Metal Detectorists Uncover Buried World War II-Era British Planes In Ukraine

Published July 11, 2023

The Hurricane planes were sent by Britain to the Soviet Union in 1941 to help the U.S.S.R. fight back against the Nazis.

British Hurricane Plane

Oleg Antonov State Aviation MuseumA British Hurricane aircraft, pictured during World War II.

This year, metal detectorists responding to reports of an unexploded World War II-era bomb in a forest near Kyiv, Ukraine stumbled upon the buried remains of eight British Hurricane fighter planes.

The planes, which also date back to World War II, are now rusting metal scraps, but researchers hope to clean them up and eventually place them on display in Ukraine’s Oleg Antonov State Aviation Museum.

Though it will be a while before the fragmented aircraft can be observed by the public, putting them on display may give future viewers the chance to draw parallels between World War II and the current Russia-Ukraine War.

Much like how the United Kingdom and the United States have sent aid to Ukraine as it fights back against Russia, Britain sent over 3,000 Hurricanes to the Soviet Union following Nazi Germany’s invasion of the region in 1941, using the United States’ Lend-Lease program, according to the BBC.

“The Hurricanes are a symbol of British assistance during the years of the Second World War, just as we are very appreciative of British assistance nowadays,” Valerii Romanenko, the head of research at Ukraine’s aviation museum in Kyiv, explained to the BBC. “The U.K. is one of the largest suppliers of military equipment to our country now.”

“In 1941 Britain was the first who supplied fighter aircraft to the Soviet Union in mass scale. Now the U.K. is the first country which gives Storm Shadow cruise missiles to our armed forces,” Romanenko added.

Hurricane Plane Excavation

Oleg Antonov State Aviation MuseumA volunteer excavates the rusted remains of one of the Hurricane airplanes.

The new discovery also allows experts to figure out the most likely reason why the eight long-lost British Hurricanes ended up buried in the woods. Because the stipulations of the Lend-Lease program required a country to pay for any donated planes that remained intact after World War II, some countries chose to dismantle and hide planes to avoid paying for them.

Though some Hurricanes were legitimately destroyed in battles against the Nazis and others were dismantled so that their parts could be reused, it’s most likely that these eight Hurricanes in particular were purposely broken apart and buried near modern-day Kyiv — which was then part of the Soviet Union. If the planes were considered “missing” by the rest of the world, then the Soviets wouldn’t have to pay the United States for the aircraft.

Before the secret burial, workers apparently stripped the planes of their instruments, radios, and machine guns before dumping them in the forest.

Though rumors have long circulated about where the planes ended up, they remained hidden until this year, and local researchers and aviation enthusiasts are excited at the prospect of recreating them.

Hurricane Plane Wreckage

Oleg Antonov State Aviation MuseumA pile of wreckage from the buried Hurricanes.

“It is very rare to find this aircraft in Ukraine,” Oleks Shtan, a former airline pilot who led the excavation, stated. “It’s very important for our aviation history because no Lend-Lease aircraft have been found here before.”

After all, the Hurricanes themselves were vital to the Allied war effort throughout World War II. During the Battle of Britain in 1940, Hurricanes were responsible for shooting down over half of the enemy aircraft.

“The Hurricane was a strong, easy-to-fly machine,” Shtan said, as reported by Live Science. “It was stable as a gun platform and suitable for inexperienced pilots.” After the war was over, however, the Hurricane quickly fell out of favor with aviators. Records show that most pilots saw them as under-powered and preferred to only use them for air defense work.

Today, only about 14 restored Hurricanes are capable of flying, making them a rare and desired collectible for museums and aviation enthusiasts.

After reading about the discovery of eight British Hurricane planes in Ukraine, read 27 facts that reveal the total devastation of World War II. Then, dive into the life story of Richard Bong, America’s best fighter pilot in World War II.

Amber Morgan
Amber Morgan is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Morgan, Amber. "Metal Detectorists Uncover Buried World War II-Era British Planes In Ukraine.", July 11, 2023, Accessed June 13, 2024.