Monday, 18 November 2019


Test launch at Greenock - source

I recently stumbled across a reminder of how Hawker Hurricanes were used on a few merchant ships during WWII. My father alluded to it once or twice.

CAM ships were World War II-era British merchant ships used in convoys as an emergency stop-gap until sufficient escort carriers became available. CAM ship is an acronym for catapult aircraft merchant ship.

They were equipped with a rocket-propelled catapult launching a single Hawker Hurricane, dubbed a "Hurricat" or "Catafighter" to destroy or drive away an attacking bomber. Normally the Hurricane fighter would be lost when the pilot then bailed out or ditched in the ocean near the convoy. CAM ships continued to carry their normal cargoes after conversion...

In total, there were nine combat launches. Nine German aircraft were destroyed (four Condors, four Heinkels and a Junkers 88), one damaged and three chased away. Eight Hurricanes were ditched and only one pilot lost.

Somewhere in the Atlantic a Hurricane pilot climbs up the supporting superstructure and into the cockpit of his disposable hurricane. He is to be fired into the air by a rocket in order to attack an enemy bomber, knowing he will have to ditch the plane or parachute into the sea afterwards and hope for the best. Maybe we should pause for a moment and wonder what we have lost.


Sam Vega said...

My hope is that all we have lost are the unpleasant circumstances that make such risk-taking and courage necessary. I guess that there will always be young men brave enough to do this sort of thing, as they are brave enough to do similar things today just for fame. Look at all those video clips of young daredevils climbing radio masts and cycling down cliffs, etc. The real danger is whether the rest of us would be brave enough to orientate them in the right direction, if the need arose.

Scrobs. said...

The take-off procedure is just the epitome of British invention!

The success rate seems pretty damn good too!

A K Haart said...

Sam - we don't seem to be pointing them in the right direction now, but maybe we lack the courage to know what that direction might be.

Scrobs - the success rate impressed me too.