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.
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, it is not known if this ever materialised.
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 on May 9th, 1940, while H-43 was test flown in early May 1940 and H-44 was finished awaiting its maiden flight. 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)
L1628 or L1813
Registration reserved for interned RAF Hurricanes L1628/LK-H or L1813/LK-O (both N° 87 Sqn) which landed intact on the beach between De Panne and Koksijde. L1628/LK-H was seen being transferred by the Et.Aé by road to Bordeaux Mérignac (F.) between 14 and 16 May 1940.
L1628 or L1813
Registration reserved for interned RAF Hurricanes L1628/LK-H or L1813/LK-O (both N° 87 Sqn)which landed intact on the beach between De Panne and Koksijde. L1628/LK-H was seen being transferred by the Et.Aé by road to Bordeaux Mérignac (F.) between 14 and 16 May 1940.
The Five Belgian "mystery" Hurricanes
According to popular belief, five Hurricanes out of twenty ordered by Belgium, were never delivered to the Belgians and were instead composed of 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 and still wearing their RAF colors, turned up by the time the Germans overran Belgium. One of them Sqn Ldr W. E. Coope’s 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 (see picture with H-40 above). The famous three blade propeller Hurricane thought to be later registered H-39 and identified as RAF N2361, was discovered in RAF livery in a hangar at Wevelgem airfield on pictures taken by invading German soldiers. This particular aircraft was indeed severely damaged in an emergency landing at Esplechin (Tournai) on December 9th, 1939 (see above) and according to its pilot Sgt. Francis V. "Dinky" Howell had "a damaged undercart and prop shortened by at least a foot or so".
Most probably both interned RAF Hurricanes N2361 and L1619/LK-P had suffered too much damage to be repaired to serve with the Aéronautique Militaire Belge and were stored at Wevelgem, where they were found by the advancing German troops. To the contrary both RAF Hurricanes which landed undamaged on the beach between Koksijde and De Panne could have been quickly incorporated into the AéM and could have been foreseen to become H-40 and H-41 (the gap between the last British delivered Hurri and th first Belgian delivery.
RAF Hawker Hurricane N2361 seen in a hangar at Wevelgem airbase with a German soldier posing in front of it. To the left one can see (probably) Hurricane I L1619/LK-P, another of the interned RAF fighters.