Short Stirling

by tirial

Built by Short brothers, the Stirling was a four engined bomber in use at the start of World War II. It had a relatively short service life as a bomber, from 1941 to 1943.

Built by Short brothers, the Stirling was a four engined bomber in use at the start of World War II. It had a relatively short service life as a bomber, from 1941 to 1943 when it was replaced by the Halifax and Lancaster. It was then used to spread chaff, mines and decoys.

When built it had better payload and range than anything else flying, but some structural issues such as a divided bomb bay meant that it lacked the versatility to adapt to changing requirements. No Short Stirlings survive.

About the Short Stirling

Designed in 1936 and built to spec in 1939, the Stirling flew its first sortie in 1941.

The first four-engined bomber of the second world war, the Short Stirling was originally credited with a two thousand mile range carrying eight tons of bombs. However performance issues and heavy losses plagued the aircraft, which was withdrawn from service when alternatives such as the Lancaster were developed. An unarmed transport version outlasted the bombers, but was similarly withdrawn once better alternatives were developed.

The heavy losses suffered by its crews during the early years of the war are something not to be forgotten in any study of aviation during this period.

Total Short Stirling production was 2374 aircraft, spread across all variants.

Given that so little about the Stirling survives, these figures may be inaccurate, although I have crosschecked several sources.

Short Stirling
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A Stirling Mission - The Renault factory bombing

Youtube user Bomberguy has uploaded this footage of a Short Stirling bombing raid over the Renault factory in 1940.

The Technical Specifications of the Short Stirling

Type Heavy Bomber (4 engined)
Crew: 7
Max Speed 270mph
Service Ceiling 17,000 feet*
Range 2010 miles
Engines 4 x Bristol Hercules engines
Length 87ft 2 inches
Wingspan 99 ft
Height 22 ft 9 inch
Weight 70,000lbs


The lack of information on the Stirling means that several sources quote different sizes for the aircraft (possibly because of modifications made for its later role as a glider tug). The figures above are an aggregate of several sources.

A cutaway diagram is available from

Pilot's Manual - Aviation nostalgia

The Short Stirling pilot's manual is available in PDF format on CD. More resources about this bomber are being sought by the Stirling project - see below.

While it may seem strange to have a manual for an aircraft that does not exist, it makes interesting reading compared to the later Lancaster and Halifax manuals.


The Victoria Cross

For valour

Two pilots were awarded the Victoria Cross for missions undertaken while flying the Stirling. Both awards were posthumous.

  • 1942 - Flight Sergeant RH Middleton - despite extreme injuries, held his damaged aircraft steady for the crew to bail out, but went down with his aircraft
  • 1943 - Flight Sergeant AL Aaron DFM - severely injured after a nightfighter attack, he assisted the bomber aimer in making a wheels up landing so his crew survived, but died of his injuries.
WWII British Short Stirling
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No Short Stirling bombers survive

There are no surviving Stirlings. None flying, none in museums, no cockpit sections.

Partly this was due to the time it was created - any crashed aircraft were promotly recycled to manufacture new ones. Because focus shifted so much to the later bombers - the Lancaster among others, the Stirling was overlooked and its notes and paperwork lost.

Parts have resurfaced at crash sites. In Holland the engine of the Stirling bomber marks the memorial to seven crew members of a Stirling bomber downed during the war.

The Stirling Project maintains components and notes relating to this aircraft and is trying to ensure that what remains of it is not lost to history. Ideally they would like to obtain enough parts to recreate a Stirling for museum display, though this seems unlikely.

More resources about the Stirling bomber

More about the Short Stirling

Giving the difficulty of finding resources about this short-lived bomber, here are some links online for further reading:

  • The Stirling Project

    Affiliated to Bomber Command Association. The Stirling Project is attempting to gather as many resources about the vanished bomber as possible, including parts which may aid in a recreation. Memories, photos and resources are available here.

  • The Stirling Bomber Pages

    The Short Stirling was the RAF's first four engined bomber of the second World War. It took a major part in the strategic offensive until 1943...

  • - Photos and Specifications

    Photos and technical specificationsof the Short Stirling

  • RAF History - Bomber Command 60th Anniversary - Shorts Stirling

    RAF History - Bomber Command 60th Anniversary

Remember the Stirling - DVD

A DVD by an ex-crewmember telling the story of the Stirling

Only available in the UK and Europe, "Remember the Stirling" is the story of the Shorts Stirling bomber.

