Corgi AA39503 RAF Short Stirling Mk. III Heavy Bomber - Arthur Aaron VC, No. 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron, RAF Downham Market, England, 1943 (1:72 Scale)
"I'll make the English Coast. I'll get you home".
- RAF Captain Rawdon Hume 'Ron' Middleton VC to his wounded air crew, Turin Raid, November 1942
The Short Stirling was the first four-engined British heavy bomber of the Second World War. The Stirling was designed and built by Short Brothers to an Air Ministry specification from 1936, and entered service in 1941. The Stirling was fated to have a relatively brief operational career being relegated to second line duties from 1943 onwards when other four-engined RAF bombers, specifically the Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster, took over its role.
Although smaller than the US and Soviet experimental designs, the Stirling had considerably more power and far better payload/range than anything then flying. The massive 14,000 lb (6.25 long tons, 6,340 kg) bombload put it in a class of its own, double that of any other bomber. It was larger than the Handley Page Halifax, and the Avro Lancaster which would replace it, but both of these were originally designed to have twin engines. The Stirling was the only British bomber of the period to see service designed from the start with four engines. (The Avro Lancaster was a re-engined Avro Manchester while the Halifax was originally planned to be powered by twin Vulture engines but was re-designed to use four Merlins in 1937 as the problems with the Vulture engines became clear.
The design mounted nose and tail turrets (the latter was notable for the wide angles of fire), and included a retractable ventral ("dustbin") turret just behind the bomb-bay. This proved almost useless due to cramped conditions, with the added distraction that the turret tended to drop and hit the ground when taxiing over bumps. It was removed almost from the start and temporarily replaced by beam hatches mounting pairs of machine guns, until a twin-gun dorsal turret could be provided. However, this installation also had problems; it had a metal back fitted with an escape hatch which turned out to be almost impossible to use. The later Stirling Mk.III instead used a fully glazed turret (the same FN.50 as in Lancaster) that had more room and an improved view. Later Stirlings could also carry an improved, low-drag remotely controlled FN.64 ventral turret.
Attention was paid to reducing drag - all rivets were flush headed and panels joggled to avoid edges - but the application of camouflage paint probably negated the benefit. The wing was fitted with Gouge flaps similar to those of the flying boats. The first few Mk.Is received the Hercules II engines, but the majority received the 1,500 hp (1,100 kW) Hercules XIs. The Mk.III, introduced in 1943, was similar with the exception of the new dorsal turret and the improved 1,635 hp (1,200 kW) Hercules VI or XVI engines, which improved maximum speed from 255 to 270 mph (410 to 435 km/h).
Even before the Stirling went into production, Short had improved on the initial design with the S.34 in an effort to meet requirement B.1/39. It would have been powered by four Bristol Hercules 17 SM engines, optimized for high-altitude flight. The new design featured longer span wings and a revised fuselage able to carry dorsal and ventral power-operated turrets each fitted with four 20 mm Hispano cannon. However, despite the obvious gains in performance and capability, the Air Ministry was not interested.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a RAF Short Stirling Mk. III heavy bomber that was piloted by Victoria Cross recipient Arthur Aaron of No. 218 Squadron. Sold Out!
Release Date: January 2013
Historical Account: "VC" - The first of Britain's three WWII heavy bombers, the Short Stirling was also the least successful of the trio. Its short wingspan hampered its ability to fly at higher altitudes, thus making it more vulnerable to enemy flak, as well as the danger of bombs from higher flying Lancaster's and Halifax's hitting the aircraft from above.
By 1943, only a limited number of squadrons still operated the type, including 218 Squadron. It was on a raid to Turin in Italy that Flight Sergeant Arthur Aaron was awarded Great Britain's highest honor, the Victoria Cross. While on the raid the Stirling was hit by enemy fire. This damaged the windscreen, the front and rear turrets were put out of action, the elevator control was damaged and three of the engines were hit. The navigator was killed and Flt. Sgt Aaron was also badly injured. Leveling the aircraft out at 3,000ft the bomb aimer took over flying duties as the crippled aircraft struggled towards Allied bases in North Africa.
After receiving some medical attention Aaron assisted the bomb aimer in flying the aircraft, writing directions with his left hand he managed to help the bomb aimer perform a successful belly landing at Bone airfield. He passed away nine hours later.