In 1932, the British Air Ministry began their search for a twin-engined day bomber with higher performance, speed and manoeuvrability than any preceding bomber aircraft. The result was the development of three aircraft - the Armstrong Whitley, Vickers Wellington and the Handley Page Hampden.
While all three went on to bear the brunt of the RAF’s attacks against Germany in the opening years of the WWII, it was the Hampden with its slim fuselage, faster speed and manoverability that the Air Ministry had pinned their hopes on as their primary fighter bomber.
RAF pilots initially enjoyed its extraordinarily agility, discovering they could toss the bomber around the skies like a single engine fighter. With the pilot perched high in the cockpit, visibility was excellent enabling tight turns and steep climbs and dives to be undertaken with ease.
Faster than its contemporaries and with a sharper rate of climb, the Hampden was a ‘delight to fly’ remarked one pilot. Unfortunately the Hampden’s praise went no further with early operations quickly revealing two significant failings in its design.
The Hampden’s very narrow fuselage provided cramped accommodation for the crew, causing fatigue on long missions. The navigator sat behind the pilot and access in the cockpit required folding down the seats. Once in place, the crew had almost no room to move and were typically cold and extremely uncomfortable during long missions. Aircrews were soon referring to the Hampden by various nicknames, such as Flying Suitcase, Panhandle, and Flying Tadpole.
Unlike other British medium bombers the Hampden had no multi-gun power-operated turrets. Its fixed forward gun was next to useless and the three flexible gun mountings in the nose and fuselage had a limited traverse which produced a number of blind spots. Modifications were made to provide heavier armament but the fuselage design remained a problem throughout its service life.
After a disastrous, but mercifully short, daylight campaign, Hampdens were switched to night operations until 1942 when a number were converted to carry a torpedo. Eventually 144 aircraft received the torpedo modification and it continued in service with Coastal Command as a torpedo bomber until late 1943 when together with its other two engine contemporaries, it was superseded by the larger four engine bombers such as the Avro Lancaster.
All Handley Page Hampden Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
Return to VINTAGE ORIGINAL AIRCRAFT INSTRUMENTS