Royal Navy Aircraft - WW2 Part 2

Hurricane and Sea Hurricane

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Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.1A "Hurricat", Fleet Air Arm Merchant Ship Fighter Unit, RAF Speke, 1941.

This simple conversion is based on the Heller issue of the Airfix 1/72 Hurricane Mk.1, with Aeromaster transfers & scratch catapult trolley.

With the growing losses of merchant ships to Focke-Wulf Fw200 Condor attacks and a desperate shortage of aircraft carriers, in late 1940 the Admiralty decided to fit selected merchant vessels known as Catapult Armed Merchantment (or CAM ships) with a rocket powered catapult, enabling them to launch their own Hurricane fighter as a last ditch defence should a convoy come under air attack.

The drawback to this otherwise sensible concept was the lack of any landing or recovery facilities; after they had destroyed or driven off the attacking Condor, pilots were expected to make for the nearest land, or to ditch alongside their ship and hope that they would be rescued! The aircraft were drawn from ex-RAF stocks (mostly Battle of Britain veterans), given a simple conversion to become a Sea Hurricane Mk 1A. It was a pretty desperate measure, carrying a lot of personal risk; the aircraft were flown by special Fleet Air Arm and RAF volunteers.

The Hurricat concept was a modest success, helping to sustain th evital North Atlantic and Arctic convoys through the darkest days of 1941. The first victory fell to Lt Everett of the RNVR, who was awarded the DSO for the destruction of an Fw 200 on 3 August 1941. After ditching his aircraft alongside an escorting destroyer, it sank rapidly, but he was able to escape from the cockpit at a depth of about 30 feet and was quickly rescued.

Hawker Sea Hurricane 1b - 880 NAS, HMS CONDOR, RNAS Arbroath 1941.

Chinese company Hobby Boss have recently produced a range of simple "beginners" low cost assembly kits. This is their Hurricane 2b Trop, converted back to a 1b Sea Hurricane. A nice little kit, albeit a but skinny with fuselage sides that are too slab-like.

The Sea Hurricane was hurriedly introduced post Dunkirk/Norway to counter the damage being wrought on convoys by the long range FW200 Condor. Early Sea Hurricanes were all basic conversions of RAF Battle of Britain veteran aircraft. Serving at first on Catapult equipped Merchant Ships (as a one way disposable weapon - there were no landing facilities, so the pilot had to ditch alongside), it rapidly developed into a key carrier borne fighter, forming the backbone, (alongside the longer range Fulmar) of the RN's forces in the Mediterranean for Operation Pedestal and equipping Escort Carriers in the Atlantic and Arctic Convoys.

This particular aircraft was flown by Battle of Britain ace, Sub Lt Dicky Cork, one of the FAA's highest scoring pilots.

Hawker Hurricane 1b (Trop), 806 Sqn FAA / RN Fighter Squadron, 269 Wing, Western Desert Air Force, December 1941.

Airfix have two 1/72 Hurricane kits in their catalogue, a simple Mk I (also issued by Heller) and a Mk I/IIb. Bizzarrely, the more expensive Series 2 Mk I/IIb version, as built here, is much the poorer of the two, although it does include a plethora of extra parts (rocket rails, anti-tank cannon, fuel tanks and bombs) that are quite useful. (link to build page)

In May 1941, HMS FORMIDABLE, which had replaced the bomb damaged HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, also received serious bomb damage whilst escorting convoys to Malta. As a result, she was forced to leave the Mediterranean and proceed to the United States for 6 months of repairs. In the meantime, three of her squadrons, 803 & 806 (both Fulmars & Sea Gladiators) and 826 (Albacores & Swordfish), remained in theatre, disembarking to Egypt, where they were quickly incorporated into the 269 Wing of the Western Desert Air Force (later known as 1 Allied Tactical Air Force -1ATAF).

The WDAF had been established in April 1941 by renowned WW1 Royal Naval Air Service hero, Air Vice Marshal Raymond Collishaw. Well aware of the FAA's particular skills, Collishaw was very keen to use the naval Squadrons in his composite RN, RAF, SAAF and RAAF force, operating from ashore in North Africa to provide close support and fighter protection across the desert and protect Allied shipping convoys along the North African coast.

Up until February 1942 when they returned to sea, RN Pilots flew a mix of Martlets and RAF Hurricanes, as well as Albacores & Swordfish. This Hurricane 1b (Trop), was the mount of Fleet Air Arm pilot, Sub Lt Mike Fell (later Admiral Fell), based at Maddelena in Libya.

Hawker Sea Hurricane 1B

800 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS INDOMITABLE, Operation Pedestal, August 1942

This is the very nice Revell Mk.IIb Hurricane kit converted into one of 800 Sqn's Pedestal Sea Hurricanes using some Aeromaster decals.

INDOMITABLE's squadrons played a major part in the Operation Pedestal actions, repelling massed attacks on the convoy by German and Italian aircraft.

 Toward the end of the battle, the ship suffered a bomb hit that temporarily put her flight deck out of action; her squadrons simply landed on HMS VICTORIOUS instead, refuelled, rearmed and continued the battle.

Link to build page

Hawker Sea Hurricane IIc, 760 NAS Fleet Air Arm, RNAS Inskip & HMS RAVAGER 1944

Revell's 1/72 Hurricanes are excellent, especially their IIc Sea Hurricane. Detailed, accurate, well fitting and with interesting decal options.

The later cannon equipped Sea Hurricanes served almost until the war's end, flying mainly from Escort and Merchant Aircraft Carriers.

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Hawker Sea Hurricane IIc, 835 NAS Fleet Air Arm, HMS NAIRANA 1944

Airfix have produced a sound and very buildable new mould Hurricane kit, which comes with decals for the famous “Nicki”, one of HMS NAIRANA;s white painted anti-submarine Sea Hurricanes.  The kit has a few issues, most notably its deep panel lines and very short propeller blades, but builds into an impressive replica

835 Squadron in HMS NAIRANA were the last Fleet Air Arm squadron to use the Sea Hurricane in front line service. NAIRANA was a small escort carrier, equipped with a composite squadron of Swordfish, Sea Hurricanes and (later on) Wildcats.  She served mainly on escort duties between the UK and Gibraltar, and the UK and Murmansk.  

NAIRANA’s Hurricanes were painted in an overall white scheme as an extension of the anti-submarine schemes worn by the Swordfish and the long range patrol aircraft of the RAF’s Coastal Command.  Intended to blend in to the heavy cloud cover, they were highy successful and a pre-cursor to the low visibility grey schemes we see today.  NAIRANA’s pilots gained a magnificent reputation, operating their day fighters constantly from the ship’s astonishingly narrow deck, sometimes even at night in atrocious Arctic storms.

The subject of this kit was an aircraft named “Nicki”.  Flown by several of 835’s pilots, she is best known for shooting down a Ju-290 in May 1944, whilst being piloted by Sub/Lt. Allan Russell Burgham DSC, RNZNVR.

Link to build page


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The Sea Hurricane and the Hurricane