The rusting remains of eight British Hurricane fighter planes dating back to World War 2 were found buried in a forest in Ukraine, a discovery hailed as “very rare” by a key member of the successful excavation.
Britain sent the aircraft to the Soviet Union in 1941 as part of a package of support launched in the wake of the invasion of the country by Nazi Germany.
The help to the USSR was spearheaded and funded by the US under the so-called Lend-Lease scheme.
This military support didn’t come cheap for Moscow, who at the end of the conflict was required to pay for any donated piece of equipment that had remained intact.
Not to keep their side of the bargain, USSR officials decided to deliberately break up and bury some of the surviving aircraft they had received – including the eight newly recovered planes.
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The remains had been stripped of their most valuable components, including their instruments, radios, machine guns and any useful scrap metal, and dragged to the woodland before being broken up and dropped into a shallow ravine.
Some 3,000 Hurricanes were sent to the USSR between 1941 and 1944 to help Moscow.
Oleks Shtan, a former airline pilot who is leading the excavation in the woodland south of Kyiv, said: “It is very rare to find this aircraft in Ukraine. It’s very important for our aviation history because no Lend-Lease aircraft have been found here before.”
Aviation experts agree this is the first time the remains of so many Hurricanes have been found in Ukraine.
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Speaking of the British aircraft, Mr Shtan continued: “The Hurricane was a strong, easy to fly machine. It was stable as a gun platform and suitable for inexperienced pilots. A reliable aircraft.”
The discovery came after a team started checking the area using metal detectors following the finding nearby of an unexploded bomb dating from the war.
The National Aviation Museum of Ukraine is now in the process of excavating the site by hand. The finding will be identified and wherever possible reassembled and put on display.
Valerii Romanenko, head of research at the museum, highlighted how the Hurricanes played an important part in Ukraine’s history, before drawing a parallel with the current war plaguing his country.
He told the BBC: “The Hurricanes are a symbol of British assistance during the years of WW2, just as we are very appreciative of British assistance nowadays. The UK is one of the largest suppliers of military equipment to our country now.
“In 1941 Britain was the first who supplied fighter aircraft to the Soviet Union in mass scale. Now the UK is the first country which gives Storm Shadow cruise missiles to our armed forces.”
The Hawker Hurricanes were the workhorses in the Battle of Britain, the legendary air campaign dating back to 1940 in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) defeated Germany’s attempts to invade the UK.
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