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Hempden HP 52 in the USSR

Handley-Page "Hampden" TB.Mk.I 30 "white" from 24 MTAPs of the USSR Navy aviation.

The Hampden torpedo bomber version appear in the USSR in 1942 when Royal Air Force aircraft flew to Murmansk to fly from here to protect the PQ 18 Convoy. The British air group included: a Spitfire and Mosquito photo reconnaissance unit, several flying boats Catalina and Hampden torpedo bombers, which were represented by two squadrons (144th and 445th).

The flight of these torpedo bombers from Lyohars airfield in Scotland was very difficult. Having refueled at the Sumburgh base (Shetland Islands), thirty-two Hampdens headed for Murmansk on September 4. Along the way, spare parts for the Hurricane fighters delivered earlier to our country were loaded into the empty fuselages of the aircraft. The range of loaded aircraft was barely enough to reach the nearest Soviet airfield.

On the most difficult route, the British crews faced both bad weather and enemy aircraft. Three Hampdens were shot down over Finland by German fighters. Two torpedo bombers crashed in Sweden: one due to a failed engine, and the other crashed into a mountain in the fog. Another crew lost their bearings and, having made an emergency landing in Finland, was taken prisoner.

When the surviving torpedo bombers appeared over the territory of the USSR, the troubles continued. Due to fog, one Hampden landed on the fuselage in the Kirov region, and the other near Kandalaksha ran into stumps and was completely broken (the crew, fortunately, was not injured). The last lost Hampden was helped to shoot down by Soviet fighters, mistaking it for a Bf 110. The downed torpedo bomber sat on the water, and the bottom gunner was among the dead.

Twenty-three Hampdens that flew over safely were placed at the Vaenga airfield near Murmansk. The technical staff, spare parts and torpedoes were delivered to Murmansk by the American cruiser Tuscaloosa. English crews flew out on a combat mission on September 14, 1942 - the first and only time. Torpedo bombers patrolled the approaches to the Altenfjord, where the battleship Tirpitz was located. But no German ships were encountered during the departure of the Hampdens.

Operation Orator to escort convoy PQ-18 ended on 22 September. And the question arose - what to do next with British aircraft? The complexity of the return flight made it completely pointless. As a result of the negotiations, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill approved the transfer of torpedo bombers to the Red Army. All Hampdens became part of the 24th Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment (24th MTAP) of the Air Force of the Northern Fleet.

The composition of the regiment turned out to be mixed: the first squadron had 9 DB-ZF torpedo bombers, and the second and third received ten Hampdens each. During retraining, two aircraft were damaged, and two were destroyed (one of them killed the regiment commander, Lieutenant Colonel Vedmenko).

The Hampdens with red stars on their wings recorded their first sortie on November 8, when they went out to search for German ships. Bad weather prevented the detection of enemy targets. The flight on December 16 turned out to be successful - the planes bombed over Kirkenes. But the main task of the torpedo bombers was considered to be the fight against the ships of the Kriegsmarine.

On December 18, 1942, the crew of Captain S.I. Trunov torpedoed a German transport near Tanafjord. The crews of captains V.N. Kiselev and A.A. Bashtyrkov on January 15 attacked an enemy convoy off the Norwegian coast. Bashtyrkov's Hampden caught fire on the combat course, but the pilot did not turn away until the torpedo was dropped. The burning aircraft became easy prey for German anti-aircraft gunners and fell into the sea. Posthumously, Bashtyrkov and his navigator V.N. Gavrilov were awarded the titles of Heroes of the Soviet Union.

Captain Kiselev repeated the feat of his deceased friend three months later. On April 25, 1943, the five H.R.52 led by him chose a convoy of seventeen ships under the cover of Luftwaffe fighters as their goal on April 25, 1943. German planes tied up the twin-engine Pe-3 fighters from the 95th IAP, allowing the torpedo bombers to go on the attack.

Kiselev headed for the lead transport "Leesee", but got hit in the left engine, which immediately caught fire. Nevertheless, the Hampden remained on course and dropped a torpedo from a height of 400 m. All anti-aircraft weapons of the convoy concentrated fire on the flaming plane of Kiselev. In the end, the torpedo bomber crashed into the water not far from the sinking Leesee. For their feat, V.N. Kiselev, together with the navigator M.F. Pokalo, were posthumously awarded the title of Heroes.

The Hampdens were in service with the 24th MTAP (renamed 9th Guards MTAP in May) until mid-1943. They made their last sortie on 4 July. At Cape Kibergnes, a pair of NR52 aircraft, three Il-4s and two Il-2s attacked German ships. Torpedo bombers sank one transport with a displacement of 8000 tons and seriously damaged two more ships, but on the way back both Hampdens were shot down by German fighters. Fortunately, the crews of the planes that landed on the water (Major Shipilov and Junior Lieutenant Martynov) managed to escape.

By that time, the 9th Guards MTAP had completely re-equipped with American Douglas A-20G torpedo bombers. There was only one N.R.52T.V. in the regiment. Mk.1, and that one was faulty.

Combat operation of the Hampdens in the Red Army cannot be called easy. There were constant problems with spare parts - often only Russian ingenuity helped to keep the aircraft in a state of combat readiness. For example, the lack of spare English spark plugs forced the use of domestic VG-22, having redone the ignition system.

They did the same with torpedoes: instead of the spent English ones, our 45-36ANs were suspended. Since Soviet torpedoes were half a meter longer, the bomb bay doors had to be redone, shortening part of the navigator's cabin.

To increase the survivability of English torpedo bombers, our designers equipped them with a system for supplying cooled exhaust gases to gas tanks, reducing the fire hazard in case of bullet damage. The armament was also strengthened: the coaxial Vickers machine guns were replaced at the rear with the Soviet UTK-1 turret with the UBT heavy machine gun.

With such modifications, the Hampden was much better suited for military service in the Russian North, but in terms of basic parameters it was inferior to our main torpedo bomber, the Ilyushinsky DB-ZF. The English plane moved slower by about 40 km / h, significantly lost in range and, most importantly, had worse maneuverability. It was thanks to the latter reason that Soviet pilots spoke of these machines without much enthusiasm, noting among the advantages only a spacious cockpit with good visibility. The Hampden was appreciated by the technicians in their own way, giving it the nickname "Balalaika" because of the flat and high cockpit and wide delta wing with a straight leading edge.


  • Bomber "Hampden". Sergei Kolov /Airplanes of the World No. 2 2000/