Short Stirling with Bomber Command

Short Stirling with Bomber Command



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Short Stirling with Bomber Command

The Stirling had a slow introduction to service. The first Mk I Series I aircraft was delivered to No. 7 Squadron on 3 August 1940. However the disappointing performance of the aircraft and the slow pace of deliveries meant that it would be six months before the squadron made its first raid.

Understandably there was a great deal of political pressure for the first raid by a British four engined bomber. Churchill was keen on an attack on Berlin, but wiser counsels prevailed and the first Stirling raid was an attack on oil storage tanks at Rotterdam, launched on 10-11 February 1941. Three Stirlings of No. 7 Squadron dropped 24,000 lbs of bombs on the target and returned without lose. Although only a small raid it did demonstrate the potential of the heavy bombers – it would have taken twice the number of Wellingtons to carry the same bomb load to Rotterdam. Berlin still remained a target for the Stirling. A first attempt to reach the German capital failed on 9 April, but on 17-18 April a single Stirling finally reached Berlin, dropping 8,500 lb of bombs.

During 1941 the Stirling made a series of daylight raids on coastal targets. These were costly and achieved little, but as there were only two Stirling squadrons for most of the year this can hardly be considered a surprise.

The Stirling was briefly used on the Circus operations during the summer of 1941. These were raids into occupied Europe designed to force the Luftwaffe to respond. Earlier fighter sweeps without bombers had been ignored. The Stirling was not an ideal aircraft for these missions – in one month of Circuses five were destroyed and eleven damaged, mostly by anti-aircraft fire. It was realised that these raids were a waste of the new four engined heavies, and the Stirling was quickly replaced by two engined bombers.

The presence of the large German ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at Brest
Scharnhorst provided the RAF with an irresistible and important target. The Stirling was involved in raids on the German ships in April, July, October and December 1941, suffering a series of losses without inflicting any real damage on the ships, which later made the famous “channel dash” to relative safety in German waters.

Italy became a target in 1941. The Stirling had the range to reach northern Italy from bases in Britain while carrying a reasonable bomb load. However, the aircraft did not always have the altitude to fly over the alps, and so on several occasions Stirlings were reported to have flow through the Alpine passes to reach Italy. Stirling squadrons returned to Italy late in 1942 to support the invasion of North Africa, once again flying from Britain. By 1943 aircraft involved in these raids also had the option of flying on to North Africa if they could not return to Britain.

The Stirling took part in all three of the 1,000 bomber raids on 1942. The first of these was against Cologne, on 30 May. The new head of Bomber Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, intended these raids to prove the value of his heavy bomber force. Stirlings made up 88 of the 1,046 aircraft that took part in the raid, with 73 reporting success. The second raid, against Essen on 1-2 June involved 78 Stirlings, the third, against Bremen on 25-26 June only 72. The 1,000 bomber raids succeeded in that they achieved Harris’s main aim of justifying his heavy bomber force, although somewhat smaller raids would remain more normal.

1942 saw the formation of the Pathfinder squadrons. Four squadrons, one for each bomber in use with Bomber Command in 1942 were selected to lead the main bomber stream on its raids. They would identify the target and mark it with flares allowing the main force to make more accurate attacks. The Pathfinder force would become increasingly important over the next three years. No. 7 Squadron was selected to be the Stirling squadron that moved to the Pathfinders.

The Stirling played an important role in the dropping of mines in coastal waterways used by the Germans. Here the narrow bomb bay was not a problem. As the standard mine was a slim 1,500 lb weapon, ideally suited for use in the Stirling. From March 1942 until the end of the war the Stirling dropped 20,000 mines in these shipping channels. These operations were code named Gardening. The most important of these routes were probably those that passed through Danish waters, linking the Baltic and the North Sea. At first these mine were dropped at low level, to avoid damage to the mines. However, this did run the risk of the aircraft hitting the sea, as altitude was hard to judge over water. Later on experiments proved that the mines could be safely dropped from higher altitude without damage, making the missions much safer.

The low service ceiling of the Stirling was its main weakness as a bomber. While heavy flak threatened all Allied bombers operating at 20,000 feet, three thousand feet lower the Stirling was just that but more vulnerable. The lack of any downward firing guns also contributed to a heavy lose rate. The low operating altitude of the Stirling also made it hard for the type to cooperate with other Bomber Command aircraft, who would often be dropping their bombs through the lower flying Stirling formations. The Stirling was withdrawn from the main bomber force after a last raid against Berlin on 22-23 November 1943. The Stirling remained in Bomber Command service for another year, performing mine-laying duties along the coast of occupied Europe and electronic counter measures to aid the main bomber stream.

As the bomber the Stirling was at best fourth in importance for Bomber Command. It dropped only 27,821 tons of bombs, compared to 41,800 for the Wellington, 227,000 for the Halifax and an amazing 608,612 tons for the Lancaster. However it was also responsible for dropping 20,000 mines into German controlled waters.

During 1944 No. 199 Squadron joined 100 Group carrying out electronic counter measures against the German air defences. The Stirling was used to carry Mandrel equipment, used to jam or overwhelm German radar and radio systems. Mine dropping operations also continued in 1944, and the Stirling did not make its final bombing raid until 7-8 March 1945, during the Allied advance into Germany.


