Soviet Hurricane Aces of World War 2

Published: October 8th, 2012     
Author: Yuriy Rybin
Reviewed by: 
Anthony Tvaryanas, IPMS# 44156
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 9781849087414
Other Publication Information: Softcover, 96 pages, eight color plates, b&w period photos
Price: $22.95
Product / Stock #: Aircraft of the Aces 107

As a Battle of Britain aficionado and avid reader of stories of the exploits of Allied pilots flying Hawker Hurricanes (and Spitfires of course!) on the Western Front and in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, it was with keen interest that I delved into this story of the Hurricane on the Eastern Front -- a story with which I was totally unfamiliar. Thus, it was much to my surprise that I learned that the Hurricane was the most numerous Western Allied fighter aircraft serving in the Soviet Union's army and naval air force units on the expansive Soviet-German front in 1942. Having suffered significant attrition of fighter aircraft during the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, Soviet Premier Josef Stalin appealed to British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill for replacement aircraft. The British responded in late 1941 by beginning delivery of Hurricanes under the Lend-Lease agreement, and these aircraft were quickly put into action in early 1942 in Soviet fighter regiments in the northern sector of the Soviet-German front. Although the Hurricane was not the only Allied fighter delivered to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease, it proved to be the most suitable fighter for the Soviet air forces during the early war period. Specifically, the Hurricane was the easiest aircraft to master for the Soviet pilots, who were only receiving rudimentary flight training in 1941-42; additionally, it was not a demanding aircraft for ground personnel to service. These attributes allowed Soviet air forces to form a large number of new fight regiments in the polar-climate area quickly. Although the Hurricane lagged behind its contemporary German counterpart (i.e., Bf 109) in terms of maximum speed and rate of climb, more than a dozen Soviet aces achieved at least five of their victories in the Hurricane, and the Hurricane remained in frontline service until late 1943. In total, an amazing 3,360 Hurricanes were supplied to the Soviet Union by the British.

Yuriy Rybin's book is extremely well researched and illustrated, including eight beautiful color plates featuring 32 Hurricanes for which a brief history is provided for each in a separate appendix. Nearly every page is illustrated with black and white period photos featuring Soviet Hurricanes, air and ground crew, and the rudimentary aerodrome environments. Rybin exhaustively inventories the victories of Soviet Hurricane pilots, including both aces and their squadron mates. The quality of Rybin's research is evidenced by his painstaking cross-referencing of Soviet and German after-action reports, which often revealed inflated claims of victories on both sides -- and it appeared that the Soviets included unconfirmed kills in the official tallies for many of their Hurricane aces. While the narrative becomes tedious in spots when undertaking the task of keeping score, it is also supplemented by first-person accounts of air battles, which help put the reader vicariously in the cockpit with the Soviet pilots of the time. For example, Rybin dramatically relays the story of one Soviet Hurricane pilot (Vasiliy Strelnikov) who was forced to bail out of his burning aircraft when the fuel tank behind the instrument panel was holed by a bullet, losing his boots in the process of tumbling through the air, and then having to trek barefooted in the snow for several kilometers to return to his unit -- life was certainly not easy on the Eastern Front!

The potent combination of first-hand accounts, associated period photographs, and color plates of noteworthy Hurricanes in Soviet dress provides a fertile ground for the modeler.  Overall, an excellent reference on the Soviet Hurricane story and a good read for anyone with even a general interest in the Hawker Hurricane. I highly recommend Rybin's book!

I would like to thank IPMS/USA and Osprey Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.

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