Fairey Battle


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Fairey Battle

Best remembered as the first RAF aircraft to shoot down a German aircraft during World War II: the rear gunner of a Battle of No 88 Squadron Advanced Air Striking Force shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109E over France on 20 September 1939. The prototype of this light bomber flew for the first time on 10 March 1936. The Battle was a cantilever low-wing monoplane with a retractable undercarriage, enclosed cockpits for the crew of three and powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.

It was certainly a major advance over the old Hawker Hart and Hind open-cockpit biplanes it was to replace and was selected as one of the types to be mass-produced for many of the new squadrons forming under the RAF expansion programme of the latter 1930s. Unfortunately advances in aircraft design in the immediate years prior to World War II made the Battle slow and vulnerable, especially as it became clear that the bomber could not hope to outrun even the most mediocre of modern fighters.

Its defensive armament of one forward-firing 7.7mm Browning and one rear-mounted 7.7mm Vickers K was also far from adequate. Nevertheless the RAF was committed to the Battle and by 1938 it had 13 squadrons. With the outbreak of war ten squadrons were sent to France. The Battle's uphill task against superior German forces was tackled vigorously and indeed the first VCs won by the RAF during this war were awarded to Battle crews for their actions on 12 May 1940 during an attack on the Maastricht bridges. But the bomber was obsolete and within a short time was withdrawn from operational service, subsequently becoming a trainer and target tug in the UK and in Canada under the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The type also served with the air forces of Australia, Belgium, South Africa and Turkey. Production totalled more than 2,400 aircraft, many built by Austin Motors.

Interestingly one Battle was fitted with the Fairey P.24 engine and Fairey electrically operated contra-rotating constant-speed propellers - the first propellers of this type to be flight tested in the UK. Between 13 June 1939 and 5 December 1941, the aircraft accumulated about 86 flying hours at the hands of Flt Lieut Christopher Staniland, Mr F. H. Dixon (the company's subsequent chief test pilot) and a number of RAF pilots. It was then shipped to the USA.


The Battle had the same Merlin engine as the Spitfire Mk I, but when loaded weighed nearly half as much again, giving it a top speed over 160km/h less than the Spitfire.

The Battle was designed as a two-seater with crew of pilot and observer, but provision was later made for a gunner, armed with a single World War I-vintage Vickers machine gun.

One forward-firing Browning machine gun was mounted in the starboard wine.

Fairey Battle on YOUTUBE

Fairey Battle

 ENGINE1 x Rolls-Royce "Merlin", 755kW
  Take-off weight4900 kg10803 lb
  Empty weight3000 kg6614 lb
  Wingspan16.5 m54 ft 2 in
  Length15.9 m52 ft 2 in
  Height4.7 m15 ft 5 in
  Wing area39.2 m2421.94 sq ft
  Max. speed386 km/h240 mph
  Cruise speed338 km/h210 mph
  Ceiling7000 m22950 ft
  Range w/max.fuel1600 km994 miles
 ARMAMENT2 machine-guns, 500kg of bombs

Fairey BattleA three-view drawing (670 x 594)

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John, e-mail, 11.11.2020 10:29

Was the Battle ever equipped with radio on operations?


Oldgysgt, e-mail, 12.01.2016 04:44

The narration above states that "the first VCs won by the RAF during this war were awarded to Battle crews for their actions on 12 May 1940 during an attack on the Maastricht bridges"; I assume these were awarded posthumously.


SVEN, 26.04.2013 19:39

Does anyone know of a book covering the RAF in the war period before Dunkirk ? Particularly squadrons flying the Battle.


VinceReeves, 05.03.2013 22:01

Fairey built all Battles as dual-control capable, with a simple modification kit enabling it to be turned into a trainer.

This was obviously very prescient of them, and indicates where they themselves thought its strengths lay.


Phil, e-mail, 10.04.2012 07:52

Hi would you be interested in buying photo,s of the Fairey Battle being assembled at International Harvester Geelong during world war 2.(1940)s


Klaatu83, e-mail, 05.03.2011 16:33

This aircraft was basically an up-dated version of the single-engine day bomber formula (epitomized by such aircraft as the De Havilland DH-4 and DH-9A, as well as France's Breguet IV) that had proven so successful in combat during World War I. Unfortunately, the state of technology had changed so much that, by 1940, the concept of the single engine day bomber was no longer operationally viable.


Nick Gill, e-mail, 11.02.2011 13:09

Please contact me URGENTLY


Mike Gill, e-mail, 07.02.2011 13:21

I was a ten year old in AMQ at CFS RAF Upavon in 1938-39 when a Battle crashed well short of the grass airfield on landing. It finished up with its nose in an uphill slope and the tail about 6 feet from the ground. With the agreement of the airman on guard,we kids were soon sliding out on the fuselage and dropping from the tail plane. Until that is one youngster bit the end of his tongue off on landing and there the game stopped.He had it sewn back on in Sick Bay and soon recovered. Those were the days.


R E Mitchell, e-mail, 14.10.2010 23:12

My father flew this plane out of Port Dover, Onterio. He joined RCAF in 1940 when I was four years old. He liked the plane; even though the torque of that big engine was a handfull. Wings were strong - I remember seeing trees the size of my arm cut down by wings during a crash. Dad survived a mid-air collision in this plane. He also did some bad things in this aircraft - like flying under rainbow bridge and up and over Niagra Falls. Sometimes I think they rolled the ship at 45 degrees to shoot a flare at a commerccial airliner. Old memories brought up by the picture of the little known Fairey Battle.


robert Guttman, e-mail, 03.08.2010 17:04

The Battle was a good airplane that had the misfortune to be built to satisfy an outmoded operational requirement. The concept of the single-engine day bomber was one that had had proved successful during World War I. Compare the Battle with Britain's De Havilland DH-4 and DH-9; as well as France's Breguet XIV. However, the formula proved to be totally unsuited to the combat conditions of World War II.


Jock Williams, e-mail, 27.03.2010 19:56

My father was a flight surgeon who served at #2 Bombing and Gunnery School in Mossbank Saskatchewan early in the war (1943 era). They had many Battles on strength as gunnery trainers -the students fired a swivel-mounted Lewis gun at a Lysander-towed drogue.

On one occasion when the pilot called to his student "Fire" as the drogue pulled alongside, both of the Australian students baled out!

Apparently he should have said "Open Fire!"

Standardization of terminology is everything!

Jock Williams Yogi 13


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