British Bombers and Transport aircrafts

Discussion in 'Aircraft Pictures' started by gekho, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    RAF Bomber Command was the organisation that controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II, the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s was at the peak of its postwar power with the V bombers and a supplemental force of Canberra light bombers. RAF Bomber Command had 19 Victoria Cross winners. In August 2006, a memorial was unveiled at Lincoln Cathedral. A Memorial is also proposed for Green Park in London to highlight the price paid by the aircrews.

    At the start of World War II in 1939, Bomber Command faced three problems. The first was lack of size; Bomber Command was not large enough to effectively attack the enemy as a pure, stand-alone strategic force. The second was rules of engagement; at the start of the war, the targets allocated to Bomber Command were not wide enough in scope. The third problem was the Command's lack of technology; specifically radio or radar derived navigational aids to allow accurate target location and thus bombing.

    When the war began on 1 September 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the then-neutral United States, issued an appeal to the major belligerents to confine their air raids to military targets. The French and British agreed to abide by the request, which included the provision "that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents". The United Kingdom's policy was to restrict bombing to military targets and infrastructure such as ports and railways which were of military importance. While acknowledging that bombing Germany would cause civilian casualties, the British government renounced deliberate bombing of civilian property (outside combat zones) as a military tactic. The British abandoned this policy at the end of the Phony War on 15 May 1940, one day after the Rotterdam Blitz.

    The British Government did not want to violate its agreement by attacking civilian targets outside combat zones, and the French were even more concerned lest Bomber Command operations provoke a German bombing attack on France. Since the Armée de l'Air had few modern fighters and no defence network comparable to the British chain of radar stations, France was effectively prostrate before the threat of a German bombing attack. The final problem was lack of good enough aircraft. The main Bomber Command workhorses at the start of the war had been designed as tactical-support medium bombers, and none of them had enough range or ordnance capacity for anything more than a limited strategic offensive.

    Bomber Command became even smaller after the declaration of war. No. 1 Group, with its squadrons of Fairey Battles, left for France to form the Advanced Air Striking Force. This was for two reasons; to give the British Expeditionary Force some air striking power, and to allow the Battles to operate against German targets - it lacked the range to do so from British airfields. The Sitzkrieg (or Phony War) mainly affected the army. However, to an extent, Bomber Command too saw little combat during the first few months of hostilities. Bomber Command flew many operational missions, and lost aircraft, but it did virtually no damage to the enemy. Most of the missions either failed to find their targets, or were leaflet-dropping missions (the first flights by RAF bombers over the German homeland were only to drop propaganda leaflets at night). The attack in the west in May 1940 changed everything.

    The Fairey Battles of the Advanced Air Striking Force were partially disabled by German strikes on their airfields at the opening of the invasion of France. However, far from all of the force was caught on the ground. The Faireys proved to be horrendously vulnerable to enemy fire. Many times, Battles would set out to attack, and be almost wiped out in the process. Due to French paranoia about being attacked by German aircraft during the "Phony War", the Battle force had actually trained over German airspace at night.

    Following the German Rotterdam Blitz of 14 May 1940, RAF Bomber Command was authorized to attack German targets east of the Rhine on May 15, 1940; the Air Ministry authorized Air Marshal Charles Portal to attack targets in the Ruhr, including oil plants and other civilian industrial targets which aided the German war effort, such as blast furnaces (which at night were self-illuminating). The first attack took place on the night of 15/16 May, with 96 bombers setting off to attack targets east of the Rhine, 78 of which were against oil targets. Of these, only 24 claimed to have found their targets. Bomber Command's strategic bombing campaign on Germany had thus begun.

    Bomber Command itself soon fully joined in the action. With the rapid collapse of France, invasion of England seemed a clear and present danger. As its part in Battle of Britain, Bomber Command was assigned to pound the invasion barges and fleets assembling in the Channel ports. This was much less high profile than the battles of the Spitfires and Hurricanes of RAF Fighter Command, but still vital and dangerous work. From July 1940 to the end of the year, Bomber Command lost nearly 330 aircraft and over 1,400 aircrew killed, missing or captured.

