Hurricane LF363

Hurricane LF363 (Mk IIc)

LF363 was built at the Hawker factory at Langley near Slough. It first flew in January 1944 and is believed to be the last Hurricane to enter service with the RAF. The aircraft served with No 63 Squadron at Hurricane LF363 Turnhouse, No 309 (Polish) Squadron at Drem, where it was used on shipping protection patrols off the east coast of Scotland, and No 26 Squadron with whom it flew naval artillery spotting and reconnaissance sorties before the end of the War. LF363 was then stored in the open air at Langley, waiting to be scrapped. Fortunately, it was rescued in mid-1949, largely through the intervention of Air Commodore (later Air Vice Marshal) Stanley Vincent CB, DFC, AFC. After arranging for LF363 to be made airworthy, Stanley Vincent himself led the Battle of Britain flypast over London in the aircraft in September 1949. Between 1949 and 1956, LF363 was held and maintained, rather unofficially, by a series of front-line squadrons and Station Flights, being flown on ceremonial occasions and appearing in various films. After a major re-fit at Hawkers, LF363 became a founding aircraft of the Historic Aircraft Flight, the forerunner of the BBMF, when it was formed in 1957.

LF363 suffered a major accident on 11th September 1991 when, as a result of an engine failure it crashed on the runway at RAF Wittering. The aircraft was seriously damaged by the impact and the ensuing fierce fire; fortunately the BBMF pilot escaped with a broken ankle and minor burns. Subsequently, LF363 was re-built by Historic Flying Ltd between 1994 and 1998 and then re-joined the BBMF after 7 years out of action.

Hurricane LF363 LF363 currently wears the colours of Hurricane Mk 1 P3878 ‘YB-W’, the aircraft of Flying Officer Harold ‘Birdy’ Bird-Wilson of No 17 Squadron during the Battle of Britain. Prior to the war ‘Birdy’ had been badly burned in a flying accident. After his recovery, he rejoined his squadron in April 1940 and fought continuously through the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, achieving 6 confirmed kills, sharing in the destruction of several other enemy aircraft and being awarded the DFC. His luck ran out on 24th September 1940 when he had to bale out of a flaming ‘YB-W’ after being shot down over the Thames Estuary. ‘Birdy’ went on to fly Spitfires, became a Wing Leader and survived the war, retiring as an Air Vice Marshal having been awarded the CBE, DSO, DFC and bar and the AFC and bar. He died in August 2000, aged 80.

To find out more about ‘Birdy’ Bird-Wilson click here.

Images:

Header Image: ( Larger size) Hurricane LF363 in flight

Image 1: ( Larger size) Hurricane LF363 in flight (Photographer: Mark Meades)

Image 2: ( Larger size) Front view of the Hurricane LF363

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