George Bulman flying the Hurricane prototype K5083 with the Henley prototype K5115, which first flew on 24 March 1937, in close formation. Philip Birtles /

By Mark McConville

THE COMPLETE history of the Hawker Hurricane plane, whose pilots took the most victories during the Battle of Britain, has been revealed in a new book.


What must be a posed photo of an 87 Squadron scramble in France in March 1940, as the Hurricanes would normally be dispersed around the airfield. The nearest Hurricane is L1774 LK-D:87 Squadron, and all bar one of the aircraft have the Watts two-blade propellers. Hurricane LK-L is fitted with a three-blade Rotol propeller. Philip Birtles /

Incredible images show Sydney Camm who was responsible for the design of the Hawker Hurricane, the very first prototype Hurricane K5083 and the prototype in flight.

Other stunning shots show women working to produce a Hurricane Mk IIC, and Hurricanes in action during the Battle of France and during the Battle of Britain.


The Hurricane production line at Langley, with the metal rear tubular fuselage structure surrounded by wooden skin ready for covering by fabric. This structure was very rugged and resistant to damage by enemy gunfire. Philip Birtles /

The black and white pictures are showcased in a new book, Hawker Hurricane: The Multirole Fighter, by Philip Birtles and published by Fonthill Media.


Philip Birtles /

“Without the Hurricane, there would not have been a Battle of Britain as there would not have been enough suitable fighters for the defence against the Nazi invasion,” he said in the book’s introduction.

“Without the Spitfire, we would probably not have won the Battle of Britain. The role of the Hurricanes was to destroy the Luftwaffe bombers attacking British airfields, later London and other major cities, while Spitfires attacked the escorting Luftwaffe fighters.


No. 85 Squadron began to take delivery of Hurricane Mk Is at Debden from September 1938 and moved to France on 9 September 1939 at the outbreak of war. A return was made to Debden on 23 May 1940, and then the squadron moved to Croydon on 19 August, followed by Castle Camps on 3 September, and then to Church Fenton two days later. Philip Birtles /

“Hurricane pilots were responsible for more victories than all other forms of defence during the Battle.

“In other theatres of operation, Hurricane pilots continued to excel despite flying—by then—out-dated aircraft, particularly in the battles for Malta, 6 Squadron’s anti-armour Hawker Hurricane: Th 8 e Multirole Fighter Hurricanes in the North African campaigns, and against the Japanese over the impenetrable Burmese jungle.”


Two flights of 73 Squadron Hurricane Mk Is fitted with three-blade propellers, including P2569:D and P2575:J flying over France in early 1940. These aircraft feature the tail stripes on the rudders instead of the fin in the style of the French Air Force. Philip Birtles /

In the Battle of Britain, Hurricanes scored the highest number of RAF victories, accounting for 1,593 out of the 2,739-total claimed.

The Hurricane did have some advantages over the Spitfire but were more suited to being a defensive plane as it became outdated.


HRH King George IV visited Lille-Seclin Aerodrome on 6 September 1939, where both 85 and 87 Squadrons had just arrived. Hurricane Mk Is of 85 and 87 Squadrons were on display, together with three Gladiators and a Blenheim IV. Philip Birtles /

“The Hawker Hurricane propaganda was largely overshadowed by the Spitfire during the Second World War,” explained Mr Birtles.

“The main reason was that the Hurricane was a monoplane developed from a long line of Hawker biplane combat aircraft and at the end of its development, while the Spitfire was at the start of its creation.


Hurricane Mk I P2617, which was first delivered to the RAF in January 1940, with its fixed-pitch wooden Watts two-blade propeller being started by the ground crew winding up the inertia starter. This method was later replaced by ground-based trolley battery starters known as ‘Trolley Acks’. Philip Birtles /

“The Spitfire was undoubtedly faster than the Hurricane, but it was more challenging to produce initially, while the rugged construction of the Hurricane resulted in it being more resistant to battle damage.

“Its wide track undercarriage was more suitable for operations from basic airfields and was easier to maintain.


The prototype Hurricane K5083; official photo at Brooklands in late October 1935 with a 6-foot scale pole by the nose fitted with the original minimally framed canopy. Philip Birtles /

“With the Battle of Britain won and RAF fighter pilots tasked with hazardous offensive operations across occupied Europe, Hurricanes became very vulnerable to enemy defences; losses increased alarmingly.

“More pilots were killed or taken prisoner than during the Battle of Britain, many of them very experienced.”