The Fairey Battle entered service in 1937 and introduced the Merlin I engine to Royal Air Force aircraft and would be credited with the first RAF air victory of World War 2 during
September 1939. However after suffering horrendous losses over four days during May 1940 the Fairey Battle was removed from front line service.
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 called 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.
|Battle Mk I
||one 0.303-in machine-gun
one Vickers 'K' gun
|Battle Mk II
|Battle Mk III
|Battle Mk T
|Battle Mk IIT
||One example prototype produced with a different engine in case Rolls-Royce Merlins became unavailable.