Bomber Harris, not a happy man (4)

One point the author, Roy Irons, makes very strongly in his excellent book “The Relentless Offensive”, is that at the beginning of the war, Bomber Command had some really dreadful aircraft in service. The Armstrong Whitworth Whitley had, according to pilots, “little inherent stability”. It was “heavy and unpleasant on the controls” and “fatiguing to fly”. It was “difficult to navigate” and the most subtle of all, “as a flying machine, the Whitley has a very good undercarriage”. The Whitley also flew habitually at around 30° below the horizontal which caused an enormous amount of drag and very poor fuel consumption because of it:

The Hampden was a shocker, and a very narrow shocker at that, with a fuselage only three or four feet wide. Members of the crew could not pass each other, the body of the plane was so tight:

When the heavier bombers came in, two of them, in Harris’ view, were pretty useless. These were the Short Stirling and the Handley Page Halifax. Here is the Short Stirling:

The Short Stirling had “some vicious flying characteristics during take-offs and landings”. On take-off it exhibited a dreadful tendency to ground loop, which usually involved a collapse of the incredibly complex landing gear and the subsequent detonation of the bombload which would take the fuel tanks with it. On landing the Stirling had an unfortunate tendency to drop the last few feet, rather like the abrupt delivery of a hundred thousand bricks off the back of a lorry. This too would cause a collapse of the landing gear and a fire. Notice in this crash landing, how the front of the aircraft is completely burnt out. That, of course, is where the crew would have been:

It should perhaps be said that the argument could be put forward that the Stirling might possibly have been a much better aircraft if the original design had been followed. It was meant to be essentially a land-based Sunderland with a number of other modifications. This might well have produced a decent aircraft, but the Air Ministry also demanded a number of “extras”. It had to be easy to convert the bomber into a troop transport and there was a maximum figure not to be exceeded for the wingspan. With those “add-ons” the Stirling stood no chance.

Harris, though, was in no doubt whatsoever. He laid the blame fairly and squarely at the feet of the the people in charge at Shorts:

“We shall get nothing worth having out of Shorts until Oswald Short and a good many others in the firm are thrown out on their ears. Sir Oswald Short is just an incompetent drunk. There should be a wholesale sacking of the incompetents who have turned out approximately 50% rogue aircraft from Short & Harland Belfast.”

Don’t hold back, Arthur, tell it to them straight!!

As it was, Short’s didn’t do a great deal in six whole years of war. In satellite factories at Aldergrove and Maghaberry near Belfast they produced just under 250 Stirlings with a further 600 produced at Austin Motors at Longbridge in Birmingham. Blackburn Aircraft in Scotland produced 240 Sunderlands and a number of Handley Page Herefords which was a variant of the Handley Page Hampden. Both aircraft were shockers.

Can you spot the difference? No, it’s NOT that one of them is in the sky.


More photos of the Moseley crew.

I have been sent more photos from Rob Middleton of his father and crew.

There is one in the last group sent that I really like. It is one of the crew siting on the outside of the mid upper gun turret where Rob’s father woud have been stationed. It’s a great photo.

Sgt Philip Albin Miles Moseley. Pilot
Sgt George Bernard Bates. Navigator
Sgt E. D. Taylor. Bomb Aimer
Sgt Vincent Bowes Farningham, Wireless Op
Sgt G. Hughes, Flight Eng
Sgt Clifford Middleton. Mid Upper Gnr
Sgt A. North. Rear Gunner

If anyone has information one the crew I’m sure Rob would be interested to hear from you.


Short Stirling & RAF Bomber Command Forum

oceanexploration Corporal
Posts: 5 Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:11 am

Downed Short Stirling recently found

Post by oceanexploration » Mon Jan 23, 2017 9:45 pm

I am new here. The reason why I am here is I wanted to share with you the following story. You heard it here first. This will be in the news in the coming weeks.
Towards the end of the Second World War, a British Short Stirling heavy bomber en route to drop supplies to Norwegian resistance forces disappeared without a trace. The mystery now appears to be solved. In the late summer of 2012, I lead a survey across the North Sea as part of the ongoing North Sea Link project, a high voltage DC cable connection between Norway and the UK. Among a multitude of other findings, one seemingly insignificant target caught my attention. This target not only was unnoticed by others but looked remarkably unimportant to anyone else once I drew attention to it. I decided to check it out anyway. The weather was awful and the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) could not be deployed, despite the purpose built 55m survey vessel. We were headed in towards land to get out of harms way. The last thing anyone wanted to do was stop to check out a little junk on the seabed. Still, as client I had the final call, although this made me very unpopular at the time. We got to the site late in the evening and deployed a drop camera into stirred up murky water and frothing seas rimmed with white caps and into a chilling stiff wind. When reaching the bottom, there was virtually nothing evident. Then, out of the darkness came some small pieces of unidentifiable metallic debris which looked like aluminum. Then, some wiring and connectors, some engine parts, and finally a tail wheel of an aircraft. We hurriedly recovered the camera and ran to port to wait out the weather. Report of the finding went to the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), then aerospace engineering and curator Birger Larsen of the Norwegian Aviation Museum and aviation historian Bengt Stangvik. He pointed out the characteristic hoop on the wheel indicates it could come from a British Short Stirling bomber. This also fit well with one of the other photographs, that show a cylinder from an air-cooled engine. This was consistent with NIKU and our thoughts as well.

