Eight British WW2 Hawker Hurricanes discovered in Ukrainian forest

The remains of eight Second World War Hawker Hurricanes have been uncovered in a forest near Ukraine's capital entirely by chance.
Christopher McFadden
Representational picture.
Representational picture.

Arpingstone/Wikimedia Commons 

A long-forgotten cache of WW2-era British Hawker Hurricanes has been dug up in Ukraine, the BBC reported. Now heavily rusted, the eight Hurricanes were discovered in a forest entirely by chance.

The aircraft was initially sent to Ukraine during the height of the Second World War under the Lend-Lease scheme and were intended for the Soviet Union to defend against National Socialist aggression in the region.

The Lend-Lease scheme was an overall package of aid for the Soviet Union by other Allied powers bankrolled mainly by the United States. Interestingly, the current hefty packages of support going to Ukraine today are similar in some respects. The supply of war gear like the Hurricanes, is another similarity between the events of today and the past during the 1940s.

Eight British WW2 Hawker Hurricanes discovered in Ukrainian forest
Buried Hawker Hurricane, Ukraine.

They are the first Hurricanes found in the country

The discovery of the long-lost aircraft is interesting, but it is also the first time examples of Hurricanes were discovered in Ukraine. "It is very rare to find this aircraft in Ukraine," said Oleks Shtan, a former airline pilot leading the excavation. "It's very important for our aviation history because no Lend-Lease aircraft have been found here before," he added.

And it was an excellent choice of aircraft for the Soviet Union at the time.

The Hurricane was a sturdy and robust aircraft that was easy to maintain and repair. She was also easy to get to grips with for new pilots and a supremely successful aircraft throughout the war in many theatres. "The Hurricane was a strong, easy to fly machine," Shtan said. "It was stable as a gun platform and suitable for inexperienced pilots. A reliable aircraft," he added.

Between 1941 and 1944, approximately 3,000 Hurricanes were supplied to the USSR to assist in their war efforts. Unfortunately, the majority of these planes were either destroyed during combat or disassembled for their parts. In some cases, certain Hurricanes were purposely disassembled and buried post-war to prevent the Soviet Union from fulfilling its obligation to reimburse the United States for any military equipment that was still functional after the war, as required by the Lend-Lease legislation.

As such, this was an ignoble end for the eight Hurricanes discovered buried in a wooded area south of Kyiv. This city is now the capital of Ukraine, having gained independence in 1991 from the former Soviet Union.

According to their discoverers, the planes were stripped of their valuable equipment, including radios, instruments, and machine guns, as well as any scrap metal that could be repurposed. Afterward, they were likely transported via tractors from a nearby airfield, dismantled, and unceremoniously dropped into a shallow ravine. It is believed that bulldozers then covered the planes with the earth.

The planes were found near an unexploded bomb

The cache of planes was discovered when an unexploded WW2 ordinance was found in the vicinity and they were picked up using metal detectors. The National Aviation Museum of Ukraine is currently manually excavating the site to identify and reassemble as much of the aircraft as possible for display.

According to Valerii Romanenko, the research leader at the museum, Hurricanes played a crucial role in the history of Ukraine. "The Hurricanes are a symbol of British assistance during the years of the Second World War, just as we are very appreciative of British assistance nowadays," he said. "The UK is one of the largest suppliers of military equipment to our country now," he added.

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