Designed by Marcel
Lobelle, the prototype Fairey Day Bomber, as it was then known,
originated as the company's submission to Specification P.27/32 for a
two-seat single-engine monoplane bomber capable of carrying 1,000 lbs
(454 kg) of bombs for 1,000 miles (1609 km) at 200 mph (322 km/h) which
was ordered as a prototype on June 11, 1934. Provision for a radio
operator/air gunner was made later, to man a Lewis or Vickers 'K'
dorsal machine-gun.This performance was to be bettered by Fairey's
aircraft, which was competing against design proposals from Armstrong
Whitworth, Bristol and Hawker, but only the Armstrong Whitworth's
A.W.29 joined Fairey's prototype in receiving orders. Fairey's
contender won the competition, but a first production contract for 155
aircraft, to the revised Specification P.23/35, had been placed in 1935
even before the prototype had flown. The Battle had accommodation for a
crew of three comprising pilot, bomb-aimer/observer, and radio
operator/gunner. The first production aircraft was built, like the
prototype, at Hayes and flew from the Great West Aerodrome (now part of
Heathrow Airport), on 14 April 1937. It was used for performance trials
during which it achieved 243 mph (391 km/h) at 16,200 ft (4940 m). A
range of 1,050 miles (1690 m) was flown with maximum bomb load.
The second and
subsequent production aircraft came from a production line established
at a new purpose-built factory at Heaton Chapel, Stockport, and it was
for the Battle that Rolls-Royce received its launching order for the
famous 1,030 hp (768 kW) Merlin I engine, which powered the first 136
The aircraft's light
alloy and stressed skin construction was a 'first' for Fairey, and the
Battle proved to be extremely robust. In general it proved popular with
the test pilots at the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment
at Martlesham Heath, and at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at
Farnborough. It was said to be very easy to fly but the elevator was
heavy on take-off; on the other hand the Royal Aircraft Establishment
considered the elevator over-light at low speeds. Engine-off stall was
described as 'innocuous', but the accommodation came in for some
criticism: although the pilot's cockpit was considered to be roomy and
comfortable with reasonable forward vision, it could sometimes become
extremely hot. The rear gunner, behind the pilot, had his own problems:
the screen intended to protect him from the slipstream was badly
designed and it shape deflected a downdraught into his face, while the
rear vision was described as 'poor'.
By the end of 1937,
Fairey had built 85 Battles, and the first squadron to receive the new
bomber in May 1937 was No.63 at Upwood, Huntingdonshire, where it
replaced the Hawker Audax. Other squadrons which re-equipped that year
were Nos. 52, 88, 105 and 226.
As new orders for
Battles were placed, production sub-contracts were awarded to Austin
Motors at Longbridge, Birmingham. Meantime, the last 19 Battles of the
initial Fairey order for 155 were provided with Merlin II engines, and
these were fitted also to the Austin-built aircraft. The first Battle
from the Longbridge factory flew in July 1938, and 29 had been
completed there by the end of the year. By March the following year
Austin was producing more than 30 Battles a month, but even then the
programme was running late. After 60 Austin-built Battles had been
completed, the Merlin II engine was introduced on the production line.
By the outbreak of
World War II more than 1,000 Battles had been delivered, and aircraft
of No. 226 Squadron were the first to be sent to France as part of the
Advanced Air Striking Force. It was here that the Battle's inability to
defend itself against enemy fighters became obvious. On armed daylight
reconnaissance missions the type occasionally tangled with Bf 109s, and
although one of the latter was destroyed by a Battle's rear gunner in
September 1940, the light bombers invariably suffered heavy casualties.
As the period of the
so-called 'phoney war' came to an end, the Battle squadrons were thrown
in on 10 May 1940 to try to stop the advancing German ground forces.
Without fighter escort, and attacking from a height of only 250 ft (76
m) with delayed-action bombs the Battles came under heavy ground fire,
losing 13 of the 32 aircraft sent on the mission, while all the others
were damaged. The next day seven out of eight were lost, and on 12 May
five Battles of No.12 Squadron, flown by volunteer crews, attacked two
vital road bridges over the Albert Canal. In the face of extremely
heavy ground fire the attack was pressed home and one bridge seriously
damaged, but at a cost of all five aircraft. The first RAF Victoria
Crosses of World War II were awarded posthumously to Flying Officer D.E.
Garland and his observer, Sergeant T. Gray, who led the formation.
Further heavy losses
came on 14 May, when 35 out of 63 Battles failed to return from attacks
against bridges and troop concentrations. These losses marked the end
of the Battle's career as a day bomber, and although a few remained in
front-line service until late 1940 the survivors were mostly diverted
to other duties. The most important of these was for training, and 100
were built as dual-control trainers with separate cockpits, while 266
target-towing variants were also supplied.
