Though often overshadowed by the far sexier Supermarine Spitfire, the Hawker Hurricane, as Leo McKinstry proves in this entertaining and informative book, was the true warhorse of the Battle of Britain. Introduced in 1938, it formed the backbone of the Royal Air Force’s Fighter Command at the start of World War II. Though slower than the Spitfire or the Germans’ Me-109, it’s maneuverability, ruggedness, and comparatively simple construction gave the plane a utility when it was needed most And while the plane proved increasingly obsolescent by 1941, its design was durable enough to allow the Hurricane to serve other roles, from catapult-launched fighter on merchant ships to a ground-attack aircraft, right up to the end of the war.
McKinstry’s book offers a good account of the development and service of this fighter. Drawing upon both published accounts and oral histories in the Imperial War Museum, he makes a string argument for his claim of the Hurricane as “the victor of the Battle of Britain.” Yet McKinstry’s skill as a writer can't disguise the slightly padded feel of the book, as digressions turn it in some places into a broader history of the Battle of Britain or the RAF in World War II. While these passages are no less informative, they do suggest the limits of his defense of the Hurricane, as in the end there isn’t quite enough evidence to make the case for the plane that McKinstry so evidently wants to make.