A message from Sir Archibald Sinclair, British Air Minister

I welcome this opportunity of contributing a foreword to the special Royal Air Force section of SKYWAYS, which tells in pictures of the part which has been and is being played by the RAF in the present world struggle.

It is more than two years since the RAF, then small in numbers but great in spirit, defeated the savage assault on this island by Goering's much-vaunted and, in truth, formidable air armada. Thus was laid the cornerstone of victory for the United Nations.

The RAF has continued relentlessly to strike the enemy wherever it could find him. It has helped keep open our communications so that your help, so freely given, could be made effective. By night and by day, whenever weather has allowed, it has blasted the enemy's maritime bases, transport centers, and war industries. Its defense of Malta, against attacks unprecedented in scale and ferocity, is a new saga of the skies. It has lent close and powerful support to our armies in the field and in stemming the enemy's onrush to the Nile Delta, and later in bringing him back in disorderly retreat through the biting desert sands. Today — it is fighting with the British and American armies in Northwest Africa.

Small wonder that the letters RAF have come to symbolize for the enslaved peoples of Europe — Courage, Hope and Redemption.

The RAF recently has had the honor of flying and fighting alongside your own brave airmen who, in their recent exploits, have added another glorious page to the history of American arms. We here are proud of their company in the fight for freedom.

Since the early days of the war, the RAF has been fortunate in having some of its squadrons equipped with American aircraft, and the continuous flow of equipment from your factories has aided us in the battle fronts. Still, we have relied mainly on aircraft and engines manufactured in Britain. Now in 1943, as your war production touches a new height, we shall see the combined outputs of American and British factories brought to bear with stunning and shattering force on the common foe.

So, united in a single purpose, the valiant sons of Britain and America, Russia and China and other United Nations will soar on eagles' wings towards that brighter horizon where victory already dawns.

Archibald Sinclair

January, 1943           Air Ministry, London

The article is primarily pictorial. The entries below link to the pages with the referenced images.

RAF Fighters

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
Page 48, uncaptioned photo of unidentified plane
Pages 50-51

The Boulton-Paul Defiant is the first single-engine fighter equipped with a power-driven gun turret, an innovation which stunned the first Nazi dive-bomber pilots who were unlucky enough to discover the fact for themselves in the skies over Dunkirk. It was a new experience to have a British fighter range alongside in the midst of a screaming power dive and blast away with a broadside from four .30-caliber machine guns. This novel fighter, although comparatively slow, has achieved success recently as a night-fighter. The Defiant is powered with a twelve-cylinder V-type Rolls Royce Merlin. Wing span is 39 ft, 6 in — length is 30 feet

England's ace when the blue chips were down in the Battle of Britain, the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire has captured people's imagination more than any other RAF fighter. Oddly enough, this superlative land-based fighter plane was developed by its brilliant designer, R J Mitchell, from his 1931 Schneider Trophy winner … a high-speed float seaplane — the S.6. The Spitfire IX — the latest officially reported progressive development in a great series of fighting ships — is equipped with a four-bladed propeller, driven by a Rolls-Royce Merlin 61. Standard armament consists of two cannon and four machine guns.

The Westland Whirlwind, a twin-engine, low-wing fighter of somewhat unorthodox design, was kept successfully under wraps by the RAF for about a year. Not unlike the Grumman Skyrocket in appearance, it already has performed superbly as a long-range medium-altitude fighter. Details of performance are sparse, but Luftwaffe pilots have reported the Whirlwind doing 353 mph at 16,000 feet.
The Whirlwind is powered by two Rolls-Royce Peregrine engines, each developing 885 hp. Span is 45'; length is 31' 6". Armament consists of four 20-mm cannon, mounted in nose. Note high stabilizer.

Pages 52-53

Built by Supermarine, the Seafire is the Royal Navy's modified version of the famed Spitfire. These new high-speed fighters have been proving their worth in North Africa operations by providing fighter protection for convoys. No data is available as to performance of the Seafire, but its being a modified Spitfire, we may assume the top speed is over 400 mph, its ceiling between 40,000 and 50,000 ft, and that it is very heavily armed with machine guns and shell-firing cannon. Can operate from carriers or land bases

Blackburn Roc
This two-seater fighter monoplane is a modified version of the Skua. Roc is a ship-based plane or seaplane designed and built for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. It is powered by a Bristol Perseus XII engine of 905 hp, has a reported top speed of 225 mph, ceiling of 20,200 ft. Armament is similar to that of the Skua and consists of four forward-firing machine guns in wings, four flexibly mounted guns in rear turret. In addition to this, it can carry a bomb load. The Roc is of all-metal construction

Day and night fighter, has been used with outstanding success by the Middle East Command. Beaufighter is a twin-engine plane with a speed of well over 330 mph, and a ceiling of over 28,000 ft. It is one of the most heavily armed fighters used by the RAF. It is powered by two Hercules IV engines of 1,220 hp at 5,500 ft. Its range is 1,500 mi. Armament consists of four 20-mm Oerlikon cannon, six Browning machine guns, firing at rate of 1,200 rounds per minute, and a power-operated turret. Built by Bristol