The Product Description says it all: "Produced by Brian Harris, DFC, an ex-navigator on Stirlings, this DVD includes all the best available Stirling footage and exclusive interviews. Highlights include Churchill inspecting No.7 Squadron Stirling V-Victor, footage from Arnhem, a German amateur 8mm film of a 214 Squadron Stirling being shot down - and an interview with the rear gunner of that very aircraft."

Flying the Stirling Bomber

Ron Minchin details what it took to fly the Stirling while towing gliders.

Models, Books and Photographs

More from Amazon


There are a limited selection of resources about the Short Stirling on, including models, books and even a photograph

The news release about the Short Stirling

The news release from the time about the Stirling, playing up its capabilities for propaganda purposes. You might also notice the drive to get more women into the factories.

At 3:50 the story of MacRobert's Reply is featured: "Glory is the reward of valour." MacRobert's Reply has its own wizzley article. (click here to read)

The most famous Short Stirling - MacRobert's Reply

Founding a tradition that contunues to today

Seen one flying, even if only on screen or cine film? Have any memories or stories to share? Leave your comments below

Old Guestbook

This article was on squidoo for many years, before migrating here. Here are the salvaged comments from the old guestbook. The new guestbook can be found beneath:

(As for the guy saying I should check wiki, this article predates that one by five years. It would have been nice if wiki had credited the resources they borrowed...)

anonymous 5 years ago

my uncle who i was named after was part of a crew on a stirling on a bomb run to Germany was shot down 1942 by a single fighter over Holland only one of 7 survived my uncle was laid to rest in Holland where a dutch family tended his grave all these years i am still tracing his last moments leading to his last hours

projectfeasibility 4 years ago

Wow it's a great lens,.Here are some video clips which charmed me so much.


moonlitta 3 years ago

Thumbs up for a very detailed lens!

anonymous 2 years ago

Ever came across There is much more than you thought. Also, the book you claim to be from 1969 isn't from 1969 at all! I have it here right before me with a copyright ©2001

atirial profile image

atirial 2 years ago Hub Author

@anonymous: Unfortunately, the data on the book is supplied by Amazon in a feed, and I can't edit it. There used to be a wikipedia module on the page, but wikipedia no longer support squidoo, so the module was withdrawn.

anonymous 2 years ago

my dad flew in a stirling said it was good old kite served the crew well and made it through till the end, saw many a friend shot down,they, got shot up by night fighter (ju88) but made it home ERNEST T MOREHEN (radio operator)

anonymous 2 years ago

My wifes parents lived next door to F/S D W Moffett who flew in a stirling bomber and became a member of the caterpiller club for jumping with a parachute and surviving. I dont know where he jumped but he was taken prisoner. I have the caterpiller badge he was awarded and am going to donate it to the museum at RAF Cosford in the near future.

anonymous 2 years ago

Hi, my father flew in a Stirling from 43-45. After 15 years research i have written a book entitled "SHERLOCKS SQUADRON". The book is in the process of being published by JOHN BLAKE PUBLISHING LONDON, and should be in the shops by January. Also visit website www.sherlockssquadron .com. All the best, Steve Holmes

anonymous 22 months ago

Hey, very nice lens! Very well put-together and professional looking. I found this lens from my similar lens on the B-25 Yankee Warrior. You should have a look at it and tell me what you think.

anonymous 20 months ago

Interestingly, my uncle Dennis Davison and crew were shot down on a Hamburg night raid in one of these BF387 MG-U on November 9-10 1942 on a Pathfinder mission. They were droppping coloured flares on the target so the bomber force could see where to bomb. Once the flares were burning, night turned into day so the German nightfighter planes had a easy view of who to shoot down.

In addition to the nightfighters, the ground and the North sea were covered in very very effective search lights and flak guns so the bombers had to fly to Hamburg and then back through multiple walls of fire and lights. The lesser powered Stirlings couldn't fly high enough to even try to avoid the flak, so they were sittiing ducks having to fly through it.

They had narrow wings so they they would fit in the WW1 hangars to save money and had low powered and unreliable engines. The strange wings actually allowed the pilot, in theory, to turn tighter that some of the german nightfighters. These planes couldn't even fly over the Alps so they had to fly around & through. The German pilots always started attacking the bottom lowest bobmers first and these were the Stirlings .

Shortly after they came into service with 7 sqn, 67 of the 84 aircraft delivered had been shot down or destroyed .. scary.

Going through this night after night they were incredibly brave. They were very likely to die and of course all were volunteers..

roby01 profile image

roby01 19 months ago

I love the history of aviation, especially that of the Second World War. Thank you for this lens

Updated: 01/27/2015, tirial
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