on 5 December 2012
Great history of the Hawker Hurricane
Years ago I read Paul Gallico's early book on the Hawker Hurricane. (Yes, the same man who wrote "The Snow Goose", "The Poseidon Adventure", "The Love of Seven Dolls", "Jennie" and many other fine books!)
Many other books have been written about the Hurricane and Hurricane pilots since.
McKinstry's book is an excellent addition.
Many other reviewers have praised it, deservedly so.
I want to add some small points.
It is surprising that McKinstry says virtually nothing about the way Hurricanes were used, during 1941 to the end of 1942, as moon-light intruders over France.
On page 284 he says, "Some of the new planes were sent to the Middle East ... though many were retained by Fighter Command [in Britain] for use as intruders against occupied France and as attackers against Channel shipping".
McKinstry does cite Roland Beamont [not "Beaumont"], who was a RAF fighter pilot, and test-pilot for Hawker, specifically an interview with Beamont, and Beamont's own books (which I have not read).
However, Edward Lanchbery's biography of Beamont ("Against the Sun: The Adventures of Roland Beamont DSO OBE DFC", Cassell, London, 1955: Pan, London, 1957), in Chapter 4, explains how 87 Squadron, led at the time by David Ward, began flying moonlight intruder raids against Luftwaffe airfields, and opportunistic targets such as locomotives. Beamont flew with Ward on the first raid, with striking success!
McKinstry is quite right in saying that Hurricanes, without air-born radar to help find night-time targets, were almost wholly ineffective as night-fighters.
But moonlight raids against ground targets are quite another matter.
Another tiny quibbly point is that McKinstry does mention, when discussing night-fighters, the way Bristol Beaufighters were used with air-born radar. Unfortunately he fails to say that this effective night-fighter work began earlier with Bristol Blenheims, the ancestors of the much faster and more powerful Beaufighter.
Similarly, McKinstry repeatedly talks about the Hurricane's thick wing.
What is surprising, to me, is that he says so little about the successors to the Hurricane, the Typhoon, and the Tempest.
I am not an aeronautical engineer, but I believe that the thick-wing idea, as used in the Hurricane, was based on flawed or misleading aerodynamic theory.
When similarly thick wings were used in the Typhoon, it, too, was, to Camm's surprise, a poor performer at high altitudes.
But at lower altitudes, like the Hurricane, the Typhoon was an outstanding tactical ground-attack plane, rather than a fighter.
When Hawker (the company, and its engineers) investigated the laminar-flow thin-section wings of the North American P51 Mustang, designed according to laminar flow aerodynamic theory, they realised why both the Hurricane and the Typhoon lost speed at high altitudes: thick wings can't fly fast, high up. (Was Camm's non-use of wind-tunnels unhelpful in terms of wing-thickness?)
By changing the wings from thick to thin, the Typhoon became the Tempest (and, later, with a radial engine, Hawker, that is, Sydney Camm created the new monoplane Fury and then the Sea Fury -- the fastest piston-engined production plane, ever), and was an outstanding fighter at all altitudes. (The Supermarine Spitfire also had thin wings!)
These points are small, and in no way detract from a fascinating book.
John Gough - Melbourne, Australia - email@example.com