- Fairey Battle
manufacturer=Fairey Aviation Company, Ltd.
status=4 remain in museums
Royal Air Force
Belgian Air Force Royal Australian Air Force(trainer) Royal Canadian Air Force(trainer)
variants with their own articles=The Fairey Battle was a British single-engined
light bomberbuilt by the Fairey Aviation Companyin the late 1930s for the Royal Air Force. The Battle was powered by the same Rolls-Royce Merlinpiston engine that gave contemporary British fighters, [The Hawker Hurricaneand Supermarine Spitfire] high performance; however, the Battle was weighed down with a three-man crew and a bomb load. Despite being a vast improvement on the aircraft that preceded it, by the time it saw action it was slow, limited in range and highly vulnerable to attack. During the Battle of Francein 1940, the Fairey Battle recorded the first RAF aerial victory of the Second World War. Despite this claim, it sustained terrible casualties and was eventually pulled from the front lines, in 1941.
Design and development
The original Battle was designed to Specification P.27/32 as a two-seat day bomber, to replace the ageing
Hawker Hartand Hawker Hind biplanebombers. The prototype Battle first flew on 10 March1936. Mason 1994, p.285.] When the RAF embarked on the pre-war expansion programme the Battle became a priority production target with 2,419 orderedMoyes 1971, p.120.] and an initial production order placed for 155 Battles built to Specification P.23/35. The first of these aircraft was completed in June 1937 at Fairey's Stockportfactory and tested at their Manchester (Ringway) facility.
Production Battles were powered by the
Rolls Royce MerlinI, II, III and V, and took their Mark numbers from the powerplant (for example, a Battle Mk II was powered by a Merlin II). Subsequently the Austin Motors"Shadow Factory" at Longbridgemanufactured 1,029 aircraft to Specification P.32/36.
The Battle's standard payload of four 250 lb (110 kg) bombs was carried in cells inside the wings and an additional 500 lb of bombs could be carried on under-wing racks. Having replaced the RAF's
Hawker Harts and Hinds when it entered service in 1937 the Battle was even then obsolescent as fighter technology had outstripped the modest performance gains that the light bomber possessed over its biplane antecedents.Taylor 1969, p. 358.]
The first RAF squadron to be equipped with the Battles was No. 63 Sqn. in June, 1937. The Battle had the distinction of becoming the first operational aircraft to enter service with a Merlin engine, beating the
Hawker Hurricane's service début by a few months.
The Battle was obsolete by the start of the Second World War but remained a front line RAF bomber due to a lack of a suitable replacement. On
2 September 1939, during the " Phoney War", ten Battle squadrons were deployed to Franceto form a vanguard of the Advanced Air Striking Force. On 20 September1939 a German Messerschmitt Bf 109was shot down by Battle gunner Sgt. F. Letchard during a patrol near Aachen, marking the RAF's first aerial victory of the war. [ " [http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/rafhistorytimeline1939.cfm RAF Timeline 1939] . "Royal Air Force" Retrieved 24 July 2008.]
Nonetheless, the Battle was hopelessly outclassed by
Luftwaffefighters, being almost 100 mph slower than the contemporary Bf 109 at 14,000 feet. The Battle's defence consisted of a single .303 Vickers K machine gunmounted in the rear cockpit and a single forward-firing .303 Browning machine gun in the starboard wing.
Battle of Francebegan, Battles were called upon to perform unescorted, low-level tactical attacks against the advancing German army. This put the aircraft at risk of attack from Luftwaffe fighters and within easy range of the German Army's light anti-aircraft guns. In the first of two sorties carried out by Battles, on 10 May 1940, three out of eight aircraft were lost while, in the second sortie, 13 out of 32 went down, with the remainder suffering damage. Despite bombing from as low as 250 ft (76 m), their attacks had little impact on the German columns.
11 May, 15 Battles of the Belgian Air Forceattacked bridges over the Albert Canalon the River Meuse, losing ten aircraft, and in another RAF sortie that day only one Battle out of eight survived. During the following day, six Battles of 12 Squadron attacked the bridges, when four of the aircraft were destroyed. Two Victoria Crosses were awarded posthumously for the action—to Flying Officer Garland and air observer/navigator Sergeant Gray of Battle "P2204" coded "PH-K"—for pressing home the attack in spite of the heavy defensive fire. The third crewmember, rear gunner Leading Aircraftman Lawrence Reynolds, did not share the award. Garland's Battle destroyed one span of the bridge, although the German army quickly erected a pontoon bridgeto replace it.
