Designed to the meet the Air Ministry specification B.3/34, the Whitley first initially promised to be and advanced and capable aircraft and was, unlike the Hampden and Wellington, designed from the start for nighttime bomber operations.


The prototype (K4586) first flew on March 17, 1936 showed great promise as an advanced bomber aircraft and entered service with No. 10 Squadron stationed at Dishforth in March 1937.


The rapid advancements in aircraft design soon overtook the Whitley, which was restricted to a maximum speed of 192 mph. However, the aircraft underwent a number of improvements over the next two years. were incorporated into new variants as they entered service during this period The most notable being the introduction of the revolutionary Fraser-Thompson four-gun power operate rear turret. This addition alone, was proof as to Bomber Command's realisation of the vulnerability of its bombers to the new generation of fighters. Overall performance of the aircraft was also assisted by the installation of newer and more powerful Roll-Royce Merlin engines. But even with these new engines, the Mk.V Merlin equipped Whitley, could still only attain a maximum speed of 222 mph and cruising speed of 185 mph. Regardless of its short comings, the aircraft proved to be a great improvement over the Heyford, which it replaced.


At the out break of war No. 4 Group had six operational Whitley squadrons and all were in action over Germany on the first night - a pamphlet raid over the Ruhr cities. True bombing raids were soon tasked to these squadrons, including the first attack on Berlin in October 1939. The Whitley squadrons were also to be expanded their duties to include laying sea mines, as well as anti-submarine patrols.


The Whitley's final operational sorties were against Dunkirk on the night of April 27, 1942. However, the aircraft type was to continue with Bomber Command in a training capacity, and also saw service with Coastal Command and as a glider tug.


Armstrong Whitworth Mk.V Data


Crew : Five


Engines : Two 1,010 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin X


Span : 84'-0" (25.60 m)


Length : 72'-6" (22.10 m)


Height : 15'-0" (4.57 m)


Empty Weight : 19,330 lbs. (8,754 kg)


Loaded Weight : 28,200 lbs


Maximum Speed : 222 mph at 17,000 ft. (5,182 m)


Ceiling : 17,600 ft. (5,364 m)


Range : 1,650 miles ()2655 km) with 3,000 lbs. (1,361 kg) of bombs.




Single 0.303" machine gun in nose turret, four 0.303" machine guns in rear turret.
7,000 lbs. (3,175 kg) maximum bomb load.


Bomber Command squadron's equipped with the Whitley


7, 10, 51, 58, 77, 78, 97, 102, 166

Armstrong Whitworth



Updated: January 2008