From May to August 1941, Number 71 Squadron flew the Hawker Hurricane MkIIa aircraft. The Hawker Hurricane was one of the most famous British fighters of World War II. The prototype was first flown in November 1935 and the first production aircraft made its initial flight in October 1937. Within a matter of weeks, Hurricanes were being delivered to their operational squadrons. By the time the war broke out in September 1939, the Royal Air Force had taken delivery of about 500 Hurricanes and production continued.
Hurricanes were built not only in Great Britain but also in Yugoslavia before the German invasion, and in Canada during the 1940-1942 period. They were flown by pilots of many nations during the war. The Hawker Hurricane MkIIa on display is a Canadian-built airframe painted to represent an aircraft of 71 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Forming the Eagle Squadrons
In 1940, with England at war with Germany, American pilots were recruited to fly British aircraft against Hitler's forces. Many of the first American recruits were formed into the Royal Air Force's (RAF) Number 71 Squadron and were led first by RAF officers. Number 71 Squadron, called the Eagle Squadron, was later joined by Number 121 and Number 133 Squadrons and together were called the Eagle Squadrons. Number 71 went into action in January 1941 and the 121 and 133 squadrons in the summer of 1941. From January 1941 until they were absorbed into the U.S. Army Air Forces in September 1942, the Eagle Squadrons fought valiantly and successfully against German aircraft over England and the Continent, displaying courage, resourcefulness and skill. When they entered the U.S. Army Air Forces, the Eagle Squadrons' pilots were seasoned veterans providing the experience lacking in the pilots the U.S. was sending to England.
The Hawker Hurricane in the Battle of Britain
The Hurricane is probably best known for its performance during the Battle of Britain. When the Battle of Britain commenced in July 1940, the RAF Fighter Command had but 527 Hurricanes and 321 Spitfires to counter the enemy's 2,700 aircraft. Yet, the RAF was able to maintain air superiority in the skies of Great Britain. The Hurricanes absorbed the brunt of the German air attacks until a faster, more maneuverable Spitfire was available in quantity to blunt the successes of the German Messerschmitt Me 109.
Suggested Readings Philip D. Caine, American Pilots in the RAF Vern Haugland, The Eagles' War
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: Eight .303-cal. Browning machine guns Engine: Rolls-Royce Merlin XX of 1,260 hp Maximum speed: 340 mph Cruising speed: 238 mph Range: 468 miles with internal fuel only; 1,090 miles with two 90-gal. ferry tanks Ceiling: 35,000 ft. Span: 40 ft. Length: 31 ft. 4 in. Height: 13 ft. Weight: 7,200 lbs. loaded