Warplanes / Great Britain
Handley Page Hampden

Handley Page Hampden

As early as 1932, in answer to the Air Ministry specification B.9/32, a team at the Handley Page concern under G. R. Volkert designed the Handley Page HP.52, a slim twin-engine aircraft featuring a boom-type fuselage of very narrow width and considerable depth. Powered by two Bristol Pegasus PE.55(a) engines, the HP. 52 flew for the first time on 21 June 1935 with Major J.L.H.B. Cordes at the controls. The first production HP. 52, now known to the Royal Air Force as the Handley Page Hampden Mk I, flew its initial trials flight on 24 June 1938 following the issue of promising orders. The first example to serve with the RAF was passed to the Central Flying School at Upavon, and by December 1938 Nos 49, 50 and 83 Squadrons of RAF Bomber Command were in the process of re-equipment. On the outbreak of war Hampden Mk I bombers were in service with Nos 44, 49, 50, 61, 83, 106, 144 and 185 Squadrons based in Lincolnshire and Huntingdonshire under No. 5 (Bomber) Group. The Scampton based No, 83 Squadron sent an armed reconnaissance to the Schillig Roads on 3 September 1939, but fog forced an early return to base, In common with other RAF bombers of the period, the Hampden Mk I was grossly underarmed: defensive gunnery was limited to only three 7.7-mm (0.303-in) handheld Vickers K guns. Operating within a few miles of the German coast in broad daylight soon brought repercussions. On 29 September Nos 61 and 144 Squadrons were operating over the German Bight when their Hampdens were bounced by a mixed formation of cannon-firing Messerschmitt Bf 109Es and Bf l lOCs from Jever and Nordholz: in a running battle five Hampdens were shot down. Some time later the Vickers Wellington Mk Is of Bomber Command encountered similar experiences, and the RAF was forced to commit its bomber force to nocturnal operations. On night missions the sturdy Hampden Mk I, with its respectable bombload, performed very well. The first German land base to be attacked, Hörnum near Sylt (Westerland), was raided by Hampdens on 19/20 March 1940. The type made the first attack on the industrial Ruhr in the company of Wellingtons on 11/12 May, and it took part in the first RAF bomber mission to Berlin on the night of 25/26 August 1940. Two Victoria Crosses went to crews of Hampdens: the first to Flight Lieutenant R. A.B. Learoyd (No. 49 Sqn) for action against the Dortmund-Ems canal on 12/13 August 1940, and the second to Sergeant John Hannah (No. 83 Sqn) for putting out a fire over Antwerp on 15/16 September 1940.

Total production numbered 1,532, Hampden Mk Is were built by Handley Page (500), English Electric (770), and the Canadian CAA (160); 141 Hampden Mk Is were converted to Hampden TB.Mk I torpedo-bombers, which served with Nos 144, 455 and 408 Squadrons in Coastal Command from bases in Scotland and the northern USSR during 1942; two Hampden Mk II aircraft with 1,100-hp (820-kW) Wright Cyclones were produced, The 1,000hp (745-kW) Napier Dagger VIII engine was installed in the Hampden's cousin, the Hereford: 100 were built, saw no action, and nine were converted to Hampden Mk Is. The Hampden was phased out of Bomber Command's first-line units by August 1942, but the Hampden TB.Mk I continued in service until December 1943.

Specification Handley Page Hampden Mk I

Type: four-seat medium bomber
Powerplant: two 980-hp (731-kW) Bristol Pegasus XVIII radial piston engines
Performance: maximum speed 426 km/h (265 mph) at 4725 m (15,500 ft); cruising speed 269 km/h (167 mph); climb to 4570 m (15,000 ft) in 18 minutes 55 seconds; service ceiling 6920 m (22,700 ft); maximum range 3200 km (1,990 miles)
Weights: empty 5343 kg (11,780 lb); maximum take-off 9526 kg (21,000 lb)
Dimensions: span 21.08 m (69 ft 2 in); length 16.33 m (53 ft 7 in); height 4.49 m (14 ft 9 in); wing area 62.06 m(669 sq ft)
Armament: initially single 7.7-mm (0.303-in) Browning and Vickers K guns in nose (fixed), nose cupola and rear dorsal and ventral stations, after January 1940 upgunned by twin 7.7-mm (0,303-in) Vickers K guns in ventral and dorsal stations, plus a bombload of 1814 kg (4,000 lb)
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