Handley Page H.P.54 Harrow

The Handley Page H.P.54 Harrow was a British heavy bomber of the 1930s built by Handley Page and used by the Royal Air Force, being used for most of the Second World War as a transport. It was a twin-engine, high-wing monoplane with a fixed undercarriage.

H.P.54 Harrow
HP Harrow ExCC.jpg
Harrow of No. 115 Squadron RAF
Role Heavy bomber
Manufacturer Handley Page
Designer G. V. Lachmann
First flight 10 October 1936
Introduction 1937
Retired 1945
Primary users Royal Air Force
Royal Navy
Produced 1936–1937
Number built 100


The H.P. 54 Harrow was the production version of the earlier Handley Page H.P.51 design, itself a monoplane conversion of the three-engined Handley Page H.P.43 biplane.[1] The two monoplanes were both designed by Dr. G.V. Lachmann. Initially Handley Page intended to offer the H.P.51 to Air Ministry specification C.26/31 for a bomber-transport, then saw the H.P.54 as a more likely winner. In the end neither type was a candidate for C.26/31, since in June 1935 the Air Ministry, anxious to expand and modernise the RAF wrote specification B.29/35 around the Harrow, emphasising its bomber role though retaining its transport capability. On 14 August, months before the first Harrow flew, the Ministry put in an order for 100 aircraft.[2] Powered by Bristol Pegasus X engines of 830 hp (620 kW), the first Harrow flew on 10 October 1936 from Radlett.[3] The Harrow was designed to have powered nose and tail turrets, with a manually operated dorsal turret. The nose and dorsal turrets were armed with a single Lewis gun, while the tail turret carried two Lewis guns. (These guns were later replaced by Vickers K machine guns). A bombload of up to 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) could be carried under the cabin floor, with the aircraft being able to carry a single 2,000 lb (910 kg) bomb.[4]

Operational historyEdit

The first Harrow was delivered to No. 214 Squadron RAF on 13 January 1937, with all 100 delivered by the end of the year, with five bomber squadrons of the RAF being equipped with the Harrow.[3] The Fleet Air Arm ordered 100 Harrows but Handley Page lacked the production capacity to supply them.[3] Despite being fitted with cabin heating by steam boilers using exhaust heat, the Harrow gained a reputation of being a cold and draughty aircraft, owing to the turret design.[5] As the delivery of more modern bombers increased, the Harrow was phased out as a frontline bomber by the end of 1939 but continued to be used as a transport. 271 Squadron was formed on 1 May 1940 with a mixture of Harrows, Bristol Bombays and impressed civil aircraft.[6] While the other aircraft equipping 271 Squadron were replaced by Douglas Dakotas, it retained a flight of Harrows (sometimes nicknamed "Sparrows" due to their new nose fairings to give a more streamlined fuselage) as transports and ambulance aircraft until the end of the Second World War in Europe.[5][7]

Harrows were used occasionally to operate risky flights between England and Gibraltar, two being lost on this route.[5] Harrows also operated in support of Allied forces in their advance into north-west Europe, evacuating wounded from the Arnhem operation in September 1944.[6][8] Seven Harrows were destroyed by a low level attack by Luftwaffe fighters of JG 26 and JG 54 on Evere airfield as part of Unternehmen Bodenplatte, the German attack on Allied airfields in northwest Europe on 1 January 1945, leaving only five Harrows, which were eventually retired on 25 May 1945.[5][8]

The Harrow also served in a novel operational role at the height of The Blitz against Britain in the winter of 1940–1941. Six Harrows equipped No. 420 Flight RAF (later No. 93 Squadron RAF) which used lone Harrows to tow Long Aerial Mines (LAM) into the path of enemy bombers.[8] The LAM had an explosive charge on the end of a long cable and the unorthodox tactic was credited with the destruction of 4–6 German bombers.[5][8] The experiment was judged of poor value and the planned deployment of Douglas Havocs in the LAM role was cancelled. Nine Harrows were also used by 782 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm as transports.[9] After flight refuelling trials, three Harrows were operated by Flight Refuelling Limited and refuelled Short Empire Flying Boats on transatlantic services, two from Gander, Newfoundland and one based in Foynes, Ireland. In 1940, the two aircraft based at Gander were pressed into service with the Royal Canadian Air Force.[citation needed]


