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Fairey Battle

Entering service in 1937 the Battle would be the first aircraft in Royal Air Force service powered by the Merlin I engine, and would also be credited with the first RAF air victory of World War 2 during September 1939. However the Fairy Battle was removed from front line service after suffering horrendous losses over four days during May 1940.
Quick facts
Prototype flew
10th March 1936
Entered service
End of 1937
Total built
2,185
Front view
Side view
Rear view


Designed to meet Air Ministry Specification P.27/32 for a monoplane, single engined, two-seater bomber, able to fly 1,000 miles with a speed of 200 mph whilst carrying a bomb load of 1,000lb, the aircraft was to be designed by Marcel Lobelle. With a revised Specification P.23/35 a production order for just over 150 aircraft was placed during 1935, before the Battle prototype had been flown. However on the 10th March 1936 the Fairey Battle Prototype flew, and had accommodation for three crew members, the pilot, navigator and rear gunner.

When the first production aircraft was built, on the 14th April 1937, it went through performance trials where it achieved a speed of 243 mph, comfortably beating the specified 200 mph, and flew 1,050 miles with a full bomb load. One major design flaw with the Fairey Battle was with the rear gunners position, as the screen intended to protect him, was poorly designed and as result a downdraught was deflected into his face, making rear visibility poor.

Whilst both the prototype and first production Battles were built at Hayes, future planes would be built at a brand new factory in Heaton Chapel, Stockport, before also being built by Austin Motors based at Longbridge, Birmingham after winning a sub-contract as a result of further orders for Battles being placed. it was with the Fairey Battle that the Merlin I engine would be introduced to RAF aircraft, as the very first order for this famous engine was placed for the Battle.

As 1937 drew to a close Fairey Battles had started to enter RAF service, firstly with No. 63 Squadron at Upwood, Huntingdonshire, before equipping Nos. 52, 88, 105 and 226. Meaning that at the start of World War Two, the RAF could call on over 1,000 Battles, and as with other aircraft a number were sent to France as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force. Recording the first RAF air victory of the Second World War, when on the 20th September 1939, a Messerschmitt BF109 was shot down.

However the following year, during May 1940, the Fairey Battle was to show it shortcomings and suffered heavy losses, during four days in May on four different missions out of a total of 118 aircraft sent on these missions, just over half the aircraft, 60, were lost. During one of these missions on the 12th May 1940 Flying Officer D.E. Garland and Sergeant T. Gray became the first RAF recipients of the Victoria Cross, which were awarded posthumously. These disastrous few days saw the Battle removed from front line service and all remaining Fairey Battle squadrons were equipped with the Vickers Wellington. The rest of the aircraft were used in a number of other roles, including target tugs, trainers and gunnery training, and some served as test-beds for other engines and propellers.

By the time the last production aircraft was delivered on the 2nd September 1940, as a target tug, 2,185 Fairey Battles had been built.



Technical Details

Plane Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Battle Mk I 257 mph 1,000 miles 25,000 ft one 0.303-in machine-gun
one Vickers 'K' gun
1,000lb bombs
Battle Mk II 252 mph 1,200 miles 26,000 ft 1,500lb bombs
Battle Mk III Unused designation.
Battle Mk V
Battle Mk T Training aircraft.
Battle Mk IIT One example prototype produced with a different engine in case Rolls-Royce Merlins became unavailable.
Battle Mk TT Target tug.


Photos



Museum Locations

Royal Air Force Museum, London
Battle Mk I





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