In early 1944, the Short Stirling was phased out of bomber flights, but continued to play a major role as a glider tug and supply aircraft. It was as a supply aircraft that the Short Stirling mostly operated over Norway, from autumn 1944 to the end of the war.
“Several Stirlings disappeared without trace on missions to Norway in winter 1944-45. Based on the location of this wreck, it is probable that it was on a mission to drop supplies to the resistance forces in Western Norway. If this is the case, only one Stirling disappeared during these missions,” he explains.
“On the night of 30-31 March 1945, a Short Stirling Mk. IV PK225 (5G-Q) disappeared during supply drop operation ‘Stirrup 8’. Stirrup 8 was the code name for supply drops to the Norwegian resistance in South West Norway. Naturally, it could be one of the other Stirlings that were lost in operations to Norway, but the position of the wreck makes this less likely,” Stangvik says.

Short Stirling Mk. IV PK225 had a crew of six and the crew list is still on record.
“The plane wreck does not fall under the protection of the Cultural Heritage Act, but the wreck has a high preservation value as a war memorial,” Inge Lindblom of NIKU says.

Of the numerous wrecks and aircraft I have found over the years, it is relatively uncommon to find out the precise identity of the wreckage. I hope this find brings some closure to the families of the servicemen who bravely served, fought, and in this case died for their country and brothers in the sky. I am humbled by them.


Of the RAF’s trio of four-engined heavy bombers in World War 2, the mighty Short Stirling was the first to enter service in August 1940. A total of 2371 examples were eventually built and flown by the Royal Air Force (RAF) before the type was finally retired in July 1946. From its first raid in February 1941, the Stirling was at the forefront of the British night bombing offensive against Germany. At the peak of its operational career with Bomber Command in 1943, 12 squadrons were equipped with the RAF’s largest wartime bomber before unacceptably high losses forced its relegation to second-line duties.

Once the nights had begun to lengthen at the end of summer 1941, Bomber Command sent Stirlings from Nos 7 and 15 Sqns to northern Italy on Sep. 10-11 on the type’s first truly long-range operation. Their target was the northern city of Turin, and to reach it crews had to through the Alps. Five aircraft were lost on this raid, but none from among the 13 Stirlings dispatched.

As explained by Jonathan Falconer in his book Short Stirling Units of World War 2, Italy was at the very limits of the Stirling’s endurance. With a lengthy flight across France before threading a perilous pathway through the Alps, or following the western route across Lake Geneva, passing near Mont Blanc, bomb-loads were pared back so that more fuel could be carried. Sgt Jimmy Morris, a flight engineer with No 218 Sqn, remembers when his crew visited Genoa on Oct. 23, 1942. ‘On a long trip like this you could not afford to waste any fuel’. Careful fuel management and engine handling were essential for a successful sortie, but with the poor height performance of a heavily laden Stirling, it was always going to be a challenge. ‘We started to climb over the Alps, which peak at about 6,000 ft, but there was no chance of getting the Stirling up to that height with the load we had on board, so it was a case of picking our way around the mountain tops at about 12,000 ft’. Others remembered the Italian trips for different reasons. In a last letter home before his death, Flt Sgt Kenneth , Chapman RNZAF, a pilot with No 15 Sqn, described the same operation to Genoa on Oct. 23 as ‘a long and cold ten-hour flight’.

Italian targets were visited spasmodically by Bomber Command over the next two years until the final raid in August 1943, when 103 Stirlings were among the force that bombed Turin on the 16th/ 17th. The only Stirling to be lost on this operation was No 218 Sqn’s EH884 flown by WO2 Stanley Chudzik RCAF, which was shot down from 14,000 ft by a nightfighter on its outward journey over eastern France, crashing at Amberieu-en-Bugey. Only two survived.

Both awards of the Victoria Cross (VC) to Stirling aircrew were made to pilots flying sorties to distant Italian targets. The first occasion was on the night of Nov. 28-29, 1942 when Flt Sgt R H Middleton RAAF was captain of a No 149 Sqn Stirling detailed to bomb the Fiat motor works at Turin. His aircraft was hit by flak over the target, severely wounding Middleton and his second pilot Flt Sgt L A Hyder. In very difficult conditions Middleton succeeded in flying the damaged bomber as far as the Kent coast, where he ordered the crew to bail out. Five were able to do so, but the flight engineer and front gunner stayed with Middleton as he steered the bomber out to sea to avoid crashing onto a populated area. He then ordered them to bail out (which they did, but they perished in the Channel during the night) before the Stirling plunged into the sea, taking Middleton down with it. His body was washed ashore on Feb. 1. Middleton was the first member of the RAAF to be awarded the VC in World War 2.

Hamish Mahaddie, a one-time flight commander on No 7 Pathfinder force (PFF) Sqn before becoming Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett’s ‘horse thief’ at PFF headquarters, gives an interesting insight into Middleton’s brief spell as a Pathfinder

‘I [had] a long conversation with young Middleton to whom I took a great shine, and was very impressed with him as a person and indeed his crew. I enquired if he had volunteered for Pathfinders, to which he replied that he had thought about it. I told him if he wanted to come he could join my squadron [No 7 Sqn]. He agreed, and in a few days he was in my Flight. By this time it needed reinforcing, as we had recently lost several crews.