    Bomber Command was also indirectly responsible, in part at least, for the switch of Luftwaffe attention away from Fighter Command to bombing civilian targets. A German bomber on a raid got lost due to poor navigation and bombed London. Churchill consequently ordered a retaliatory raid on the German capital of Berlin. The damage caused was minor, but the raid sent Hitler into a rage. He ordered the Luftwaffe to level British cities, thus precipitating the Blitz. Like the United States Army Air Forces later in the war, Bomber Command had first concentrated on a doctrine of "precision" bombing in daylight. However, when well-organised German defence cut several British raids to pieces in late 1939, a switch to night attack tactics was forced upon the Command. The problems of enemy defences were then replaced with the problems of simply finding the target. It was common in the early years of the war for bombers relying on dead reckoning navigation to miss entire cities. Surveys of bombing photographs and other sources published during August 1941 indicated that less than one bomb in ten fell within 5 miles (8.0 km) of its intended target. One of the most urgent problems of the Command was thus to develop technical navigational aids to allow accurate bombing.
     
  2. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    The Vickers Type 163 was a prototype British biplane bomber design of the 1930s built by Vickers-Armstrong. It was based on the Vickers Vanox (Vickers "Type 150") scaled up to take four engines in paired mountings. It was submitted both as a bomber and as a troop carrier to Air Ministry specifications B.19/27 and C.16/28 respectively first flying on 12 January 1931. Only one was produced.
     

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  3. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    The Heyford was built to Air Ministry specification B.19/27 for a heavy night bomber to replace the Vickers Virginia, competing with the Vickers Type 150 and the Fairey Hendon designs. The prototype, the Handley Page HP.38, was designed by Handley Page's lead designer G R Volkert and first flew on 12 June 1930 at Handley Page's factory at Radlett, powered by two 525 hp (390 kW) Rolls-Royce Kestrel II engines driving two-blade propellers.

    The aircraft was of mixed construction having fabric-covered metal-frame wings, while the fuselage had an aluminium monocoque forward section with a fabric-covered frame to the rear, with open positions for the pilot and both the nose and dorsal gunners. The Heyford had a novel configuration, with the fuselage attached to the upper wing and the bomb bay in the thickened centre lower wing. This provided a good defensive field of fire for the nose and dorsal guns as well as the ventral retractable "dustbin" turret, each equipped with a single .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun. The fixed undercarriage consisted of large, spat-covered wheels. The design allowed ground crews to safely attach bombs while the engines were running, but the result was that the pilot was some 17 ft (5 m) off the ground.

    The HP.38 proved successful during service trials at Martlesham Heath and with No. 10 Squadron RAF and was chosen as the winner of the B19/27 competition, being ordered as the HP.50 Heyford. Production Heyford Is were fitted with 575 hp (429 kW) Kestrel III engines and retained the two-blade propellers, while the IAs had four-blade propellers. Engine variations marked the main Mk II and III differences; the former being equipped with 640 hp (480 kW) Kestrel IVs, supercharged to 695 hp (518 kW) in the Heyford III.
     

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  4. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    The Heyford I entered service with No. 99 Squadron RAF, at RAF Upper Heyford in November 1933,[2] and later with No. 10 Squadron and 7 Squadron, re-equipping with the Heyford IA and II in August 1934 and April 1935 respectively. As part of the RAF's Expansion scheme, orders were placed for 70 Heyford IIIs in 1936, with steam condenser-cooled Rolls-Royce Kestrel VI engines. The delivery of these aircraft allowed the RAF to have nine operational Heyford Squadrons by the end of 1936.

    These squadrons of Heyfords formed the major part of Bomber Command's night bomber strength in the late 1930s. Heyfords flew many long night exercises, sometimes flying mock attacks against targets in France. Disaster struck on one of these long-range exercises on 12 December 1936, when a flight of seven Heyfords of No. 102 Squadron RAF flying from Northern Ireland, encountered fog and icy weather conditions as they approached their base at RAF Finningley, Yorkshire. Four crashed and two had to make forced landings resulting in three crewmen killed and three injured.

