Hawker Hurricane IIB
By Mark Sheppard
Illustrations by Kjetil Aakra
Photos by Boris Osetinskij
Hurricane O1 Z5252 which was presented to Major-General A A Kuznetzov,
Soviet commanding officer in the region
Photo from Mark Sheppard collection(c)
Discovery & recovery
The loss of the
Hurricane was discovered in 2001 when a research group of the
‘Federation of Aviarestoration’ found a wartime report whilst going
through the Naval archives. The report indicated that a Soviet pilot
had undertaken an emergency landing on a small frozen lake to the
west of Murmansk. A salvage team had been dispatched at the time but
before they could retrieve the Hurricane it went through the ice. It
was declared uneconomical to salvage and so was struck off charge.
Hurricane O1 Z5252 on a sonar screen
On 17 August 2003,
coincidentally ‘Russian Air Force Day’, the Hurricane was finally
located. It had taken a couple of years to search a number of lakes
as described in the report, before coming upon the right one. The
lake was swept with a magnetometer and a reading was obtained. The
team returned in February 2004 with a side scan sonar and the images
showed the Hurricane was there, complete and apparently in very good
A team member
completed a dive through the ice and found the Hurricane at a depth
of 18m and at an angle of 60 degrees nose down. The Hurricane was
covered in silt and sat in a 1.5m bed of arctic moss, a common
aquatic plant found at the bottom of tundra lakes. Video footage
showed the rear fuselage and tail still covered in timber and canvas
after 60 years! The video was analyzed later and the serial could
clearly be seen stenciled on the underside of the tailplane. On
seeing this, the decision was made to raise this historic aircraft.
It would be October
2004, with the onset of the next winter, that the salvage would
finally get underway by an invited group of professional divers from
the city of Voronesh. They drove three trucks 1200 miles bringing
along their metal pontoons and diving equipment.
On 13 October 2004
the recovery commenced in less than ideal conditions, with a
temperature of only 3-4 degrees above freezing, driving wind, snow
flurries and a choppy lake surface. At the bottom of the lake in
poor visibility, a lifting line was connected to the centre section.
The initial lift fractured the fragile fuselage structure and the
tail with all the timber structure and fabric fell away. The
recovery was not going as planned and the conditions were not
improving. After the initial lift, the team decided to calm the
spirit of the lake by offering her a bottle of whisky! Less than
three hours later they were presented with perfect diving conditions
with the clouds gone, the sun out and the wind dropped to zero.
Boris Osetinskij next to the raised
Hurricane O1 Z5252
The Hurricane was
raised to the surface and pulled to the shoreline. Just as the
Hurricane was about to leave the water, the discovery was made that
she was still fully armed with four RS-82 rockets located on rails
to the underside of the wings. The rails and rockets were quickly
detached and left at the waters edge. Once the tail was recovered
the team could finally relax.
On 14 October the
team returned to dismantle the Hurricane. All of the metalwork was
in exceptionally good condition and the panels had been stenciled
with Z5252. She was still fully armed with the original twelve 0.303
inch Browning machineguns.
The Hurricane was
complete; with the only visible damage being a hole in the upper
cowling and a hole in the port wing leading edge. The Rolls-Royce
Merlin XX seemed to be in excellent condition, having been protected
within the silt and moss of the lake bottom.
With the wings off
and all of the cowlings removed, Z5252 was loaded onto a wooden
sledge and pulled back to base camp, four miles away by Snowcat.
A few days later she
was loaded onto a lorry and transported back to Moscow where the
final decision on what happens to her would be decided.
Royal Air Force History
Company at Hucclecote, Gloucestershire manufactured Hurricane IIB
Z5252 during the summer of 1941. The contract B.85730/40 was for 600
aircraft comprising 150 MkI’s, 33 MkIIA’s and 417 MkIIB’s. Z5252 was
constructed as a Tropical variant in the fifth batch of IIB’s in the
The R-R Merlin XX
recovered was No40519, AM No A218807, one of a batch of 348 built at
Crewe to Order No 4700A and Contract B.67950/40. This engine was
tested on 26 July and was dispatched on 31 July to an unknown
destination. This engine seems to be the original one even though it
appears to have been dispatched after Z5252 was reportedly
Z5252 was issued to
5MU (Maintenance Unit) at Kemble, Glos., on 24 July 1941, a unit not
that far from the factory before heading to the RAF Station Flt at
Ayr, Scotland on 3 August 1941. The last movement recorded on the
A.M. Form 78 indicates she was ‘En Route to Russia’ in August 1941.
She was one of the initial thirty-nine Hurricanes to be sent to
Russia with 81 Sqn and 134 Sqn, 151 Wing and Ayr appears to have
been the collection point.
Z5252 was not one of
the twenty-four Hurricanes to have been flown off of the aircraft
carrier HMS Argus, but was one of fifteen to be transported to
Archangel with the convoy.
