Handley Page Heyford

What Was it?

The Heyford was the last of the RAF’s biplane heavy bombers. It first flew in June 1930, and 124 of three main marks were delivered from June 1933 up until July 1936, serving with 11 squadrons.

They were well-liked in service, being easy to maintain, sturdy and agile and they could even be looped, as was done at the 1935 Hendon Air Pageant.

At the time of the Munich crisis in 1938, the RAF still had six squadrons of 22.9m (75ft) span, 142 mph Heyfords in Bomber Command; they were brought to readiness with full bomb-loads and armament during the crisis, but never dropped a bomb or fired a shot in anger in their entire careers.

The last front line Heyford did not leave No.166 Squadron at Leconfield in Yorkshire until 2 September 1939 (the day before Britain declared war on Germany), being replaced by Whitleys. This left 40 still serving mainly as bombing and gunnery trainers until August 1940.

The last two airworthy survivors, including K5184, flew on until April/May 1941 as glider tugs on trials with the Hotspur I assault glider. One account suggests K5184 was still airworthy on trials work in August 1944, being under armed guard at RAF Cardington! This was despite the Heyford being officially declared obsolete in July 1941.

Sadly the two derelict wingless specimens lying at Cardington in 1950, perhaps including K5184, did not survive either. Tales of dumped Heyfords buried near RAF Cosford have yet to be proved, despite some explorations.