Size: 37" x 33" Edition: 500 Subject: Hurricanes of 81 Sqn over Northern Russia.
From a remote and windswept airfield 15 miles north-west of Murmansk in the freezing Arctic wastelands, a small group of RAF Hurricane pilots held the Luftwaffe at bay. Richard Taylor’s evocative scene remembers the ‘forgotten’ heroes of Force Benedict as Hurricane IIbs from 81 Squadron tangle with Luftwaffe Bf109s over snow-clad forests as they escort Russian bombers in October 1941.
Following his failure to invade Britain, Hitler soon turned his predatory gaze to the East and his long-held desire to invade Russia. Ripping up his non-aggression pact with Stalin German forces crossed Russian soil on the 22 June 1941- Operation Barbarossa had begun. As the Red Army reeled before the onslaught, Stalin turned to Britain for help and urged Churchill to send him Spitfires. Churchill refused but sent two RAF Hurricane Squadrons instead. It was, however, to be a completely secret operation codenamed Force Benedict; Stalin refused to publicly admit his need for outside help.
By early September 1941 No. 151 Wing, consisting of 81 and 134 Squadrons, arrived at the remote airfield at Vaenga in the freezing north of Russia. From there they defended against Luftwaffe intruders, flew escort to the Soviet bombers and, importantly, trained the Russians how to fly the Hurricane before handing them over-the first of nearly 3,000 Hurricanes supplied to the Soviets during World War II. In their short, three month spell at Vaenga, the pilots of 151 Wing carried out 365 sorties and scored 14 victories.
Each print in Richard Taylor's Limited Edition, Arctic Hurricanes, is signed by the last two surviving Hurricane pilots who flew in Russia with Force Benedict, together with an eminent Luftwaffe Fighter Ace who fought against the Hurricanes of 151 Wing over Murmansk: Wing Commander JOHN ‘TIM’ ELKINGTON Warrant Officer ERIC CARTER Hauptmann KARL-FRITZ SCHLOSSSTEIN.