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AM274 History

In late 1938, as World War II loomed over Europe, Great Britain was concerned over the safety of their aircraft factories.

The Hurricane was regarded as such an important weapon to the British, that early in 1939, the British Air Ministry contracted with the Canadian Car and Foundry Co., Ltd. (sometimes referred to as CCF, or CC&F, or CanCar) of Montreal, Canada to build what would amount to a total of 1,451 Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes.

The Royal Canadian Air Force, or RCAF, had received 19-Hurricane I's built by Hawker Aircraft in England, before the war started. On 2 March 1939 the British Air Ministry released a manufacturing pattern aircraft

(L1848) and complete plans on microfilm; to be shipped to Canada.

Production of the Canadian-built Hurricanes took place at the CanCar factory in Fort William, now called Thunder Bay, in the Province of Ontario.

The first Canadian-built Hurricane I (seen below on 8 January 1940) flew its maiden flight at Bishop's Field, Fort William, Ontario on 10 January 1940.

The first batch of 40 Canadian-built Hurricanes were built with materials provided by Great Britain and used Rolls-Royce Merlin III engines; three-bladed de Havilland, Hamilton Hydromatic propellers; and were simply referred to as Canadian Mark I's.

These 40 initial Canadian-built Hurricanes were shipped to Great Britain between March and August of 1940.

The later, main-production Canadian-built Hurricanes were built with Canadian Materials and had their own variant designations.

The Mark X, was basically a Mark IIB with an American, Packard-built, Merlin 28 engine; fitted with the American, Hamilton Hydromatic, three-bladed propeller and eight-gun wings.

AM274 was one of the first Hurricanes, in a batch of one hundred Hurricane Mark X's, built with serial numbers AM270 to AM369, in the third production block built by Canadian Car & Foundry between March 1942 and January 1943 under Contract C45.

The aircraft in this batch were allotted the serial numbers: BJ284 to BJ323 (40) ... BJ332 to BJ351 (20) ... and BJ369 to BJ408 (40).

Later, they were re-allotted to fall in line with allocations to the British Purchasing Commission in Great Britain.

Once completed, these 100-Hurricane Mark X's were crated and then loaded onto flat beds to be shipped from Fort Williams, Ontario ... east to Halifax, Nova Scotia ... where they were then loaded onto merchant ships that sailed in convoys to Great Britain.

AM274 was put aboard one of the 37-merchant ships that sailed in Convoy HX-180.  This convoy departed Nova Scotia on 15 March 1942 and arrived in Liverpool, England on 27 March 1942 without suffering any losses during the voyage.

There is no AM Form 1180 (Air Ministry Aircraft Accident Form 1180) available in the RAF museum archives in London to show that AM274 had been involved in any air accident, yet the aircraft remained at 13MU for a total of seven months.

It is believed that AM274, along with AM271, AM272 and AM278 all suffered Category 'B' level damage while in transit from Canada to Great Britain.  These four Hurricanes may have been damaged by poor handling ... storage ... and/or rough seas during their transatlantic voyage.

.... During disassembly for restoration, it was discovered that AM274 had its port-side, Canadian-built, landing-gear leg fairing, replaced with a British-built fairing.  

... It was also discovered that the port-side trailing edge, on the center section, had been rebuilt using various Mark ribs [Mk X, Mk IIb and Mk Iic] while the starboard side was built using ONLY Mark IIb ribs.

... These discoveries further confirm that AM274 had suffered damage that may have contributed to the prolonged stay at 13MU in 1942.

... Another bit of damage was discovered on the starboard-side, center section, wing-attach fitting.  Somewhere along the way it has been grazed by something {a bullet perhaps?} that made an indentation in the fitting.  This particular damage could not have happened during transport without also damaging the center section itself.

... This begs the question; was the original center section replaced at 13MU, and only the fittings re-used?  

Or, was the grazed fitting salvaged off another damaged center section sent to CC&F for re-build, and then used on the original AM274center section?  

These questions will probably never be answered with any real degree of certainty!  


 

It seems quite likely that the original Merlin 28 that had been installed on AM274 before leaving CanCar, was reissued to another MU or unit during the time AM274 was being assembled and repaired at 13MU.  By the time all the repairs had been made to AM274, she was re-engined with a rolls-Royce Merlin XX (41957 / A219526).

This engine was one of 500 MkXX that had been built in Derby (Derbyshire, England) between 21 December 1940 and 18 August 1941, as Order No. 4700, under contract B67980/40.  