14 May 1940, in a desperate attempt to stop German forces crossing the Meuse, the Advanced Air Striking Force launched an "all-out" attack by all available bombers against the German bridgehead and pontoon bridges at Sedan. The light bombers were swarmed by opposing fighters and were devastated. Out of a strike force of 63 Battles and 8 Bristol Blenheims, 40 (including 35 Battles) were lost. [ Richards, Dennis " [http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/UK-RAF-I/UK-RAF-I-5.html Royal Air Force 1939–1945: Volume I The Fight At Odds] ". London: HMSO, 1953. p. 120.] March 1998, p. 105.] After these abortive raids, the Battle was switched to mainly night attacks, with much lower losses. Richards 1995, p. 61.]
A similar situation would befall the German Luftwaffe during the early days of the
Battle of Britainwhen the Ju 87 Stuka divebombersuffered equivalent losses in a similar role. With the exception of the successful de Havilland Mosquito, Bristol Beaufighterand Douglas A-20, low-level attack missions passed into the hands of single-engined, multi-role fighter aircraft such as the Hawker Hurricane, Hawker Typhoonand P-47 Thunderbolt.
While the few remaining Fairey Battles were evacuated from France, for a short period of time, the RAF continued to rely on the light bomber. Reforming the No. 1 Group and later equipping some new Polish squadrons with the type, it continued to be deployed in cross-channel operations. The last operational sortie was mounted on the night of 15/16 October 1940 by No. 301 (Polish) Squadron in a raid on Boulogne, and Nos. 12 and 142 Squadrons bombing
Calais. Shortly after all Battle squadrons were re-equipped with more potent Vickers Wellingtonbombers. [Moyes 1971, p. 115.]
While the Fairey Battle was no longer used as a combat aircraft, its benign handling characteristics made it an ideal platform for testing engines and it was used in this role to evaluate engines up to 2,000 hp. As the dual-control Fairey Battle T, it served as a trainer. As the winch-equipped Fairey Battle TT (
target tug)it was used as a target-towing aircraft for training in air gunnery. The Battle served as a trainer with the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Forceand the South African Air Force. From August 1939, 739 Battles were stationed in Canada as trainers in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Most were used for bombing and gunnery training with a small number equipped as target tugs. Some aircraft had the rear cockpit replaced with a Bristol turret for turret-gunnery training.
Although the Fairey Battle was retired from active use in Canada after 1945, the Battle remained in RAF service in secondary roles until 1949.
Battle K9370 was used to test the
Fairey P.24 Monarch2,000+ hp aero-engine with electrically controlled three-bladed contra-rotating propellors in 1939. According to Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1946-47, the aircraft was shipped to the U.S.A. after 86 hours test time.
;Fairey Day Bomber: Prototype (K4303).;Battle Mk I: Three-seat light bomber version. This was the first production version, which was powered by a 1,030-hp (768-kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin I inline piston engine.;Battle Mk II: Three-seat light bomber version. Powered by a 1,030-hp (768-kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin II inline piston engine.;Battle Mk V: Three-seat light bomber version. Powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin V inline piston engine.;Battle T: After May 1940, a number of Battle Mk Is, IIs and Vs were converted into training aircraft.;Battle IT: After May 1940, a number of Battle Mk Is, IIs and Vs were converted into training aircraft with a turret installed in the rear.;Battle TT: After May 1940, a number of Battle Mk Is, IIs and Vs were converted into target tug aircraft; 100 built.;Battle TT.Mk I: Target tug version. This was the last production version; 226 built.
In total 2,185 Battles were built during the machine's production life; 1,156 by Fairey and 1,029 by the
Austin Motor Company. A further 18 were built under licence by Avions Fairey in Belgiumfor service with the Belgian Air Force.
There are only five examples of the Battle held by various museums, but none of them are in flying condition. The best known is that of "L5343" displayed at the
RAF Museumin Hendon. In July 1940 it was allocated to No. 98 RAF Squadron, after which it and other Battles were flown to Icelandfor anti-invasion operations in support of British forces which had occupied the island in May 1940. "L5343" was the first RAF aircraft to land on Icelandic soil, and crashed during subsequent operations. In 1972, the RAF embarked on a successful recovery operation to salvage the wreck and return it to the UK for restoration. The wreck of a further Battle was discovered in an Icelandic glacier in 1995, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1492359.stm BBC News: "Glacier reveals 60-year secrets"] ] although there are no plans to restore it.
Another airframe is on display at the
Canada Aviation Museumas a Battle T (marked as R7384/35), to represent the contribution the aircraft made to aircrew training in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. "R7384" was manufactured as a pilot trainer in 1940, and taken on strength by the RCAF in 1941. Converted to a turret-gunnery trainer in 1942, it was used until 1943, when it entered storage. After moving among several storage locations, the aircraft was transferred to the Canada Aviation Museum in 1964, and a final restoration program was completed in the 1990s. Although far from complete, another Canadian-based Battle trainer is currently being restored at the Commonwealth Air Training PlanMuseum at Brandon, Manitoba.