    The Heyford started to be replaced in 1937, with the arrival in service of Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys and Vickers Wellesleys, finally being retired from frontline service in 1939. Some remained flying until 1940 as bombing and gunnery trainers, being declared obsolete in July 1939.[6] At least two examples found experimental use; one for airborne radar and the other for inflight refuelling, and it is reported that one was still flying as late as 1944.
     

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  5. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    The Overstrand was essentially an upgrade of Boulton Paul's Sidestrand which had first flown in 1928 and like the Sidestrand was named for a village in Norfolk, home also of Boulton Paul's Norwich factory. The Sidestrand was similar to its First World War predecessors in that it had open cockpits and hand-operated defensive machine guns. However, unlike its predecessors, the Sidestrand could fly at 140 mph (225 km/h) making operating the exposed gun positions difficult, particularly in the aircraft's nose. To overcome this problem, the Overstrand was fitted with an enclosed and powered nose turret mounting a single Lewis gun. As such the Overstrand was the first RAF aircraft to have a power-operated turret. Rotation was handled by pneumatic motors while elevation and depression of the gun used hydraulic rams. The pilot's cockpit was also enclosed but the dorsal and ventral gun positions remained open, though shielded.

    The first Overstrand, at the time designated the Sidestrand Mk IV, flew in 1933, powered by two 580 hp (430 kW) Bristol Pegasus IM.3 engines, instead of the Sidestrand's 460 hp (340 kW) Bristol Jupiters, and was capable of 153 mph (246 km/h). The bombload was also increased to 1,500 lb (680 kg). The conversion was a succes and three more Sidestrands were modified using the 580 hp (430 kW) Bristol Pegasus II.M3. 24 Overstrands were produced and in 1936 began replacing the Sidestrand in service. The Overstrand was operated by No. 101 Squadron RAF (which had been the sole Sidestrand squadron) and briefly by No. 144 Squadron RAF (though they were replaced by Bristol Blenheims in 1938).

    At the outbreak of the Second World War, 11 Overstrands remained in service and six of these were used for gunnery training. They remained in operation until May 1941 though flying was limited following the mid-air breakup of Overstrand K8173 on 22 April 1940. There were plans to develop a version with retractable undercarriage, dubbed the P.80 "Superstrand", but the project was abandoned.
     

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  6. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    The design originated from the Air Ministry Specification G.4/31 which called for a general purpose aircraft, capable of carrying out level bombing, army co-operation, dive bombing, reconnaissance, casualty evacuation and torpedo bombing. The Vickers Type 253, which used a radical geodesic airframe construction that was derived from that used by Barnes Wallis in the airship R100, was tested against the specification along with the Fairey G.4/31, Westland PV-7, Handley Page HP.47, Armstrong Whitworth A.W.19, Blackburn B-7, Hawker P.V.4 and the Parnall G.4/31. The Type 253 was declared the winner, with 150 being ordered.

    The Vickers Type 246 monoplane, which used the same geodetic design principles for both the fuselage and wings, was then built as a private venture, first flown at Brooklands by Chief Test Pilot J "Mutt" Summers, on 19 June 1935 and offered to the RAF. This had superior performance, but did not attempt to meet the multi-role requirements of the specification, being designed as a bomber only. An initial order for 96 Type 246s was substituted for the Type 253 order. The RAF ultimately ordered a total of 176 as the Wellesley, to a newly written specification 22/35, with a 14-month production run starting in March 1937.

    The Wellesley was a single-engine monoplane with a very high aspect ratio wing, and a manually-operated, retractable undercarriage. As it was not known how the geodetic structure could cope with being disrupted by a bomb bay, the Wellesley's bomb load was carried in two streamlined panniers under the wings. The Wellesley Mk I had two separate cockpits, but this was changed in the Wellesley Mk II to a single-piece cockpit canopy covering both the pilot and navigator positions.

