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World War II was a time of some remarkable innovation including the most advanced aeronautical engineering the world had ever seen. The resulting aircraft were flown with incredible skill and courage by men who may have been just 18 or 19 at the time.
The warplanes are still celebrated as symbols of bravery and sacrifice that helped to secure the future of the nation. Here is a look at three of the most legendary war planes of the era that are still very much treasured today as part of the national identity.
The Lancaster Bomber, officially known as the Avro Lancaster, was the main British bomber in the Allied offensive against Germany during the last three years of WWII. It was a robust and large plane designed to carry the heaviest bombs.
Nonetheless, it had to be adapted to carry the notorious ‘bouncing bombs’ that were used to destroy three dams in the Ruhr valley of Germany, known as the Dambusters Raid. They were manned by seven men (who had an average age of 22) and had a maximum flying speed of 287 mph.
After the war had finished, the Lancasters were deployed to repatriate soldiers and prisoners of war back to home soil and to deliver tonnes of food to the starving population of western Holland.
There were 7377 models manufactured during the war, but there are just two operational planes left today. However, its iconic design is still celebrated in everything from model kits to cast iron weathervanes.
The Hawker Hurricane is a single seater aircraft that was a mainstay of the WWII Fighter Command, and was involved in 60% of air victories in the Battle of Britain. It first entered service in December 1937, and a total of 14,487 were built across 24 variations. It was designed by Sydney Camm, who was knighted for his achievements in 1953.
Many well-preserved examples still exist today, including about 12 fully operational craft that take part in displays and memorial flights.
The Hawker was the first RAF aircraft to achieve a speed of over 300mph. It was highly versatile, serving not just as a fighter aircraft but also a bomber and it could cope with almost any conditions, from freezing to tropical.
The Spitfire is arguably the most iconic aeroplane of WWII, and was pivotal in the success of the Battle of Britain of 1940. It first entered service in 1938, and a total of 20,341 were built, which is more than any other British combat aircraft.
It was considered to be the only British fighter plane capable of equalling the performance of the Messerschmitt Bf109E in air combat. A total of 24 variants were produced over the course of 1937 and 1947, with increasingly more powerful engines and a more aerodynamic shape.