The Hawker Hurricane – A Windsor plane
On Saturday 9 September 1911, Gustav Hamel flew a Blériot monoplane 21 miles from Hendon to Windsor to deliver the first airmail letters. This was a nationally reported event and was bound to have been noted by an 18 year old Windsor resident called Sydney Camm. Camm’s father was a carpenter and the family lived in a small victorian terraced house on Alma Road.
Camm had joined the Windsor Model Aeroplane Club. In the year following Hamel’s memorable flight, Sydney together with his fellow enthusiasts at the club (who were clearly inspired and technically capable people) built a full sized man-carrying glider. Between 1914 and 1918 Camm went to work for the G. H. Martinsdale aeroplane company. Here he designed his first aeroplanes.
In 1922 Sydney Camm moved to the Hawker Engineering Company in Kingston-upon-Thames. It was at Hawker that he was to design some of the most iconic aircraft of the first half of the 20th Century.
Chief among these was the Hawker Hurricane, first British fighter to exceed 300mph in level flight. The prototype Hawker Hurricane first took to the air on 6th November 1935 at Brooklands airfield near Weybridge in Surrey.
In 1937 600 of the new Hurricanes were delivered to the Air Ministry. With the onset of war in 1939, Camm worked hard improving his original design while also delivering other iconic warbirds such as the Hawker Typhoon (1942) and Hawker Tempest (1944).
The Hurricane in the Battle of Britain
The Hurricane is the plane that won the Battle of Britain. During that time the RAF had 32 Hurricane squadrons, compared with just 19 Spitfire squadrons, so the Hurricane was the backbone of Britain’s defence. The highest scoring Allied pilot of the Battle of Britain was Josef Frantisek, who claimed 17 enemy kills while flying his Hurricane.
In 1942 the The Mk IID Hurricane came into service. it proved its worth in North Africa where its two tank busting 40 mm cannon earned it the nickname “the can opener”.
Where can you see Hurricanes in Britain today?
A Hurricane Mk I is on display at the RAF Museum in Hendon (on the site of the aerodrome where Hamel’s postal service flew from). Another can be found in London’s science museum. A third (this time a Mk IIa) is on display at the Brooklands Museum, Weybridge. There are also a few Hurricanes still flying, most noteably the two conserved by the RAF for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight which is stationed at RAF Connignsby, but puts on displays throughout the country.
In Windsor a new replica Hurricane was unveiled in late spring 2012. It can be found at the western end of Alexandra Park (from the town centre walk upstream along the riverside promenade for about 500 yards) and is a fitting tribute to Sidney Camm and the men and women of the RAF who flew these wonderful machines.
Camm himself is remembered with a blue plaque on the wall of his childhood home in Alma road and by a bronze bust on display in the Guildhall Museum