    The RAF received its first Wellesleys in April 1937, serving with No.76 Squadron at Finningley, and eventually equipped six RAF Bomber Command squadrons in the UK. Five aircraft with provisions for three crew members were modified for long-range work with the RAF Long-Range Development Flight. Additional modifications included the fitting of Pegasus XXII engines and extra fuel tanks. On 5 November 1938, three of them under command of S/L R. Kellett flew non-stop for two days from Ismailia, Egypt to Darwin, Australia (7,162 mi/11,525 km) setting a world distance record. All three aircraft succeeded in breaking the existing record, but No. 2 aircraft landed in West Timor, 500 mi (800 km) short of the final objective. The Wellesley's record remained unbroken until November 1945. To this day, though, this flight remains the longest by a single engined aircraft.

    By the outbreak of the Second World War, the Wellesley had been phased out from home based squadrons, with only four examples remaining in Britain,[2] but remained in service with three squadrons based in the Middle East.[6] Following the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940, the remaining Wellesley squadrons became involved in the East African Campaign against Italian forces in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somaliland. Sudan based Wellesleys carried out their first bombing mission on 11 June 1940 against Asmara in Eritrea. Although obsolete, the Wellesley formed a major part of the British Commonwealth's available bomber forces, mainly carrying out raids against Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia. In the early part of the campaign, fighter escort was not available, and when caught by Fiat CR.42s, proved vulnerable to the Italian biplane fighter. Despite this, the Wellesley continued to be used for bombing raids, bombing Addis Ababa from Aden on 18 August. The Wellesley continued in use against the Italians over East Africa until November 1941, when Gondar, the last Italian held town, fell to Commonwealth and Ethiopian forces. The final Wellesley equipped unit, 47 Squadron was then switched to carrying out maritime reconnaissance duties over the Red Sea, continuing in this role until September 1942.

    While the Wellesley was not a significant combat aircraft, the design principles that were tested in its construction were put to good use with the Wellington medium bomber that became one of the main types of Bomber Command in the early years of the European war. In February 1940, three Wellesleys (K7728, K7735 and K8531) were sold to Egypt to serve in the Royal Egyptian Air Force
     

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  7. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Nice shots! We certainly didn't have good looking aircraft in the early 1930's...
     
  8. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    The Armstrong Whitworth Whitley was the only heavy bomber available to the RAF at the outbreak of the Second World War. Together with the Vickers Wellington and Handley Page Hamden medium bombers, the Whitley had the unenviable task of taking the war to Germany, at a time when navigation at night over such long distances was at best hit and miss. The Whitley was a very distinctive aircraft, with a sharp, angular appearance and very odd looking flight profile – the wings were angled slightly upwards, so in level flight the Whitley looked to be pointing downwards.

    Although it was slow, it was rugged and reliable, and when it was new it carried a heavy bomb load. The Whitley was developed in response to a Air Ministry Specification (B.3/34) issued in July 1934. Armstrong Whitworth produced a two engined aircraft, with a stressed-skin construction, powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Tiger radial engine, driving three blade, variable pitch propellers. The first prototype flew on 17 March 1936. The Whitley was selected to be the standard RAF heavy bomber, and an order for eighty aircraft was placed. Production of the Whitley stopped in June 1943, after 1,814 of all versions had been produced.
     

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  9. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    Bomber command used the Whitley from March 1937, when No.10 Squadron converted to the new type, until April 1942 when it was officially retired from front line service. At first the RAF avoided bombing operations over Germany, so the Whitney Mk III saw most service dropping leaflets over Germany.
    Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.I K7208 with Merlin engines

    That changed with the German onslaught in May 1940. The Whitley was still the only heavy bomber available to the RAF (the first of the four engined heavies, the Short Stirling did not enter service until early 1941). It achieved several notable firsts – the first bombs dropped on Germany during a raid near München Gladbach on 11-12 May 1940, the first bombs dropped on Berlin on 25-26 August 1940 and the first raid over Italy on 11-12 June 1940. However this was the period where Bomber Command raids were inaccurate at best. The Whitley's low speed made it increasingly vulnerable, and it was officially retired from front line service with bomber command in April 1942, although a number did take place in the thousand bomber raid on Cologne on 30 May 1942, when every available aircraft was needed to reach the target number of bombers.

    The Whitley was also used with paratroops and as a glider tug. Its most famous exploit was probably the raid on the German radar station at Bruneval on 27-28 February 1942, when Whitleys of No. 51 Squadron carried the paratroopers. The Whitley also served with Coastal Command. In September 1939 No. 58 Squadron briefly served on coastal patrol duties, before returning to Bomber Command. The first Coastal Command squadron to receive the Whitley was No. 502, replacing its Avro Ansons in October 1940. The Mk VII was a dedicated maritime patrol aircraft, with greater range and air-to-surface radar. On 30 November 1941, a Mk VII of No. 502 Squadron achieved the Whitley’s first U-boat kill. The Whitley was phased out of Coastal Command early in 1944.
     

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  10. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #10 gekho, Nov 24, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2011
    The Whitley first entered service with No. 10 Squadron in March 1937, replacing Handley Page Heyford biplanes, and by the outbreak of the Second World War, seven squadrons were operational with the Whitley. The majority were flying Whitley IIIs or IVs as the Whitley V had only just been introduced.

    Along with the Handley Page Hampden and the Vickers Wellington, Whitleys bore the brunt of the early fighting, and saw action on the first night of the war when they dropped leaflets over Germany. Amongst the many aircrew who flew the Whitley in operations over Germany was the later to be famous Leonard Cheshire who spent most of his first three years at war flying Whitleys. However, unlike the Hampden and Wellington – which met specification B.9/32 for a day bomber – the Whitley was always intended for night operations, and so did not share the early heavy losses received in attempted daylight raids on German shipping early in the war. Along with Hampdens, the Whitley made the first bombing raid on German soil on the night of 19/20 March 1940, attacking the Hornum seaplane base on the Island of Sylt. Whitleys also carried out the first RAF raid on Italy on 11/12 June 1940. As the oldest of the three bombers, the Whitley was obsolete by the start of the war, yet over 1,000 more were produced before a suitable replacement was found. A particular problem with the twin-engine aircraft was that it could not maintain altitude on one engine.

    With Bomber Command, Whitleys flew 8,996 operations, dropped 9,845 tons (8,931 tonnes) of bombs with 269 aircraft lost in action. The Whitley was retired from all front line service in late 1942 but it continued to operate as a transport for troops and freight, as well as for paratroop training and towing gliders. No. 100 Group RAF used Whitleys to carry airborne radar and electronic counter-measures.The British Overseas Airways Corporation operated 15 Whitley Mk Vs converted into freighters in 1942. Running night supply flights from Gibraltar to Malta, they took seven hours to reach the island, often landing during air attacks. They used large quantities of fuel for a small payload and were replaced in August 1942 by the Lockheed Hudson, with the 14 surviving examples being returned to the Royal Air Force.

    The long-range Coastal Command Mk VII variants were among the last to see front line service, with the first kill attributed to them being the sinking of the German U-boat U-751, on 17 July 1942 in combination with a Lancaster heavy bomber. Having evaluated the Whitley in 1942, the Fleet Air Arm operated a number of modified ex-RAF Mk VIIs from 1944–46 to train aircrew in Merlin engine management and fuel transfer procedures.
     

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  11. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Great! I love British Bombers, esp the early ones.
     
  12. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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  13. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #13 gekho, Nov 25, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2011
    The Handley Page Hampden was one of the three twin engined bombers in RAF service at the outbreak of the Second World War, along with the Vickers Wellington and Armstrong Whitworth Whitley. Like the Wellington, the Hampden was developed in response to Air Ministry specification B.9/32 of September 1932. This called for a twin engined bomber of a significantly higher performance than had been seen before. By the time the two aircraft were in production, both the Wellington and the Hampden were much improved on the specification.

    Handley Page developed a modern stressed skinned mid wing monoplane, eventually powered by Bristol Pegasus radial air cooled engines. It had the most advanced wings available at the time, giving it a remarkably low landing speed of 73 mph for an aircraft of its size with a top speed of 265 mph. It also gave the aircraft an impressive climb rate. The Hampden had a short, narrow but tall main fuselage with a very slender tail unit. This gave it a very distinctive look, although would later limit its flexibility.

    The prototype first flew on 21 June 1936. Two months later, Handley Page received an order for 180 Hampdens. The first production aircraft was complete by May 1938. The Hampden entered squadron service with No. 49 Squadron, who received their first aircraft in September 1938. Production was rapid, and by the outbreak of war, Bomber Command had ten squadrons of Hampdens, making up No. 5 Group (six operational, two reserve and two pool squadrons).

    Like the Wellington, the Hampden was considered suitable for use as a day time bomber in 1939. Events would very quickly disprove this opinion. The Hampden’s worst day came on 29 September 1939, off Heligoland Bight, when a formation of eleven Hampdens lost five aircraft to attack by German fighters. The Wellington was soon to suffer the same fate in the same area.
     

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  14. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    The problem with the Hampden was seen to be its poor defensive armament. As first built it only carried four .303in machine guns, two in the nose (one of which was fixed to fire directly forwards only), and one gun in each of the dorsal and ventral positions, pointing backwards. The design of the aircraft made it hard to do much to improve the situation, although both of the rear firing gun positions were soon given a second gun, bringing the total up to six. Even after this change, the manually operated guns of the Hampden could never be as effective as the powered guns of the Wellington or later bombers.

    With daylight operations abandoned, Bomber Command had to wait until the spring of 1940 to begin the night bombing offensive. The Hampden played a full role in the bombing war, taking part in the first attack on German soil, on 19/20 March (an attack on the island of Sylt), the first attack on the German mainland (against Munchen Gladback on 11/12 May) and the first raid on Berlin (25/26 August 1940). A Hampden piloted by Guy Gibson was the first Bomber Command aircraft to drop a 2,000lb , against the Scharnhorst on 1/2 July 1940.

    The Hampden remained in service long enough to take part in the 1,000 bomber raids of 1942, making up 79 of the 1,047 aircraft involved (34 from No.5 Group and 45 from 91 (O.T.U.) Group. By this point the Hampden was well past its peak as a front line bomber, only equipping two squadrons.
     

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  15. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #15 gekho, Nov 25, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2012
    The Hampden was a perfectly acceptable night bomber, capable of carrying only slightly less bombs than the Wellington for about the same distances. Despite this the Hampden was withdrawn from Bomber Command service a full year earlier than the Wellington, in September 1942. One reason for this was the narrow fuselage. This dramatically limited the flexibility of the aircraft (not to mention making it impossible for crew members to change place!), especially as bombs began to get bigger.

    The real reason for the withdrawal of the Hampden was that it was being replaced by the new four engined heavy bombers, amongst them the Handley Page Halifax. Handley Page themselves had ceased production of the Hampden in July 1940, having produced 500 aircraft. Another 770 Hampdens were built by English Electric between February 1940 and March 1942. By the time the Hampden was withdrawn as a bomber it had been out of production for six months!

    The Hampden had a second career as a torpedo bomber. Experiments early in 1942 proved that the type was suitable for the role, and two Bomber Command squadrons (Nos. 144 and 455) were transferred to Coastal Command. Only minor modifications were needed for the new role – the bomb bay had to be made deeper in order to carry the 18-inch torpedo, while 500lb bomb racks were added under each wing. In all four squadrons flew the Hampden as a torpedo bomber, with the last retaining it until December 1943.
     

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  16. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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  17. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    The Hereford bomber was a Napier Dagger-engined version of the Hampden 'Flying Suitcase', ordered as a back-up at the same time as the first Hampden production contracts. The noisy new inline engines overheated on the ground and cooled too quickly and seized in the air. Even routine maintenance was more complicated than that required for the Hampden's Pegasus radials. There were no performance advantages from the new engines. On daylight raids in 1940—41 the Hampdens and Herefords were shot to bits by faster and better-armed German fighters, so were quickly relegated to night missions. Only a very small number of Herefords saw action (in Hampden squadrons). The rest were relegated to training units, soon followed by their (marginally) better brethren.
     

