Published: 14:01, 24 January 2020
A Battle of Britain fighter plane shot down over Kent has been restored and is now back in the air.
The Mk1 Hawker Hurricane was blasted out of the sky by a Luftwaffe pilot in 1940, landing in a bog near Canterbury where it languished for 50 years.
But in the 1990s it was discovered by a group of metal detectorists and later sold to Peter Kirkpatrick - who had it restored.
More than £2 million has been spent repairing the Second World War plane.
The aircraft - RAF no V7497 - contains 35% of the original, and is one of just 14 Hurricanes still flying.
Late last year, Mr Kirkpatrick, 57, took the controls for his maiden flight in the 78-year-old warplane.
The neurosurgeon is now seriously considering leaving his job at Addenbrooke’s Hospital so he can fly the 350mph plane at air shows around the world as a full-time display pilot.
Mr Kirkpatrick, a married father-of-one, said: “Restoring this plane from its sad end in the Kent marshes and being able to actually fly it, is a dream come true for me."
Since buying the aircraft two years ago, Mr Kirkpatrick has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the restoration - and is one of three stakeholders who stumped up the £2 million total.
He raised his contribution through remortgaging the home he shares with wife Leisha, who supports his hobby.
“In some respects flying is like surgery - there is very little room for error," Mr Kirkpatrick said.
"Both involve hand and eye co-ordination and in the end it comes down to having to make very rapid life-or-death decisions.
“I believe passionately in the history of these aircraft and the role they played in the last world war.
"Thanks to the courage and bravery of the young men who flew them we enjoy much of what we enjoy today and to be able to fly a Hurricane is a huge privilege.
“There are only about a dozen in the world still in an airworthy condition and although the Spitfire may have garnered more attention it was the Hurricane that was the real workhorse of the war - and the Battle of Britain statistics prove it was the plane that predominantly saved the day.
“My first solo flight was fantastic and a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives all those years ago. Without them we would have lost the war.“
The painstaking task of rebuilding the 78-year-old warplane was undertaken by Hawker Restorations of Milden near Sudbury, world leaders in putting Hurricanes back in the air.
They kept the stainless steel joints, but had to replace some unsalvagable parts of the plane.
Mr Kirkpatrick says that while he loves the NHS he feels it may be time to focus more on his passion for flying.
“I’ve dedicated my life to the NHS - but it’s changed over the years," he said. "There is so much work it’s become more like a factory.
“I feel I’ve done my bit for our health service and now might be the right time to move on."
Battle of Britain: Hurricanes shot down over east Kent
From July 19 until the end of October 1940, young pilots were involved in the titanic struggle to keep this country safe from invasion.
As well as Spitfires and Defiant fighters, a number of Hurricanes were shot down, as
Plt Off Ralph Don, from 501 Squadron, baled out of his Hurricane over Canterbury on July 31.
On August 13, Hurricane pilot Charles Joubert baled out, landing at Copton Farm, Faversham.
Two days later another Hurricane from the same squadron, piloted by Flt Sgt Taffy Higginson, crashed into a field south of Whitstable at 100mph, but he was only slightly injured.
August 18, known as the Hardest Day, was the toughest of the battle and 501 Hurricane Squadron would come off worst.
The Squadron was patrolling over Canterbury when they were hit hard by German ace Gerhard Shoepfel, who shot down four Hurricanes in the space of a couple of minutes.
Plt Off John Bland was killed when his plane crashed at Calcott Hill, Sturry, while Sgt Don McKay baled out over Dargate. Plt Off Francisek Koslowski was badly injured when his Hurricane crashed south of Whitstable.
Plt Off Ken ‘Hawkeye’ Lee’s instincts had deserted him on that sortie. He baled out after cannon shells smashed into the aircraft.
Drifting down he saw an ancient member of Dad’s Army preparing to take a pot shot at him. He told the old fellow he was British in no uncertain terms.
He was taken to Chestfield Golf Club, bleeding from leg wounds, but the members were more concerned that the air battle had ruined their shots.
He said: “There I stood at the bar, wearing a Mae West, no jacket and blood beginning to leak from my flying boot. None of the members took much notice of me – I wasn’t a member.”
Eventually he was carted off to hospital and by the time he recovered the battle was over. Later in the day, Flt Lt George Stoney was killed when his Hurricane crashed at Stile Farm, Chilham.
On August 24, Sgt Gordon Clarke, of 151 Squadron, baled out badly burned from his Hurricane over Faversham and spent two weeks in the town’s cottage hospital before being moved to a specialist hospital at Halton.
Two days later, Canadian Hurricane pilot Flt Lt Elmer Gaunce, from 615 Squadron, crashed in flames near Herne Bay pier and he was taken to the town’s hospital suffering from shock.
Two Hurricanes from 56 Squadron were shot down. Plt Off Michael Constable-Maxwell took to his parachute slightly wounded as his plane crashed near the Share and Coulter, Herne Bay.
Meanwhile, a Hurricane belonging to 615 Squadron crashed at Snoadstreet Farm,Throwley, with Plt Off Sydney Madle sustaining minor injuries.
The month ended tragically on August 31 when Sqn Ldr Harold Starr, CO of 253 Hurricane Squadron, baled out of his aircraft.
He was machine gunned as he hung in his parachute. His Hurricane crashed at Grove Ferry.
More by this authorPhil Hayes