151 Wing were ordered
to operate from Vaenga, an airfield 4 miles NE of Murmansk and the
550 members of the unit were ferried up from Archangel by air, ship
and train. Meanwhile, on 3 September, F/Lt V. Gittens and a small
team had the task of assembling the crated Hurricanes at Keg-Ostrov,
which was on an island 1 mile off Archangel in the River Dvina.
On 9 September P/O R.
Holmes flew in an I-153 ‘Chaika’ on a local Recce to familiarise
himself with the area before later testing the first three
Hurricanes. Over the next few days all were completed and air
tested. P/O R. Holmes, F/Lt M. Rook, and P/O R. Woolaston did a
display in front of a crowd of Russia VIP’s. Z5252 itself was air
tested by P/O Woolaston on 11 September.
On 12 September, the
first nine Hurricanes led by F/Lt Rook, left Keg-Ostrov and headed
NW on the long flight to Afrikanda, near Kandalaksha. A Russian
bomber escorted them so that ground troops and Russian shipping
could not mistake the formation. After arriving at Afrikanda, they
were refueled, but two could not be restarted. (Only seven and the
nine flew onto Vaenga on 12 September).
On 16 September the
final six Hurricanes, were ready to complete the flight. Led by P/O
Holmes, the route was as before and after refueling, the group flew
on to Vaenga. Sgt J. Mulroy of 81 Sqn flew Z5252 to Vaenga and on
arrival she was kept as a reserve aircraft.
On 25 September Major
General A. A. Kuznetsov, who was the Commanding Officer, Naval Air
Forces, Soviet Northern Fleet (VVS SF) arrived to test fly a
Hurricane. He was an expert pilot with many thousands of hours to
his credit and nobody doubted his ability to fly the Hurricane for
the first time. Kuznetsov was presented with his own Hurricane and
the roundals and fin flash in Z5252 were painted over, and Russian
stars and the number ‘01’ were added on the fuselage side.
Not much changed
after the Kuznetsov flight, but everyone knew the Wing was to start
functioning as an OTU (Operational Training Unit). Patrols would of
course continue but the training of the selected pilots and ground
crew by 151 Wing, was to become the number one priority.
On 11 October
offensive operations for 151 Wing ceased and the last defensive
flight was undertaken on 17 October against some incoming He111. For
the next nine days the Squadron pilots concentrated on converting
the Soviet pilots and ground crews to the Hurricane. On 20 October
the order was given to hand over the remaining thirty-five airworthy
Hurricanes to the VVS SF.
On 26 October a Bf110
was claimed, the first enemy aircraft shot down by a Russian
Hurricane. Two days later the fighter regiment of 78IAP VVS SF was
formed to became the first Soviet Hurricane squadron.
151 Wing then went to
Murmansk, where they were loaded aboard a returning convoy back to
the UK. Most sailed on the cruiser HMS Kenya, which arrived back in
Rosyth on 7 December 1941. (For the full story of 151 Wing, see ‘To
Russia with love’ – March/April 1997).
With 151 Wing leaving
Russia, 78IAP began to carry out major operations. Kuznetsov, as the
highest ranking officer in the region, would not have undertaken any
operations himself, instead he would have flown Z5252 between bases
within his area of command.
On 1 November Capt.
Boris Safonov HSU (Hero of the Soviet Union) became the commanding
officer of 78IAP having previously been squadron leader of 4./72SAP
On 17 December
Safonov was involved in a combat in which he claimed a Bf109E of
Jagdgruppe z.b.V. shot down. Safonov was forced to head home with a
broken connecting rod in the engine and had to force land his
Hurricane on a frozen lake near the front line. He was picked up by
a Po-2 and flown back to his unit. Bf109E’s destroyed Safonov’s
Hurricane on 11 January 1942 before it could be salvaged. With the
loss of his aircraft, it seems Safonov then began to fly Z5226,
another Ex-151 Hurricane.
On the 18 January
1942, the high scoring 72SAP were awarded ‘Guards’ status. The
difficulty was that this award went to the pilots of 72SAP who had
fought the Luftwaffe prior to the arrival of the 151 Wing. In mid
September 1941, the most experienced fighter pilots from this unit
went on to be trained on the Hurricane and in October had formed the
three fighter squadrons of 78IAP. For this reason, it was 78IAP
pilots (originally from 72SAP) who then transferred in March to the
new mixed aircraft regiment of 2gvSAP (to join the surviving bomber
squadron from 72SAP). The 72SAP fighter element within 2gvSAP then
transferred out to carry on as 78IAP. It was a complicated way of
moving around the fighter element to credit the ‘Guards’ status to
the right team.
Around this time,
Safonov asked Chief Engineer Sobolevsky to look at altering the
standard Hurricane armament. On 24 February Major Kukharenko,
squadron leader of 3./78IAP flew a rearmed Hurricane fitted with two
20mm ShVAK cannons and two Berezin UBT 12.7mm heavy machine guns.
Additionally, by March, most Hurricanes were also fitted with two
number RS-82 unguided rockets rails to the underside of each wing.
A promoted Lt.Col.
