Designed for mixed
composite steel and wood construction, the prototype flew in 1939, but
was destroyed in a crash before the first flight of the second
prototype on 20 March 1940. The Albemarle's form of structure enabled
wide use of sub-contracting, even to small companies outside the
aircraft industry (one source mentions almost 1,000 sub-contractors),
and an additional bonus came from conservation of light alloy and other
strategic materials. The tricycle landing gear was of Lockheed design
and rare on British aircraft.
The first 32 aircraft
were built as bombers, although not used as such, and there was
considerable delay in establishing production lines. The first three
production Albemarles left the factory in December 1941, by which time
the decision had been made to adapt the aircraft as a glider tug and
airborne forces transport.
An Armstrong Whitworth A.W.41 Albemarle Mk I of the Royal Air Force.
Generally an unpopular aircraft with both crews and passengers
Deliveries to the RAF
began in January 1943 when No. 295 Squadron received its first
aircraft. The type was blooded with Nos. 296 and 297 Squadrons, part of
No. 38 Wing operating from North Africa, in the invasion of Sicily in
July 1943. On D-Day (6 June 1944) six No. 295 Squadron Albemarles,
operating from Harwell, served as pathfinders for the 6th Airborne
Division, dropping paratroops from the 22nd Independent Parachute
Company over Normandy.
In the glider tug role
they were fitted with Malcom Glider Towing gear. Four squadrons of
Albemarles were used to tow Airspeed Horsas to France in support of
ground operations, while in September 1944 two of No. 38 Group's
squadrons participated in the ill-fated Arnhem operation, towing
gliders carrying troops of the 1st Airborne Division. But probably the
most abiding memory of the aircraft is the pall of smoke in which they
taxied on return, caused by the overheating of the engines having to
supply high power at low speed.
Production of the
Albemarle, apart from the prototypes, was undertaken by A.W. Hawksley
Ltd, part of the Hawker Siddeley Group. Production came to an end in
December 1944 when 600 Albemarles had been built. Original orders had
covered 1,080, but 478 from the second production batch were cancelled.
Deliveries to the RAF consisted of 380 transport versions, (99 Mk I, 99
Mk 11, 49 Mk V and 133 Mk VI) and 186 glider tugs (69 Mk I and 117 Mk
VI). Additional to these were the original 32 bombers which were
subsequently converted to transports. Ten Albemarles were delivered to
the Russian air force from RAF stocks and were used as transports.
All Albemarles used the
1,590 hp (1186 kW) Bristol Hercules XI 14-cylinder radial engine, apart
from a single Mk IV prototype with Wright Double Cyclones, and
differences in the marks were primarily in equipment. The original
bomber versions were fitted with a four-gun Boulton Paul dorsal turret,
but weight considerations dictated the removal of this in the
transports and glider tugs which, instead, mounted twin Vickers 'K'
While the Albemarle was
not a particularly significant aircraft, it did perform a useful role,
releasing other types for more vital tasks. In addition, because of its
method of construction and the materials used, production did not
unduly disturb the flow of more important types at a time when these
were vital to the United Kingdom's survival. As a "Special Transport"
it had also been used to carry mail and equipment for the RAF from
Great Britain to Gibraltar, North Africa and Malta.
Albemarle Mk I Series I
- Aircraft built as reconnaissance bombers, powered by two 1,590 hp
(1186 kW) Bristol Hercules XI 14-cylinder radial engines, which became
standard for all types. The crew consisted of two pilots,
navigator/bomb-aimer, radio operator and two gunners. Armament
consisted of four 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Browning machine-guns in a Boulton
Paul dorsal turret and two 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Vickers "K" machine-guns
in a powered ventral turret. First deliveries to the RAF were on 23
October 1941. The aircraft was equipped with a bomb bay. All these
aircraft were later converted to the transport/glider tug standard.
Albemarle S.T. I Series
I - A Special Transport version with all the bombing equipment and the
rear fuselage fuel tank removed. The four gun Boulton Paul dorsal
turret was replaced with a hand operated installation covered by a
sliding hood and containing two 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Vickers "K"
machine-guns. The two gun ventral turret was removed and a freight
loading door was fitted in the starboard side of the centre fuselage.
The bomb bay doors were sealed over.