`So, Middleton did two sorties I believe, and on each occasion he brought back an aircraft that was no longer capable of flying and was a write-off, it had so much flak and fighter damage. When the same thing happened a second time I had Middleton in and told him that one of his problems was his navigator, who was just not able to navigate him round the heavy flak areas. It was pointless him going right through the centre because he was incurring far too much damage and eventually he would be shot down. Of course he was highly hacked about this, and he insisted that he was not having his crew tampered with in any way. I agreed, but reminded him that he had volunteered to come here, so he could volunteer to go back to his squadron. I suggested that he might like to go and have a talk with his crew. I did not want to send him back to his squadron, but with a new navigator I believed he could eventually forge a good Pathfinding crew. Middleton did not want any of that but he said he would go and talk to his crew. Whether he did or not, he was back in very short order saying the crew had decided to go back to their old squadron, and I cleared him to return to his squadron [149] that same afternoon.’

Nine months later, on Aug. 12-13, 1943, Turin was the target once again when the second Stirling VC action occurred. Flt Sgt Arthur Aaron of No 218 Sqn was captain of Stirling EF452 that was badly shot up outward bound over the Alps by another Stirling in what was believed to have been a case of ‘friendly fire’, killing the navigator and mortally wounding Aaron. In spite of his dreadful injuries, Aaron — who was flying his 20th op — directed his bomb aimer to fly the Stirling to North Africa, where, on the point of unconsciousness, he helped to crash-land the aircraft, thereby saving the lives of his crew. Aaron died from his wounds a few hours later and was posthumously awarded the on Nov. 5, 1942.

Short Stirling Units of World War 2 is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.


Short Stirling

The Short Sterling formed the backbone of British RAF heavy bomber groups beginning in January of 1941 and forged an operational existence from then through to the end of World War 2 in 1945, where it proved an obsolescent design and relegated to transport sorties. Designed from the outset as a four-engined heavy bomber (most RAF four engine bombers began life as twin-engined designs), the Stirling would reach its stride in the early 1940's through the Mk III variant as this proved the definitive principle bomber. Short Stirlings were fielded across twenty-eight total RAF bomber squadrons and certainly left their mark on the war despite the arrival of more famous mounts such as the Avro Lancaster.

The Short Stirling was born from an RAF requirement set forth in 1936 calling for a heavy four-engined bomber with suitable range and a lethal payload carrying capability. By 1938, a half-sized prototype was flying with a full-size prototype being delivered for testing in 1939. The rather conventional design made use of a forward-set flight deck, centralized internal bomb bay and tricycle undercarriage. Wings were straight and low-mounted with each assembly managing two leading edge engine nacelles. Each engine powered a three-bladed propeller. The undercarriage was retractable with the main legs left rather tall giving the Stirling bomber a rather noticeable nose-up profile when landed. The tail section was traditional, showcasing a single vertical tail fin flanked by two low-mounted horizontal planes. Typical crew accommodations included seven personnel made up of two pilots, a navigator/bombardier, nose gunner, flight engineer and two dedicated gunners. Defensive armament was 8 x 7.7mm (0.303 caliber) machine guns - 2 x in a powered nose turret, 2 x in a powered dorsal turret and 4 x in a powered tail turret. Offensively, the bomber could carry upwards of 14,000lb of internal stores.

By 1940, the Stirling was in serial production and entered operational service the following year. In its original Mk I form, the Stirling was powered by 4 x Bristol Hercules XI radial piston engines and it would be this mark that would be available during the critical war years - holding enough range to reach the German capital of Berlin if required. The Mk II model followed in prototype form and was fitted with 4x Wright Cyclone engines - though never produced. As such, the definitive Mk III followed with its 4 x Bristol Hercules XVI powerplants and would become the principle bomber variant in the Stirling series. The Mk III series was further fitted with specialized "Pathfinder" equipment, making it useful in airborne-related paratrooper operations or directing follow-up bomber formations to the proper target in low-light.

By 1944, the Stirling had seen its best fighting days. The tide had also begun turning in favor of the Allies with gains across Africa, the Pacific, France, Italy and in the Eastern Front. The Stirling was passed up for more modern offerings and therefore relegated to secondary duties such as glider / transport tug (Mk IV) and used extensively with airborne operations through the remaining years of the war. A dedicated transport model (Mk V) was spawned as the final variant of the Short Sterling.

Beyond the British RAF, the Short Stirling was used by Belgium, Egypt and Germany. In Belgium service, these were post-war mounts used by commercial venture Trans-Air. The Egyptian Air Force procured eight ex-Belgian airframes some time later. German use was limited to recovered examples and operated to a limited extent by the specialist Luftwaffe air group known as "KG 200" ("Kampfgeschwader 200"). KG 200 was disbanded after the war in 1945.

2,383 Short Stirlings were eventually produced, these through Short Brothers, Rochester Short Brothers and Harland and Belfast Austin Motor Company.


Short Stirling with Bomber Command - History


Amble and District
Local History

Short Stirling III No. EH880
75 Squadron RAF Bomber Command Aircraft.
Tragedy at Cliff House Farm, 1st December 1943, 11 Killed.

