Aircraft of the Month
The Fairey Albacore was a single engine carrier-borne bi-plane operated by the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War. Built in response to Specification S41/36 which called for a three-seat Torpedo/Spotter/Reconnaissance aircraft to replace the Swordfish, it was designed by Marcelle Lobelle and the prototype first flew on12th December 1938.
Known by the sobriquet “Applecore”, early machines were fitted with the Bristol Taurus II engine whilst later aircraft received the up-rated Taurus XII. Although featuring an enclosed cockpit and more powerful engine than the Swordfish, the Albercore was still a biplane and offered little in the way of improved performance; indeed, it was less agile than the Swordfish. Aircraft were armed with one .303in machine gun in the starboard wing and two Vickers K machine guns in the rear cockpit, and could carry a weapon load of either 1 x 1,670lb torpedo or 4 x 500lb bombs.
The Albacore entered service with No 826 Naval Air Squadron in March 1940 and was initially employed from shore bases against Channel ports and shipping. Carrier-borne operations began in 1941 and by the following year the aircraft equipped 15 Fleet Air Arm squadrons. It operated extensively in the Mediterranean theatre –taking part in the Battle of El Alamein and supporting the Allied landings at Sicily and Salerno – and one unit, No 828 Squadron, was based at RAF Hal Far during the siege of Malta. In 1943, it was progressively replaced with the Fairey Barracuda and the last naval squadron was disbanded towards the end of that year. The Albacore was therefore retired from the Fleet Air Arm before the aircraft it was meant to replace.
No 36 Squadron RAF, based in Java, was equipped with the Albacore from December 1941 until March 1943 when the island was overrun by Japanese forces. A Royal Canadian Air Force unit, No 415 Squadron, operated the aircraft from Manston from 1943 until July 1944 when it reformed as No 119 Squadron RAF and deployed to Belgian airfields.
Of the 803 Albacores built, the sole survivor (a composite restoration) is on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.
Albacores of No 823 Squadron disembarked from HMS Fearless to operate from RAF Tangmere on anti-submarine patrols during the last three months of 1942 and during April/May 1943.