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Mason, Francis K. The Hawker Hurricane: An Illustrated History. Manchester: Crecy Publishing Limited, 2001
Acknowledgements; Foreword; Introduction; photos; maps; charts;
tables; diagrams; References; Index
Appendices: Summary of Hurricane Development Test Flights; Extracts from a Service Test Pilot's Log Books; Highest-Scoring RAF Pilots who Fought in Hurricanes; Production, Allocation and History of Hurricanes
The Hawker Hurricane was originally published in 1987, revised in 1990, and republished this year with a new Foreword by the author but otherwise essentially unchanged. In all three iterations, it's a fine book.
Mason begins the story of the Hurricane with development, testing, and production. He also explains how the first Hurricane squadrons were formed in the UK and discusses pre-war exports of the Hurricane to Yugoslavia, South Africa, Romania, Canada, Persia, Turkey, Belgium, and Poland. For the most part, however, Mason's book focuses on operational use of the aircraft beginning with the Phoney War, the invasion of Norway, and the blitzkrieg in the West. Of course, the real test of the Hurricanesand several chapters of the book took place during the Battle of Britain.
Given that the Hurricane "went on to fight in more campaigns, on more fronts and in more theatres and countries than any other airplane in the 2nd World War," Mason moves far beyond English skies. He traces the successful use of Hurricanes at sea as carrier-based fighters as well as catapult-launched operations on convoy duty with CAM ships. He also devotes long chapters to the Hurricane in the Western Desert, in the Near East, and in the Mediterranean, including action above Malta. Operations in the Far East also occupy an entire chapter, and the final chapter covers meteorological flights, Hurricanes in foreign service, and post-war use of Hurricanes.
Mention above of the "Tac R" and "PR" Hurricanes requires some qualification, as both these versions came about as the result of local requirements and were not therefore logically described in earlier chapters. The Tac R Mark I was externally scarcely distinguishable from the standard Tropical Mark I, but usually incorporated an additional or alternative radio transmitter for liaison with ground forces; some aircraft had one or two Browning guns removed and a vertical camera installed aft of the cockpit. The Tac R Mark IIC was readily identifiable by the absence of one or two of the cannon to accommodate a camera. As previously mentioned, the Tactical Reconnaissance squadrons often adopted non-standard "desert" camouflage and, following the "sand-and-spaghetti" of No. 208, other squadrons tried all manner of paint schemes from all-over sand finish and all-over mid-stone to grey-and-sand on three aircraft of No. 451 Squadron, RAAF.
The photo-reconnaissance Hurricanes, of which relatively few good pictures have ever been traced, were a rare breed indeed. It is believed that a total of no more than about 12 PR Mark Is was produced by the Service Depot at Heliopolis, all eventually destined for No. 2 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. The first three (believed to be P2915, W9116 and W9353) had been modified at Heliopolis in great secrecy in January 1941 for the Intelligence Photo Flight, set up by Longmore to cover areas of the Middle East not normally accessible to other aircraft. Two of these Hurricanes carried a pair of F24 8-inch cameras, the other one vertical and two oblique F24 14-inch cameras in the rear fuselage aft of the radiator, necessitating a prominent fairing; all had their guns removed and carried extra fuel tanks in the wings. They were followed by five further PR Mark Is in March (among them V7423 and V7428). The colour scheme adopted in the Middle East for these aircraft was a fairly dark blue all over. They were used to considerable effect, particularly during the Iraqi rebellion and Syrian campaign. Two similar PR Mark Is were modified in Malta during April 1941.
In October that year conversion of six Hurricane PR Mark IIs was sanctioned (Z5132, DG630 et al), but they were not completed in time to take part in preparations for Crusader, the first two being delivered to No. 2 PRU in December; they were said to be capable of a maximum speed of slightly over 350 mph and were able to reach 38,000 feet without trouble. Another batch, believed to number about a dozen aircraft, was converted at the end of 1942 or early 1943, most of these late series Mark IIs being shipped to India for use by No. 3 PRU; however, at least three were flown by a detachment of No. 680 (PR) Squadron from Tocra in Libya as late as July 1944.
Mason gives full technical specifications for all the models of Hurricanes, information on individual test flights during development, and information on the top-scoring pilots who flew Hurricanes. Most impressively, the book concludes with a comprehensive listing of Hurricanes by serial number giving squadrons served, where based, pilots, ultimate fate, and other details. Here's a typical entry:
P3421 No. 56 Sqn., North Weald, 5-40; Warmwell, 10-40; shot down by Bf 109Es, 10-10-40; Sgt J. Hlavac (Czech) killed.
This sort of aircraft-by-aircraft accounting goes on for approximately forty pages.
In addition to the text, valuable appendices, and the amazing thumbnail histories, The Hawker Hurricane is thoroughly illustrated with photographs (some in color) with informative captions, maps indicating locations of all the airbases around the world where Hurricanes served, full-color examples of color schemes and markings, and many charts and tables. Among those, for each theater Mason provides a listing of all the Hurricane-equipped squadrons in service there, where they were based, name of commander, and notes on operations. Time-lines show the movement and re-equipping of Hurricane squadrons in various theaters. Finally, one especially interesting map displays for each theater (including, for example, Sierra Leone, Lampedusa, Iceland, Java, and Cyprus as well as better-known locales) the number of Hurricane squadrons based there during the wara very well-executed visual approach to presenting data. Here's a look at one of the time-lines:
Quite a nice book. Indispensable for anyone interested in WWII aircraft, and also worthwhile for anyone studying the air war.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or
directly from Crecy Publishing.
Thanks to Crecy for providing this review copy.
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Reviewed 11 November 2001
Copyright © 2001 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone