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Fairey Battle

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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
Sorry, no image available
First flight
10th March 1936
Entered service
End of 1937
Total built

Front view
Battle front view photo
Side view
Battle side view photo
Rear view
Battle rear view photo

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 flown, which it did on the 10th March 1936. The aircraft would comprise a crew of three 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. It would be a Battle of No. 88 Squadron that recorded the first Royal Air Force aerial victory of the Second World War when it shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109 on the 20th September 1939.

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 begin to be removed from front line service with the 15th October 1940 seeing the type perform its last combat sortie for the Royal Air Force 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, 2,198 Fairey Battles had been built.


Click on the aeroplane image to view a larger version.

Max Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Battle Mk I 257 mph 1,100 miles 25,000 ft one 0.303-in machine-gun
one Vickers 'K' gun
1,500lb bombs
Battle Mk II Like the Mk I but powered by a 1,030-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin II.
Battle Mk III Like the Mk I but powered by a 1,310-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin III.
Battle Mk V Like the Mk I but powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin V.
Battle Mk IV Like the Mk I but powered by a pressure water cooling Rolls-Royce Merlin.
Battle T Training aircraft.
Battle IT Training aircraft with a rear turret installed.
Battle IIT One prototype with a 840-hp Wright Cyclone R-1820-G38 engine which was to be used if Rolls-Royce Merlins became unavailable.
Battle TT Target tug.


Click on a photo to view a larger version.

On Display

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Variant Location
Battle Mk I Royal Air Force Museum, London

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