Brooklands Museum exhibition recalls crucial role in the Battle of Britain

By Richard Moss | 28 September 2010
a photo of a group of people standing in a hangar in front of an aeroplane
HRH Prince Michael of Kent meets the creators of the displays and the Volunteer Hurricane Team© Brooklands Museum
Exhibition: Brooklands in the Battle of Britain, Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, until January 2011

A new exhibition at Brooklands Museum is celebrating the former motor racing track's pivotal role in the Battle of Britain. 

At the outbreak of war in September 1939 the motor racing for which Brooklands was renowned finally ceased and attention turned to expanding aircraft production on a great scale.

The Wellington Bomber and the Hawker Hurricane – the great workhorses of Bomber Command and Fighter Command – were churned out in their hundreds as the Vickers-Armstrong and Hawker aircraft companies had exclusive use of the extensive site for military aircraft production:

Ultimately, 2,515 of the 11,461 Vickers Wellington bombers built, and 3,012 of more than 14,000 Hawker Hurricanes, were assembled at Brooklands.

Situated in the Museum’s Wellington Hangar beside a Hurricane aircraft recovered from Russia in 1997, Brooklands in the Battle of Britain reveals this history and how the site was a prime objective for Luftwaffe raids.

The distinctive shape of the 1907 race circuit made it an easy target and despite the dispersal of production, extensive use of camouflage and bofors anti aircraft towers (one of which still exists) the factories were bombed heavily during the Battle.

a photograph of two men in suits inspecting display panels
Julian Temple (right) shows HRH Prince Michael of Kent the new Brooklands in the Battle of Britain exhibition© Brooklands Museum
One of the heaviest raids took place on September 4 1940, when Luftwaffe bombers attacked the Vickers works, killing 85 workers and injuring 419 others.

Despite the tragic loss of life the German bombers crucially missed the Hawker factories producing Hurricane fighters and they continued to be supplied to the frontline fighter stations at North Weald, Biggin Hill and Tangmere throughout the Battle.

Recently discovered photographs reveal the extensive bomb damage to the Vickers and Hawker factories during the Battle, and the names of all who died on both sides during the September 4 raids are listed.

A special plaque, unveiled by Prince Michael of Kent, pays tribute to Lieutenant John Patton of the Royal Canadian Engineers, who saved hundreds of lives when he removed an unexploded delayed-action German bomb that fell through the Hurricane assembly building.

Patton was awarded the George Cross for his bravery, with two of his comrades being awarded the George Medal.
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