This engine was completed on 19 August, passed on 22 August and dispatched on 23 August to Hawkers at Langley (Berkshire, England) and most likely fitted to a new Hurricane there.  After having completed 200-hours or so, 41597 was overhauled by Rolls-Royce Glasgow where it was completed on 28 March 1942, just days before AM274 arrived at 13MU.

AM274 was also fitted with a Rotol propeller with three-wooden blades; and Mark IIB wings that carried twelve 7.7 mm Brownings.  These wings had stores pylons below the wings to carry either ONE- 250 lb. ... or ONE- 500 lb. bomb beneath each wing.  

These wings were also able to carry ONE - 45 gallon ... or ONE- 90 gallon auxiliary fuel tank (also called 'drop tank') below each wing if needed.  

They could carry any configuration of two ~ one under each wing ~ depending on what the needs actually were ... one bomb and one drop tank ... two bombs ... or two drop tanks!

Finally, according to the RAF AM Form 78, on 28 November 1942, AM274 was confirmed; alterations completed; air tested and she was then ready AW/CN (awaiting collection).

On 5 December 1942, AM274 was flown west and slightly south to 10MU at RAF Hullavington, Wiltshire, England.

Five days later she flew the short journey south and east to 76MU, a Packing Depot based at RAF Wroughton, also in Wiltshire.  It was here that AM274 was once again crated in preparation for shipment under lend-lease agreements to the Soviet Union.

RAF AM for 78 records AM274 at Hull (Yorkshire, England) on 28 December 1942.  We presume at the docks, where she was eventually loaded on board the merchant ship SS Dan-y-Bryn, along with other lend lease aircraft and supplies.

RAF AM Form 78 indicates the SS Dan-y-Bryn departed for Russia on 12 January 1943.  The form does not indicate the route they sailed, nor does it tell us what convoy there were in.

Research has shown that they were part of the North Cape Convoy JW52.  The records we have located indicate Convoy JW52 departed on 17 January 1943 ... but the port of departure varies from one record to the next.

Some records indicate it was Loch Ewe, Scotland ... while others indicate it was Liverpool, England.  The American merchant ship SS Cornelius Harnett (also in this convoy) stated they had made their way to Gourock, Scotland where the ...

"... pre-sailing conference for the Murmansk run as Convoy JW52 met on 17 January 1943". 

Gourock is between Liverpool and Loch Ewe along the western coast of the United Kingdom. Hull, on the other hand, is along the eastern coast of England.  Apparently the SS Dan-y-Bryn sailed southward around the southern tip of England and up the west coast, in order to join the convoy somewhere along the way between Liverpool ... Gourock ... and Loch Ewe.

The North Cape Convoy JW52 was comprised of 15-Merchant vessels;

4- American ... Cornelius Harnett, Delsud, Gulfwing and Nicholas Gilman;

1- Panamanian ... El Oriente; and

10- British vessels ... Atlantic, Dan-y-Bryn, Empire Baffin, Empire Clarion, Empire Portia, 

                                 Empire Snow, Empire Tristram, Ocean Faith, Oligarch and Temple Arch.

These ships were accompanied by a military escort of 26-ships from the Royal Navy.  

There were:

2- ASW Trawlers ... HMS Northern Pride, HMS St. Elstan;

1- Battleship ... HMS Anson;

2- Corvettes ... HMS Lotus, HMS Starwort;

13- Destroyers ... HMS Bulldog, HMS Beagle, HMS Echo, HMS Eclipse, HMS Faulknor, HMS Inglefield,                                              HMS Matchless, HMS Montrose, HMS Musketeer, HMS Offa, HMS Onslaught, 

                             HMS Queenborough, HMS Raider;

3- Escort Destroyers ... HMS Blankney, HMS Ledbury, HMS Middleton;

1- Heavy Cruiser ... HMS Kent;

3- Light Cruisers ... HMS Bermuda, HMS Glasgow, HMS Sheffield;

1- Minesweeper ... HMS Britomart; and

2- Polish Destroyers ... ORP Orkan, ORP Piorun.

Not all of these ships were with the convoy for the entire trip, but rather, they served as military cover for the convoy as they passed through specific waters.

Just seven days into their journey, on 24 January 1943, the convoy was in the Barents Sea between Iceland and Norway when they became the target of an aerial attack by three Heinkel-115 torpedo bombers.

SS Dan-y-Bryn was in the lead row, second ship in from port. All three ships in the port column were active in the battle, and managed to shoot down one of the Heinkels, and disable another. The third Heinkel was shot at, but it was not known if they damaged it as severely as they had the other two.