Harrow Mk.I
Powered by two 830 hp (620 kW) Bristol Pegasus X engines, 19 built.
Harrow Mk.II
Powered by two 925 hp (690 kW) Pegasus XX engines, 81 built.


Harrows of 214 Squadron at RAF Feltwell in 1938.
  United Kingdom

Specifications (Harrow II)Edit

Handley Page Harrow 3-view drawing from L'Aerophile August 1937

Data from P Lewis, The British Bomber since 1914[3]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 5
  • Capacity: 20 fully equipped soldiers[7] or 12 stretcher cases (used as transport)
  • Length: 82 ft 2 in (25.04 m)
  • Wingspan: 88 ft 5 in (26.95 m)
  • Height: 19 ft 5 in (5.92 m)
  • Wing area: 1,090 sq ft (101 m2)
  • Empty weight: 13,600 lb (6,169 kg)
  • Gross weight: 23,000 lb (10,433 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Bristol Pegasus XX 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 925 hp (690 kW) each for take-off
  • Propellers: 3-bladed varaible-pitch propellers


  • Maximum speed: 200 mph (320 km/h, 170 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 163 mph (262 km/h, 142 kn)
  • Range: 1,260 mi (2,030 km, 1,090 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 22,800 ft (6,900 m)
  • Rate of climb: 710 ft/min (3.6 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 21.1 lb/sq ft (103 kg/m2)
  • Power/mass: 0.0804 hp/lb (0.1322 kW/kg)


  • Guns: 4 × 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Guns
  • Bombs: Up to 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) of bombs internally.

See alsoEdit

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ Barnes 1987, pp. 347–351.
  2. ^ Barnes 1987, p. 372.
  3. ^ a b c d Lewis 1980, pp. 270–271.
  4. ^ Lumsden and Heffernan Aeroplane Monthly January 1986, pp. 4–7.
  5. ^ a b c d e Mason 1994, pp. 301–302.
  6. ^ a b Thetford 1957 pp. 248–9
  7. ^ a b Thetford 1957, p.499
  8. ^ a b c d Mondey 1994, pp. 125–126.
  9. ^ "Fleet Air Arm Archive, Handley Page Harrow". Archived from the original on 4 April 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2007.
  10. ^ a b c Jefford 1988, p.37
  11. ^ Jefford 1988, p.48
  12. ^ Jefford 1988, p.52
  13. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p.71
  14. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p.82


  • Barnes, C.H. Handley Page Aircraft since 1907. London: Putnam Publishing, 1987. ISBN 0-85177-803-8.
  • Clayton, Donald C. Handley Page, an Aircraft Album. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1969. ISBN 0-7110-0094-8.
  • Gardner, Brian (1984). "Flight Refuelling... The Wartime Story". Air Enthusiast. No. 25. pp. 34–43, 80. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Jefford, C G. RAF Squadrons, first edition 1988, Airlife Publishing, UK, ISBN 1 85310 053 6.
  • Lewis, Peter. The British Bomber since 1914. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1980. ISBN 0-370-30265-6.
  • Lumsden, Alec and Terry Heffernan. "Probe Probare No. 20: Handley Page Harrow". Aeroplane Monthly, Vol. 14, No. 1, January 1986. pp. 4–7. ISSN 0143-7240.
  • Mason, Francis K. The British Bomber since 1914. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1994. ISBN 0-85177-861-5.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II. London: Aerospace Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-85152-668-4.
  • Thetford, Owen. Aircraft of the Royal Air Force, 1918–57. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1957. OCLC 3875235

External linksEdit