BBMF Hurricane ‘Last of the Many’ Receives Night Intruder Paint Scheme

Photo Crown Copyright via Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
Aircorps Art Dec 2019


Every few years, each of the aircraft within the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) receives a new paint scheme as a way of highlighting the enormous breadth of history and valiant actions which these aircraft represent. Typically, the BBMF times these repaints to coincide with major aircraft overhauls, and such was the case recently for the Flight’s Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIc PZ865, which returned to its home at RAF Coningsby yesterday following rework at Biggin Hill now marked as a No.247 Squadron night fighter intruder aircraft, coded ‘ZY-V. As the BBMF  press release notes…

BBMF’s Hurricane Mk IIc PZ865 first flew on 27th July 1944, the very last of 14,533 Hawker Hurricanes built. Fitted with four 20mm cannons and a Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine, it came off the production line at the huge Hawker aircraft factory at Langley with the inscription ‘The Last of the Many’ painted beneath the cockpit on both sides.
Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865, ‘The Last of the Many’, on an early test flight in 1944, being flown by Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot, the hatless George Bulman, who had flown the maiden flight of the prototype Hurricane, K5083, on 6th November 1935. Bulman, therefore, flew the first test flights on the very first and very last Hurricanes. Photo via Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Wanting to preserve the final Hurricane ever built, the manufacturer purchased PZ865 back from the Air Ministry before she entered RAF service. For the next 28 years, Hawker (and its successor companies) used PZ865 in various capacities, including as a company ‘hack’, air racer, display aircraft, and for aerial sequences in films, including the famous movie ‘Battle of Britain’.

In 1972, a combination of limited resources and restricted hangar space at Hawker Siddeley’s Dunsfold facility forced the company to conclude that it could no longer maintain its collection of historic aircraft. The intervention of Duncan Simpson, who was then the Hawker Siddeley Chief Test Pilot, and his astute manoeuvring behind the scenes, gained sufficient permission to allow the Hurricane’s donation to the BBMF, which was then based at RAF Coltishall. In March 1972, before anyone could change their minds, Simpson flew PZ865 to Coltishall and handed the Hurricane over to the Flight. His arrival with this precious piece of British aviation history was unexpected, however. A BBMF Flight Sergeant greeted him as he climbed down from the aircraft saying, “Afternoon Sir, what have we here?” Duncan replied, “It’s a Hurricane, Flight Sergeant, a very special Hurricane, and I’m handing it over to you. Look after it and make sure it’s flying right into the future so that future generations can see it.”

The BBMF has done just that and Duncan Simpson’s wish to have this special Hurricane maintained in flying condition continues to be fulfilled more than 75 years after her first flight. The famous Hurricane went to Biggin Hill at the end of 2020 to undergo a ‘Major’ servicing with The Spitfire Company, which currently holds the MOD contract for ‘Majors’ on the BBMF fighter aircraft types. PZ865 has now emerged from the ‘Major’ in a new color scheme as an all-black night fighter.

Photo by Claire Hartley
The original ‘ZY-V’ was Hurricane IIC BE634 of 247 Sqn, which was based at Predannack and Exeter in 1942, with her pilots involved in defensive night fighter patrols and night intruder operations over enemy territory. Unusually, the 247 Sqn Hurricanes wore half-sized roundels and code letters over their all-black night fighter camouflage. The all-black night fighter Hurricanes of 247 Sqn were used for night air defence of the Plymouth and Exeter area and for night intruder operations against targets in north-western France.
 
For more information about the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight visit www.memorialflightclub.com


1 Comment

  1. I was at Duncan Simpson’s memorial service, a few years back. There were three eulogies and there were some funny stories as well as those covering the incredible danger he encountered as a test pilot. One of the most memorable, was how Duncan Simpson delivered an executive jet to Kellogg’s- I assume an HS125.A decision was made to paint the well=known slogan of “Snap, Crackle and Pop” on the side of the aeroplane- these being the Rice Krispies cartoon mascots. When the aircraft was delivered none of the Kellogg’s top brass found this amusing touch funny! More fool them, is all I can say!

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