The Hawker Hurricane - the RAF's forgotten fighter star of the Battle of Britain.

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The Battle of Britain - Facts and Myths (and things somewhere in between)

Henry Ford said "History Is Bunk" but should we be saying "Bad History Is Bunk"?

History is a contest of evidence, much like a legal case.  Discovering facts is somewhat like archaeology: you need to dig…….
In archaeology and library research you can make a claim based on the easy pickings that lie on the surface or you can break into a sweat as you dig deeper.  But it is not enough to dig deep.  You must sift every spadeful, and sift it fine.  Truth is most often found in the tiniest of grains: it is easy to miss if you don't focus intently....

"truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings."
Alexander Solzhenitsyn - address at Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises, Thursday, June 8, 1978.

Here are various thoughts to be considered before deciding the "Facts" as you know them are clearly correct. War is a very confused and inefficient activity and very few things are completely right or completely wrong.

Here I put forward a few items to be considered from my understanding that there are many things that I don’t understand. I make no claim as to their complete accuracy and have no wish to alter people's opinion. I just offer my mantra – you may think that you are right but do you know that you are right? Just because something is repeated many times does not make it true – do the facts come from original information?

Just because something is stated on the internet does not make it true – and that includes all of this!

The Spitfire was better because ……..
The Spitfire (if available in sufficient numbers) could have won the Battle of Britain without the Hurricane.
But it wasn't - so it couldn't ……
The Spitfire was able to be developed throughout WW2.
Yes – but the only relevance to the Battle of Britain is that if that battle had been lost and invasion followed – the production of improved planes would have gone straight into the Luftwaffe!
It is also worth remembering that the Hurricane was not intended to have an extended life. Even as the Battle of Britain raged, Hawker (following their long-time policy of developing a replacement as soon as a design was in production) had the Typhoon flying. Before the war had ended this had been added to by the even better Tempest, with the Sea Fury on its way.
The Spitfire took on the fighters while the Hurricane was left to attack the bombers …
10 July 1940 - "Following Fighter Command Policy, 111 Squadron ignored the fighters – formed into line abreast and headed straight for the formation of Dorniers."

For the greater part of the battle fighters were scrambled as individual squadrons or even sections of squadrons – having a Spitfire and a Hurricane squadron operating in the same part of the sky at the same time was not a consideration.

12 August – the Luftwaffe started operating the Me109 and Me110 with small bomb loads to try to force RAF fighters to stop ignoring their fighter sweeps and be drawn into dog-fights.

19 August – Group 11 commander Park repeated that "Fighter to Fighter" combat was to be avoided and that "the nearest available squadron was to intercept raids at once".

7 September – The Luftwaffe started its main assault on London. THEN as a limited number of raids to a known target were plotted, Spitfire Squadrons (if available) could be assigned to take on the raids fighter escorts.

Was that something to the credit of the Spitfire? The bombers were the ones destroying towns, radar stations and airfields. The bombers were also a more substantial craft to shoot down – and they were firing back!

The Spitfire was more manoeuvrable.
That also means less stable – not good while trying to keep eight machine guns on target.

The Hurricane may have been less agile but had a tighter turning circle than the Spitfire once in a "turning fight". The Me109s started using the technique of "dive-and-zoom" to avoid a dogfight against the Hurricane – just like allied fighters in the Far East when later taking on the Japanese Zero.


Actions and failures are just as much a matter of timing as a matter of skill and planning
The Spitfire could have been a minor part of aviation history as a step too far for the technology of the day.
As a result of the full production of the Spitfire being delayed by technical and manufacturing problems, the Air Ministry considered stopping production of the Spitfire after the initial batch of 310 and contracting Supermarine to build the Bristol Beaufighter. The plan was dropped with an order of 200 Spitfires in March 1938. The rest was history, as the saying goes!
From 1936 and the Spanish Civil War ....
the Luftwaffe possessed high-speed monoplane fighters and bombers. At that time the RAF was both small and outdated.
Without the Munich Agreement of September 1938 the Battle of Britain could have started 12 or 18 months earlier.
At that time there were only two fully operational squadrons of Hurricanes. How many RAF Squadrons would still be flying biplanes? Would what Spitfires and Hurricanes that we did have been using 2-bladed propellers and low grade fuel?
British rearmament was left too late.
The major rearmament scheme for the RAF (" Expansion Scheme F") received government approval in February 1936. The Air Force was to acquire more than 8,000 new aircraft over three years… just in time to order the new Spitfire and Hurricane. If the plan had been approved years earlier - like in Germany – the RAF would have been swamped by totally inadequate old designs.


Hurricanes and Spitfires didn't do it on their own ……….
1 January 1940 – RAF Sullom Voe on the Shetlands was attacked by the Luftwaffe and a Ju88 was confirmed shot down by a Gloster Gladiator biplane. Small numbers of Gladiators were active throughout the Battle of Britain. The last combat resulted in a He111 being damaged on 6 November 1940 over Cornwall. The last Gladiator patrol was on 3 February 1941.
At the outbreak of the Second World War 111 Bristol Blenheim twin engined "Long Range Fighters" were on Fighter Command's strength. The plane saw service over the sea, in the Battle of France and then in the Battle of Britain by both day and mostly night.
The world's first airborne radar controlled "kill" was during the Battle of Britain. A Blenheim brought down a Do17 on the night of 22-23 July 1940.
The RAF was supported by the Navy in the skies of the Battle of Britain.

56 pilots of the Fleet Air Arm were officially credited with fighting in the Battle of Britain.

Both Grumman Martlets and Fairey Fulmars were officially on Fighter Command's inventory during the Battle of Britain.

Later, on 25 December 1940 an American built Grumman Martlet from RNAS Skeabrae, Orkney shot down a Ju88.


Numbers count – a good big'un is always better than a good little'un – and that includes Air Forces.
During the Battle of France the RAF lost about 380 Hurricanes. By the start of the Battle of Britain the Hurricane squadrons were back up to establishment due to its high level of production.
Throughout the Battle of Britain the RAF establishment of Spitfire squadrons was 19. During the same time the number of Hurricane squadrons increased from 24 to 32.
The Spitfire "shadow factory" at Castle Bromwich reached a maximum production of 320 per month (at that rate would there have been any need for the Hurricane as a frontline fighter?) – BUT as a contributor to the Battle of Britain was it actually a liability?

Castle Bromwich output during the Battle of Britain
May 1940 ------- zero!
June 1940 ------- 10 (assembled from Southampton parts?)
July 1940 -------- 23
August 1940 ----- 37
September 1940 - 56

The crucial point is that no amount of production AFTER the end of the Battle of Britain would have helped Britain if that battle had been lost due to lack of numbers – the production would have gone straight into the Luftwaffe!

The factory was, however, building up production just in time to cover the lost production when the Southampton factories were badly damaged by the air raids of September 1940.


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