On the 1st April 1945 the combat career of Hawker Typhoon MkIb, RB396, came to an end after the aircraft was hit by flak and pilot Chris House force landed in a field near Denekamp in the Netherlands. Exactly 78 years later on the 1st April 2023 new life is being breathed into the effort to return the aircraft to the skies.
Building on the support already provided to the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group (HTPG) by Cranfield University, the Aircraft Restoration Company and Airframe Assemblies, several announcements were made at a special showcase event held on the 2023 anniversary of that final flight which further strengthen the project. The event was held on site at the Aircraft Restoration Company (ARCo), Duxford, premises for media and invited guests with the intention of reinvigorating the project after fundraising has been adversely affected in recent times by covid restrictions, the war in the Ukraine and cost of living issues.
“We are delighted to welcome Ultimate High CEO Mark Greenfield on to the team of project ambassadors” said project director Sam Worthington-Leese during his address to the assembled guests at the event. “He joins Patron Air Marshal Cliff Spink (retd.) and ambassadors James Holland, Paul Bonhomme and Mike Ling. We are grateful to all of them for lending their name to our project and assisting us to further our aims, spread the word, and generate support for the rebuild. We look forward to working with Mark over the coming months and years and he has been of fantastic support even already, before this appointment”
Also announced at the event was a brand partnership with Airfix. “The Hawker Typhoon is a keen favourite with modellers all around the world, and this partnership will be a tremendous boost for both parties.” Airfix will benefit from behind the scenes access to the rebuild as it progresses, allowing all the intricate details to be captured, and there is a collaborative “RB396” kit being worked on which should be produced in the not-too-distant future. And for those signed up as HTPG supporters there will be further benefits, including discounts on Airfix merchandise and kits as a result of the partnership.
Part of the project to rebuild RB396 is about inspiring and educating future generations. Working with Lincoln College Group the HTPG is developing a plan to enable “as many apprenticeships as the project can facilitate”. Rebuilding RB396 is a long term project and when she is airworthy it does not stop there. Aircraft engineers of the future can learn their skills during the rebuild, and then, when the aircraft flies, they can be involved in the aircraft’s ongoing maintenance. “There is every chance that RB396 can provide a career for one or more engineers, beginning with an apprenticeship during which they can learn and perfect their trade. As soon as the level of funding allows the work to progress at a constant rate, providing the continuity required for the apprenticeships, then they can begin.” Hawker Typhoon RB396 is about remembering the past, but also looking to the future, and these apprenticeships will do just that.
The project is also in discussions with british watchmaker, Bremont, about collaborations to support the rebuild. Bremont is an award winning organisation, with a focus on British engineering. “British engineering is at the heart of the project to rebuild RB396 because, when Typhoons were built, they were the pinnacle of British engineering capability. It is the hope that working together, Bremont will create a Typhoon wristwatch, and in time a second and more exclusive piece, featuring material from RB396.” It is also hoped that Bremont will be able to manufacture one or more components that will be incorporated into RB396 when she returns to the air. During a recent meeting, Bremont co-founder Nick English and project director Sam Worthington-Leese spent a number of hours enthusing over the possibilities, and discussing future possibilities, all of which are incredibly exciting.
After the war, and following a series of mergers, Napier became part of Rolls Royce. Through the HTPG’s engineering support partner, ARCo, a partnership has been formed with Rolls Royce. This support will see Rolls Royce supply engineering and manufacturing information, drawings and data for the Napier Sabre. Like Bremont, Rolls Royce have a passion for British engineering, but they also advocate strongly for flight safety. Having the support of Rolls Royce, the UK’s foremost engine manufacturers, will ensure that the Napier Sabre engine can be rebuilt with the highest possible safety and longevity.
To have the support of these individuals and organisations is a huge boost to the project and further cements the commitment of all involved to see this project through to a successful conclusion, and confirms the confidence that exists in the project and the team who are working on it.
Guest of honour at the showcase event was Bernard Gardiner, who turns 101 on the 6th April. Bernard is a WWII veteran who flew the Hawker Hurricane and Typhoon during the conflict. Bernard is one of only four, known, surviving Hawker Typhoon veterans. He lives in Jersey and that he was able to come over to the “mainland” to attend this event presented a unique opportunity to meet serving RAF Eurofighter Typhoon pilots based at Coningsby. During the event Bernard met Dan and Will, two front line pilots from 3(F) squadron, as well as “Brighty” who is 2023’s Eurofighter Typhoon display pilot, and “Turbo” who will take the helm in 2024 – the 80th anniversary of D-Day. It was a delight to facilitate this meeting and to see modern Typhoon pilots talking to Bernard about his wartime activities and flicking through his treasure-trove of a logbook.
All agreed that affiliations and links between modern Typhoon squadrons, and the HTPG would be a great boost to both sides, to keep the memory alive. The Eurofighter gets its name from the Hawker Typhoon, and is employed in similar roles today, albeit generally from a higher altitude and (slightly!) faster speed. The young pilots who defend our skies today are, in essence, no different to Bernard in his youth and so this is something we will be working on firming up over the coming months. So stay tuned for more information. We are very grateful to Dan, Will, Brighty and Turbo for taking the time to be guests at the showcase event.
The weather did not play ball on event day to allow the final element to go ahead. As a thank you for his support of the project and an early 101st birthday present (only by a few days…), it had been arranged for Bernard to return to the sky in a Hawker Hurricane. There is only one two-seat Hurricane in the world, and it is operated by Hurricane Heritage and the Aerial Collective Duxford. Luckily, on the Sunday morning following the event, the weather cleared leaving beautiful blue skies and perfect aviator’s clouds. And so, on Sunday 2nd April, for the first time since July 1944 Bernard Gardiner flew a Hurricane once more. It was the perfect finish to the weekend. The entire reason behind this project is to remember those brave warriors who took the Typhoon to war, many never returning. So, while one of them is still well enough to take to the air, what better way to let him know that his efforts weren’t in vain and that the nation remembers. For the full story on that flight, please see HERE. To support the effort to rebuild RB396 and ensure that work can continue, please visit the support us section of this website, or get in touch to discuss wider support.