17 Sep 2015

The Overlooked Fighter

75 years ago the Battle of Britain was at its fiercest. German bombers had struck at cities and aerodromes across the British Isles and the Royal Air Force was fighting back against huge odds. On 15th September 1940 bomber attacks could start again after a few days of cloudy weather. Their crews had been told the RAF was a spent force and could provide no opposition. To their horror the bombers were met by hundreds of Spitfires and Hurricanes. Losses were high and the Battle was effectively decided; there would be no invasion of Britain in 1940. The Sunday nearest to 15th September is still celebrated by the RAF as Battle of Britain Day.

Most people associate the Spitfire with the events of 1940. The most numerous modern fighter plane in the RAF’s armoury was actually the Hurricane which looked similar but belonged to an earlier age of aeroplane design. Hurricanes were not as fast Spitfires but were still effective combat machines. They were easier to build and repair and more forgiving for inexperienced pilots to fly.

Hawker Hurricane Mark IV KX829 at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum painted as Hurricane Mark 1 P3395/ JX-B of 1 Squadron RAF. © David Evetts

At Thinktank we have both a Spitfire and a Hurricane on display. The Hurricane was built in 1943 but is currently painted to represent a machine of 1940 from 1 Squadron RAF flown by Arthur Clowes. His personal wasp emblem is on the front of the aeroplane. 300 Hurricanes were built at the Austin works in Longbridge compared to around 12,000 Spitfires at Castle Bromwich.

Royal Air Force Fighter Command © Iwm (Ch 1570) Large 52949
Pilot Officer Arthur "Taffy" Clowes of No. 1 Squadron RAF. © IWM (CH 1570)