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The First of the Heavies - Short S.29 Stirling

Discussion in 'Allied Bomber Planes' started by Spitfire XIV-E, Aug 17, 2007.

  1. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    In the 1930's the RAF were concerned with Twin Engined Medium Bombers such as the Handley Page Hampden & Armstrong Whitworth Whitley. In the USA & USSR however experimental 4 Engined Aircraft were showing good potential with Range & Payload exceeding that of existing Twin Engined designs. The British were looking at producing bigger & more powerful engines to help the Twin Engined designs in the 2000 hp range. With production capacity already stretched with so many new Aircraft coming in to service it was decided to look at 4 Engined designs as an alternative. Air Ministry Secification B.12/36 was issued for an Aircraft that could be used as a Bomber & Transport, Could take off in just 500 feet and be able to clear 50 foot Trees after take off (A tall order even by today's standards). 11 designs were submitted most of which were unrealistic. Shorts managed to persuade the Air Ministry that their experience with 4 engined Aircraft was already proven so it was their S.29 design that was adopted. It was based on the S.25 Sunderland Flying Boat with the lower deck removed and other modifications. Originally retaining the Sunderland's 114 feet Wingspan, the Air Ministry demanded a reduction to under 100 feet so that it would fit in to existing hangars. The wing was re-designed and reshaped to a span of just 99 feet. This would later prove a costly error as it reduced the maximum ceiling to just over 21000 feet with a reduced bomb load. A half scale protoype, the S.31 was built to test the aerodynamics and other characteristics of the new aircraft. First flown on 19th September 1938. Piloted by Shorts' chief Test Pilot - J.Lankester Parker. Everyone thought that the take off run was too long but were pleased with the aircraft. To fix the problem lengthened Undercarriage Struts were fitted to lift the nose during take off giving the Stirling it's Spindly look whilst on the ground. This would later be the cause of many landing accidents and even the S.31 prototype was finished off this way whilst landing in 1944. The first production Stirling rolled off the assembly line at Shorts' Rochester Factory in August 1940. However after it's first test flight one of the breaks locked on landing and it slewed off the runway collapsing the landing gear. Shorts' fitted strengthened Struts to all future production models and this went some way towards solving this problem. Because Rochester was in the area of some of the heaviest fighting during the Battle of Britain, the Shorts' Factory along with many other Aircraft Manufacturers in the vicinity was attacked, one low level raid by Dornier Do 17's catching some of the first production models on the ground and they were nearly all destroyed with the Factory badly damaged as well. This set production back by almost a year and the first Stirling didn't enter service until January 1941 with No.7 Squadron. Although not as large as the experimental Soviet & US designs it's 14000 lb payload was double that of any other bomber at the time and it also had good range. The first raid was flown by 3 of the first Stirlings on 10th February 1941 against Oil Tanks at Rotterdam. Gradually as more entered Squadron Service the numbers increased until in 1943 100 Stirlings could be used in raids. Unfortunately because of the short wing some of the missions flown with a full bomb load were as short as 590 miles because the aircraft struggled to reach a high enough altitude for economic fuel consumption. Some raids were flown as low as 12000 feet which was a huge disadvantage because German Night Fighters would always go for the lower flying Stirlings first before attacking other bombers higher up. 67 out of the 84 first production Stirlings were lost in action because of this. Another disadvantage was the Stirling's Bomb Bay which was a split configuration. This meant that the biggest Bomb it could carry was the 2000 lb, so when the RAF started to use the 4000 lb Cookie and other special bombs it was unable to use them. The later model Handley Page Halifax & Avro Lancaster were now the preferred choice as they started to come on stream and in 1943, it was decided to relegate the Stirling to secondary duties. It served as a Glider Tug and Troop Transport for the remainder of the war being phased out from Bomber Command by December 1943. It made some notable contributions on D-Day, Operation Market Garden & Operation Varsity where it either towed Gliders or dropped Paratroops in support of Allied Operations. It finished it's service career in 1946 and was largely considered a disappointment by many although Pilots who flew it liked the manoeverability which it's thick wing gave, allowing them to out turn Night Fighters if they were spotted in time. The Stirling was however the only RAF Bomber designed with 4 engines from the outset. The Lancaster was a re-design of the unsuccessful Avro Manchester & the Halifax was also originally designed with a twin engine layout with the same unreliable Rolls Royce Vulture engines as the Manchester.




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    Left to Right - S.31 Prototype, A No.7 Squadron Stirling being loaded with Bombs, Stirlings in formation, Ground Crew service a Stirling
     
  2. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    Short S.29 Stirling


    Number built : 2383

    Manufactured at : Shorts Rochester, Shorts/Harland Belfast, Austin Motors

    Entered Service : January 1941

    Finished Service : December 1943 - Bomber Command, 1946 - RAF

    Engines : Bristol Hercules II, VI, XI & XVI over various marks

    Speed : 255 - 270 mph dependant on version

    Ceiling : 21000 feet - Not with full bomb load
     
  3. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    By 1944 the first conversions had taken place to the Mk IV Stirling from earlier Mk III's. Here is one of the prototype Mk IV's fitted with Glider Towing Gear. It also lost the Front and Dorsal Turrets for this role. The Mk IV was a multi purpose aircraft used for Paratroop Drops & Supply Ferrying as well as Glider Towing. In this new role it excelled, able to tow a single Hamilcar or 2 Horsa Gliders with comparitive ease.



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  4. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    Stirlings taking part in Operation Market Garden -



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    Paratroops of 3rd Battalion, 21st Independant Parachute Brigade board Mk IV Stirlings of 620 Squadron at RAF Fairford on 17th September 1944. A Mk IV Strirling towing a Horsa Glider takes off from RAF Harwell in Oxfordshire on the same date.
     
  5. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Nice thread again Spit.
    I've just spent half an hour googling in vain for the link, on this aircraft's legendary ruggedness. A while back I read that a Stirling landed safely after a head-on collision with a German nightfighter !
    :eyes:
     
  6. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    Yes there were 2 posthumous VC's awarded to Stirling Pilots as well I found out.


    The last version was the Mk V. This was built from late 1944 as a Transport only and had an opening nose to facilitate Freight Loading. 160 of these were built.

    It could carry - 40 Troops or 20 Paratroops, 12 Stretcher bound Casualties or 14 seated Casualties or Freight - Typically 2 Jeeps + Trailers or 1 Jeep + 6 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun + Trailer + Crew.


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    Stirling Mk V. After the war a few Stirlings were sold to Egypt as Freighters and they remained in service until 1952.
     
  7. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

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    [YOUTUBE]m6QV7nQMm3w[/YOUTUBE]


    One of those "Here's how we're hitting back at the enemy" films featuring the Stirling.
     
  8. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    A Stirling Bomber being loaded up for an attack on Germany ..

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