A fourth aircraft, currently under restoration, is part of the collection of the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History,
The South Australian Aviation Museum at
Port Adelaideis undertaking a restoration project using the remains of a Battle which was recovered from a tidal swamp near the Second World War RAAF training base at Port Piriein South Australia. [ [http://www.saam.org.au/SAAM.htm South Australian Aviation Museum] ]
Royal Australian Air Force– 364 planes;BEL: Belgian Air Force– 16 planes;CAN: Royal Canadian Air Force– 739 planes;IRL: Irish Air Corps;GRE: Hellenic Air Force;POL: Polish Air Forces on exile in Great Britain::No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron "Ziemi Mazowieckiej"::No. 301 Polish Bomber Squadron "Ziemi Pomorskiej"::No. 304 Polish Bomber Squadron "Ziemi Śląskiej im. Ks. Józefa Poniatowskiego"::No. 305 Polish Bomber Squadron "Ziemi Wielkopolskiej im. Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego";flag|South Africa|1928: South African Air Force;TUR: Turkish Army Air Force – 29 planes;UK: Royal Air Force
No. 12 Squadron RAF
No. 15 Squadron RAF
No. 35 Squadron RAF
No. 40 Squadron RAF
No. 52 Squadron RAF
No. 63 Squadron RAF
No. 88 Squadron RAF
No. 98 Squadron RAF
No. 103 Squadron RAF
No. 105 Squadron RAF
No. 106 Squadron RAF
No. 141 Squadron RAF
No. 142 Squadron RAF
No. 150 Squadron RAF
No. 185 Squadron RAF
No. 207 Squadron RAF
No. 218 Squadron RAF
No. 226 Squadron RAF
No. 234 Squadron RAF
No. 235 Squadron RAF
No. 239 Squadron RAF
No. 242 Squadron RAF
No. 245 Squadron RAF
No. 253 Squadron RAF
No. 266 Squadron RAF
No. 300 Squadron RAF
No. 301 Squadron RAF
No. 304 Squadron RAF
No. 305 Squadron RAF
No. 616 Squadron RAF
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
length main=42 ft 2 in
length alt=12.85 m
span main=54 ft 0 in
span alt=16.46 m
height main=15 ft 6 in
height alt=4.72 m
area main=422 ft²
area alt=39.2 m²
empty weight main=6,647 lb
empty weight alt=3,015 kg
loaded weight main=10,792 lb
loaded weight alt=4,895 kg
max takeoff weight main=
max takeoff weight alt=
type of prop=liquid-cooled
number of props=1
power main=1,030 hp
power alt=770 kW
max speed main=257 mph
max speed alt=223 knots, 414 km/h
max speed more=at 15,000 ft (4,570 m)
range main=1,000 mi
range alt=870 nm, 1,600 km
ceiling main=25,000 ft
ceiling alt=7,600 m
climb rate main=920 ft/min
climb rate alt=4.7 m/s
loading main=25.6 lb/ft²
loading alt=125 kg/m²
power/mass main=0.095 hp/lb
power/mass alt=157 W/kg
** 1× .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning
machine gunin starboard wing
** 1× .303 in
Vickers K machine gunin rear cabin
** 4× 250 lb (110 kg) bombs internally
** 500 lb (230 kg) of bombs externally
List of bomber aircraft
List of aircraft of the RAF
* Huntley, Ian D. "Fairey Battle, Aviation Guide 1". Bedford, UK: SAM Publications, 2004. ISBN 0-9533465-9-5.
* Lever, John. "Fairey Battle in the RAAF". Koorlong, Victoria, Australia: John Lever, 2002.
* March, Daniel M. "British Warplanes of World War II". London: Aerospace, 1998. ISBN 1874023 92 1.
* Mason, Francis K. "The British Bomber Since 1914". London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1994. ISBN 0-85177-861-5.
* Moyes, Philip, J.R. "The Fairey Battle." "Aircraft in Profile, Volume 2 (nos. 25–48)". Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications, 1971. ISBN 0-85383-011-8.
* Pacco, John. "Fairey Battle" "Belgisch Leger/Armee Belge: Het Militair Vliegwezen/l'Aeronautique Militare 1930-1940" (bilingual French/Dutch). Aartselaar, Belgium: J.P. Publications, 2003, pp. 52–55. ISBN 90-801136-6-2.
* Richards, Denis, "The Hardest Victory: RAF Bomber Command in the Second World War". London: Coronet, 1995. ISBN 0-340-61720-9.
* Shaile, Sidney and Ray Sturtivant. "The Battle File". Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1998. ISBN 0-85130-225-4.
* Taylor, John W. R. "Fairey Battle." "Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present". New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
* [http://www.austinmemories.com Austin & Longbridge Aircraft Production]
* [http://www.britishaircraft.co.uk/aircraftpage.php?ID=11 British Aircraft Directory entry]
* [http://www.jaapteeuwen.com/ww2aircraft/html%20pages/FAIREY%20BATTLE.htm British Aircraft of WWII]
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