The Albacore, like a number of other aircraft, was intended to replace the Swordfish. Seeing service in a number of different roles and theatres of war, the Fairey Albacore would be
retired from service before, and in some cases was replaced by, its predecessor.
During May 1937 the Air Ministry released Specification S.14/36, with this new aircraft expected to replace the Fairey Swordfish, and the result was the Albacore which was ordered into
production before a prototype had even flown. On the 12th December 1938 taking off from Fairey's Great West Aerodrome the first prototype flew and production started the following year,
the prototype would also be tested with floats during 1940 but no further development took place.
The Aircraft and Armament Experiment Establishment based at Martlesham Heath would receive the first production Fairey Albacore which they tested and found a number of problems with the
aircraft including heavy elevators and ailerons and conditions in the cockpit, the Albacore had an enclosed cockpit, were said to be uncomfortable in the front during summer and cold and
draughty in the rear. On the plus the Albacore was steady in the dive whilst carrying a torpedo and had a smooth recovery from the dive. The Albacore also suffered from an engine
development issue which saw the 1,130-hp Taurus XIII replace the 1,065-hp Bristol Taurus II that early versions of the plane had been fitted with.
The specially formed No. 826 Naval Air Squadron which would be based at RNAS Ford, Sussex received their twelve Albacores on the 15th March 1940 and were in action two months later when they attacked
road and rail targets at Westende and E-boats off the coast of Zeebrugge, Belgium on the 31st May. Nos. 829, 828 and 827 Squadrons would also be formed before the year was out and Nos.
826 and 829 would be stationed aboard HMS Formidable from the 26th November 1940. A year after the Albacore entered service they would fire torpedoes in action for the first time when
aircraft from Nos. 826 and 829 Squadrons attacked the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto.
At the peak of its service the Fairey Albacore equipped fifteen squadrons serving with the Fleet Air Arm during 1942 operating from the Arctic Circle, Western Desert, Mediterranean and
Indian Ocean. Operating in a number of different roles including anti-submarine patrol. Albacores would also feature alongside the Fairey Fulmar and Fairey Swordfish in an unsuccessful attack on
ships based at Kirkenes, Norway and Petsamo, Finland, the Albacore would also feature in the Allied invasion of North Africa.
The Fairey Albacore had been intended to replace the Swordfish however like the Blackburn Skua, which had also been intended to replace the Swordfish, it would be retired in 1944 whilst
the Swordfish stayed in service, and all Fleet Air Arm squadrons except one would have their Albacores replaced by the Fairey Barracuda with the Grumman Avenger equipping the other
squadron. Although some of the Albacores would be sent to No. 415 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force who used the aircraft on D-Day for operations in the English Channel. The Royal
Air Force would also use the type firstly with No. 36 Squadron based at Java during December 1941, although this squadron was captured in March 1942 by the Japanese. Then during 1943 - 45
with Nos. 415 and 119 Squadron before being replaced, ironically, by the Fairey Swordfish.
In production for four years 800 Fairey Albacores were produced.