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Tales of men and machine

Restoration of Hawker Hurricane P3351

We have decided to create a "new identity" for Hurricane P 3351, which after refurbishment will wear the colouring and coding of the famous Hurricane P 3143. This machine was flown by the 310th (Czechoslovak) Fighter Squadron of the RAF, codenamed NN-D.

 

The story of P3143 or how P3351/DR393 became P3143

When the decision was made that Hurricane would return to Točná, only a minimum of people knew about it and the information about the project only came to light after more than a year of work.

You must be wondering why the Hurricane, not the Spitfire, P-40 or any other machine. The Hurricane simply belongs firmly (like the Spitfire and other aircraft) in our country's history. It is also better suited for Točná operations because it is not as demanding on VPD length and can take a lot due to its rugged staggered landing gear. If we were talking about Spitfires with a stronger connection to Czechoslovak pilots who flew in the RAF, only the Mk.II and Mk.V actually come into consideration, as the Mk.IX are big, heavy and would be very uncomfortable to operate at Točná airport.

What were the reasons for this decision? The answer is very simple. There is no space for error on this type of runway and a combination with an aircraft that is itself limiting on that runway would not be happy.

There are as many Mk.II and Mk.IV Spitfires as there are Spitfires and a Hurricane is a Hurricane. A neglected Cinderella, a workhorse and a workhorse in the shadow of the famous Spitfire.

We had several machines in our sights and the choice fell on P3351, which has been around us several times in the past. It is a very rare aircraft with a varied combat history and the only one to have been through the Battle of France, England, and still fighting in the Soviet Union. The aircraft was available, not publicly, but it was. In fact, we saved it from being converted to a two-seat version.

We have already described the history of P3351 in previous published parts (History of this plane). You will be interested to know why we decided to use the P3143 - NN D scheme from 310th Fighter Squadron. It was not a simple process and many colour variations were considered. We wanted a variant of the aircraft from the Battle of Britain, so we concentrated only on the 310th SQN machines. We have to thank here all historians, namely Zdeněk Hurt, Jirka Šebek and Michal Krechovski for their selfless help and consultations. They are all top researchers and also great people, without their help we would not be able to answer many questions about the life of 310 SQN, the colouring of the unit's aircraft and other details without which the mosaic would not be complete.

NN-D or NN-J?

Choosing the right color scheme and its execution is a fundamental part of any project and it requires maximum attention. The perfect work on the rebuild of an aircraft, even if it costs a lot of money, can be completely devalued by incorrect paint scheme that do not corresponds to the original pattern, this is true especially when dealing with historical aircraft. The paint scheme is what people see, and it captures attention and evokes emotions. Everything must be just right.

Let's return to the selection of the Hurricane's color scheme.

We wanted to have a different Hurricane, and we discarded other color schemes for the aircraft, sticking to the well-known proverb "You never step into the same river twice", even though it was a tempting idea. Our thoughts were aimed towards the Battle of Britain and the 310th Fighter Squadron. This period of World War II is one of the famous moments of this nation that fills us with pride for those who were among the few.

Fortunately, the book "Czechoslovak Hurricanes" by Jirka Šebek and Zdeněk Hurt provided a lot of insight into the matter, as it contained comprehensive material on the aircraft of the 310th squadron. After much consideration and selection from many interesting color schemes of the 310th squadron's aircraft, two planes - P3341 NN D and the command aircraft V 6579 NN J, remained in focus. Jirka and Zdeněk are also friends, so every request for help is always heeded.

Ultimately, the choice fell on NN D, which is fairly well documented and "performs" together with the pilots of the 310th squadron in perhaps the most famous photos from the Battle of Britain, taken between operational flights in Duxford. The decision was made, and the endless fine-tuning of camouflage details, comparing period photographs, and gathering additional information began. Of course, the demanding reconstruction of the aircraft was also ongoing.

We gathered a small secret team of our historians to collaborate on the final appearance of the color scheme. Steve Atkin, who had previously worked with us on the camouflage of Hurricane BE150, was again invited to provide all the templates and details of the camouflage. Long discussions were held regarding the appearance of the victory symbols, of which there were 6 towards the end of the battle, especially the lion emblem applied to many Hurricanes of the 310th squadron. Of course, on NN D, the lion was painted differently than on the remaining aircraft, and in addition, it had a dark blue trim, unlike the yellow one used on other aircraft. Fortunately, by an incredible coincidence, a part of the cowling of P 3341, with the lion, has been preserved to this day. Although it's quite damaged, it serves as a guide for the shape and colors used, and it's absolutely amazing.

Story of P3143 – NN D

Many parts have already been written about the 3351, now we will take a short look at the history of the famous NN D. 

The P3143 did not have nearly as long a life as the P3351, but it was all the more interesting and famous. 

 

Let's start with the history:

According to the data in A.M. Form 78 (also called Aircraft movement card) it was produced by Gloster under contract 962371/38. The aircraft was fitted with a Rolls Royce Merlin III engine and a three-bladed adjustable propeller.

P3143 was delivered new directly to the 310th Fighter Squadron. Before that, it had been with 5. Maintenace Unit, weapons alignment, and other equipment such as radios and IFFs were installed, which was standard procedure before the aircraft was assigned to a combat unit.

