Hawker Hurricane I
Single engine single-seat fighter
In the summer of 1938 two Aéronautique Militaire Belge pilots (Capt. Pierre Arend and Lt. Vicomte Eric de Spoelberch) were sent on a mission to the United Kingdom to evaluate in flight the two best British fighter aircraft; the Hawker Hurricane I and the Supermarine Spitfire I. In view of the worsening political tension between the European countries and Germany, Lt-General Emile Duvivier Commander of the Défense Aérienne du Territoire (D.A.T.) expressed the urgent need for the acquisition of 40 Spitfires or Hurricanes. Finally, in March 1939 the Belgian Government placed an order (covered by contract N° B-655029/37) for twenty Hawker Hurricane I, while Avions Fairey S.A. (the Belgian company) made a deal with Hawker's to build 80 Hurricanes under license agreement.
The first flight of the initial Hurricane destined for the Belgian Air Force took place on May 13, 1939, after it was given a complete overhaul at the Hawker factory. In view of the urgency, the British Government had agreed that the aircraft to be delivered to Belgium would be taken from the ongoing production for the Royal Air Force. Appropriated registrations: L1918 to L1920 - L1993 to L1997 - L2040 to L2044 and L2105 to L2111. A first batch of three aircraft arrived in Belgium on May 18th, 1939 - surprisingly at least two of these aircraft were seen wearing non-standard applied registrations H-19 and H-20. This created confusion as Belgian Military serials for the Hurricanes only started with H-20. Most probably these registrations were applied in the factory and could have been based on the two last digits of their RAF registration. This was corrected by at least July 1939 as H-20 was on public display wearing the regular large size registration on its rudder while exhibited in the D.A.T. stand at the Salon de l'Aéronautique at Brussels (Heyzel). By September 1939 some 15 Hurricanes were delivered to the Aéronautique Militaire Belge.
The Five Belgian "mystery" Hurricanes:
According to popular belief, the next five Hurricanes out of twenty ordered, were never delivered to the Belgians and were instead a mixture of RAF machines which were interned after making emergency landings in Belgium. This presumption is purely based on guesswork and no factual prove has ever been discovered up to now. On the other hand two of the RAF aircraft involved still in their RAF colors, turned up by the time the Germans overran Belgium. One of them L1628/LK-H was identified on a picture while on its way (with other equipment of the Etablissement d'Aéronautique) to Bordeaux-Mérignac in France between May 14th and May 16th, 1940. (E. Eijsermans). The famous three blade propeller Hurricane thought to be later registered H-39, identified as RAF N2361 (to be confirmed), was discovered in a hangar at Wevelgem airfield (Info Peter Taghon). The particular aircraft was indeed severely damaged in an emergence landing at Esplechin (Tournai) on December 9th, 1939 and according to its pilot Sgt. "Dinky" Howell had "a damaged undercart and prop shortened by at least a foot or so" (sources via Luc Wittemans: Hurricane Squadron : No.87 Squadron at War, 1939-1941 by Perry Adams (Air research, 1988) and Arise to Conquer: the story of a squadron at war by Ian Gleed (Severn House, 1975, originally published in 1942). So, all possibilities are still open concerning these five "mystery" Hurricanes delivered to the Aéronautique Belge during the last months of peace in Europe. Fact is that H-39 was indeed a three blade prop equipped machine with the then common black and white undersides. This last feature was also noted on at least one (possibly more) twin blade prop Belgian Hurricanes, more than probably of the last batch of five.
From pictures and written records it is however clear that 5 more aircraft, the origins of which remain unknown, were used by the Belgian's. In a note from the British Air Ministry to the Belgian Ambassador in London it was confirmed that one Hurricane would be delivered as compensation for a Fairey Fox VI (O-177) shot down by an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber of N° 102 Squadron over Nouvelles (South of Mons) during the "Phoney War" on September 9th, 1939.
As mentioned earlier Avions Fairey S.A. of Gosselies acquired the license production for 80 additional machines, ordered by the Belgian Government on June 8th, 1939 with "bon de commande N° 39/281". To manage this large scale production a company named SORAMA based at Brussels was created to act as central office for the reception and storage of all basic materials for this production process. Avions Fairey at Gosselies was responsible for the overall production of the aircraft while Sabca was contracted to deliver 80 sets of wings for the Hurricanes. The first Belgian build Hurricane, H-42 (c/n H10042) was delivered to the Aéronautique Militaire in April 1940, while H-43 was test flown in early May 1940. Commandant Fernand Jacquet,Commercial director of Avions Fairey S.A. said that a large number of Hurricanes airframes was finished but could not be delivered because of the lack of engines (to be delivered from the U.K.). Some equipment and parts saved before the German bombardment of Gosselies were shipped to Britain according to a note by Jules Genin, Aé controller at Fairey, addressed to Lt. Col Wouters Belgian Military Attaché at London.
All Belgian Hurricanes were operated by Squadron 2/I/2Aé (Chardon), commanded by Capt. Marcel Charlier and were based at Schaffen. Of the 11 operational aircraft, only three could escape destruction during the Luftwaffe attack in the early hours of May 10th, 1940. Unfortunately these three remaining Hurricanes were also destroyed in the strafing of Beauvechain one day later. (D. Brackx)
|Picture||Serial||c/n||Date In||Date Out||History|
|H-23||-||Jun 1939||May 1940||RAF L1993 (?), H-23, 2/I/2 Aé, non-confirmed victory on Heinkel 111 near Brussels, destroyed in German raid at Beauvechain/La Bruyère on 11 May 1940|
|H-27||-||Jun 1939||May 1940||RAF L1996 (?), H-27, 2/I/2 Aé, damaged in German attack on Schaffen on 10 May 1940 and abandonned|
|H-29||-||Jul 1939||May 1940||RAF L2041 (?), H-29, 2/I/2 Aé, destroyed in German raid at Beauvechain/La Bruyère on 11 May 1940|
|H-30||-||Jul 1939||May 1940||RAF L2042 (?), H-30, 2/I/2 Aé, damaged in German attack on Schaffen on 10 May 1940 and abandonned|
|H-33||-||Sep 1939||Mar 1940||RAF L2105 (?), H-33, 2/I/2Aé, belly landing at Pallenge after being hit by Dornier Do17 on 13 Mar 1940.|
|H-35||-||Sep 1939||Mar 1940||RAF L2107 (?), H-35; 2/1/2 Aé, Damaged in combat with Luftwaffe Do17Z. Emergency landing at Achené on 02 Mar 1940.|
|H-39||-||1939||Mar 1940||H-39, 2/I/2 Aé, crashed at Bierset on 2 Mar 1940|
|H-42||10042||Apr 1940||May 1940||H-42, first Avion Fairey S.A. produced Hurricane, destroyed at Evere in German attack on 10 May 1940|
|Interned RAF aircraft|
|L1619||-||Nov 1039||May 1940||RAF L1619/LK-P, forced landing at Aalbeke on 10 Nov 1940, interned, fate unknown.|
Last updated 06/10/13 10:00 Daniel Brackx