Major progress is evident on the RAF Museum Cosford’s restoration of Handley Page Hampden P1344. All four fuselage components are now fully assembled, attached and painted in this aircraft’s original No 144 Squadron colour scheme.
As is well known, P1344 was recovered from a crash site in northern Russia in 1991. It had been shot down on the night of 5 September 1942, being one of nine Hampdens lost out of 32 that departed Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands bound for northern Russia to provide protection for the Arctic convoys. The wreckage lay on the Kola Peninsula, undiscovered for almost half a century.
The restoration has seen the RAFM’s aircraft technicians building a large section of the Hampden from scratch using original Handley Page pre-production drawings from the late 1930s and, where possible, measurements taken from the partial wreckage remaining from the original aircraft. Since it was last viewed by the public some 12 months ago, restoration has progressed significantly and the unmistakable Hampden silhouette can now be seen. Damage to the tail boom was structurally too much to repair and a new tail was built in-house. Within the last few weeks this newly constructed section has been painted by the museum’s surface finish technician and attached to the original rear fuselage, which still bears the marks of bullet holes from the night it was shot down. Adding the tailplane, which is 30-40 per cent original, and the newly constructed forward fuselage, P1344 is one of only two Hampdens worldwide, the other being on display at the Canadian Museum of Flight in Vancouver, while there is a nose section in the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby, Lincolnshire.
RAF Museum Michael Beetham Conservation Centre manager Darren Priday said, “We’re delighted with how the Hampden, a lesser-known aircraft of the RAF inventory, is finally coming together after all these years. We are currently trying to source an original rear undercarriage and tailwheel, but if one can’t be found it will be replicated and made in the centre. The aircraft has been populated internally with items from the museum’s reserve collection and the next 12 months will see work commence on manufacturing flying control wires to enable the elevator and rudder to move, as well as fabricating new bomb bay doors.”
P1344 will be one of the aircraft on display during the conservation centre open week taking place at Cosford from 12-18 November. Other projects include the Westland Lysander, Vickers Wellington, Range Safety Launch, Dornier Do 17 and LVG C.VI. The centre will open between 10.15 and 13.00hrs each day and admission costs £5.00 per person (children under 16 are free and must be accompanied by an adult). The museum’s other hangars, entry to which is free of charge, will be open from 10.00 until 16.00hrs. For further information, visit www.rafmuseum.org/cosford.