Author Topic: THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH  (Read 670 times)

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Offline Rheged

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THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH
« on: January 13, 2019, 09:09:39 am »
THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH SNATCHED FROM THE JAWS OF MEDIOCRITY.

The Fairey Battle participated in direct combat missions during early stages of the Second World War. During the "Phony War" period, the type achieved the distinction of the first aerial victory of an RAF aircraft in this conflict. However, by May 1940 the Battle was suffering heavy losses, frequently in excess of 50 percent of aircraft per mission. By late 1940, it had been entirely withdrawn from active combat service, and was relegated to training units, mainly overseas. As an aircraft that had been initially considered to hold great promise, the Battle was proving to be a most disappointing aircraft in RAF service. The only active front line squadrons remaining were 88 and 226  in Northern Ireland and 98  in Iceland, for coastal patrol work.

Met Flights
 
It was 98 squadron that first used the Battle in an unexpected role. RAF meteorologists required regular data from the North Atlantic region in order to provide accurate forecasts for the near continent. Initially, a pair of hack Gloster Gladiators attached for administrative purposes to 98 squadron performed short range sorties from the Reykjavik area, but with a maximum radius of action of less than 200 miles, only limited data could be acquired. On 5th October 1940, with both Gladiators unserviceable, the C.O. of 98 squadron had one of his Battles fitted with their Met instruments and used to keep meteorological data flowing.  Despite not having the ceiling of the Gladiator, the Battle had more than twice the radius of action and the extra data thus collected was extremely useful.  The situation was regularised within days, with a total of six aircraft converted to Battle Met Mk II status.  Long range tanks were soon added in the bomb cells in the wings, giving the aircraft an effective radius of action of 700 miles.  Later improvements increased the Battle Met Mk IIIb ceiling to 26,000 feet and until January 1946 a little known detachment from 98 squadron operated from Iceland and Northern Ireland providing timely weather data that greatly assisted the bomber offensive against Germany and occupied Northern Europe. RAF Group Captain Stagg has asserted that his D-day forecast would not have been possible without this North Atlantic data.

Rescue

In February 1940, a pair of Battles were allocated for Royal Navy ASV radar research.  The roomy enclosed cockpit made research flights less stressful than using Fairey Swordfish that were open to the worst of the winter weather. It was during a test flight over the Irish Sea that the ability of even the earliest ASVII radar to detect lifeboats from torpedoed shipping was noted.  In order to provide increased coastal patrols capable of detecting survivors 844 squadron Fleet Air Arm was allocated 30 Battle GR Mk IV aircraft in September 1940. Operating from RNAS Tern in the Orkneys, temporary landing grounds the Reykjavik area and RNAS Vulture at St Merryn in Cornwall their ASVII, and later centimetric ASVIII and ASVXI radar installations made it possible to spot, eventually, even a single survivor on a life raft. The bomb cells in the wings were modified to carry up to eight “survivor packs” which included a ten man covered life raft and survival gear. No exact figures are available, but a post war assessment offered by Captain Stephen Roskill in his World War Two historical research suggests that over 2000 seamen and downed aircrew owe their lives to the Fairey Battle GR Mk IV.  Although later supplanted by Wellington and Warwick ASR aircraft, the Battle provided ASR facilities when no other aircraft could be spared.

Training and testing

The “benign handling characteristics and maneuverability” of the Battle made it an ideal gunnery and bombing trainer and target tug. It was used in several Commonwealth air forces, Turkey and Ireland as well as the RAF. For engine test and trials purposes, many different power units were fitted. Rolls-Royce Exe, Fairey Prince and Monarch, Napier Dagger and Sabre as well as a Wright R-1820 Cyclone all were operated on test airframes. An electrically-controlled three-bladed contra-rotating propeller unit with a large ventral radiator was also trialed on Battle K9370.

The last Fairey Battle left RAF second line service in 1949, having given sterling service in non-combatant roles.

As usual with any of my backstories, I'm not in the slightest 'territorial' about them, and if anyone wishes to add to it, model it  or amend it I'm happy to have other people's input.  I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Battle, and have recently acquired a Zvedza 1/144 clip together kit that may in the fullness of time appear here as a Battle ASV aircraft.
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Offline Leading Observer

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Re: THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2019, 11:32:03 am »
Nice work :thumbsup:
LO


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Offline PR19_Kit

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Re: THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2019, 12:01:44 pm »
Excellent stuff there, it'd take a lot of Googling to prove any of it was WhifWorth........
Any aircraft can be improved by fitting longer wings, and/or a longer fuselage

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Offline kerick

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Re: THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2019, 01:24:46 pm »
Good example of how a less capable aircraft could still be usefull. Sort of like how B-18 Bolos were used for anti submarine patrols in the Caribbean.
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Re: THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2019, 07:48:50 pm »
That is most excellent, and worthy of modelling!  :thumbsup:
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Offline Rick Lowe

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Re: THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2019, 12:47:46 am »
I saw something recently (probably here), that speculated a Battle with a later uprated Merlin, armour and a lot'o'rockets (tm) could have provided a Sturmovick-type ground attack aircraft for the RAF...

Offline rickshaw

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Re: THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2019, 10:16:46 pm »
THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH SNATCHED FROM THE JAWS OF MEDIOCRITY.

The Fairey Battle participated in direct combat missions during early stages of the Second World War. During the "Phony War" period, the type achieved the distinction of the first aerial victory of an RAF aircraft in this conflict. However, by May 1940 the Battle was suffering heavy losses, frequently in excess of 50 percent of aircraft per mission. By late 1940, it had been entirely withdrawn from active combat service, and was relegated to training units, mainly overseas. As an aircraft that had been initially considered to hold great promise, the Battle was proving to be a most disappointing aircraft in RAF service. The only active front line squadrons remaining were 88 and 226  in Northern Ireland and 98  in Iceland, for coastal patrol work.

