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Handley Page Hampden

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During its time in service with the Royal Air Force the twin-engined Hampden fulfilled a variety of roles and also took part in the first raid over Berlin. By mid 1943 the Handley Page Hampden was being phased out of service, but would still play a part in the U-boat battle.

Quick Facts
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First flight
21st June 1936
Entered service
20th September 1938
Total built

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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When the Air Ministry issued Specification B.9/32 during September 1932 which called for a twin-engined bomber Handley Page submitted their H.P.52 design which would compete against Vickers 271 design, which would go on to become the Vickers Wellington. The Handley Page prototype flew for the first time nearly four years later when it took to the skies on the 21st June 1936 featuring a long narrow fuselage and three machine-guns, which were manually operated, the Hampden was very different in appearance to its rival, with a top speed of 254 mph and a range of 1,200 miles it was able to carry a bomb load of 4,000lb and featured a landing speed of only 73 mph thanks to its leading edge slots.

With a new specification of B.30/36 the 15th August 1936 saw an order for 180 Handley Page Hampdens with the first production prototype example flying the following year. Finally during May 1938 the first production Hampden flew from Radlett and the following month on the 24th June 1938 the Viscountess Hampden officially christened the type. At the same time of the original order for 180 aircraft another order for 100 aircraft this time powered by the Napier Dagger engine was placed, however production would be handed over to Short Brothers and Harland based in Belfast and this aircraft would be re-named the Handley Page Hereford.

As was standard the new aircraft was sent to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath for trials and this was followed by trials at the Central Flying School based at RAF Upavon. Following the completion of this the Royal Air Force began to receive their new aircraft and the first to receive the new type were No. 49 Squadron based at RAF Scampton, who at the time were using the Hawker Hind, on the 20th September 1938 and by the time the Second World War (1939 - 1945) broke out in September 1939 ten squadrons were using the Hampden and early reconnaissance operations were completed during the same month. However on the 29th September eleven Hampdens were undertaking reconnaissance duties over the Heligoland Bight area when five of the aircraft were shot down by enemy fighters and as a result the type was moved to night time operations. Despite this early setback the Handley Page Hampden soon found its niche as a minelayer with a total of 1,209 sorties flown by the close of 1940. The aircraft would again be used in daylight raids during the Norwegian campaign but once again suffered heavy losses.

Over the next two years the Hampden played a role in the Royal Air Forces bombing offensive, including taking part in the first raid on Berlin, Germany, finally moving to serve with Coastal Command as a torpedo-bomber, after its last Bomber Command operation on the 15/16th September 1942, although shortly before this a number of Hampdens were sent to serve as protection for convoys in North Russia however this was beset with problems as of the thirty two aircraft, flying from the Shetlands on the 4th September 1942, sent only twenty three would arrive so instead the Russians were given the aircraft.

By 1943 the Handley Page Hampden was beginning to be removed from service and No. 455 Squadron based at RAF Sumburgh were the last squadron to use the type for operations before they received Bristol Beaufighters.

By the time production of the Hampden stopped 1,432 of the type had been produced and had also seen service with the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force.

Also see Handley Page Hereford


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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Hampden Mk I 254 mph 1,885 miles 19,000 ft six 0.303-in machine-guns
4,000lb bombs


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On Display

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

Variant Location
Hampden Mk I (C) Lincoln Aviation Heritage Centre

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