"Aircraft Crash on Farmhouse.
Family of five young children killed.

Five children - all their family - of Mr and Mrs W. Robson were killed when an Aircraft crashed into Cliff House, a small dairy farm near Amble, Northumberland, on Wednesday night. The children’s ages ranged from one to nine years. They were sleeping in an upstairs room.

The mother and father, who with two friends Mr. and Mrs Rowell of Dilston [Terrace] Amble, were sitting in a downstairs room, were injured but not seriously. One of the crew of the aircraft, a gunner, was saved by Mr. Rowell.

Mr Rowell said last night: “We did not realize what had happened until the house collapsed above our heads. We managed to stand up, bruised and badly dazed, and, looking upward we saw the sky. Mrs Robson tried to make her way towards the stairs, which had been blown away. My wife called my attention to a burning object outside which was moving about. We rushed over and found it was a gunner with his clothes alight. Mr Rowell rolled the airman on the ground to extinguish the burning clothes. Although badly burned, the gunner was alive.


Contents

In the 1930s, the Royal Air Force was interested primarily in twin-engine bombers. These designs put limited demands on engine production and maintenance, both of which were already stretched with the introduction of so many new types into service. Power limitations were so serious that the British invested heavily in the development of huge engines in the 2,000 horsepower (1,500 kW) class in order to improve performance. In the late 1930s, none were ready for production. The U.S. and USSR were developing bombers with four smaller engines, which proved to have excellent range and fair lifting capacity, so in 1936 the RAF also decided to investigate the feasibility of the four-engined bomber.

The Air Ministry Specification B.12/36 had several requirements. The bomb load was to be a maximum of 14,000 lb (6,350 kg) carried to a range of 2,000 miles (3218 km) or a lesser payload of 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) to 3,000 miles (4,800 km) (incredibly demanding for the era). It had to cruise at 230 or more mph at 15,000 ft (4,600 m) and have three gun turrets (in nose, amidships and rear) for defence. [2] The aircraft should also be able to be used as a troop transport for 24 soldiers, [3] and be able to use catapult assistance for take off. [2] The idea was that it would fly troops to far corners of the British Empire and then support them with bombing. To help with this task as well as ease production, it needed to be able to be broken down into parts, for transport by train. [4] Since it could be operating from limited "back country" airfields, it needed to lift off from a 500 ft (150 m) runway and be able to clear 50 ft (15 m) trees at the end, a specification most small aircraft would have a problem with today.

Initially left out of those asked to tender designs, Shorts were included because they already had similar designs in hand and they had ample design staff and production facilities. Shorts were producing several four-engined flying boat designs of the required size and created their S.29 by removing the lower deck and boat hull of the S.25 Sunderland. The new S.29 design was largely identical otherwise: the wings and controls were the same, construction was identical and it even retained the slight upward bend at the rear of the fuselage, originally intended to keep the Sunderland's tail clear of sea spray.

In October 1936, the S.29 was low down on the short list of designs considered and the Supermarine Type 317 was ordered in prototype form in January 1937. However it was decided that an alternative design to Supermarine was needed for insurance and that Shorts should build it as they had experience with four-engined aircraft. The original design had been criticized when considered and in February 1937 the Air Ministry suggested modifications to the original Short design, including considering the use of the Bristol Hercules radial engine as an alternative to the Napier Dagger inline, increasing service ceiling (28,000 ft) and reducing the wingspan. [5] Shorts accepted this large amount of redesign. The project had added importance due to the death of Supermarine's designer, Reginald Mitchell, causing doubt in the Air Ministry. [6] The S.29 used the Sunderland's 114 ft (35 m) wing and it had to be reduced to less than 100 ft (30 m), the same limit as that imposed on the P.13/36 designs (Handley Page Halifax and Avro Manchester). In order to get the needed lift from a shorter span and excess weight, the redesigned wing was thickened and reshaped. It is often said that the wingspan was limited to 100 ft so the aircraft would fit into existing hangars but the maximum hangar opening was 112 ft (34 m) and the specification required outdoor servicing. [4] "The wing span was limited by the Air Ministry to 100 ft" [7] [8] The limitation was actually to force the designer to keep overall weight down. [9]

In June 1937 the S.29 was accepted as the second string for the Supermarine 316 and formally ordered in October.

Shorts built a half scale version as the S.31 (also known internally as the M4 – the title on the tailfin), powered by four Pobjoy Niagara engines, which first flew on 19 September 1938, piloted by Shorts' Chief Test Pilot J. Lankester Parker. Everyone was happy with the design, except that the take off run was thought to be too long. Fixing this required that the angle of the wing to be increased for take off. If the wing itself was modified, the aircraft would be flying nose down while cruising (as in the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley). Shorts lengthened the undercarriage struts to tilt the nose up on take-off, leading to its spindly gear which in turn contributed to many take off and landing accidents. [10] The Short S.31 was scrapped after a take off accident at RAF Stradishall, Suffolk in February 1944.