... 2009 research initiated by Mark Sheppard of Great Britain, indicates that the third Heinkel probably made it safely back to its airfield as only two Heinkel-115's of 1./406 were reported lost with both crews that day.

More air raids followed over the next three days, but SS Dan-y-Bryn arrived safely in Murmansk, Russia on 27 January 1943.

As with many of the Hurricanes supplied to Russia during World War II, after arriving in Murmansk, AM274 was re-assembled once again ... then refitted with Soviet-built armament.

The twelve- 7.7 mm Brownings were removed, new gun mounts were fitted and parts of the wing structure were altered to accommodate the changes.  Shell casing chutes and machine gun exit holes were riveted over and new shell casing chutes and gun apertures were formed in order to accommodate two-ShVAK-20 mm cannons and two-UBT-12.7 mm (0.50 caliber) heavy machine guns.

It has been speculated that re-arming the Russian Hurricane was partly due to the lack of Western ammunition supplies.  Nevertheless, the high rate of fire of Soviet automatic weapons ... about half again as great as their Western equivalents ... gave the Russian re-armed Hurricanes a fairly nasty bite!

AM274 was fitted with a tropical chin cowl.  It is unclear whether this was undertaken in Great Britain or Russia, but we know this tropical filter was definitely NOT fitted in Canada.

... Some people tend to believe this chin cowl was marked with the original serial number of AM271.  To them, it appears the "1" may have been altered to a "4".  This would have been to confirm its fitment on the airframe of AM274, if this were actually the case.  We know the Hurricane AM271 was built at CanCar, shipped to England, assembled and repaired at 13MU, and then shipped to Russia as a part of the lend-lease program in roughly the same time frame that AM274 was, therefore making this assumption a valid possibility.

... However, upon close inspection of the markings on this cowl, it does NOT appear the markings were made at two separate times.  The paint color as well as the width and consistency of the brush strokes all appear to have been made at one time.  Without any actual record to go on, this will be one area of pure speculation.

The British Roundels and fin flashes were painted out and in their place Russian stars were applied.  The fuselage sides were most likely painted with a thin white outline around the stars, while the under-wings were just the basic red star.  No stars were applied to the upper wing services.  The original tactical number for AM274 is not currently known.

In late February 1943, AM274 was placed into service in the 2nd squadron, 78th Fighter Air Regiment of the Naval Air Forces of the Russian Northern Fleet (78IAP VVS) based at Vaenga.  This was the same airfield where the first Hurricanes of the 151 Wing RAF operated and educated the VVS to the Hurricanes worth, some 18-months earlier.

The missions undertaken by AM274 during the spring of 1943 are unknown to us.  There were no damage listings to be found, so she apparently survived unmarked until her final mission.

Research provided by Rune Ratio, Andreas Brekken and Kari Lamppio gives us the following detailed account of what happened the day AM274 was lost.

19 June 1943

00.40 Moscow Time (MT)

A Soviet ground observation unit reported a German convoy of 3-transports, 5-guard vessels, 2-armed trawlers and 1-cutter between Kirkenes and Petsmo in the Kobbhold Fjord.

Air cover was being provided bu 4-Focke-Wulf FW-190's and 3-Heinkle He-115's.

The convoy was heading for Petsmo.  Additional protection of the convoy was provided by other units who attacked the shore battery at Fisherman's Inlet.​

02.10 MT

Naval Air Forces, Soviet North Fleet (VVS SF) launched and attack agains the convoy with:

4- Illyushin Il-2's from 3./46SHAP,

6- Yakovlev Yak-1's from 20IAP,

8- Hawker Hurricanes from 2./78IAP and

8- Bell P-39 Airacobra's from 255IAP.

02.47 - 03.15 MT

113th Artillery Division shore battery fire upon the convoy.

03.00 MT

Upon attacking the convoy, the Soviet Force was met by 14-fighters over Bol Volkovaja Bay (Petsmo).  The Luftwaffe unit is thought to be Messerschmitt Bf-109's from Gruppe JG5 based at Petsmo.

German AA hit one Il-2 that managed to return to its lines and force landed at Pummanki airfield.  It turned into a very one-sided combat with five-Hurricanes destroyed and two more damaged as detailed below.  The Hawker Hurricane AM274 was one of these aircraft.

Local time 01.55 (2.55 MT)

Hurricane KX144 piloted by Jr. Lt. V.A. Nazarov was shot down.

Nazarov bailed out and was pulled from the water by a Soviet MBT boat, he was okay but the Hurricane was listed as a 100% loss.

Hurricane KW730 piloted by Jr. Lt. P. V. Gapilokov was shot down.

