We visited RAF Hendon on July 22nd 2010. It seems an age ago. Hendon is a fantastic museum, easy to get to from the M1 and FREE ENTRY. What is there not to like?
The first few photographs show the display outside the museum. One is a Hurricane and the other is a Spitfire. I’ll leave you to work out which is which. Here’s an aircraft with a cannon in each wing which, I think, means that it cannot have been a Battle of Britain participant:
Here’s another view of the very first aircraft:
And the second aircraft again… This is as close as I get to that weirdo artistic sort of photograph:
Here’s the last picture of aircraft No 1 and 3:
And here’s a free clue to the identity of this aircraft. American readers…”Sorry!”
And here’s aircraft No 2 and 4 again:
Well, the odd numbers are the Hawker Hurricane and the even numbers are the Supermarine Spitfire, originally called the Supermarine Shrew. The way to tell them apart is that the Hurricane, or “Harry Kane” to give you the answer to the clue, has one huge radiator under the fuselage and the Spitfire always has two smaller ones, one under each wing.
It was months after our visit that I found out that both aircraft outside the museum were counterfeit. Made of plastic, apparently. The museum people don’t make that particularly obvious. I suspect that they’re scared that they’ll be killed in the crush of middle aged men who all want one for the front lawn.
The Spitfire was, of course, designed by Reginald Joseph Mitchell who worked for Supermarine Aviation of Southampton. Here he is:
Many Germans could not separate RJ Mitchell from the man who played him in the film, Leslie Howard. Here’s Leslie Howard:
They could be identical twins, couldn’t they?
The Spitfire’s wing was of an innovative shape at the time. I didn’t know though, that there was a good deal of input from Beverley Strahan Shenstone, a Canadian engineer. Here he is. He isn’t in the film. The British always seem to have kept Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders well out of their films:
Beverley Shenstone studied in Germany under Hugo Junkers and Alexander Lippisch. I found this out in a marvellous book I read recently called “Secret Wings of World War II” by Lance Cole. Here it is. It’s an excellent book:
To quote the author:
“By 1932, Shenstone had authored several papers stemming from his German studies…he was soon employed by RJ Mitchell, Shenstone was the man who within four years had shaped the Spitfire’s ellipsoid wing, its wing fillet and many of its aerodynamic design features.”
A wing fillet is the smooth curve between the fuselage and the wing. It improves air flow. It isn’t particularly obvious in the plastic Spitfire above but there will be a Spitfire Mark I appearing soon and it’s a lot more obvious on that aircraft.
Hugo Junkers was beyond the cutting edge of aircraft design in 1945. This is his Junkers Ju 287 bomber with forward pointing wings. And yes, it flew perfectly:
Even in the 1930s, his designs were astounding. Swept back wings with propellers:
Alexander Lippisch was even better than Hugo Junkers. Here he is:
His first aircraft was not very good:
But after that, by the standards of 1940, WOW!