The first S.29, now given the service name "Stirling" after the Scottish city, flew on 14 May 1939 with four Bristol Hercules II radial engines. Upon landing one of the brakes locked, causing it to slew off the runway and collapse the landing gear. A redesign added much stronger and heavier struts on the second prototype. On its first sortie two months later, one of the engines failed on take off but the aircraft landed easily. From then on, the record improved and service production started in August 1940 at Shorts' Rochester factory. The area, which included a number of major aviation firms, was heavily bombed in the opening days of the Battle of Britain, including one famous low-level raid by a group of Dornier Do 17s. A number of completed Stirlings were destroyed on the ground and the factories were heavily damaged, setting back production by almost a year. Some production was moved to Austin Aero's factory at Cofton Hackett just south of Birmingham and the factory there eventually produced nearly 150 Stirlings. [11] From this point on, the Belfast factory became increasingly important as it was thought to be well beyond the range of German bombers. However, Belfast and the aircraft factory were subjected to German aircraft bombing during Easter week of 1941. To meet the increased requirement for its aircraft during the war, satellite factories near Belfast were operated at Aldergrove and Maghaberry, producing 232 Stirlings between them. In 1940, bombing damaged Supermarine's factory at Woolston and the incomplete Type 316 prototypes. The 316 was cancelled in November 1940 leaving the Stirling as the only B.12/36 design.

Although smaller than the US and Soviet experimental designs, the Stirling had considerably more power and far better payload/range than anything then flying. The massive 14,000 lb (6.25 long tons, 6,340 kg) bomb load put it in a class of its own, double that of any other bomber. It was larger than the Handley Page Halifax and the Avro Lancaster which replaced it but both of these were originally designed to have twin engines. The Stirling was the only British bomber of the period to see service that had been designed from the start with four engines the Avro Lancaster was a re-engined Avro Manchester while the Halifax was planned to be powered by twin Vulture engines but was re-designed to use four Merlins in 1937, as the problems with the Vulture engines became clear (a nasty habit of catching fire and spitting out connecting rods, sometimes within 10 minutes of being started). [12]

The design had nose and tail turrets (the latter was notable for the wide angles of fire) and included a retractable ventral ("dustbin") turret just behind the bomb-bay. This proved almost useless due to cramped conditions, with the added distraction that the turret tended to drop and hit the ground when taxiing over bumps. It was removed almost from the start and temporarily replaced by beam hatches mounting pairs of machine guns, until a twin-gun dorsal turret could be provided. This turret also had problems it had a metal back fitted with an escape hatch which turned out to be almost impossible to use. The later Stirling Mk.III used a fully glazed turret (the same FN.50 as in Lancaster) that had more room and an improved view. Later Stirlings could also carry an improved, low-drag remotely controlled FN.64 ventral turret. [13]

Attention was paid to reducing drag – all rivets were flush headed and panels joggled to avoid edges – but camouflage paint probably negated the benefit. The wing was fitted with Gouge flaps similar to those of the flying boats.

The first few Mk.Is had Hercules II engines but the majority had 1,500 hp (1,100 kW) Hercules XIs. The Mk.III, introduced in 1943, was similar with the exception of the new dorsal turret and the improved 1,635 hp (1,200 kW) Hercules VI or XVI engines, which improved maximum speed from 255 to 270 mph (410 to 435 km/h).

Even before the Stirling went into production, Short had improved on the initial design with the S.34 in an effort to meet specification B.1/39. It would have been powered by four Bristol Hercules 17 SM engines, optimised for high-altitude flight. The new design featured longer span wings and a revised fuselage able to carry dorsal and ventral power-operated turrets each fitted with four 20 mm Hispano cannons despite the obvious gains in performance and capability, the Air Ministry was not interested.

In 1941, Short proposed a new variant, the S.36, [14] which was nicknamed "The Super Stirling" in a company publication. This Stirling would feature a wing span of 135 ft 9 in (41.38 m) and four Bristol Centaurus radials and a maximum takeoff weight of 104,000 lb (47,174 kg). The performance estimates included a 300 mph (483 km/h) speed and a 4,000 mile (6,437 km) range with a weapons load of 10,000 lb (4,536 kg) over 2,300 miles or 23,500 lb over 1,000 miles. The defensive armament of the S.36 was to be ten 0.50 calibre machine guns, in three turrets. It was initially accepted for testing under Specification B.8/41 (written to cover it) and two prototypes were ordered but Arthur Harris, as commander of Bomber Command, felt that production would be too slow and would be better used to give the existing design improved Hercules engines, for a higher ceiling. Shorts were told in May 1942 that the Air Ministry would not be continuing the project and in August Shorts decided to terminate work. [15]


History [ edit | edit source ]

By the mid-1930s new, more efficient technologies had encouraged the development of faster bombers carrying ever-greater loads over long distances, essential for the RAF, of which bombers would form the backbone. Operational requirements called for a mainstream twin-engined bomber force supplemented by a few long-range bombers to attack capital ships and specialised distant targets.

The former was prescribed in Specification P.13/36, the B12/36 (from which the Stirling emerged) being 25 per cent larger and 50 per cent heavier to carry double the P.13/36's load. The 2,000lb Armour Piercing (AP) bomb would be its heaviest and largest weapon. A need for 100 large B.l2/365, inevitably four-engined, was agreed in April 1936. The aircraft was to carry an 8,000lb load for 3,000 miles, 14,000lb for 2,000 miles, and fly at 230 m.p.h. at 15,000ft. Protection would be provided by three power-operated turrets four guns at the rear, two at the front, and two in a retractable ventral “dustbin”. Wingspan was limited to 100ft, not because of hangar entry dimensions as generally thought, but to keep the aircraft's overall size and weight in check in order to curtail take-off and landing runs and hard runway requirements and allow easier storage in 150ft-wide hangars. The maximum weight for a 700yd take-off run was set at 36,000lb or 46,000lb if assisted take-off could be devised.