Gapliokov  was killed and the Hurricane was listed as a 100% loss.

Hurricane KX404 piloted by Jr. Lt. N. T. Starosvetskij was shot down.

Starosvetskij was killed and the Hurricane was listed as a 100% loss.

Hurricane AM274 piloted by Jr. Lt. J. I. Maslennikov was shot at and hit.

Maslennikov force landed on the Rybachiy Peninsula where he was rescued by Soviet infantry troops but the Hurricane was listed as a 100% loss.

Hurricane KX488 piloted by Jr. Lt. F. M.  Kasanov was shot down.

Kasanov was killed and the Hurricane was listed as a 100% loss.

These photographs show the wreckage of the Hawker Hurricane AM274 when she was discovered almost EXACTLY 48-years after she crashed on 19 June 1943.  It was on 15 June 1991 the search group "Podvodnik" of Murmansk discovered AM274, and found the wreckage to be essentially complete.  This group also discovered the wreckage of two other Hawker Hurricanes that day on the Rybachiy Peninsula.

When translated into English, the name PODVODNIK means "Diver".  The group was comprised of Andrey Kopytkov (who generously gave us permission to post these photos on this site) Leonid Aleksjutin, Michail Kazakevich, Valentin Happen and Aleksandr Kazakov.

After discovering the wrecks and taking the photos seen above; the group had to leave the wreckage where they discovered it on the tundra, in order to make arrangements for a helicopter and pilot, a  loader and operator, mechanics, trucks and drivers, etc. so they could carry out the actual salvage operation.

Podvodnik returned before the end of June that year.  It took the group one day to salvage the wreckage of AM274 and the other two Hurricanes.  The wreckage was removed from the Rybachiy Peninsula and taken to Murmansk where the group members lived.

In 1992, all of the salvaged Hurricane wreckage they had removed from the Rybachiy Peninsula was sent to St. Petersburg for restoration.  The Podvodnik group never knew what happened to AM274 after that, until Andrey's friend Oleg Leiko visited John Norman in Burlington, Washington, USA in February 2006.

It is unknown at this time how long the wreckage remained in St. Petersburg, but eventually AM274 began retracing her travels ... going first to Great Britain ... and eventually making it back to North America.

By August 1995 the remains of AM274, along with some other crash "victims" of World War II, also recovered from Russia, were purchased by Ed Zalesky, the owner of Airplane Supply Centre located in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada.

It seems AM274 had come full circle ... but she didn't quite make it back to her native country of Canada. Instead, AM274 was stored in shipping containers in the small border town of Blaine, Washington in the far northwest corner of mainland Washington state.

In June 2003, John Norman saw an advertisement by Airplane Supply Centre for "Hawker Hurricane Mk IIb/IIc".  The ad indicated there were parts from 2-CCF and 1-Hawker built Hurricanes along with photographs of the  '...partial inventory of parts & assemblies recovered from WWII battle sites in Russia', ... and the disclaimer that the parts were being offered as a single 'package only and the aircraft will not be sold individually'.

John went to see the "package" of aircraft parts and promptly bought the package.

Once all the parts were removed from the containers and laid out at JNE Aircraft in Burlington, Washington ... some 44-miles south of Blaine ... the identification number AM274 was discovered on the engine chin cowl.  This identification was further confirmed when John received the photographs from Russia, of the aircraft KNOWN to be AM274.  Even further confirmation came later, through reseach of the Soviet loss report as related above.

Continue to Restoration: 2003-2006

Although it is unknown if the Hurricane Mark X's identified as AM271, AM272 and AM278 were shipped on the same vessel as AM274, we know they were all shipped from Halifax to Liverpool in Convoy HX180.

Upon arrival in Liverpool, the still crated AM274 was unloaded along with her sister Mark X's, and they were all transported south and east to the Home Aircraft Depot at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire, England.

In late 1938 the Home Aircraft Depot at RAF Henlow became No.13 Maintenance Unit (or 13MU) and was responsible for repairing, modifying and assembling aircraft that served on the front lines throughout World War II.  

A little more than 1,000 of the Hurricanes built at Canadian Car & Foundry passed through 13MU before being dispatched to the front lines.

According to the Royal Air Force Air Ministry Aircraft Movement Form 78 (AM Form 78 ... as seen below) AM274 was taken on charge by 13MU on 6 April 1942.

On 3 July 1942, AM274is listed as having RIW (Repairs In Works) that were apparently completed at 13MU by a CRO (Civilian Repair Organization).

AM274 stayed at 13MU for significantly longer than the other Hurricanes that were there simply to be assembled.