The Stirling was the first of the RAF's new four-engined bombers to fly, reaching front-line units in August 1940 with No.7 Squadron at RAF Leeming. The type made its combat debut on the night of February 10th 1941, when three aircraft dropped fifty-six 227kg/500lb bombs on oil storage tanks near Rotterdam. RAF Stirlings attached Berlin for the first time in April 1941 and type participated in all the 1942 thousand-bomber raids.
The Stirling wingspan was intended not to exceed 30.5m/100ft so that the aircraft could comfortably pass through the doors of the most RAF hangars of the time. Unfortunately, the wings soon became the main limitation and the Stirling, which eventually suffered from lifting ability to carry a full load at ideal higher altitudes. Some shortcomings of the original design were addressed in the Mk.III, powered by Hercules XVI engines, which became the standard Bomber Command version in 1943-44.
However, by mid-1943, the Stirling was sustaining higher losses than other heavies, and one source states that within five months of being introduced, 67 out of 84 aircraft delivered were lost to enemy action or written off after crashes. During the year, the Stirlings were gradually phased out of the RAF's main bomber force and moved to attachs on less well-defended targets and less dangerous duties such as mine-laying.
The final Bomber Command operation was flown by No.149 Squadron against Le Havre on September 8, 1944. However by mid-1944, the Stirlings had found a new lease of life as troops carriers and glider-tugs, and they performed great service on D-Day.
Today's model represents a Mk.III Stirling LJ525 EX-R 'Jolly Roger' of 199th Squadron stationed at North Creake, Norfolk, UK in May 1944. It was flown by Flying Officer Broadfield till February 1945. The unit was employed during this period on radio counter-measures operations, covering and simulating night bomber missions; the Mandrel electronic jamming device (usually installed beneath the tail-gun) was carried to counter the German early warning radar, and tin-foil Window strips were dropped to confuse fighter ground control and night fighter AI radar.
If you're looking for a 1/144 Stirling, this is the one to pick up. Corgi recently announced their brand new tooling in 1/72 and it was about time they did, as they will hopefully make happy 1/72 collectors as well. This is a massive bomber, smaller only in wingspan compared to the Lancaster. Not sure about the upper colours (should it be dark green/dark earth?) but the gray used for the black undersides is definetely too light (also the flash on the photos makes it even more obvious). Detail is rather ok, however: the "R-Roger" marking on the nose is missing, same goes for a number of antennas under the fuselage belly and the engines cooling flaps detail.