Studies in May and June 1936 showed that a B.12/36 crew would need meal facilities, rest bunks and a toilet if they were to undertake journeys of up to 3,000 miles. The need for a rapid initial climb to operational height to reduce fuel consumption during cruising would influence total tankage. A wide-track undercarriage, with tyre pressure of 35lb/in2, would allow operation from grass fields.

On July 9, 1936, manufacturers were invited to tender to B.12/36. Short Brothers, privately designing a four-engined landplane based upon its superb flying-boats, received a late invitation. Most favoured by the Ministry was a Vickers four-engined, elliptical-wing Wellington variant with four load-spreading undercarriage units. A design by Supermarine, the only completely original layout, which also had an elliptical wing, was placed last in the line of "favourites" and soon just ahead of Shorts late-entry "Night Bomber".

Being involved with the Handley Page Hereford [N 1] through its Short & Harland tie-up, Short proposed four Napier Dagger sleeve-valve engines for its 86ft 6in-long, 1121t-span, B.12/36, and gave the design the company type number S.29. Four tiers each of five bombs would be carried in four cells placed well forward, the fuselage cross-section allowing easy crew and troop movement, as the B.12/36 specification was to be a bomber/transport. Short estimated a loaded weight of 38,100lb and a maximum permissible weight of 53,100lb.

The new design's size, weight, untried engines and bomb carriage drew criticism, so Short was asked to redesign the aircraft and reduce its wingspan. in April 1937 the company submitted a proposal for a 102f span wing, the shortest desirable. Told that 100ft was the maximum, the company reluctantly reduced it to 99ft 1in. The all-up weight now seemed likely to be 41,600lb, and maximum permissible weight 56,900lb. Conventional bomb stowage was in three 42ft-long, 19in-wide cells, supplemented by six inner-mainplane cells. There was provision for 28 x 500lb high-explosive (HE) bombs or 7 x 2,000lb AP bombs. Power would come from four Bristol Hercules radials or Napier Daggers.

The Air Staff now favoured the Supermarine Type 337 bomber, relegating the 8.29 to a fall-back position in case their first choice failed. His Majesty’s Treasury needed much persuading to support two projects, and not until October 6, 1937, was funding sanctioned. Reginald J. Mitchell's untimely death placed a question mark over the Supermarine bomber, and engendered a belief that its elliptical wing may bring production problems, so Short’s contender took prime place.

The final requirement of December 1937 called for a cruising speed of 230 m.p.h. at 15,000ft during a normal loaded 1,500-mile sortie, and take-off to clear 50ft optimistically not exceeding 500yd. For a 2,000-mile operation, now carrying a 4,000lb load, take-off was listed as 700yd, and the landing run was not to exceed 800yd. Assisted take-off might allow an 8,000lb load for a 3,000-mile sortie. An altitude of 10,000ft had to be maintained on three engines, 20,000ft was to be reached in a 25min climb, and service ceiling was set at 28,000ft.

Short suggested higher speeds of 325 m.p.h. maximum and 280 m.p.h cruising, while the Air Staff limited take-off weight to 45,700lb. Short’s chief designer, C.T.P. Lipscomb, soon stated that a much higher take-off weight of 60,000lb would be needed in order to attain the specified range and load requirements, and suggested double Gouge flaps to shorten the take-off run. The high structure weight stemmed not only from the designs flying-boat origins, but from stressing for catapult launch using either rocket assistance or a track system. This requirement was abandoned in August 1938, leaving the new bombers overstressed and overweight. Assisted-take-off ideas lingered until 1941, when runways for bomber airfields were accepted on a scale of one 1,800yd runway and three of 1 ,100yd. The 1,500yd maximum chosen later would have been suitable for Short’s original design.

Increasingly concerned about take-off run, the company built a half-scale wooden replica, the 8.31, powered by four 114 h.p. Pobjoy Niagara engines, first flown from Rochester Airport on September 19, 1938, by John Lankester Parker and Hugh Gordon. Testing confirmed a long take-oft run and a pronounced swing to the right. Once airborne the 8.31 handled like a fighter, with the short, broad-chord wings conferring a good rate of roll.

After pilots of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE] at Martlesham Heath had flown the 8.31, the Air Ministry asked for a reduction in the S.29’s take-off run, suggesting a 3° increase in wing incidence. The low angle of attack was intended to reduce the drag imposed by the deep wing section, which accommodated fuel and bombs, but design and construction was too advanced for radical change. Instead, the tall undercarriage was further lengthened, and tested on the S.31 from November 1938.

The P/1 production specification for the bomber (now named Stirling) was issued in January 1939, and accepted reduced loads. A 1,500-mile cruise carrying 4,000lb load and 2,000lb for a 2,000-mile sortie were stipulated. On January 3, 1939, agreement was reached for a normal loaded weight of 50,844lb and an even higher maximum of 67,000lb.

