I was sent these drawings a few years back by Greg “Biffer” Harrison. They make interesting viewing and give a good idea of the internal construction and layout of the Stirling. I have included them on the site as the squadron and No.3 Group will always be associated with the Short Stirling. Numerous books have discussed and dissected the performance and failings of this mighty aircraft. Post war historians have not been particularly kind in their appraisal of the Stirling and its contribution to the bomber offensive. When the Stirling entered front line service it marked a turning point in the long awaited offensive against Nazis Germany. The squadrons of No.3 Group were in the vanguard of Bomber Commands development in tactics , target marking and electronic navigation. It was by far a better aircraft than the early Halifax and superior to the Manchester despite Sir Henry Tizard (chair of the Aeronautical Research Committee) initial negative report. Between June 1941 and May 1942 the Stirling dropped more bombs than either the Halifax or Manchester, write offs due to enemy action were lower, and Stirling gunners are credited with more “kills”.
The Stirling has never enjoyed the same “popularity” as the Halifax or Lancaster (which was a later design) and it contribution especially between 1941 and 1943 is often overlooked in favour of these types. To me this is a slur to the memory to all those who served and died while operating the aircraft. The aircraft and the crews that operated night after night played their part too, suffering the same casualties and dangers. The tendency in the past was to down play the groups role, in part due to the limitations of the Short Stirling. This is unfair as this could with a fair degree of historical accuracy be said about the early Halifax variants of No.4 Group or the Manchester’s of No.5 Group but alas both these types have become in many historians eyes symbols of courage against the odds. The Short Stirling has always had its critics of which AM Arthur Harris was the most vocal, this apparent abhorrence to the aircraft seems to have continued even to this day.
In my 25 odd years research I have yet to hear a pilot or crewman say they disliked the Short Stirling, in fact they take a perverse pride telling you they operated in it !! The contribution of the Short Stirling and No.3 Group is one that needs to be addressed for the sake of all those who operated the “QUEEN of the SKY”