, which was six instruments, six of them. And that was standard for all aircraft from that from that point onwards, which is a jolly good thing because at least one could hop from one type to another without too much difficulty."

Graham Rodgers: "So we're now in the cockpit. I have the privilege to be in the cockpit of this magnificent Battle of Britain veteran Hurricane. A little bit more room than a Spitfire. Again, like I say, I'm sat in the scaffolding as it comes around me. I certainly wouldn't like to imagine trying to get out of it with a 300 mile an hour flames in my face as I'm trying to escape if I had been shot down like Nicholson was. The majority or a lot of pilots would have taken off with the cockpit open like this, but of course wouldn't be around flying and fighting with it open. But with the cockpit shut, it would be quite an enclosed environment with lots of fuel and fumes around. The hand control, the spade grip and the basic six, same as the Spitfire, but a fair bit more room. We've got the airspeed indicator, horizon, climbing, bank, altitude, compass down here. It's quite an enclosed, quite nerve-racking environment when you're fighting for your life. Sydney Camm carried on after the war at Hawkers and went on to design some fantastic aeroplanes for the RAF, including the very famous and beautiful Hawker Hunter.

Camm was knighted in 1953 for his fantastic design work and some of the revolutionary aeroplanes he was involved with went on to be the Harrier Jump Jet. Camm passed away in 1963, but a lot of people remember him for the work that he did in saving us in the dark days of the Battle of Britain with this magnificent Hawker Hurricane. Out of the 14,500 Hurricanes produced, the last one rolling off the production line in 1944, there are very few left.

Even rarer are airworthy ones, with currently as I speak about 12 or 13 airworthy Hurricanes worldwide. This one, of course, and about three others that live here at Duxford."

Serving everywhere from the Battle of Britain to the Far East and even in the skies over Russia, over 14,000 Hawker Hurricanes were manufactured between 1935 and 1944. 

Despite never achieving the fame of the Spitfire, the Hurricane has earned its place as one of the most important aircraft of the Second World War. 

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