More than half a million pounds has now been raised towards restoration of a World War 2 Hawker Typhoon fighter bomber and more fund-raising schemes are in the pipeline – including one involving rivets.
Members of the Uckfield-based Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group have been keeping people up to date with progress of work on the rear fuselage of RB396, the first part of the veteran aircraft, to be rebuilt.
Latest news is that all the rivets have been removed from the fuselage and supporters are expressing interest in exchanging one, or more, of them for a donation to the project.
Now the fund-raising team are considering offering the rivets for sale, with a certificate proving a connection with the only genuine WW2 combat veteran Typhoon in existence.
The RB396 was only four months old when she was downed on April 1, 1945, after being hit by low-level flak.
Pilot Flt Lt Chris House managed to land the aircraft in Holland and was on the run for three days. He was sheltered by a Dutch family – later executed by the Gestapo for helping him – who gave him civilian clothes and passed him onto the Dutch Resistance.
After the war the fuselage of RB396 ended up on display in The Netherlands but was secured by Dave Robinson, one of the founding trustees of the Uckfield group for restoration when the museum showing it closed.
About £5m is needed to get the aircraft back in the air and the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group really wants to achieve that by June 2024 in time for the 80th anniversary of D Day, an important date in the Typhoon’s history.
RB396 Supporters’ Club Members who attended an open day two weeks ago were told that a total £575,267.61 has been raised so far.
Preservation group member and events organiser Dave Hands said this was an incredible figure, especially considering no-one on the team had any prior experience of raising money on this scale, let alone half a million pounds.
He added: “It is a reflection of all the hard work that everyone has put in, that the figure is so high.
“It is easy to say, when looking at that figure ‘Why hasn’t more of the aircraft been rebuilt?’ It must be remembered that the charity just existing costs in the region of £25,000 per year, not including the set up costs of transport, the unit itself and its facilities and also not forgetting the aircraft parts acquisitions over recent years, all cost significant money.
“To date £50,000 has been spent on the rebuild of the rear fuselage, with another £50,000 of funds in the project’s bank account earmarked to go to Airframe Assemblies on the Isle of Wight where the work is being done.”
Once the fuselage is finished the next section to be rebuilt, beginning in 2020, will be the cockpit section.
This will cost in the region of £350,000 but when it is married up with the completed rear fuselage it will be possible to see the RB396 taking shape.
A special guest at the open day was WW2 Hawker Typhoon pilot Bernard Gardiner, from Jersey, and the event was recorded by More4 TV for a six-part documentary on the Spitfire and Typhoon due in early 2020.
Treats for the 130 attendees included a Hog Roast and there was a chance to buy raffle tickets with the top prize of a flight in a Spitfire (or Mustang/Sea Fury).
The Hawker Typhoon charity was founded in 2016 by Dave Robinson and Sam Worthington Leese. Dave began researching the Hawker Typhoon in 1999, and Sam is hoping to be one of the considered RB396 pilots, having soloed in a Spitfire in the last few weeks.
Thanks were expressed to volunteer helpers including Dave Hands, who has taken over running events at Uckfield and around the country; Andrew Boakes who is developing the project plan; Dave Brockhurst who has taken over running the shop, with the help of John Moorley, and Tim Roberts, premises manager, who with the help of his wife Nancy, has gone way beyond his role to make sure the project progresses without a hitch.
A new updated business plan is complete and will be used to secure some of the higher level funding the project needs to keep on track towards the 2024 target.
If you, or any contacts you have, feel you would like to help or volunteer they would be pleased to hear from you and they can be contacted through their website https://hawkertyphoon.com/.