Balancing up the picture
Hurricane compiled by Paul E Eden www.ospreypublishing.com £6.99. Hardback pocket book, 136 pages, colour illustration With the Spitfire in the headlines thanks to the handsome documentary currently being shown in cinemas, this little book from well-regarded aviation publisher Osprey offers a bit of balance in making the case for the RAF’S ‘other Battle of Britain fighter’ (inverted commas because we are not going to forget the Boulton Paul Defiant and other fighting aircraft that were also involved).
While other type histories have covered the Hurricane in exhaustive detail, this book covers all the essential elements and is just as informative and accurate as one might hope. It starts with an interesting and useful chronology – the as yet un-named prototype first flew on 6 November 1935 (the Spitfire prototype, also mentioned, flew in March 1936) and the first production Hurricane 1 reached a front-line squadron (No.111) in December 1937. We all know ‘Mutt’ Summers asked for nothing to be changed after his first flight in the Spitfire: in
Hurricane we learn that test pilot ‘George’ Bullman gave Hawker designer Sydney Camm a playful punch on the shoulder and said “Syd, you’ve most certainly got a winner here!”
The design and development chapter presents with a thumbnail sketch of the origins of Hawker as a company – it was formed from the rump of Sopwith after WWI – and how designer Sydney Camm based the Hurricane’s airframe on the biplanes already in production, speeding its development and making it easy and quick to build, as well as being tough and readily repairable. Even so, one of the vital factors in having enough Hurricanes available at the time of greatest need was Hawker’s brave decision to tool up for production while Government officials shilly-shallied in ordering the aircraft for the RAF.
Further chapters spell out the Hurricane’s relatively limited evolution, mark by mark (its outdated construction certainly made it less amenable to development than the Spitfire) and Service career, including action with the Fleet Air Arm and in the Middle and Far East, where it found increasing use in the ground attack role.
Nicely illustrated and including good selection of period images and modern artwork, Hurricane is worth a look even for those who might think they’ve seen all they need to on the subject – and very much a bargain for the price.