Of the RAF's trio of four engines heavy bombers in the Second World War, the mighty Short Stirling was the first to enter service in August 1940. A total of 2,371 Stirlings were eventually built and flown by the RAF before the type was finally withdrawn from service in July 1946. From its first raid in February 1941 the Stirling was at the forefront of the night offensive against Germany. At the peak of its operational career with Bomber Command in 1943, 12 squadrons were equipped with giant bomber before unacceptably high losses forced its relegation to second line duties.
Jonathan Falconer is the author of more than 35 books on aspects of aviation and military history, including the Haynes Handley Page Halifax Manual, Short Stirling Manual, D-Day Operations Manual, and co-author (with Brian Rivas) of the de Havilland Mosquito Manual. He was commissioning editor of the 14-volume Battle Zone Normandy series in 2004 for Sutton Publishing, and is now a senior commissioning editor with Haynes. He lives in Wiltshire.