Over the winter period, the Imperial War Museum Duxford held the ‘Hurricane: Unsung Hero’ spotlight exhibition in the AirSpace hangar. Featuring seven civilian operated Hawker Hurricanes of various marks, the exhibition followed up on last year’s well received ‘Spitfire: Evolution of an Icon’ feature. As part of programme of supporting events for the exhibition, the Museum held one of it’s ‘Duxford in a Different Light’ events allowing photographers to attend after hours to photograph the aircraft on display under white and coloured lighting.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
The ‘Spitfire: Evolution of an Icon’ exhibition which featured several Duxford based aircraft was very well received by the public over the winter of 2021 and 2022. It was therefore little surprise that the Imperial War Museum followed up on the idea with a similar spotlight exhibition celebrating the Hawker Hurricane, a fighter which lived in the shadow of the Spitfire throughout the Second World War.
Rebecca Harding, Head of Technological Objects at IWM Duxford, said “With its impressive service history and distinctive appearance, the Hawker Hurricane is a true legend of aviation which revolutionised aerial combat during the Second World War. This winter, IWM Duxford will shine the spotlight on its historical significance and design and give visitors the unique chance to see seven airworthy variations up close to better understand why this famous fighter deserves such a prominent place in history.”
Though not quite restored in the numbers of the Spitfire, the Hawker Hurricane has seen something of renaissance in recent years with some truly superb restorations appearing from Hawker Restorations and other engineering companies in the UK. While the Hurricane’s relatively simple fabric covered wood and metal framework meant it was easier to repair in battle, it does make it slightly more challenging and time consuming during a complete restoration requiring rare specialist skills. In 2023, just fourteen examples are airworthy with six of them operating from Duxford.
As in 2022, Duxford held one its series of ‘In a Different Light’ events as part of the Hurricane exhibition. These events allow photographers to take images of the aircraft with a variety of lighting conditions offering some very different perspectives on the subjects. Six Hurricanes took part in the evening with five Duxford based aircraft joined by the Shuttleworth Collection’s Sea Hurricane Ib from Old Warden:
- Hawker Hurricane I P2902 – Anglia Aircraft Restorations Ltd
- Hawker Hurricane I R4118 – Hurricane Heritage
- Hawker Hurricane I P3717 – Bygone Aviation
- Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib Z7015 – Shuttleworth Collection
- Hawker Hurricane IIb BE505 – Hurricane Heritage
- Hawker Hurricane XIIa R4175 – Historic Aircraft Collection
To showcase the aeronautical developments at Hawker Aircraft that led to the Hurricane, the exhibition also featured three further aircraft from the Historic Aircraft Collection, Hawker Nimrod II K3661, Hawker Fury I K5674 plus the bare fuselage structure of Hawker Hind L7181. The latter aircraft showed the intricate wooden and metal framework structure which Sir Sydney Camm used in his family of military bi-planes and Hawker Hurricane. Also sharing the Hangar space with the Hawker aircraft was IWM’s own Supermarine Spitfire Ia N3200 allowing visitors to compare the designs of the two famous fighter aircraft.
Just for the Different Light event, two further Duxford based Hawker aircraft were parked outside the AirSpace Hangar illuminated by floodlights. The Fighter Collection brought over their Hawker Nimrod I S1581 which at the time of the event was without its propellor while it underwent winter maintenance. Alongside the Nimrod and represented the ultimate generation of Hawker piston powered fighters was Hawker Fury ISS ‘SR661’ from Anglia Aircraft Restoration’s Ltd.
Compared to the Spitfire event last year, this exhibition did feel a little more crammed into a smaller space due to the newly restored Handley Page Victor B1A which now resides in the Conservation portion of AirSpace. That did make it tricky to get relatively clean images of the Hurricane and also to stay out of other photographers while they captured their own images. Like last year, some areas of the Airspace were also illuminated though this time this was limited to the aero engines exhibit plus the Shorts Sunderland and Fairey Swordfish aircraft. However despite all the challenging spacing and conditions, this was another very enjoyable evening at Duxford with some very interesting subjects to capture.