According to records, the aircraft was delivered to 5.MU 24.6.1940, to the unit arrived exactly a month later, 24.7.1940. The aircraft did not have type A markings on the lower part of the wings, they were sprayed only at the unit with "Wartime shade" paint. We will come back to the difference of the colours used on the insignia of the Gloster aircraft.

P3143 was one of the first Hawker Hurricane Mk.I aircraft delivered to 310. Squadron. And it served with it until 16.10.1940, when Sgt. Chalupa left the aircraft on the parachute due to a malfunction in the power unit. Parachute unfortunately did not fully open.

In this part we're publishing a list of pilots who flew the NN D in combat during the Battle of Britain - revealing the key to the selection of pilot names for Tales of the Men.

During his intensive service with the 310th Fighter Squadron, Sgt. Bohumil Fürst flew the aircraft the most.

Fragments from the renovation

P 3351, the famous "K" was flown to the UK from France in late summer 2022. Few people know that it was not originally for sale and conversion to a two-seater version has begun. Thanks to the contacts that one builds up over the years around old aircraft we managed to arrange the sale of P 3351 to the turntable collection and thus actually save it from conversion.

The whole purchase process was as usual and the "pre-purchase inspection" showed that the aircraft was in pretty decent condition, but would require refurbishment to make it to our liking. We agreed that for the airframe and systems it would be in the form of an IRAN (Inspect Rapair As Necessary). It was clear to us from the start that this would not be a 2-3 month process. The conversion of P 3351 to P 3143 could start.

 

The RR Merlin 35 power unit was the first thing we concentrated on, as an overhaul is a lengthy and costly affair. The power unit was last overhauled in 1995 and it was simply time to look inwards as in 27 years the Hurricane and by extension its heart RR Merlin 35 had flown just 135 hours.

Certainly the question arises as to where an overhaul of such a Merlin can be done. There are several places, but the choice fell on the Vintage V 12 company in the USA, which is proficient in repairing Merlins and Pacards (RR Merlin built under license in the USA) and does a very precise job. Apart from routine repairs, V 12 also specializes in tuning race Merlins and Griffons for the famous Reno Air Race. Incidentally, Vintage V12 overhauled the BE 150 engine and the Little Rebel from our sister museum Hangar 3 (P 51D Mustang). The decision was made and we got to work.

Great care must be taken in the logistics and production of the crate, because everything must run smoothly. The RR Merlin is an honest piece of iron and it weighs something. In particular, the return journey must be 110% as damage during transport is unacceptable.

Generální zkouška probíhala 3 měsíce a po jejím dokončení Merlin běžel 3,5 hodiny na zkušební stolici při vysokých plnicích tlacích. Prvních několik hodin po generální opravě je velmi důležitých, protože pokud by pohonná jednotka běžela špatně, znamenalo by to problémy v budoucnu. Musí se použít maximální přípustné plnění pro daný režim. Tím se zajistí správné tlaky uvnitř válců, a tím dojde ke správnému proražení pístních kroužků a stěn válců. Pokud se tak nestane a budou použity nízké plnicí tlaky, dojde k "zaolejování" pístních kroužků do stěn válců se všemi důsledky. 

 

Merlin is already installed in the airframe and we are getting ready for the first engine test.

P 3143 NN D as air ace 

The year was 1940 and at the end of the summer there were fierce battles between the RAF and the Luftwaffe over the skies of southern England.

Hurricane P 3143 could be described as an air ace, because on it the pilots of 310. fighter squadron shot down during a short time 6.5 enemy aircraft.

Here is an overview of kills by pilots of 310th Fighter Squadron on P 3143 NND, which took off from Duxford, England, during the Battle of Britain

between July 24 and October 16, 1940.

8. 8. 1940 assigned to operate the AC.2 B machine. Bar and AC.2 A. Jirovec. 

3. 9. 1940 shot down F/Lt. G. L. Sinclair over North Weald Bf 110C (3M+EK) from I/ZG 2 and Do 17Z from KG 2. 

7.9.1940 shot down approximately over Whithestable Sgt. B. Fürst Bf 110C (A2+ML) from 6/ZG 2 and over Canterbury destroyed Bf 109E (11+) from 1/LG2. 

On 9/9/1940, south of London, P/O S. Fejfar shot down a Bf 110C (probably "2N+CP") from III/ZG 76, tearing off the right machine gun cover during the fire. He landed with the damaged machine at Pittersburg airfield (this airfield is not known - authors note). The pilot was not injured, the aircraft apparently suffered damage from a PL shell. 

On September 15, 1940, Sgt. B. Fürst shot down a He 111H-2 from Stab KG 53 in a half share. Then his engine started to leak glycol and oil and the temperature of both media rose above the specified values. The pilot glided to Stappleford Tawney where he returned to Duxford after repairs. 

On September 18, 1940, Sgt. E. Prchal shot down a Ju 88A from KG 77 at Stanford le Hope. 

On October 16, 1940, Sgt. J. Chalupa left P 3143 during a training flight in a three-man platoon after he began to fall behind the group and dark smoke began to come from his engine. His parachute did not open fully and the pilot fell to the ground at 15:15 about 350 m from the railway station at Ely. The aircraft crashed into the river. 

We thank Zdeněk Hurt and Jirka Šebek for providing the documents.

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List used with permission of Zdeněk Hurt and Jiří Šebek

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