Safonov took command of 2gvSAP on 20 March and on 29 March Z5252 was
‘transferred’ from 78IAP to 2gvSAP (The same redesignated unit). Two
weeks later Z5252 was taken on charge with the staff flight of
2gvSAP and was probably flown by Safonov on a number of occasions.
On 15 May Safonov
took delivery of one of the first lend lease Curtis P40E, serial
41-13531 and it was most likely coded ‘white 10’. His time flying
the P40E was short lived; on 30 May, Safonov was killed in his P40E
went down into the Arctic Ocean. It is still unclear whether he
suffered engine failure or was actually the victim of Fw. R. Müller
of 6./JG5 who claimed two P40’s shot down on this day. Two weeks
later Safonov was posthumously awarded a HSU for a second time. The
unit started to call themselves ‘Safonovtsy’ after their fallen
leader and following Safonov’s loss, Z5252 was transferred from the
staff flight to 3./2gvSAP.
The final reference
to Z5252 was in the inventory lists of 2gvSAP stating that on 26
June 1942 she ‘failed to return from enemy mission’. To start with,
this recorded date was not necessarily the actual date lost. In the
archive, it was found that Z5252 had failed to return on 2 June,
over three weeks earlier.
On 2 June between
14.10 and 14.50MT (Moscow Time), seven Hurricanes of 2gvSAP were
involved in air combat by lake Njal-Javr, west of Murmansk with
twelve Bf109E’s belonging to the eighth staffel, Jadgeschwader 5
(8./JG5). In the ensuing combat, three Hurricanes of 3./2gvSAP were
shot down. Sgt. V.A. Vanjukhim was killed and S.Sgt. P.D. Klimov had
to force land 2.5 miles west of Murmansk. (Both Hurricanes were
listed as full loses).
Note: S.Sgt. Klimov returned to his unit on a horse and was forever
joked about it. Klimov also survived the war, being made a HSU with
11+16 (11 solo and 16 shared victories).
The third loss was
Lt. P.P. Markov who was flying Hurricane Z5252. In the ensuing
combat, he suffered four hits to his fuel tank, electrical panel
(which consequentially caused the electric circuit to fail and why
the RS-82’s had not be fired), an explosive round to the port wing
and one bullet hole in the top engine cowling which missed the
engine. With no electrical power, Lt Markov was forced to put down
on a small frozen lake 4 miles west of Murmansk. Even though it was
early June, the winter of 1941 was one of the coldest on record and
the lakes were still partially frozen. Lt. Markov completed a
perfect belly landing on the ice, exited Z5252 and headed for the
settlement of Mishukovo. He was later brought back to his unit at
Vaenga by motorboat.
At 19.00MT, Lt.
Markov wrote a report stating that Z5252 was still in good condition
and salvageable. A salvage team was sent to recover the Hurricane
but on arriving at the lake, there was nothing to be seen. The
thinning ice had given way and Z5252 had sunk to the lake bottom. It
was deemed to difficult to salvage and Z5252 was written off from
During this combat,
two pilots of 8./JG5 had three claims confirmed. Staffelkapitän
Oblt. Hermann Segatz scored two at 13.20CET (Central European Time
–1hr behind MT) and Fw. Heinz Beyer scored one at 13.22CET. Both
were experienced pilots, scoring a final tally of (34) for Segatz
(KIA 8.3.44) and (33) for Beyer respectively.
Lt. Markov did claim
a Bf109F shot down in SU 5890 (8 miles West of Murmansk) but
according to Luftwaffe records, no Bf109’s from JG5 were recorded as
lost on this day.
Lt. Markov did not
survive the Great Patriotic War. On 16 January 1943 he was killed in
a flying accident when his Hurricane HL555 ‘72’ of 1./78IAP flew
into a hill at Vaenga in fog.
In 1996 a Hurricane
displayed in a Russian Museum as ‘Z5252’ was brought to the UK and
purchased by Hugh Taylor. Although initially registered as ‘Z5252’,
it was discovered that its true identity was actually Z5053. Its
registration has been altered accordingly.
The current plan is
to gift this historic Hurricane to Russia and restored her to flying
condition. She would be restored in the same colours she operated in
the Arctic Circle with 78IAP/2gvSAP during 1941-42. Having restored
her, she would be based in Russia and could be seen at airshows
around the world.
recovery team is actively sourcing an investor to help with this
mammoth task. It would be nice to think that one of the new Russian
companies might be able to finance this restoration as a tribute to
the importance of ‘lend-lease’ supplies and as an active memorial to
the millions who died during the GPW.
Thanks must go to Jim
Pearce and Boris Osetinsky for allowing me to write about this
remarkable Hurricane and to Kjetil Aakra, Vladimir Chernyshov, Peter
Kirk, Dave McDonald, Rune Rautio, Gerhard Stemmer and Mirek
Wawrzynski for their help in compiling the article.
Mark Sheppard 2006
Kjetil Aakra 2006
Boris Osetinskij 2006