My First and Only Ride in a Hawker Hurricane

by: RAF_Yank

Despite my current affiliation with the RAF 662nd Squadron I only flew an RAF plane once. It was a Hawker Hurricane (MkI) I believe. I probably could have been court martialed but again my luck held out.

Hawker Hurricaine

 It was in early August when we had a welcome lull in the action. Many of our planes were in need of repair and we got a few days rest. I know it's easy to romanticize combat flying but this was a very nasty business. We had lost several guys in recent days and another was MIA. It was incredibly exhausting. After a mssion the Flight Surgeon would rush out to see if we were wounded. He would often give us a shot of whisky to bring us around. Many of us had to be carried from the cockpit afterwards. The tension, stress, and concentration it took to get the job done really took it's toll. It's like I was a limp noodle afterwards.

One one of these afternoons I was suprised to see this Hurricane coming in for a landing.....

We didn't see many of these older RAF planes in late 1944. The British were using alot of their Typhoons and Tempests in the ground attack role. They were outstanding aircraft. We saw Spitfires and Mosquito's but not too many Hurricanes. Like most young men in college I romanticized the RAF fliers who flew against the Germans in the Battle of Britain in the Summer of 1940. Newsreels of these dashing young pilots facing overwhelming odds in their Spitfires and Hurricanes helped inspire me to become a combat pilot. I was understandably curious when this fellow pulled up.

Typhoon

Spitfire

He parked next to group of P-47's and I was really suprised at how small it looked up against our huge "Jugs". It turned out he was doing reconnaisance and for a British unit nearby. He was trying to keep them posted of enemy movements and to help direct artillery. He was low on fuel and asked if he could fill up. We said of course and since it was getting late we talked him in to spending the night. He radioed his base so they wouldn't come looking for him. We broke out some of the good stuff and had a great time listening to his stories of the Blitz in London and all.................

He told us that his Mother had her windows blown out so often from the bombing that she quit replacing them. He also gave us an idea of the indomitable spirit of the British. That old fashioned "Stiff upper lip" attitude served them well. They never waivered. We kept pouring him Scotch and he kept telling stories.

He had missed the Battle of Britain but ended up flying in North Africa against the Afrika Corps. Those early days over there were touch and go. The RAF and later the USAAF made a big difference slowing down Rommel's resupply. Soon almost every air convoy that tried to make it over the Mediterranean came under attack.

After three or four drinks I asked him what he would think about letting me take a spin in this Hurricane. I was suprised when he said "Sure. We are about to retire her anyway." He started to chuckle and I wasn't sure what he meant. So we had one or two more and hit the sack.

This was completely unauthorized so I woke him up early about 4:00AM to help me preflight her and familiarize my self with the instruments. As I walked out with him , I started to think that what seemed like a great idea chatting over a couple of drinks was starting to seem like a really stupid idea. That feeling got stronger when I got out a flashlight and he went over the instruments with. I hardly knew a kilometer from a bisquit but I went a long with his instructions. I would have backed out but I had woken him up and I didn't want him to think I was chicken.

We got it fired up and I taxied out to the end of the runway. It seemed a bit like a trainer or perhaps a P-40 which I flew in training. I hit the gas and managed to take off without cracking it up. So there I was in the near pitch black in an unfamiliar airplane flying without permission. Visions of a court martial and cartwheeling this damn airplane into a ditch somewhere danced in my head. I felt like a complete idiot.

I was sure I'd end up like this guy

So I made a couple of turns around the field, and headed in. I was impressed with the Hurricanes' responsiveness. It was very nimble compared to the juggernaut's we were flying. I managed to remember to put the gear down and porpoised down the runway like a rookie. Fortunately it was early and pretty dark so I didn't have too many witnesses.

I pulled up an got out to find the RAF guy hiding behind a shed. I came up to him and he said "I hid because your CO came out. He talked to somebody who said I must have left." I thanked him and told him he'd better get the Hell out there quick. We shook hands and he fired it up and started to taxi out. Just then my CO came out and said to me"Why did he come back?" I mumbled something about how he must have forgot something and headed for my tent. I was very glad it was still fairly dark so he couldn't see the bullets I was sweating.

I got back to my tent and told myself "Never again!"

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