The Hawker Typhoon is an aircraft type whose name resonates with any student of World War 2, writes Paul Watson.
It was used to great effect after D-Day (the invasion of occupied Europe on June 6, 1944) to destroy German tanks, guns and equipment as the Allies pushed through France, the Low Countries and across the Rhine to the Nazi’s homeland.
It is, therefore, surprising that no flying example of the Typhoon, a single-seat fighter-bomber, is in existence.
However, a project based at Ridgewood Industrial Estate, Uckfield, is attempting to right that wrong with the aim of restoring a Typhoon to flying condition, and the possibility of it being ready by 2024 – the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
Steve Beebee, deputy editor of FlyPast, Britain’s top-selling aviation monthly magazine, said:
“Despite the fighter’s importance, and the bravery of the men that flew them, no Typhoon has flown since 1947.
“With war over, the robust Hawker had done its work and was effectively consigned to history.”
The restoration project, to flying condition, of Typhoon Mk.Ib RB396 is being run by a registered charity, the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group (HTPG).
RB396 had a brief active service life.
Its test flight was in November 1944 and its career ended 73 years ago on April 1, 1945, when it force landed in Holland after being hit by anti-aircraft fire.
After the war substantial parts of the aircraft ended up on display in The Netherlands.
There is a huge amount of work needed to rebuild and restore the aircraft.
Beebee described the base in Uckfield as a “treasure trove of Typhoon parts. Its centrepiece is the fuselage of RB396, which still bears some of its original paint”.
The restoration – and provision of a heritage centre – could cost between £4 and £6 million.
Specialist companies will be used to carry out the work.
Beebee added: “Following restoration, RB396 won’t just be the world’s only flying Typhoon, it will be the only genuine Typhoon combat veteran on the planet.
“The only other surviving example is the RAF Museum’s Mk.Ib MN235, which is currently on loan to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and did not see action.
“Because RB396 will be owned and operated by a charity, it can never be sold into a private collection and will be in the public eye as much as possible, an aspect the HTPG is keen to emphasise as it continues to raise funds for the rebuild.”
Fund-raising for the cause
To help raise funds for the restoration of RB396, award-winning aviation artist Neil Hipkiss GAvA has produced a stunning painting depicting ‘RB’ as it would have appeared during her wartime service.
The details were researched with the assistance of the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group, plus Typhoon expert Chris Thomas and 174 Squadron veteran Frank Johnson, the aircraft’s wartime pilot.
Warbird RB396 illustrates the fighter during one of its many hazardous low-level operations, supporting Allied movements in the Battle of Normandy.
Limited edition fine art prints of the painting will be available to purchase direct from HTPG with all proceeds helping to fund the restoration project. These comprise 396 prints (size 25 x 19in or 64 x 48cm) priced at £95 each and 25 stretched canvas prints (size 36 x 24in or 91 x 61cm) at £350 each.
For further details visit www.hawkertyphoon.com
Uckfield News says thanks
Information for this article has been extracted, with permission of the publishers, from the current edition of FlyPast magazine, which is now on sale in all good newsagents. FlyPast features the Uckfield restoration project in detail over six pages.
Uckfield News acknowledges the help given by the publishers of FlyPast, Key Publishing Ltd, the magazine’s editor, Chris Gilson, his deputy, Steve Beebee, and for permission to use the images we have included.
• Paul Watson works on a freelance basis for Key Publishing, including at times for FlyPast, and has been a contributing editor for a sister publication, Aviation News.