Excessive demands on engine production led to a plan for Canadian-built Stirling lls powered by Wright Cyclone engines. Several Mk ls re-engined with Cyclones proved inferior even to early Mk ls, so the Mk ll was abandoned. Short had its sights on a different Mk ll, the 8.34 “Stirling ll” to Specification B.1/39, alias “The Ideal Bomber”. With increased wingspan, projected Bristol Hercules high-altitude engines and seemingly excellent load/range characteristics, it reached only the mock-up stage. A slimmed rear fuselage carried twin fins, and set amidships were two Boulton Paul twin 20mm-cannon turrets, forward of which was a capacious bomb bay. Bomber Command had already chosen its new types, however, and the B.1/39 faded.

The Stirling’s weight increased repeatedly with various equipment additions, raising the normal loaded weight to 57,000lb. Air Ministry calculations suggested that even a normal 63,000lb required a 1,000yd take-oh‘ run and a tyre pressure of 43-5lb/in? tor grass-field operations. The prototype, L7600, had Bristol Hercules I engines, the intended Is being unavailable. On Sunday, May 14, 1939, with the workforce at home, the bomber's flying career started well in John Lankester Parker's skilled hands but soon ended dramatically. On touchdown the light alloy back arch of the undercarriage collapsed and L7600 was wrecked. Steel tubing was substituted in the second aircraft, L7605, which made a successful first flight, four months late, on December 3, 1939.

The A&AEE, now at Boscombe Down, received L7605 on April 22, 1940, for four months‘ assessment. Stirling production was already under way at Rochester, and began at Short & Harland, Belfast, in June 1940. The first production Stirling, N3635, flew on May 7, 1940, and like the next nine aircraft had Hercules IIs giving 1,100 h.p. at 5,000ft, which was unsuitable for operations. Changing them was difficult, as they were installed in monocoque nacelles.

Tested at a take-off weight of 57,400lb, L7605 unstuck after 640yd and cleared 50ft after 1,200yd. At 64,000lb that became 1,500yd. It took 121/2 min to reach 10,000ft, and the highest speed attained at that altitude was 249

5 m.p.h. TAS (true air speed) before performance fell away. With the aircraft loaded to 64,000lb, a top speed of 246 m.p.h. was attained at a mere 4,000ft. At the higher loading the best cruising speed was around 184 m.p.h. at 10,000ft. Service ceiling was 15,000ft. A 10,000lb bomb load could be carried with 1,096gal of fuel aboard a 14,000|b load reduced that to a mere 584gal. The following figures illustrate how far production aircraft fell short in terms of expected flying performance:

Improved performance from superior engines was forecast.

The Stirling was too slow for daylight operations, and its low ceiling prevented the use of armour-piercing bombs to maximum effect. However, it could accommodate six slender sea mines, whereas the Handley Page Halifax could carry only two. September 1940 brought a demand for a superior dorsal turret to replace the beam guns and ventral turret.

Production was hard hit late on August 14, 1940, when 15 Heinkel He 111s of KG100 bombed the works at Belfast, wrecking four completed Stirlings and causing splinter damage to others. The next afternoon Do 17Zs of KG3 attacked Rochester Airport, destroying six Stirlings and crippling several others. Widely dispersed production was quickly devised, using Gloster’s Hucclecote works for final assembly until new factories were established around Swindon. Assembly and flight testing took place from South Marston.

Short had envisaged a small production run. Instead, increased orders demanded a fourth major production batch, and Austin Motors at Longbridge near Birmingham was chosen. The first Longbridge Stirling was completed in March 1941, by which time production Mk ls had more powerful Hercules Xls adding 3,000lb to the all-up weight. The FN7A dorsal gun turret was a standard item of the Mk l Series lll, whose engines were fitted in a steel frame, N3662 being the first production example.

in 1941 Short designed an enlarged Stirling, the Short S.34, to Specification B.8/41, related to the Shetland flying-boat. A six-engined version also came to nothing.

More important were the Stirlings with Hercules VI “power eggs", whose superior cooling was expected to enhance higher-altitude performance. The decision to fit them was made in May 1941, and tests started in June 1942 using R9309. They proved disappointing, however, and improved cooling tests were halted on September 6 when an engine fire caused R9309 to crash at Porton Down, near Salisbury. Stirling l series ll R9188, a modified replacement, flew within a few weeks. ln BK648 and BK649, true prototype llls, cable throttles replaced the troublesome Exactor hydraulic system, and were fitted in subsequent marks. In the Mk lll the ceiling rose to over 17,000ft, but speed showed little improvement.

Output remained unacceptably slow, so in March 1943, under Defence of the Realm Regulation No 78, the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) took control of Short Bros, imposing mass-production methods and a Mk III modification programme. With loss and accident rates increasing, a conference on July 30, 1943, decided that Stlrlings should be withdrawn from front-line bomber squadrons by April 1944. Spare Mk Ills would be convened into GT Mk IV glider tugs/troop transports, a tow coupling being installed under the rear fuselage and a floor hatch being cut for paratroop drops. Shorn of the defensive turrets, the Mk lV could tow a loaded Airspeed Horsa or carry supply containers.


Watch the video: THE STIRLING BOMBER -