During the pre-war years the Fairey Battle was regarded as an effective intruder bomber, as such it accompanied the RAF's Advanced Air Striking Force to France in the early months of the war. However, once the German blitzkrieg was unleashed, the Battle proved woefully inadequate to the conditions of modern warfare: during one raid on Sedan, 40 out of 70 Battles were shot down with negligible effect on the outcome. While the aircraft performed as expected and its crews flew heroically (two were awarded posthumous Victoria Crosses), it was built around a design specification which was poorly adapted to realities of combat and thus suffered heavily in the face of fighter opposition which it could neither outrun nor outmaneouvre. After the French campaign, the remaining Battle's were relegated to trainer and target-towing duties. Other users included various Commonwealth forces, Belgium, Poland, Southern Rhodesia, and Turkey.
The initial Battle prototype was flown on 10 March 1936 with the Mk. I production variant entering service the following year. Subsequent variants of the Battle, up to Mk. V differ only in the Merlin engine model, however the only one to be built in some numbers was the Mk. II. Some trainers were modified to have twin cockpits and controls. Despite their lackluster reputation, two Battle crewmen were awarded posthumous Victoria Crosses and one aircraft claimed the first German aircraft of the war shot down.
|Battle Mk. I
|1 x Merlin I
|2 x .303-inBrowning Mk. II