The last production
aircraft, Austin-built, was a target tug, and it was delivered on 2
September 1940. It brought total Battle production to 2,185 including
the prototype, 1,156 being built by Fairey and 1,029 by Austin Motors.
Canada used a large
number of Battles for training and target towing in the Commonwealth
Air Training Plan, the first being supplied to the Royal Canadian Air
Force at Camp Borden in August 1939. They were the vanguard of 739 of
these aircraft, this total including seven airframes for instructional
purposes. Under the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS), Australia took
delivery of 366 of the type between June 1940 and December 1943
consisting of four British-built Battles and 360 assembled in
Australia, including 30 target tugs, while other export customers were
Belgium (18), Turkey (28), South Africa (161) and Eire (Ireland), where
an RAF aircraft which landed at Waterford in 1941 was interned and
later taken over by the Air Corps.
A number of Battles
were used as test-beds for such engines as the Napier Dagger and Sabre;
Bristol Hercules and Taurus; Rolls-Royce Merlin X and the 1,280 hp (955
kw) Merlin XII with chin radiator; and the Fairey Prince. Other Battles
were used for experiments with various types of propellers.
Battle B.Mk I - First
production type with one Rolls-Royce Merlin I 12-cylinder Vee
liquid-cooled piston engine with a single stage, single speed
supercharger and rated at 890 hp (656 kW) for take-off at sea level
using 87 octane fuel, and developing a maximum power rating of 1,030 hp
(768 kW) at 3,000 rpm at 16,250 ft (4940 m) for short periods using 87
octane fuel driving a three bladed dual pitch airscrew. 136 aircraft
Battle B.Mk II -
Identical to the Battle Mk I but fitted with one Rolls-Royce Merlin II
12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled piston engine with a single stage, single
speed supercharger and rated at 880 hp (664 kW) for take-off at sea
level, and developing a maximum power rating of 1,440 hp (1074 kW) at
3,000 rpm at 5,500 ft (1680 m) for short periods using 87 octane fuel
driving a three bladed dual pitch airscrew. The Merlin II replaced the
unsatisfactory ramp type of cylinder head with a Kestrel style flat
combustion chamber. 78 aircraft built.
Battle B.Mk III -
Identical to the Battle Mk II but fitted with one Rolls-Royce Merlin
III 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled piston engine with a single stage,
single speed supercharger and rated at 880 hp (664 kW) for take-off at
sea level, and developing a maximum power rating of 1,440 hp (1074 kW)
at 3,000 rpm at 5,500 ft (1680 m) for short periods using 87 octane
fuel driving a three bladed dual pitch airscrew. The Merlin III was
adapted for the use of a constant-speed propeller and a constant-speed
Battle B.Mk IV -
Identical to the Battle Mk III but fitted with one Rolls-Royce Merlin
IV 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled piston engine with a single stage,
single speed supercharger and rated at 1,030 hp (768 kW) for take-off
and 1,440 hp (1074 kW) at 3,000 rpm at 5,500 ft (1680 m) for short
periods using 87 octane fuel driving a three bladed dual pitch
airscrew. This mark of Merlin engine differs by using a pressurised 70
percent water and 30 percent ethylene-glycol mixture for engine
Battle B.Mk V -
Identical to the Battle Mk IV but fitted with one Rolls-Royce Merlin V
12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled piston engine with a single stage, single
speed supercharger and rated at 1,030 hp (768 kW) for take-off and
1,440 hp (1074 kW) at 3,000 rpm at 5,500 ft (1680 m) for short periods
using 87 octane fuel driving a three bladed dual pitch airscrew.
Battle TT.Mk I - Last
production variant for use as target tug, with hydraulic winch on port
side of fuselage and drogue stowage box below rear fuselage. Production
started in February 1940 with all being built by Austin Motors and
using Rolls-Royce Merlin III engines. 200 built by Fairey and 66 by
Battle TT - Battles
that were converted to target tugs. Number unknown.
Battle T - After the
Fairey Battle was retired from frontline service, several training
units used the type unmodified, but rear-seat visibility was inadequate
leading to the development of a special dual-control trainer. This
designation includes converted dual-control trainers as well. Numbers
Battle T.Mk I -
Starting in 1939 a special dual-control trainer with similar tandem
cockpits was produced. 200 built by Austin.
Battle IT - Fairey
Battle's modified to carry a Bristol Type I single-gun dorsal turret in
place of rear cockpit. Two prototypes were tested in UK and another 204
aircraft were converted in Canada.