Met Flights
 
It was 98 squadron that first used the Battle in an unexpected role. RAF meteorologists required regular data from the North Atlantic region in order to provide accurate forecasts for the near continent. Initially, a pair of hack Gloster Gladiators attached for administrative purposes to 98 squadron performed short range sorties from the Reykjavik area, but with a maximum radius of action of less than 200 miles, only limited data could be acquired. On 5th October 1940, with both Gladiators unserviceable, the C.O. of 98 squadron had one of his Battles fitted with their Met instruments and used to keep meteorological data flowing.  Despite not having the ceiling of the Gladiator, the Battle had more than twice the radius of action and the extra data thus collected was extremely useful.  The situation was regularised within days, with a total of six aircraft converted to Battle Met Mk II status.  Long range tanks were soon added in the bomb cells in the wings, giving the aircraft an effective radius of action of 700 miles.  Later improvements increased the Battle Met Mk IIIb ceiling to 26,000 feet and until January 1946 a little known detachment from 98 squadron operated from Iceland and Northern Ireland providing timely weather data that greatly assisted the bomber offensive against Germany and occupied Northern Europe. RAF Group Captain Stagg has asserted that his D-day forecast would not have been possible without this North Atlantic data.

Rescue

In February 1940, a pair of Battles were allocated for Royal Navy ASV radar research.  The roomy enclosed cockpit made research flights less stressful than using Fairey Swordfish that were open to the worst of the winter weather. It was during a test flight over the Irish Sea that the ability of even the earliest ASVII radar to detect lifeboats from torpedoed shipping was noted.  In order to provide increased coastal patrols capable of detecting survivors 844 squadron Fleet Air Arm was allocated 30 Battle GR Mk IV aircraft in September 1940. Operating from RNAS Tern in the Orkneys, temporary landing grounds the Reykjavik area and RNAS Vulture at St Merryn in Cornwall their ASVII, and later centimetric ASVIII and ASVXI radar installations made it possible to spot, eventually, even a single survivor on a life raft. The bomb cells in the wings were modified to carry up to eight “survivor packs” which included a ten man covered life raft and survival gear. No exact figures are available, but a post war assessment offered by Captain Stephen Roskill in his World War Two historical research suggests that over 2000 seamen and downed aircrew owe their lives to the Fairey Battle GR Mk IV.  Although later supplanted by Wellington and Warwick ASR aircraft, the Battle provided ASR facilities when no other aircraft could be spared.

Training and testing

The “benign handling characteristics and maneuverability” of the Battle made it an ideal gunnery and bombing trainer and target tug. It was used in several Commonwealth air forces, Turkey and Ireland as well as the RAF. For engine test and trials purposes, many different power units were fitted. Rolls-Royce Exe, Fairey Prince and Monarch, Napier Dagger and Sabre as well as a Wright R-1820 Cyclone all were operated on test airframes. An electrically-controlled three-bladed contra-rotating propeller unit with a large ventral radiator was also trialed on Battle K9370.

The last Fairey Battle left RAF second line service in 1949, having given sterling service in non-combatant roles.

As usual with any of my backstories, I'm not in the slightest 'territorial' about them, and if anyone wishes to add to it, model it  or amend it I'm happy to have other people's input.  I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Battle, and have recently acquired a Zvedza 1/144 clip together kit that may in the fullness of time appear here as a Battle ASV aircraft.

The Battle gave stirling service on the other side of the globe as well.  In 1940, the Battle was allocated to the Empire Pilot Scheme as a training aircraft.  Equipped with twin cockpits, the aircraft allowed student pilots to become accustomed to flying bomber aircraft.  In 1941, alarmed at the prospect of Australia being directly attacked by the rapidly encroaching Japanese, several battles were converted back to single pilot with an airgunner style cockpits.  They were then outfitted to carry Torpedoes.   The Battles were further equipped with early radar systems and allocated to 8 Squadron RAAF.   While initially, they flew coastal protection patrols off the eastern coast, they were quickly drawn into the war.   Flying from Port Moresby, equipped with a single 18 inch torpedo, slung under the fuselage, they were ordered to patrol into the Coral Sea. 

On 4 May 1942, they encountered a Japanese task force sailing towards Port Moresby.   They reported it's position and course and then mounted an attack against the transport ships.  Three Battles took part.  The first, commanded by Flight Lieutenant Smith was shot down by anti-aircraft fire from the escorting destroyers.  The second, commanded by Flight Lieutenant Jones, suffered a similar fate.  The third, commanded by Squadron Leader Alas lined up and launched his torpedo against the Kamikawa Maru a seaplane tender.  He survived the attack and saw, as he was leaving the area a jet of water which flew up the side of the ship.   He had scored a hit and the ship quickly sank.   RAAF Hudsons followed up the attack but saw no ships, they had been forced to leave the area when the US Navy sank two Japanese navy carriers in a separate action.

The Battle continued in RAAF service, both as a training aircraft and a patrol plane until war's end when they were quickly retired.  However, they saw no further action against the enemy.

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Offline dadlamassu

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Re: THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2019, 11:00:45 am »
During my father's war service he was an air gunner on a Defiant and when transferred to the AI radar equipped Beaufighters he was trained on AI equipped Fairey Battles.

Offline NARSES2

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Re: THE FAIREY BATTLE: AN UNEXPECTED TRIUMPH
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2019, 01:39:35 am »
Yup we often forget the all important second line aircraft for their more "glamorous" front line cousins.
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