Fairey Fulmar
This two-place single-engine Fleet fighter is powered by 1,145-hp Merlin X engine. It has a top speed of close to 300 mph at 17,200 ft, a range well over 1,000 miles, and is designed for shipboard service. Armament of the Fulmar includes eight fixed guns in the wings to fire forward. As pictured here, the Fulmar has just "hooked" the first arrester wire, and is about to "touch down" on the flight deck of the British aircraft carrier. In flight, the undercarriage retracts inward. Fulmar is one of the Fleet Air Arm's top fighter planes

Page 54

The Hawker Hurricane today is one of the most formidable fighters in the world. Latest versions are armed with either twelve .303-in Browning machine guns (Hurricane IIb), or four 20-mm. Hispano-Oerlikon cannon, firing .25-lb projectiles at the rate of 2,400 shells per minute.
The Hurricane IIc (shown) has a Rolls-Royce Merlin, two-speed supercharger. Span: 40', length: 31' 5".
Details of the two newest Hawker designs — Typhoon, Tornado — are secret, but it is known the Typhoon is powered by an H-type 2,200-hp liquid-cooled Napier Sabre.

It is not generally realized that the RAF's chief fighter-plane equipment at the outbreak of the war consisted of Gloster Gladiators — a single-seat, biplane fighter with an air-cooled engine. Despite its age, it gave a good account of itself, in Norway and the Middle East, and with the Fleet Air Arm.
The Gladiator is armed with four machine guns — two firing through the propeller disc, and two mounted below the lower wing. Equipped with Bristol Mercury IX radial engine, its maximum speed is approximately 250 mph at 15,500 feet. Wing span is 32' 3" — Length: 27' 5".

Bombers of the RAF

On May 11, 1910, eighteen Whitley bombers droned over the English Channel to attack railroad communications behind the line of the German advance through the Low Countries. For the first time in World War II, British bombs blasted German soil. Two years later (May 30, 1942) the Royal Air Force sent more than one thousand bombers over Cologne. The grim foreboding, with which the Third Reich must await the inevitable resumption of super-scale bombings this spring, may be imagined.

The unenthusiastic Italian ingredient in the Axis has begun an unhappy acquaintance with the RAF. Italy has discovered that the towering Alps are no barrier to RAF bombers, intent on the destruction of Mussolini's war industries.

The cumulative effect of these RAF bombings, now joined by the bombardment squadrons of the United States Air Forces, is incalculable, and the fact — which no one realizes more than Hitler — is that Germany now faces an aerial bombing onslaught which will make the bombing of Britain in 1941 appear insignificant — terrible as it was. Some of the bigger bombers of the RAF are slab-sided, un-beautiful, but their tremendous load capacities and great operational ranges make them unexcelled for devastating, morale-breaking night-bombing.

Page 56

Bristol Beaufort is a torpedo-carrying general-purpose monoplane. Powered by two Bristol Taurus engines of 1,095 hp. Carries a crew of four. Has one fixed gun in nose, two machine guns amidships, one rearward-firing machine gun in starboard blister under nose. Carries bombs or torpedoes in lower portion of fuselage. Reported to have been used extensively in mine-laying operations

Blackburn Skua is the Fleet Air Arm's two-place fighter-dive bomber. It is powered by one 905-hp Bristol Perseus engine. Top speed is 225 mph at 6,500 feet. Service ceiling is 20,000 feet. Wheels retract outward into wings, and tips of wings tilt sharply upward for storage aboard carriers. Armament consists of four machine guns in the wing, another in the rear cockpit. Fuselage affords buoyancy to allow the plane to float for a long period

Vickers-Armstrong Wellesley is a long-range bomber and torpedo-carrier. Is powered by a Bristol Pegasus XX of 835 hp. Top speed is 226 mph at 22,960 ft. The absolute ceiling is 35,250 ft. Armament consists of one fixed gun in the wing, flexible gun in the observer's cockpit. Bombs are carried in outside containers beneath the wings. Carries a crew of two. Provisions are made for retractable landing lights, flotation bags, dinghy and gear for picking up messages

Bristol Bombay, transport bomber, is playing an important part in transportation of troops in Middle East. Carries a crew of four for bombing, or three with twenty-four fully armed troops for transport. Has two Bristol Pegasus XXII of 890 hp at 6,500 ft. Top speed at 6,500 ft is 192 mph. Armament consists of guns in nose and tail. One of last big bombers equipped with fixed landing gear

Page 57

Airspeed Convertible Envoy, a four-place light bomber, is powered by two Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah IX engines of 310 hp. Top speed is 210 mph at 6,750 ft. Absolute ceiling listed at 21,500 ft, and range 720 mi. Has revolving gun, fixed gun and bomb racks

Hawker Hurribomber is a Hurricane equipped to carry bombs. These bombs are fitted with delayed action fuses to allow ship to get away before explosion. Powered by 1,330-hp Merlin, it is effective in low-level attacks on strategic ground targets

Bristol Blenheim, fighter-bomber, has a greater range than its prototype, is powered by two 995-hp Mercury engines. Top speed is 295 mph, ceiling 27,500 ft. Has two to five machine guns, and bombs stowed internally. Range 1,900 miles with crew of three.

