When ‘The Merlins’ meet with Hawker Hurricane Mk IV KZ321

May 8th 1945, VE-Day over Europe! 75 years later a lot of the warbirds which saw active duty during WW2 are still gracing the skies today. Although a lot of the warbirds are active in the USA and Canada, more and more of these iconic aircraft can be seen flying in Europe too.

One of these aircraft is the only airworthy Hawker Hurricance MK IV in the world, currently operated in Belgium, with registration 00-HUR.

History

Constructed in 1943 as a Hurricane Mark IV model in the Kingston upon Thames Factory it saw active duty with Royal Air Force (RAF) 6 Squadron ‘The flying Tin Openers’ operating out of Grottaglie, Italy. 6 Squadron served as a fighter-bomber unit, supporting the Allied advance in Italy. Throughout the War, KZ321 was also stationed in different locations in Greece and Yugoslavia to support operations against the Axis forces. Today, KZ321 still supports the ‘Flying Tin Openers’ logo with a clear reference to its tank-buster role during the War.

In the period after WW2 the squadron moved to Palestine where KZ321 was abandoned in 1947 as 6 Squadron replaced its fleet of Hawker Hurricanes with the Hawker Tempest.After being recovered from a scrapyard in Jaffa (Israel) KZ321 returned to the UK in 1983 and after a few years of storage, KZ321 finally received it’s new civil registration: G-HURRY.In 2001 the restoration process started with a 1st post restoration flight in June 2004. From 2006 till 2018 the aircraft was operated by the Vintage Wings of Canada Group, Quebec with registration CF-TPM.

Finally, in 2018, KZ231 was sold to the Flying Aces Services & Training group (FAST) with a 1st flight in Belgium on Sunday November 4th 2018.

Flight Lieutenant Donald William ‘Bunny’

Hawker Hurricane MK IV is wearing the remembrance markings of Flight Lieutenant Donald William “Bunny”.

In response to Hitler's invasion, Donald volunteered as an Argentine national for the Royal Canadian Air Force on November 28, 1940 in Ottawa. Bunny did his elementary flying training at St. Catharines, Ontario. Flight Lieutenant McLarty went on to fly Hurricanes with No. 33 Squadron in North Africa. He was shot down during a low-level attack on a German air strip at El Daba in Western Egypt. It was Oct. 9, 1942, and McLarty had by then flown 199 sorties. The 20-year-old pilot needed just one more mission to complete his tour of duty. After a year in two different Italian POW camps, Don and his POW camp roommate, Ray Sherk, escaped and found their way home to the Allied lines, when the Italians capitulated.

The Merlins

It was a cold afternoon in the beginning of March. 2020 had only brought wind and rain till that point in time. A group of 5 enthusiastic RAF re-enactors belonging to the Belgian based re-enactor group ‘The Merlins’ arrived at an airfield in Belgium where Hawker Hurricane KZ231 was waiting for them to help recreate some of the scenes as they would have happened during the dark days of WW2.

The Merlins were able to provide a large amount of time-accurate attributes and focus on uniform detail. Adding tot hat an an unexpected break in the weather, all ingredients where present to make it a successful photoshoot.

The 1st part of the photoshoot was directed on taking daytime pictures with a clear focus on mission preparation and final activities before being scrambled. The 2nd part of the shoot was performed after sunset. Lights lit up the scene to create that extra atmosphere and we were able to recreate scenes like waiting for a scramble, flight planning, mission debrief,…

It was a great experience and honor to bring together both the iconic Hawker Hurricane and the Merlins re-enactment group to pay a fitting tribute to all who flew and died during WW2 operating these beautiful warbirds.

I would like to thank the current owner of Hawker Hurricane MK IV KZ231 and the Merlins re-enactment group for their participation in this project.


Article and pictures: Michiel Peeters

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