BBMF Hurricane PZ865 is 80 this month

Header image: Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865 in its current night-fighter, night-intruder colour scheme. (Photo: Darren Harbar)

BBMF Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865, the last Hawker Hurricane built from a total of 14,533, first flew on 27th July 1944, 80 years ago this month. Wearing the inscription “The Last of the Many!”, PZ865 was flight tested by Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot, Group Captain PWS ‘George’ Bulman. He had flown the prototype Hurricane on its maiden flight on 6th November 1935 and so could lay claim to having flown the maiden flights in the very first and very last Hurricanes to be built.

Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865, “The Last of the Many!”, on an early test flight in 1944, being flown by Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot, the hatless George Bulman, who had flown the maiden flight of the prototype Hurricane, K5083, on 6th November 1935.

The following month, “The Last of the Many!” was the centrepiece of a ceremony at the Hawker factory at Langley in which the aircraft was “christened”. Senior representatives of Hawkers, the Air Ministry and the RAF took turns to cite the Hurricane’s astounding combat history and to celebrate the type’s achievements. (Hurricanes actually accounted for just over 50 percent of all enemy aircraft shot down by British and Commonwealth forces throughout the war.) As they spoke, many RAF units were still operating Hurricanes in combat, continuing to add to the type’s battle honours in the Far East, the Balkans and in Europe.

At the ceremony, banners over PZ865 carried the words “From the First of the Few to the Last of the Thousands”, with a list of the campaigns in which Hurricanes had fought during the Second World War including, of course, the Battle of Britain when Hurricanes had been vital to the survival of the nation.

Wanting to preserve the final Hurricane ever built, the company purchased PZ865 back from the Air Ministry. For the next 28 years PZ865 was used by Hawkers in various capacities, including as a company ‘hack’, as an air racer, as a display aircraft, and for aerial sequences in films including the famous movie ‘Battle of Britain’. 

In 1972 a combination of limited resources and restricted hangar space at Dunsfold led to Hawker Siddeley deciding that it could no longer maintain its collection of historic aircraft and PZ865 was threatened with being permanently grounded. The intervention of the Hawker Siddeley Chief Test Pilot, Duncan Simpson OBE, and his astute manoeuvring behind the scenes, gained permission for the Hurricane to be donated to the BBMF, which was then based at RAF Coltishall. Simpson delivered PZ865 to the BBMF on Wednesday 29th March 1972.

In its 80th year, Hurricane PZ865, a truly historic and unique aircraft, is still carefully maintained in airworthy condition by the BBMF.

BBMF ground crew moving Hurricane PZ865 out of the Flight’s hangar at Coningsby. (Photo: Darren Harbar)

Share this post

Join the club

Free newsletter

Register to receive our latest news and competitions by email.

We’ll also set you up with an account for our Forum and Gallery. You'll be able to post in these if you are a Club member.

Sign up