The Handley Page Harrow was a twin engined heavy bomber developed during the early part of the RAF’s 1930s expansion. It was developed in response to the same specification (B.3/34) as the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, but was originally intended to be a bomber trainer, and so was not as advanced a design as the Whitley.
The Harrow was developed from the H.P.51 troop carrier, a design that had first flow in 1935. The Harrow was a typical mix of advanced and outdated features, combining a high wing and fixed landing gear configuration with powered turrets and monoplane construction. The turrets were introduced during the production run of the Harrow, and were retrofitted to existing aircraft. Even with the turrets, the Harrow was not well armed, with two .303in guns in the rear turret and one in each of the dorsal and nose turrets.
The prototype Harrow flew on 10 October 1936 and the type entered service with No. 214 Squadron in January 1937, only three months later. During 1937 it entered service with five squadrons, generally replacing the Vickers Virginia. The Harrow certainly offered a significant improvement on the earlier aircraft, which had a top speed of only 108 mph. The Harrow was very nearly twice as fast (in contrast bomb load did not change and range did not increase significantly).
One hundred Harrows were built, 39 Mk Is, powered by the Bristol Pegasus X engine, and 61 Mk IIs, with the 925 hp Pegasus XX. The Harrow had a short front line career as a bomber, being replaced by the Whitley and Wellington before the outbreak of war. However, the aircraft remained in RAF service until 1945, being used as a transport aircraft, most especially by No. 271 Squadron, which retained a flight of Harrows until early in 1945. On 1 January 1945 seven Harrows were amongst the aircraft destroyed on the ground during Operation Bodenplatte, the final significant Luftwaffe operation of the war.
Engine: Bristol Pegasus XX
Horsepower: 925 hp
Span: 88ft 5 in
Length: 82 ft 2 in
Max Speed: 200 mph at 10,000ft
Cruising Speed: 163 mph at 15,000ft
Range: 1,250 miles
Ceiling: 22,800 feet
Armament: Four .303in machine guns (one in nose, one in dorsal and two in tail turrets)