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Handley Page Hampden

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The twin-engined Hampden would serve with Bomber Command in the first years of the Second World War, taking part in the first raid on Berlin in August 1940 and in Operation Millennium during May 1942. The Handley Page Hampden also served with Coastal Command, playing a part in the U-boat battle, before being phased out of service.

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 H.P.52, very different in appearance to its rival featuring a long narrow fuselage, which earned it the nickname 'Flying Suitcase', would have a crew of four made up of pilot, navigator/bomb-aimer, wireless operator and gunner. The Handley Page H.P.52 prototype flew for the first time, nearly fours years later, when it took to the skies on the 21st June 1936 with Major James Cordes at the controls.

With a new specification of B.30/36 the 15th August 1936 saw an order for 180 Handley Page Hampden Mk Is with the 24th May 1938 seeing the first production example flying. 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 under Specification B.44/36. Production of these would be handed over to Short Brothers and Harland and this aircraft would be renamed the Handley Page Hereford.

The Hampden Mk I was powered by a pair of 1,000-hp Bristol Pegasus XVIII engines which gave the aircraft a top speed of 254 mph, range of 1,885 miles with a service ceiling of 19,000 ft. Armament was six 0.303-in machine-guns with two firing forward and two each in the dorsal and ventral positions, bomb load was 4,000lb. 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.

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 1939 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. The aircraft would again be used in daylight raids during the Norwegian campaign but once again suffered heavy losses. 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.

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 on the 25th August 1940. Although the aircraft was coming to the end of its frontline service with Bomber Command in 1942, it would take part in Operation Millennium, the first 1,000 bomber raid by Bomber Command, on the 30th May 1942. This saw 1,047 aircraft of all types attack Cologne, Germany, with 41 aircraft lost and over 400 people killed. Its last Bomber Command operation on the 15th September 1942 saw No. 408 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force Hampdens take part in a raid on Wilhelmshaven, Germany. 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.

Serving with Coastal Command as a torpedo bomber, known as the Hampden TB Mk I, April 1942 saw Coastal Command begin to receive its first aircraft when No. 144 Squadron was transferred from Bomber Command, followed by No. 455 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force on the 27th April 1942. During its time with Coastal Command the Hampden would be used for convoy escort and maritime reconnaissance. By 1943 the Handley Page Hampden was beginning to be removed from service and No. 455 Squadron, RAAF 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.

Technical Details

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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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See This Aircraft

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

Hampden Mk I (C) Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre

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