by Richard Taylor
|Following his failure to invade Britain, Hitler soon turned his predatory eyes to the East and his long-held desire to conquer Russia. Ripping up his non - aggression pact with Stalin, on 22 June 1941 the first German forces crossed the border of Russian occupied Poland. Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of Russia – had begun. By the end of the day the Germans had advanced 50 miles, and over 800 Russian aircraft had been destroyed on the ground, another 400 in the air.
As the Red Army reeled before the onslaught, Stalin turned to Britain for help, urging Winston Churchill to send him Spitfires. Refusing the Spitfires, Churchill sent two RAF squadrons equipped with Hurricanes – Force Benedict. It was, however, to be a completely secret operation; Stalin refused to publicly admit his need for British help.
By early September No. 151 Wing, consisting of 81 and 134 Squadrons, had arrived at the remote and desolate airfield at Vaenga in the freezing north of Russia, a base near Murmansk that shared its rutted grass strip with Russian bombers. Their immediate task was to defend Murmansk against Luftwaffe bombers flying from nearby Finland, Hitler’s ally. They were also to escort the Russian bombers that shared the base and,
finally, they were to train the Russians how to fly the Hurricane before handing them over - the first of nearly 3,000 Hurricanes supplied
to the Soviets during WWII.
It was no easy task for 151 Wing but in their short, three month spell at Vaenga, battling rain, sleet and snow as well as the enemy, the pilots of 151 Wing carried out 365 sorties and scored 14 victories.
"Arctic Hurricanes" remembers the ‘forgotten’ heroes of Force Benedict. Depicted are Hurricane IIbs from 81 Squadron tangling with Luftwaffe Bf109s over snow-clad forests as they escort Russian bombers in October 1941. Remarkably, the edition is signed by the last surviving fighter pilots that took part in Force Benedict, together with a Bf109 Ace who actually duelled with the Hurricanes of 151 Wing over Murmansk.
|33¼" x 36¾" - (image 16" x 23¾")||Available in the following editions|
|400||Limited edition||Signed by two Hurricane pilots and one Luftwaffe pilot, all who flew combat missions in Russia||$165|
|Wing Commander John Elkington
John Elkington flew Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain with 1 Squadron, scoring a victory over an Me109. On 16 August 1940, whilst intercepting enemy bombers, ‘Tim’ was shot down and injured and after recovering had a spell with 601 Squadron.
He then joined 134 Squadron flying Hurricanes as part of the top secret Force Benedict in Murmansk against the Luftwaffe, during Operation Barbarossa. He later rejoined 1 Squadron on Typhoons, served with the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit and a Turbinlite Flight before being posted to 197 Squadron on Typhoons. In 1943 he joined 67 Squadron on Hurricanes before being posted to India.
|Warrant Officer Eric Carter
Initially joining 615 Squadron flying Defiants and Hurricanes, Eric Carter was then posted to 81 Squadron, again on Hurricanes. In the autumn of 1941 he accompanied the squadron on HMS Argus to Russia as part of Force Benedict, the operation to defend the Russian port of Murmansk. Flying throughout the whole mission he flew Hurricanes on operational patrols as well as escorting Russian bomber missions. After 8 months he returned to the UK to fly Spitfires in combat over Europe.
|Hauptmann Karl-Fritz Schlosstein
Posted to the Arctic Front in northern Norway, Karl-Fritz Schlossstein initially flew Me110 heavy destroyers with JG5, providing air cover for the convoys supplying the German garrisons in the country. Promoted to command 13./JG5 he then converted to fly Bf109s and was posted to Russia for Operation Barbarossa, flying in combat against the Hurricanes of 151 Wing over Murmansk.
He then returned to Norway to fly the Me 410 Hornet with ZG76. In 1944 he joined JG54 ‘Greenhearts’ flying Fw190s during the ‘Defence of the Reich’, and finished the war with 8 victories.