The Fairey Battle 

Great Britain
Great Britain

side viewfront viewunder view

During 1935 the first order for the Battle was placed: 155 aircraft. Because of constraints placed on bombers by the Geneva Convention to restrict them to a maximum empty weigth of 6,600 lb (2.994 kg) and 1 engine, the design's performance was indifferent already. The first test trials revealed that performance and handling were acceptable (for that time), decreasing in case of a crew of 3 men. The need for rearmament in the late 1930's, the fact that there was already a production line, and the lack of better aircraft however forced the RAF to order this aircraft nonetheless.
One famous RAF pilot (name at this moment unknown) once remarked about the aircraft: It was no fairy, and it was certainly no Battle!

Versions:

Further pictures:

The Fairey Battle in full flight
The Fairey Battle in full flight

 

Technical data on the Fairey Battle Mk II
Powerplant 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin II Vee, rated at 1030 hp (767.85 kW) Role during war
  • Light Bomber
  • Trainer
Length 42 ft 5 inch Height 15 ft 0 inch
Empty weight 6647 lb Operational weight 10792 lb max
Wing Span 54 ft 0 inch Wing Aspect ratio 6.91
Wing Area 422 sq ft Service ceiling 26000 ft
Maximum speed 252 mph at 15000 ft Cruising speed 200 mph at 15000 ft
Initial climb rate Climb to 15,000 ft in 16 min 12 sec Range 1200 miles typical
Fuel capacity internal 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 Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 1 × 0.303 inch in leading edge of starboard wing, 400 rounds
  • 1 × 0.303 inch trainable rearward firing in rear cockpit, 485 rounds.
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 1,500 lb:
  • 1 × 1,000 lb lower fuelage bay with 2 × 500 lb or 4 × 250 lb bombs
  • 2 × 250 lb bombs on underwing hardpoints
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 2: pilot, radio operator/gunner, and optionally a navigator Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 10 March1936 Operational Service May 1937 - 1949
Manufacturer Fairey Aiviation Co. Ltd. Number produced 2.203 total, 78 this version
Metric system
Length 12.93 m Height 4.57 m
Empty weight 3015 kg Operational weight 4895 kg max
Wing Span 16.46 m Wing Aspect ratio 6.91
Wing Area 39.2 m² Service ceiling 7925 m
Maximum speed 406 km/h at 4572 m Cruising speed 322 km/h at 4572 m
Initial climb rate Climb to 4.572 m in 16 min 12 sec Range 1931 km typical
Fuel capacity internal 964 liters, plus 205 liters in fuselage tank, plus 150 liters in wing tank Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 1 × 7,7 mm in leading edge of starboard wing, 400 rounds
  • 1 × 7,7 mm trainable rearward firing in rear cockpit, 485 rounds.
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 680 kg:
  • 1 × 454 kg lower fuelage bay with 2 × 227 kg or 4 × 113 kg bombs
  • 2 × 113 kg bombs on underwing hardpoints
Torpedoes/rockets -

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Fairey Battle 
Fairey Battle Mk I First production type, fitted with 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin Mk I, ratings unknown at this moment.
Number built: 136
Fairey Battle Mk II Identical to the Battle Mk I, fitted with 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin Mk II, rated at 1,030 hp (768 kW). For details see above
Number built: 78
Fairey Battle Mk III Identical to the Battle Mk II, fitted with 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin Mk III, rated at 1,440 hp (1074 kW).
Number built: unknown
Fairey Battle Mk V Identical to the Battle Mk III, fitted with 1 × Rolls Royce Merlin Mk V, ratings unknown at this moment.
Number built: unknown
Fairey Battle (T) Some Battles were converted to dual-control trainers, used in early 1940.
Number converted: unknown, Number built: 200
Fairey Battle (TT) Some Battles were converted to target tugs
Number converted: unknown, Number built: 266

Remarks:

During the 'Phoney War', the time between the start of World War 2 and the German attack on France and the Low Countries (September 1939 - May 1940), the fears concerning the Battle's performance and abilities came true. The Battle had insufficient performance, agility and firepower to be more than a sitting duck. Especially during long-range operations without fighter cover the losses were heavy.
After the German attacks in May 1940 had begun for real, the losses reached catastrophic numbers: of the 32 battles sent to halt a German armored advance, 13 did not return, and the rest failed to do any real harm. Another example is the attack on the bridges over the river Meuse, at Maastricht (near to where I live). 35 out of 63 Battles did not return, whereas the rest failed to destroy the bridges. After these terrible losses the Battle squadrons where withdrawn. The only use for the surviving aircraft was training, target towing, and naval reconnaissance near Iceland until July 1941. Some where used as engine testbeds as well.

A reader of this website (thanks Simon), relates of the history of 218 Squadron of Bomber Command, equiped with Fairey Battles. His father in law was member of the ground crew of 218 Squadron. 14 May 1940 was a black day in the history of Bomber Command. That day it suffered it's highest percentage losses of het entire War, and 218 Squadron as weel. Of the 11 aircraft despatched to halt the German advance, 10 were lost. Because of this, the squadron was able to contribute little further to the French Campaign, and the remnants were reformed in the UK in June 1940. First they were equiped with Blenehim Mk IV's, later on Short Stirlings, and finally on Avro Lancasters. On 5-6 June 1944 218's Lancasters joined 617 (Dambuster) Squadron in an elaborate hoax scattering Window [Chaff for all American readers - red.] in the Pas the Calais area, leading the Germans to believe the main invasion fleet was directed toward that area…

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 2/9/01