Page 58

Escape from heavy ack-ack fire and safely back at the home base, American pilot of the RAF tells field officer of the success of the mission. There still remain Yanks in the RAF. Browning machine guns stick up from turret of Blenheim in the background.

Handley Page Hampden, twin-engined medium bomber, is used extensively in long-range bombing raids over enemy territory. Powered by two 980-hp Bristol Pegasus engines, it has a range of 1,725 miles and carries six machine guns, sixteen 112-lb bombs, ten 25-lb bombs, plus crew of four. Speed 265 mph; ceiling of 22,700 ft.

Page 59

Fairey Albacore is the Royal Navy's spotter-torpedo-carrying reconnaissance biplane. A 1,062-hp Bristol Taurus is its power plant. Details of its performance and armament have not been released, but its success with the Fleet Air Arm places it high in the list of efficient fighting craft. Uses floats for operations from cruisers.

Avro Lancaster is four-engined long-range night bomber. Ten machine guns fire from hydraulically operated turrets. It holds eight tons of bombs. Top speed is over 300 mph, range of 3,000 miles. Powered by Rolls-Royce Merlins, also Vultures of 2,000 hp each. The Lancaster has seen action in the RAF's four-figure raids on Germany.

Fairey Swordfish is a single-engined torpedo and reconnaissance plane used by the Fleet Air Arm. Powered by a 690-hp Bristol Pegasus, it has a top speed of 154 mph, service ceiling of 19,250 feet. Armament: one fixed gun firing through propeller disc, one flexible gun mounted in rear cockpit; can also carry parachute mines.

Page 60

Uncaptioned photo of flight crews and officers inspecting a map.

The Handley Page Harrow was Britain's biggest bomber in 1937. Equipped with two Pegasus engines, it has a range of 1,880 miles, service ceiling of 22,800 feet. Largely replaced by Hampden

The Short Stirling is a long-range heavy bomber powered by four Bristol Hercules (or Wright Cyclone) engines of 1,600 hp each (shown). Distinguished by its "snake's head" nose

The Avro Anson, a former reconnaissance bomber now used as an advanced trainer. Two radial engines give the Anson 188-mph speed at 7,000 ft. Note rotating gun turret on plane in foreground

Page 61

Wellington II
Long-range bomber built by Vickers-Armstrong, it has speed of over 270 mph, maximum range of 3,200 miles; is heavily armed

A torpedo-carrying reconnaissance bomber, built by Blackburn; it is used also as an operational trainer. Powered by two 890-hp Bristols

Handley Page heavy bomber is powered by four 1,175-hp Merlin engines, maximum range: 3,000 miles. Has four guns in rear, two front

Powered by two 2,000-hp Vultures, Avro Manchester is a heavy bomber with speed of 325 mph; has eight machine guns. Span: 90'.

Armstrong-Whitworth's heavy bomber, it has a top speed of 240 mph, maximum range of 2,220 miles, and is powered by two 1,010-hp engines

Mosquito is de Havilland's newly developed reconnaissance bomber of wooden construction. Armed with both cannons and machine guns

Flying Boats and Seaplanes

Page 62

The Supermarine Walrus, a sturdy single-engine, amphibian reconnaissance plane may be launched by catapult, recovered by crane (left). Carried by many warships, it has a normal cruising range of 600 miles, speed of 135 mph

The Supermarine Stranraer is a twin-engine, general-reconnaissance flying boat with a normal cruising range of 1,111 miles; can carry a torpedo

Queen Wasp
The Airspeed Queen Wasp, a radio-controlled target plane, is used for aerial-gunnery practice; can be land-based. Wings fold backward

Page 63

Saro Lerwick, known as the "pregnant guppy," is a twin-engined flying boat, used as a reconnaissance bomber. It has two 1,775-hp Hercules engines

Blackburn Shark is a floatplane used by RAF as Fleet spotter. It is a torpedo bomber powered by 760-hp Tiger VI engine, with top speed of 162 mph

A long-range reconnaissance flying boat built by Short. It is powered by four 850-hp Bristols, has a top speed of 210 mph, a cruising range of 1,670 miles

This pictorial article was originally published in the March, 1943, issue of Skyways magazine, vol 2, no 3, pp 48-63.
The original article includes 6 thumbnail portraits of RAF personnel and 42 photos. The captions are listed above (not all photos are captioned.)
Photos are not credited.