Hurricane restored by volunteers

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It perished in the freezing wastes of Arctic Russia on 20 June 1942. Now, thanks to a 20-year volunteer project, it has been fully restored and put on display at the Brooklands Museum at Weybridge in Surrey.

The Brooklands Hurricane, Z2389, undergoing its refurbishment.
The Brooklands Hurricane, Z2389, undergoing its refurbishment.

Hurricane Z2389 was built in 1940 and served with five different RAF squadrons during 1941, including the famous American volunteer 71 ‘Eagle’ Squadron at Martlesham Heath.

It was then shipped to Murmansk on 21 May 1942, sent as part of a consignment of emergency war supplies to the embattled Soviet Union. A month later, piloted by Flight-Lieutenant Ivan Kalashnikov, Hurricane Z2389 engaged two Messerschmitt Bf109s and five Messerschmitt Bf110s, but, with two other Hurricanes, was shot down.

Kalashnikov survived the forced landing, but his wrecked plane was abandoned. Fifty years later, in 1996, it was recovered by Russian historians, and acquired by the Brooklands Museum the following year.

Though the Heritage Lottery Fund granted the money for the purchase, the restoration was the work of a team of dedicated volunteers. The team, supported by museum staff, raised money and sourced materials and spare parts. The most-memorable achievement was acquiring a Merlin Mark II engine by chance when an interested visitor announced that he had one sitting in his garage.

The restoration project is estimated to have involved 60,000 person-hours of work. The team rebuilt the steel and wooden structure, stitched fabric to the fuselage, painted the wings, and restored the cockpit and pilot’s seat.

Designed by Sydney Camm nearby in Kingston, the Hawker Hurricane was assembled and first flown as a prototype at Brooklands in November 1935. Altogether, around 3,000 Hurricanes were manufactured at Brooklands, a fifth of the total built, and a quarter of those deployed by the RAF during the Battle of Britain.

This article was published in the December 2019 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.

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