Paper Plane

Peter Lewis explains why an exotically painted Hunter has been taken to heart by a Swiss community

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Hawker Hunter F.58 J-4040 in flight over Switzerland.
ALL PETER LEWIS

COLD WAR JETS HAWKER HUNTER

Imagine a rural Swiss village deep in the Alps. Small wooden chalets and dark conifer trees lining a valley, set against a backdrop of magnificent mountains. Green fields peppered with yellow flora waving gently as a breeze drifts down from glaciers. All this and more exists in the Obersimmental in the Bernese Oberland region south of Lake Thun, nestled in the heartland of the small nation.

It was in this locale that military planners seeking new airfields in the 1940s found what they were looking for on the plain next to the village of Matten. A grass runway gave way to a hardened strip, part of the ‘Réduit’ – the national redoubt – the centre of Switzerland’s defensive fortress policy as it stood against the Axis powers surrounding the land-locked country.

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