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  18. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #18 gekho, Nov 26, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011
    The Avro Manchester was one of the least successful British aircraft of the Second World War. However, it was also the parent of probably the best British bomber of the war, the Avro Lancaster. The Manchester was developed in response to Air Ministry Specification P.13/36 of May 1936. This called for a twin engined heavy bomber powered by the new Rolls Royce Vulture engine. The Vulture was still under development in 1936, and consisted of two twelve cylinder Rolls Royce Kestrel engines (another design to be developed from the Kestrel was the Peregrine, also not a great success).

    The specification also made a series of other demands which were later abandoned, including the ability to act as a dive bomber, drop torpedoes and the capacity for catapult assisted take-off. As a result of these demands, the Manchester was a very strong aircraft, with a very large single celled bomb bay that took up some two thirds of the length of the fuselage. Avro received an order for 200 Manchesters on 1 July 1937, purely on the strength of the design. The first prototype would not fly until 25 July 1939. By the time the prototype took to the air, the Vulture project was running into problems. By 1938 it had become clear that the new engine was not as powerful as had been expected, nor was it proving to be very reliable.

    The first prototype was very clearly the ancestor of the Lancaster. It used a similar twin finned tail plane to the later aircraft. The design called for nose and tail turrets, not installed in the first prototype, and Avro had begun to make provision for a dorsal turret. Tests on the new aircraft revealed some minor problems – the wings had to be extended by ten feet, from a span of 80ft 2ins to one of 90ft, and the aircraft suffered from directional instability. This was reduced by added a third tail-fin on the rear fuselage. This third fin would be the most obvious visual difference between the Manchester Mk I and the Lancaster (other than the number of engines of course!).
     

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  19. gekho

    gekho Active Member

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    #19 gekho, Nov 26, 2010
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2011
    A bigger problem was that the Vulture engines were not producing enough power to give the Manchester its expected performance. This problem would never be solved – Rolls Royce had more urgent jobs in 1939-40 than fixing the Vulture, and the entire project would soon be dropped. Work now began on modifying the Manchester to use different engines. Two main approaches were taken – to either use two radial engines (Napier Sabre or Bristol Centaurus engines were suggested), under the name Manchester Mk II, or use four of the less powerful but much more reliable Rolls Royce Merlin engines, under the name Manchester Mk III. The prototype Manchester Mk III flew on 9 January 1941, and was a clear success. It was this aircraft, soon renamed the Avro Lancaster, that would eventually become the mainstay of Bomber Command.

    In the meantime the Avro Manchester Mk I began to enter service. The Mk I carried sight .303in machine guns in three turrets in the nose (2 guns), dorsal (2 guns) and rear (4 guns) positions. A proposed ventral turret as not installed. The first squadron to receive the Manchester was No. 207 Squadron, which was reformed at Waddington on 1 November 1940. Their first raid came on 24 February 1941, against a German cruiser in Brest harbour, and for the Manchester was a relative success – none were shot down, and only one crashed on its return to base. However, this first raid came six weeks after the first flight of the Lancaster. The Manchester’s days were numbered, and only the desperate need for new aircraft kept it in front line service.

    The Manchester’s performance statistics are somewhat misleading. Although the type had a service ceiling of 19,200 feet, with a full load it was forced to operate at nearer to 10,000 feet. In theory it could fly on one engine, and the unreliable Vulture forced it to do this far too often. In reality it was rare for a Manchester to cover any distance on one engine. The Manchester remained in squadron service from November 1940 until the end of June 1942. In all 202 Manchesters were built before production switched to the Lancaster. Of those aircraft, around 80 were lost in action, and another 50 to general unreliability. Early problems with the tail were solved by used the twin finned design being developed for the Lancaster, under the designation Manchester Mk IA. This version truly resembles the later aircraft.

    The Manchester did have some good features. The bomb bay was the biggest of any Bomber Command aircraft, and this would allow the Lancaster to carry increasingly large bomb loads to Germany later in the war. Even the Manchester could manage the 4,000lb “cookie”. The bomb aimer had a well designed position with a good view, again a feature that was carried over to the Lancaster. Avro’s design was sound, but the Vulture was not. It was only the urgent requirement for new aircraft in the face of the looming threat of war with Germany that forced the Manchester into service.
     

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  20. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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