Conway pioneered a new type of pocket manual and it is great that this series is continuing to be supported by new owners Bloomsbury. What was revolutionary was the production of pocket manuals that actually did fit into pockets, were priced within the reach of even the younger reader, but provided content to satisfy the professional and the serious enthusiast. This new addition to the series covers the Hawker Hurricane, an all-time great of fighter design and production. A fitting book for an immortal aircraft, most enthusiastically recommended.
NAME: The Hurricane Pocket Manual, All Marks 1939-1945
AUTHOR: Martin Robson
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury. Conway Books
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Fighter, monoplane, 8 gun, enclosed cockpit, reflector gunsight, radio communications, radio-telephone, RAF, wasted years, rearmament, fighter bomber, tank buster, rocket, desert filter, Hawker
DESCRIPTION: Conway pioneered a new type of pocket manual and it is great that this series is continuing to be supported by new owners Bloomsbury. What was revolutionary was the production of pocket manuals that actually did fit into pockets, were priced within the reach of even the younger reader, but provided content to satisfy the professional and the serious enthusiast. This new addition to the series covers the Hawker Hurricane, an all-time great of fighter design and production. A fitting book for an immortal aircraft, most enthusiastically recommended.
This book packs in more information than books on the subject that are more than twice the size and three times the price. There are great images, in the form of photographs and drawings, through the body of the book. Information in tabular form offers condensed detail. Some may say that the print is small, but a tiny price to pay for such excellent value – buy a new pair of glasses and enjoy.
The subject is one of the greats of aviation and although the Spitfire may have attracted more following, the Battle of Britain could not have been won had the RAF only flown Hurricanes or Spitfires. This pocket manual very ably describes how the Hurricane was built and operated in all theatres of WWII and how it fought on from the first to the last day. Hurricanes of 1 Sq. in France established records for shooting down German aircraft in a short period. In the Battle of Britain more German aircraft fell to the Hurricane than to the Spitfire. The aircraft then established new roles as a tank buster, bomber, rocket launcher and escort. It was probably the most rugged fighter of WWII, went to sea on carriers and performed with great reliability. It was a near perfect gun platform and outperformed the German Me 109 in the early part of the war.
When the politicians finally woke up to their neglect of national security, a sadly oft-repeated situation to this day, they entered a panic rearmament program to start to deliver just in time, aided by some incredibly brave young men and women. In the mid 1930s, the RAF was a biplane air force, scandalously equipped with aircraft little improved on those at the end of WWI. The RAF even started WWII with frontline biplane fighters. The scale of the task of rearming was immense and Britain was fortunate in having two aircraft companies and two great designers who were able to offer two very complimentary aircraft and have them operational by the start of WWII.
The Supermarine Spitfire was an outstanding and advanced design based on the company’s experience of building the incredible Schneider Trophy float planes that, even with the drag of a pair of massive floats, achieved more than twice the speed of frontline fighters of the time. However, the penalty was that, like many advanced devices, the Spitfire was difficult and slow to build. In service it could be hard to repair. These weaknesses were never entirely addressed and delayed the development of a shipboard version. The Hurricane was a very different story.
Hawker had produced some of the finest biplane fighters for the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF. Some of them, particularly the Hawker Fury, were still in frontline service in 1939. They were amongst the fastest and most manoeuvrable aircraft of their type. Their weakness was that they had reached the end of the development line and could not fly faster or carry heavier armament. They were fabric covered, open cockpit fighters with the same twin rifle calibre machine gun armament that started equipping fighters from 1916. They were not even equipped with radio-telephone equipment in the main and their forest of struts and wires produced a built-in headwind.
Where Supermarine had decided to start with a very fresh clean drawing board, Hawker decided to take a minimum engineering risk, but still achieve a dramatic increase in capability. As with the Spitfire, the Hurricane mounted eight rifle calibre machine guns, mounted in the wings to fire outside the propeller disk. This meant that the Hurricane significantly outgunned its predecessor, the Fury. By avoiding interrupter gear, the Hurricane’s guns could fire at their optimum rate and land a massive sixteen times the weight of shell on the target in a given period. To further improve the gun performance, an advanced reflector sight was fitted to increase the hit ratio. Not only did it offer a great weight of fire, but it meant that a fatal weight of fire could be landed on the target, when a Fury might not even get a single round onto a fast moving metal monoplane target. By moving to a clean monoplane design with a Merlin engine, the Hurricane was almost twice as fast as biplanes over large parts of the performance envelop, but remained very nimble.
These amazing improvements in lethality and performance were achieved without production and maintenance penalties by the simple expedient of using the Fury as the basis for the design. The same method of construction was employed with an aircraft frame and wings that were covered with doped canvas, except for some metal panels around the engine. The two planes of the Fury were replaced by a relatively thick single wing, low mounted to give a terrific improvement in pilot visibility. The engine was fitted with a wooden two blade propeller the was very similar to the propeller mounted on the Fury. Where aircraft departed from the Fury design, the monoplane was accompanied with a wide track retractable undercarriage, offering a far superior grass field performance than the Spitfire. The pilot was positioned in an enclosed cockpit with a framed ‘greenhouse’ canopy, equipped with a radio-telephone for air-to-air and air-to-ground communication, and protected by an armour plate behind the seat and bullet resistant glass in the windscreen. The result was an aircraft that could be rapidly built, using many jigs already widely used in biplane construction. The method of construction also made repair and maintenance much easier than for a monocoque metal design like the Spitfire. It was to prove a battle-winning design, much loved by its pilots.
Had the Hurricane remained as it started, it would probably have been retired from frontline service during 1940, but the design proved very adaptable. Much of the fabric covering was replaced by metal panels, improving overall performance. The two blade wooden propeller was replaced by a three bladed variable pitch metal propeller. Later and more powerful Merlins were used to further improve performance. However, the critical factor was that the thick wing lent itself to considerable variation in weapons. Some Hurricanes carried twelve machine guns, a combination of canon and machine gun armament, or a four canon array. Then someone decided to fit much heavier canon under the wings to enable the Hurricane to become a tank killer, making a vital contribution to the war in North Africa. Fitting bombs was a further logical development and eventually the Hurricane was equipped with rockets, making it a formidable ground attack aircraft.
The author has made a very good job of covering this rich history of a very formidable fighter aircraft.