Stalin asked for Spitfires but Churchill refused, insisting they were too precious. He hatched a plan to instead ship out 550 Hawker Hurricane fighters — less agile than the Spitfire but more heavily armed.
“They had eight machine guns,” Eric recalled of the Hurricane. “A two–second burst was a heck of a thing. It would blow a hole through a battleship.”
They were based at the Vaenga aerodrome ten miles outside the port.
Yet despite the daily Luftwaffe attacks, they launched a staggering 365 sorties — averaging three missions a day — while also training Russian pilots to fly their Hurricanes.
One of the Russian fighter pilots, Zakhar Sorokin, downed a Messerschmitt by ramming it with his Hurricane before crash-landing miles from their base, and it took Sorokin a week to find his way back in -40C temperatures. He lost both feet to frostbite but was fitted with prostheses and continued to fly, shooting down nine more Luftwaffe planes.