The story of The Women Who Flew for Hitler was told in fitting surroundings in Uckfield last night.
Author Clare Mulley talked about Hanna Reitsch and Melitta Schiller, Nazi Germany’s most highly decorated women pilots. Both were awarded the Iron Cross.
And Clare’s talk was given in a Ridgewood industrial unit where myriad parts from World War 2 Hawker Typhoon aircraft are being collected as part of a project to restore one of the single-seat fighter-bombers to flying condition.
The project is being followed across the world and being welcomed even by those who met it in combat, according to fund-raising event organiser Dave Hands.
The story of Hitler’s women test pilots, researched and published by Clare, proved to be fascinating because each woman threw their all into their work for different reasons.
Melitta, who was part Jewish, was trying to prove her worth in a bid to protect herself and her family from the Nazis, while Hanna was a fanatical supporter of the Nazi cause. The women hated each other.
Clare gave her time free of charge to support the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group, so enabling all the money from ticket sales to go towards fund-raising. Dave said they hoped to have raised between £400 and £500 during the evening.
At one end of the unit on the Ridgewood Industrial Estate where Clare spoke were the battered remains of the fuselage and cockpit of Hawker Typhoon aircraft, and also an unused Typhoon engine.
Above them was a giant painting by Neil Hipkiss showing the Warbird RB396 – the one to be restored – in action in its heyday.
Along another side of the unit were shelves full of parts from other Typhoons. They won’t be put into the rebuilt aeroplane but seeing the originals will help engineers working from plans to build new parts.
Dave said about 80% of the fuselage of the RB396 will be used in the restored aircraft.
The engine will be the last piece of the puzzle to be put in place. Every section is to be scanned and any part thought to be faulty will be replaced. Eventually the whole thing will be stripped down and rebuilt timed to be ready when the rest of the Tyhoon is finished.
Dave Hands said the Hawker Typhoon was designed by Sydney Camm, the same man who designed the Hawker Hurricane, and it was on the drawing board even before the Hurricane was completed.
Camm wanted an aeroplane that was faster, could take more damage and carry more weapons than the Hurricane and this is what he came up with.
It was powered by a new generation engine, two engines in fact, one on top of the other and it had twice the power output of the Merlin Spitfire engine.
The Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group is on target to complete its restoration project by 2024, the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings but a lot of money is needed before then.
The group needs about £6 million – though much is being donated in the form of aircraft parts, and workshops – to cover costs of restoring the aeroplane and to fund a heritage centre where it will be based.
• Read more about the project to restore the Hawker Typhoon in a previous Uckfield News story here: Hawker Typhoon being brought back to life in Uckfield.
• The Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group’s website can be found here.
• Read more about Clare Mulley here.
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