28 July 2009

On 7 September 1941 the first 24 Hawker Hurricanes arrived at Vaenga-Pervaya airfield near Murmansk to form Royal Air Force's 151 Wing composed of both No. 81 and No. 134 Squadrons. This first group was departed the carrier HMS Argus which delivered them into the Soviet Arctic. The rest of the wing's aircraft arrived five days later via cargo ship at the port of Murmansk and the 40 Hawker Hurricanes flown by RAF pilots was code-named Force Benedict.

For over a month the RAF pilots of the two squadrons flew combat missions over the Kola Peninsula against the Luftwaffe and also flew escort missions for the bombers of the Soviet Union's Northern Fleet Air Force. Fifteen Luftwaffe aircraft were shot down with only the loss of one pilot and one Hurricane.

On 11 October 1941 Soviet Admiral Nikolai Kuznetsov signed an order creating the 78th IAP (Fighter Air Regiment) to operate the RAF's Hurricanes after the RAF pilots departed back for the UK. Four days later the 78th IAP (made up of three squadrons) was declared operational and became the first unit in the Soviet Air Force to operate foreign aircraft in wartime.

Source: Aeroplane Monthly, September 2007. "A Biting North Wind" by Yuriy Rubin, p23.

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