How Accurate is the Movie Hurricane?
The movie Hurricane is about Polish pilots who transferred to the United Kingdom after the fall of Poland in World War II so they could continue their fight against Germany. While for the Poles it was a measure of revenge and fighting for their own country that motivated them, for Britain the movie displays their service as an important contribution in defending Britain during the Blitz in the Summer and Autumn of 1940.
In June 1940, the UK stands as the largest country fighting the Axis powers. France has just been defeated and is now occupied, while those who fought Germany but who are trapped behind Axis lines try to make their way to safer ground in the UK. This is the case with Jan Zumbach, a Polish fighter pilot who was in France and had to evacuate after the German takeover. He makes it to Britain only to find discrimination and Royal Airforce officers who have their own prejudices against him and other Polish pilots who escaped. The Poles were relatively easily defeated by the Germans, but it was not for the lack of skill of their pilots but mostly due to their fighter aircraft not being as sophisticated as the German fighters. The Poles fought in France as well and this gave them valuable skills, which was lacking in the Royal Airforce in 1940. During the Summer of 1940, there was a fear that Britain would soon run out of pilots due to attrition. Soon, the Royal Airforce had to activate volunteers and other foreigners in Britain, including Canadians and some Americans, to fight for their side.
One of the first units created was 303 Squadron, an all-Polish unit commanded by a Canadian John Kent. Although the British are in desperate need of experienced fighter pilots, it took time before the unit was fully activated. In fact, the first enemy fighter they shot down was during an exercise in which they observed enemy bombers and fighters and one member (Ludwik) decided to disobey his commanders and engage the enemy. Although criticized for his actions, his knowledge of the enemy and that of his comrades soon enables them to develop better fighting techniques and after their activation they begin to score major victories mostly in southern England. They lose some of their best fighters along the way and they continue to face prejudice in the UK, but they also begin to gain respect among their commanding officers and the wider British public as they are commended for their actions during the Battle of Britain. The 303 Squadron ended up having one of the best rates of scored kills in aerial combat among Allied units, thanks in large part in their ability to come close to enemy aircraft and hit them with high velocity rounds, even if the Hawker Hurricane aircraft they flew was often slower to some of the faster German aircraft models. After successfully fighting off the German Blitz in 1940, the 303 continue to fight on during World War II. It was first based in the UK then was transfered over to Europe as the campaign shifted over to mainland Europe. By the end of the war, the unit had among the highest kills of any allied squadron and few then doubted the skills of the unit. After the war, the unit, and other Polish fighters, were honored with a memorial in West London, with the movie showing the unit participating in the victory parade.
Jan Zumbach: Jan becomes the leader of the Polish fighter pilots because of his knowledge of English but also for his fighting and leadership qualities. His aggressive fighting style earns him the respect of his commanders but also the envey of some of the British fighter pilots stationed near or with them. Jan continued to fight with 303 squadron during the war. He scored 8 kills during the battle of Britain. In 1945, he was captured but survived the war. After 1945, he helped create the airforces of Katanga, a breakaway state in Congo that was dissolved in 1963.
Ludwik Paszkiewicz: He was the first person in 303 squadron to shoot down an enemy aircraft, which occurred during a flight training. Although criticized, his gallantry earned him the respect of flight commanders and helped bring 303 into active service. Ludwik was killed in September 1940 after becoming a fighting ace when his aircraft was shot down, which was depicted in the film.
Josef Frantisek: He was the top scoring ace during the Battle of Britain and was of Czech origin, one of the few non-Poles flying in 303 squadron. He is shown as one of the top pilots. In reality, his plane crash in unclear circumstances, where he perished, but in the film he was shown as having crashed after running out of fuel.
John Kent: He was a fighter ace in World War II and the first leader of 303 squadron of Canadian origin. He is shown as a tough leader who earned the respect of his pilots after a rough start with cultural barriers and the squadron's pilots nack for wanting to fight right away before they became operational.
Phyllis Lambert: Phyllis plays an operations staff member who is harassed by her male superior. Eventually, she and Jan become lovers for a while. Her character is fictional.