You do all the work, but somebody else steps in at the last minute and gets all the credit.
That’s sort of what happened with the Hawker Hurricane: ask anyone to name the #1 British plane of World War II or the star of the Battle of Britain, and your most likely answer will be “Supermarine Spitfire.” Yet Sir Sidney Camm’s monoplane not only shot down more enemy aircraft than any other British plane in WW2, but it was the real star of the Battle of Britain. More RAF squadrons flew Hurricane’s (mostly Mark Is), shot down more Luftwaffe planes (over half), and then served in every theater of operations (including Singapore before the Japanese conquered it).
The French publisher Histoire & Collections is trying to right that wrong with a marvelous new book about the Hurricane that follows it from inception to retirement. For modelers, this very well may become THE source, since it includes scores of full-color profiles, as well as a very thorough narrative.
The 82-page soft cover book was written by Dominique Breffort (originally in French and translated by Alan McKay), with color profiles by Nicolas Gohinis. The book itself is divided into five sections based on the three major versions (Marks I, II and IV), plus the Sea Hurricane and planes in foreign service. I was astonished at how many countries flew Hurricanes, including many in the Soviet Air Force.
There is also a short reference section at the back with:
Four pages of basic camo versions (can someone please explain to me the fine points about Type A and Type B paint schemes?)
A page showing the various roundels
Two pages showing the material differences between the variants.
This book strikes me as a perfect “geek’s delight” for modelers who want lots of information and copious profiles to choose from. It has a thorough narrative describing the Hurricane’s development, deployment prior to the war, and its exploits, first during the Battle of Britain, then later in a variety of theaters, including as a night fighter and a ground attack fighter-bomber, where it probably achieved its greatest success. It’s a very impressive story with numerous “firsts,” including Britain’s first monoplane fighter and first carrier-deployed monoplane. It was developed by the team at Hawkers, the successor to Sopwith, and kept Britain from being defeated by the Luftwaffe . That’s because during the period between the wars, the RAF made little progress in modernization, and nearly ended up bested by Germany and its amazing Bf 109. Thankfully, Sidney Camm, Hawker’s design chief, came up with a closed-cockpit monoplane that had the right combination of maneuverability, toughness and teeth.
The Hurricane did well enough during the Campaign in France, but it was during the Battle of Britain that its ability to take punishment, out-turn its opponents, and deal out destruction from eight wing-mounted .50 cal machine guns proved to be the Luftwaffe’s undoing. While the 109 was a technically better plane, and could outrun the Hurricane, it had less firepower and maneuverability. Still, Spitfires were often given the task of intercepting the fighter escorts, with the Hurricanes sent to decimate the bombers. And decimate they did: Hurricanes were so deadly that by the time Hitler threw in the towel in mid-September and canceled the invasion of England, the planes had bagged more than half of the RAF’s 1,600 kills, in some cases wiping out entire Stuka and Bf-110 groups.
The Hurricane’s limitations soon relegated it to less-pressing stations and theaters more off the main stage in the skies over Europe. For one thing, its combination wood, cloth and metal construction actually made it slower to produce than the all-metal Spitfire. The latter also profited from some important upgrades, and became Britain’s front-line fighter. Yet the Hurricane’s story was hardly over, and it served as both an interceptor and a fighter-bomber in places like North Africa. While Hawker’s other fighter-bomber, the Typhoon, again got all the good press, experts seem to think the Hurricane was a superior tank-killer with better armament and protection for both pilot and engine.
The Sea Hurricane
Britain started the war with two aircraft carriers (really converted cruisers). But when both HMS Courageous and HMS Glorious were sunk by U-boats in the first month, Britain had no way to protect its shipping from Germany’s airborne anti-shipping efforts, including the long-range Focke-Wulf 200 Condor. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and the solution was truly a desperate one: converting some merchantmen to CAMs (Catapult Aircraft Merchantmen) with a Sea Hurricane at the ready.
Aside from Royal Navy radio equipment and catapult-launching brackets, these “Hurricats” were ordinary Mk. Is. And their mission was strictly one-way: launched from the ship, the pilot could either fly to land or “ditch” close by. By 1942 when the arrival of “jeep” or escort carriers made the CAMs superfluous, they had flown nine sorties resulting in eight kills. Sea Hurricanes were then deployed on the new escort carriers reaching over 600 in number.
The book’s final chapter is about the Hurricane in foreign service, and as usual includes five pages of profiles. The most-common service outside the RAF was with the Soviet Union, and modelers can adapt their kits to what is an important, but little-known chapter in aviation. With many of the Soviet aircraft obsolete at the start of the war, Lend-Lease planes sent from the US and Britain played an important role in defeating the Nazis in the East.
As good as the story is, the thing that will most interest modelers is the profusion of color profiles of each variant. While most books have perhaps a dozen total, each section has page after page of gorgeous images complete with service information:
16 pages for the Mk. I
17 pages for the Mk. II
5 pages for the Mk. IV
3 pages for the Sea Hurricane
5 pages for foreign service
I hesitate to say this is THE book about the Hurricane, but it’s hard to imagine one that could please modelers more. And at a $15 street price, it’s a terrific value for money. For the casual modeler, it’s probably overkill, but I’m ready to purchase Histoire & Collections’ P-47 book even though it’s only currently in French.
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Highs: Page after page of clear, colorful profiles covering every major variant, the Sea Hurricane and Hurricanes serving in foreign air forces.Lows: None.Verdict: This is perhaps the best single reference currently available. Terrific value for money.
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