Battle IIT - A single
RCAF aircraft with a Bristol Type I single-gun dorsal turret and fitted
with a Wright GR-1820-G3B Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engine using 91
octane fuel rated at 875 hp (652 kW) for take-off with a normal power
rating of 840 hp (626 kW) at 8,700 ft (2650 m).
Belgian Battle -
Sixteen Fairey Battles ordered for the Belgian Aéronautique Militaire
in 1938, and assembled by Avions Fairey at Gosselies from Stockport
built components and equipped with the Rolls-Royce Merlin III engine.
They differed from the British Battles by having the radiator placed
further forward. Based in Evère-Bruxelles with the 5e Escadrille,
Groupe III, 3e Regiment, they took part in a single mission against
bridges over the Albert Canal in May 1940.
Experimental - This
category includes many one-off experimental aircraft used for testing
various engines and propellers. Engines tested include the Napier
Dagger and Sabre, the Bristol Hercules (fixed down and faired in
undercarriage) and Taurus, the Rolls-Royce Merlin X and XII with chin
radiator and the Fairey P.24 Prince.
Battle Mk I)
Type: Three Seat
Light Bomber, Target Tug & Gunnery Trainer
Pilot, Bomb-aimer/Observer, and Wireless Operator/Gunner.
Team lead by Marcel Lobelle
The Fairey Aviation Company Limited based in Hayes, Middlesex with
production facilities in Heaton Chapel, Stockport (Cheshire). A shadow
factory was established at Austin Motors Limited in Cofton Hackett,
Longbridge (Birmingham) building aircraft to Specification 32/36. 16
aircraft were assembled by Avions Fairey in Gosselies, Belgium.
Rolls-Royce Merlin I piston engine rated at 890 hp (664 kW) for
take-off at sea level, and developing a maximum power rating of 1,030
hp (768 kW) at 3,000 rpm at 16,250 ft (4940 m) for short periods. A
three-bladed Hamilton Standard (de Havilland built) dual pitch
propeller was standard. Settings were fully fine or fully coarse even
though they were only 20º apart. At altitude, selecting fully coarse
cut the Merlin's rpm in half. When 100 Octane fuel became available it
enabled the boost pressure to double from 6 lbs/square inch to 9 - 12
lbs/square inch allowing the same engine to make a maximum power rating
of over 1,300 hp (970 kW).
Maximum speed 257 mph (414 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6100 m); cruising speed
210 mph (338 km/h); service ceiling 25,000 ft (7620 m); initial climb
rate 920 ft (280 m) per minute.
212 Imp gal (254,6 US gal), plus 45 Imp gal (54 US gal) in fuselage
tank, plus 33 Imp gal (39.6 US gal) in wing tank.
miles (1609 km) at 16,000 ft (4875 m) at 200 mph (322 km/h) with 1,000
lbs (454 kg) of bombs.
Weights & Loadings:
Empty 6,647 lbs (3015 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 10,792 lbs
54 ft 0 in (16.46 m); length 42 ft 1 3/4 in (12.85 m); height 15 ft 6
in (4.72 m); wing area 422.0 sq ft (39.20 sq m); wing aspect ratio
One forward firing 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Browning machine-gun in in the
starboard wing with a 400 round magazine and combat ciné camera and one
rearward firing 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Vickers 'K' machine-gun in the rear
cockpit with 485 rounds. Early aircraft had a 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Lewis
machine-gun until replaced by the Vickers 'K' machine-gun. During the
Battle for France, crews often hastily added a ventral gun below the
fuselage just aft of the wing. This gun was aimed by the third crew
member using a mirror sight.
Disposable Ordnance: Up to 1,000 lbs (454 kg) of bombs carried
internally in four inner wing bomb cells. The internal wing bomb cells
had racks that were lowered and attached to the bombs and then
hydraulically raised the bombs into their cells. These hydraulic racks
could also be extended below the wing for dive bombing attacks. A
single 250 lbs (114 kg) bomb could be carried externally under each
wing at the expense of range.
4 × 250 lbs (114 kg)
bombs in the wing bomb cells, and
2 × 250 lbs (114 kg)
bombs on underwing racks (with reduced range)
B.Mk I, B.Mk II, B.Mk III, B.Mk IV, B.Mk V, TT.Mk I.
R.1082 radio and T.1083 transmitter.
flight (prototype), 10 March 1936; production Mk I June 1937; final
delivery January 1941; withdrawn from service 1949.
United Kingdom (RAF), Canada (RCAF), Australia (RAAF), South Africa (SAAF),
Belgium (18), Turkey (28), Ireland (1), Greece (12), Poland (1 - never