Albemarle Mk I Series
II - Similar to the Albemarle Mk I Series I but with Malcolm Glider
Towing gear. The bomb bay was converted over to accommodate three
addition fuel tanks.
Albemarle S.T. I Series
II - A Special Transport version equipped with Malcolm Glider Towing
Albemarle Mk II - A
Paratroop-carrier and Glider Tug. Ten paratroops carried forward of the
large drooping hole in the floor of rear fuselage with rails on each
side of the fuselage for parachute static drops. Tubular guard under
tailplane to prevent free drops from fowling the elevators. Also fitted
with Malcolm Glider Towing gear. First deliveries to the RAF in January
Albemarle Mk IV - A
single prototype only consisting of a single Mk I fitted with two 1,600
hp Wright GR-2600-A5B Cyclone 14 air-cooled radial engines.
Albemarle Mk V -
Similar to the Mk II but with the addition of fuel jettisoning
Albemarle Mk VI Series
I - Same as the Mk V plus a large freight loading door in the fuselage
to facilitate the loading of bulky materials which may be required to
be carried on paratroop operations.
Albemarle Mk VI Series
II - Same as the Mk VI Series I but with the addition of special radio
equipment for glider towing. The upper gun position was deleted leaving
the aircraft unarmed.
(Armstrong Whitworth A.W.41 Albermarle Mk VI)
Type: Four Seat
General Purpose Transport, Paratroop Carrier & Glider Tug
(Mk I Series I) Two Pilots, Navigator/Bomb-aimer, Radio Operater and
two gunners. (Armed Transport version) Two Pilots, Navigator, Radio
Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Limited under Chief Designer John Lloyd
based on an original design by the Bristol Aeroplane Company
Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Limited produced the prototypes but A.W.
Hawksley Limited (Division of the Hawker Siddeley Group) produced all
production aircraft at its Gloucester Plant. The Hawker Siddeley
Aircraft Company owned the Armstrong Siddeley Development Company which
had controlling interest in Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Limited.
1,590 hp (1186 kW) Bristol Hercules XI 14-cylinder air-cooled
sleeve-valve radial engines driving a three-bladed D.H. Hydromatic
fully-feathering airscrew. The engines are mounted in Briston
interchangeable power-units, to which the oil-cooler installation and
accessory system peculiar to the airframe have been added. There are
four oil tanks located in each nacelle.
Maximum speed 265 mph (426 km/h) at 10,550 ft (3200 m); cruising speed
170 mph (274 km/h); service ceiling 18,000 ft (5485 m); initial climb
rate of 980 ft (299 m) per minute.
miles (2160 km) on internal fuel, but could be extended by the addition
of three auxiliary fuel tanks mounted in the bomb bay.
22,600 lbs (10260 kg) with a maximum overload take-off weight of 36,500
lbs (16570 kg).
77 ft 7 in (23.47 m); length 59 ft 11 in (18.26 m); height 15 ft 7 in
(4.75 m); wing area 803.5 sq ft (74.65 sq m).
Armament: (Mk I
Series I - Bomber) Four 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Browning machine-guns in a
Boulton Paul dorsal turret and two 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Vickers "K"
machine-guns in a powered ventral turret. (S.T. I Series I) A "Special
Transport" version with only two 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Vickers "K"
machine-guns in a manally operated dorsal installation. This became the
"standard" armament for the transport versions although some aircraft
were unarmed. (Mk VI Series II) The dorsal position was eliminated
leaving this version unarmed.
Variants: Mk I
Series I (recon/bomber), Mk I Series II (glider tug), S.T. Mk I Series
I (special transport), S.T. Mk I Series II (special transport), Mk II (paratroop/glider
tug), Mk IV (single prototype), Mk V (paratroop/glider tug), Mk VI
Series I (paratroop/transport), Mk VI Series II (paratroop/glider-tug).
Malcom Glider Towing gear equipped aircraft used special radio
flight (1st prototype) 1939 but was soon destroyed in a crash; first
flight (2nd prototype) 20 March 1940; first delivery (Mk I Series I) 23
October 1941; end production December 1944.
Britain (RAF Transport Command), Soviet Union (10 aircraft).
- 295, 296, 297 and 298 of No. 38 Transport Group.