The Albacore was a single engined biplane torpedo bomber that would serve with the Fleet Air Arm. Used in a number of different theatres of war the Fairey Albacore would be in action during the
summer of 1940 and on D-Day during June 1944 before its retirement from frontline service in January 1945.
On the 8th September 1936 the Air Ministry released Specification M.7/36 with this new aircraft expected to replace the Fairey Swordfish.
After evaluating a number of designs eventually on the 11th February 1937 Fairey were given the green light to finesse their design to meet a different specification, S.41/36. The result was the
Albacore which was ordered into production before a prototype had even flown when an order for 100 aircraft was placed on the 6th May 1937.
On the 12th December 1938 taking off from Fairey's Great West Aerodrome, and with Flight Lieutenant Dixon at the controls, the first prototype flew. The Albacore would house a crew of three, pilot,
observer and air gunner and as the type would be operating aboard aircraft carriers it featured folding wings, back along the fuselage, and an arrestor hook. The aircraft would also be tested with
floats during March 1940 by the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment but no further development took place.
The Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment would test the Fairey Albacore 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. This was followed on the 23rd and 24th May 1939 with deck landing trials on HMS Ark Royal (91).
The Albacore Mk I would originally be powered by the 1,060-hp Bristol Taurus II engine before being replaced by the 1,130-hp Taurus XII engine. This gave the aircraft a top speed of 161 mph,
range of 930 miles with a service ceiling of 20,700 ft. Armament was either two or three 0.303-in machine-guns, one forward firing and one or two rear firing. Bomb load was either 2,000lb bombs or torpedoes.
The Fairey Albacore would enter service when on the 15th March 1940 No. 826 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Ford, was formed and equipped with twelve examples. It would be the same squadron who
performed the Albacore's first operational sortie when they attacked road and rail
targets at Westende, Belgium and E-boats off the coast of Zeebrugge, Belgium on the 31st May 1940. No. 829 Naval Air Squadron was formed the following month on the 15th June 1940 and No. 828 Naval
Air Squadron, RNAS Lee-on-Solent became the third Albacore squadron in September 1940 and from the 26th November 1940 Nos. 826 and 829 Naval Air Squadron would be stationed aboard HMS Formidable (67).
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. The Royal Air Force would also use the type firstly with No. 36 Squadron based at Java during December 1941.
No. 415 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, operating from RAF Manston, used the aircraft during Operation Overlord, commonly known as D-Day, on the 6th June 1944 for operations in the
English Channel, including laying smoke screens.
With newer aircraft now available all Fleet Air Arm squadrons except two would have their Albacores replaced by the Fairey Barracuda
with the Grumman Avenger equipping one squadron. The other squadron was No. 119 Squadron who relinquished their last Fairey Albacores in frontline Fleet Air Arm service on the 23rd January
1945 for, the aircraft it was meant to replace, the Fairey Swordfish.
In production for four years 803 Fairey Albacores were produced.