The Manston Hurricane.
In 1988 the RAF Historic Aircraft Committee decided that Hurricane LF751 was to join Spitfire TB752 in the museum at RAF Manston. This was the aircraft that had previously stood as a gate guardian at RAF Bentley Priory, the HQ of the wartime No.11 Group, Fighter Command. The second decision reached was that the aircraft, when refurbished, would bear the colours of the famous No.43 (Fighting Cocks) Squadron. The task of restoring the Hurricane was given to MAPSL and the aircraft duly arrived at Rochester Airport on the back of two 'Queen Mary' trailers on March 20th 1985. It was badly corroded having stood at Bentley Priory for thirty years and, on arrival at MAPSL, underwent a detailed and lengthy assessment of damage. Once this had been done, work began immediately with corrosion damage entailing hand crafting replacement parts whilst remaining as faithful to the original specification. Various parts came from such diverse locations as Canada, France and Germany with the control column having been previously fitted to a Hurricane which crashed at West Malling in September 1940. As well as the restoration, research began on the history of BN230 as the Hurricane was now to be serialised. Coded FT-A it joined the squadron at Acklington on January 2 1942. It was flown by Sqd Ldr Danny Le Roy Du Vivier, a Belgian pilot and the first Belgian pilot to lead an RAF Squadron. On May 25 1942, he caught and shot down a Ju88 reconnaissance aircraft whilst flying at 30,000ft some 50 miles out to sea off Newcastle. BN230 was damaged in the engagement but returned safely to base. The German pilot’s leather jacket is on display at Manston following a visit by Du Vivier to the pilot in hospital. He was very grateful to have survived! It was Du Vivier who led 43 Squadron in the attack on the shore defences at Dieppe on August 19 1942. BN230 was badly damaged in the attack and shortly afterwards the Squadron converted to Spitfires. This was the end of its operational career as it was used as an instructional airframe from this time on until it became a gate guardian at Bentley Priory.
MAPSL spent some 12,000 man hours refurbishing the aircraft before it was handed over to the RAF at an impressive ceremony at Rochester Airport on April 22 1988. A flypast by Hurricane, Spitfire and a Phantom F-4 of 43 Squadron flew over the airport in salute. The restored Hurricane was then placed in the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum at RAF Manston and dedicated by Dame Vera Lynn. Du Vivier’s widow, Joan, also presented the original side panels bearing the Belgian National Emblem and the ‘Fighting Cocks’ symbol. These are displayed on the port side of the cockpit.