A brief history and info on the only re-build in the World that will fly once built!
On the 1st April 1945, a Hawker Typhoon was shot down. In the wider aspect of the Second World War, this was not unusual as eleven failed to return on this day alone. Typhoon RB396 of 174 ‘Mauritius’ Squadron, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Chris House, was one of those aircraft. Operating from the safety of B.100 at Goch, Germany (later RAF Laarbruch), RB396 was hit by flack and force landed outside of Denekamp in the Netherlands with Chris evading capture to return to operations with 174 Squadron.
At a little over four months old, RB396 had been repaired at least eighteen times and flown in support of major operations such as Plunder and Varsity before being brought down and left, along with thousands of other wrecks, on the European battlefield. By April 1945 the Typhoon Mklb had been superseded by the Hawker Tempest MkV and RB396 shared the fate of all but one Typhoon and was sold for scrap. The eventual fate of the Hawker Typhoon was disproportionate to its impact in the European theatre as the RAF’s ‘flying artillery’.
The Hawker Typhoon’s rushed introduction meant design faults were found and rectified under combat conditions, with early engine and the tail failures being well documented yet only the Typhoon could counter the Focke-Wulf Fw190. Inefficient at altitude, the Typhoon more than made up for it all at low level and 609 ‘West Riding’ Squadron CO Roland ‘Bea’ Beamont successfully argued for the type to continue in service. By late 1943 the main issues having been rectified, it was armed with four 20mm cannons, 8 rockets and the capacity to carry 1000lb bombs which meant it packed a punch which was pressed home at Falaise Gap in August 1944 during the liberation of Normandy. Typhoon pilot and later Bond designer Ken Adam said he always regretted taking a Jeep to view the results on the ground after the battle.
When victory was declared, the Typhoon was no longer needed and the remaining aircraft on the production line would be test flown and then scrapped. Only Typhoon MN235 survived having been sent earlier to the USA for evaluation, returning to stand in the RAF Museum at Hendon. The only largely complete Typhoon in the world.
RB396’s fuselage was originally purchased after the war by a Dutch Chemical Company but eventually arrived at the Fort Veldhuis museum in the Netherlands. On the museums closure in 2012, Dave Robinson acquired the fuselage and after 65 years away RB396 made her way back to England. Dave contacted Sam Worthington-Leese , who was researching his grandfather’s RAF service, and together they commenced the project to rebuild an airworthy Typhoon. Charity status was gained in May 2016 and the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group was born. In October of the same year, at the public launch of the HTPG, the goal was set to have RB396 in the air for the 2024 80th D-Day celebrations. It was becoming a reality that a Hawker Typhoon, a living memorial to the air and ground crews, would be returned to the air.
The project took a massive step forward when early in 2017, the group was gifted an inhibited Napier Sabre engine by Cranfield University. A Typhoon powered by anything but a Sabre is not a Typhoon. A base was acquired on a long term lease at Uckfield in Sussex and a coordinated team of volunteers was put in place to deal with the growing demands and keep the momentum going at a steady pace.
Vital to the project is the expertise required to rebuild RB396 and to this end, in October 2018, it was announced that the Aircraft Restoration Company (ARCo) at Duxford would oversee the rebuild. In April of this year a joint statement by HTPG and ARCo announced that the RB396 fuselage would go to Airframe Assemblies on the Isle of Wight. This is being partially funded by an incredibly successful three-week crowdfunding campaign in the same month that raised over £67,000.
In May the work began in earnest. Mainly due to the fact that the fuselage has been kept under cover since 1945, it is estimated that at least 60% of the original parts can be reused so this is, without doubt, a true restoration. With an estimate of £200,000 for the completion of this section of airframe, the team is aware that there is still a way to go but with the continued support of the public and the larger support of corporate sponsors and individuals, it will be done.
In just two and a half years, the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group has achieved a huge amount. A Supporters’ Club with a paid membership exceeding eleven hundred, a base, an ever broadening range of merchandise, a fuselage being restored and an engine considered to be one of the most viable in the world for restoration. All of this and more has been achieved by a dedicated team of volunteers with a broad set of skills from all walks of the aviation and business world.
If you project a similar progress forward two and a half years you will understand why we see the first flight in 2024 as achievable. But this will not be achieved without significant support and funding from the public and corporate sponsors. We are always on the lookout for new volunteers, supporters and sponsors so please contact or come and see us. Can you help resurrect a forgotten legend?