Hurricane R4118

Book Review

Hurricane R4118
by Peter Vacher
Grub Street
160 pages, hbk
US$37.95, £20.00

Far fewer Hawker Hurricanes have been restored to flying condition than Supermarine Spitfires, and nearly all of these were built after the Battle of Britain. This book tells the story of the rescue and restoration to flight of a genuine Battle of Britain Hawker Hurricane Mk I, serial number R4118.

Peter Vacher works in the publishing industry, but his great passion is restoring vintage motor cars – he has personally restored four Rolls-Royces. In March 1982 he was travelling with a friend in India, helping to research a book on Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars in the country, when he visited Banaras Hindu University. After inspecting two vintage cars still kept in the university, he discovered the remains of a British fighter aircraft in a compound nearby.

The mystery aircraft was later identified from a photograph as a Hawker Hurricane, and the idea of acquiring such a rare type as a rebuild project began to form in his mind. In 1996 the Hurricane was identified as R4118, a Mk I aircraft from a batch built by Gloster Aircraft Company in 1940. In 1997 his offer to buy the remains was accepted, but there then followed six years of wrangling, committees and red tape – along with much patient lobbying – before the aircraft was finally released to his ownership in 2001. Then began the long careful process of restoring the aircraft to flying condition.

With the help of Hawker Restorations Ltd, the airframe and it’s Merlin III engine were stripped, examined, and repaired or rebuilt as necessary to produce an aircraft as near stock summer 1940 condition as possible. Many of the original fittings were reworked and reinstalled, and scores of missing parts were sourced from locations around the world. Eventually, on 23 December 2004, R4118 flew again. It now operates in the colours of 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron, complete with period radio and the original (although de-activated) Browning machine guns.

Every stage of this epic story is ably described in the book, along with colour and black & white photographs and reproductions of some relevant documents. The combat career of R4118, and subsequent relegation to training duties, is well described, together with brief pen portraits of the pilots that flew her. Appendices cover Camouflage and Markings; the Movements Card Form 78; Operational Records with 601 and 111 Squadrons; Close-up Photographs; Engine History; a list of Hawker Modifications and a table of the RAF Fighter Command Operational Aircraft July-October 1940.

Printed on good quality semi-matt paper, the reproduction of the illustrations is excellent and there are no obvious typographical errors.

This informative and well illustrated book gives a good insight into the trials and tribulations of restoring a World War Two fighter aircraft from an abandoned wreck, and recounts the career of this particular Mk I Hurricane in a clear and interesting way.


– John Hayles

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