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Fuel has always been expensive, and more importantly during wartime, heavy. In September 1943, when the heroes of Attack Hitler’s Bunker! were trying a precision bombing attack on Hitler’s Bunker in Berlin, that latest Hawker Hurricane, the MKII, required all of its 97 gallons of high-octane fuel, 34.5 gallons each in wing tanks and 28 in a small tank ahead of the cockpit, to achieve a range of 600 miles. It could carry 2 x 500 lb canisters or bombs but would barely be able to reach Berlin from Norfolk, let alone carry out the attack and return.
Drop tanks were not yet available for Allied aircraft and in fact even the German Luftwaffe had limited use for them. Not until October, did the first P-47 Thunderbolts arrive in the European Theatre of War, equipped with drop tanks. But P-47s were to big to negotiate the streets of Berlin in the sort of precision attack required to hit the Bunker and the attack had to be made in September.
What could the answer be?
Richard Earlgood comes up with an almost unique solution; piggy-backing the Hurricane fighters on 4-engine Short Stirling bombers. I say ‘almost’ unique because Short had achieve the same thing before the War with the Mayo Flying Boat. In this way, the Hurricanes could, in theory, reach Veluwemeer in Holland, a large body of water, which had a strong resistance presence, from Berlin.
The Stirling could carry roughly the weight of a Hurricane in bombs and, suitably modified, carry a Hurricane on a framework above its fuselage. For the Hurricane, this arrangement would not be unique either. The Hurricat had been a short-lived version of the fighter modified to be launched by catapult from cargo ships in order to defend them against U-boats.
This all looks great on paper to the Air Ministry but, in practice, the fully-loaded fighters prove too heavy for the bombers to take off and the Hurricanes cannot manoeuvre or make the distance with the fully loaded canisters.
So what was the answer?
You will have to read Attack Hitler’s Bunker! to find out!
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