The Fairey Swordfish story is one of an aircraft initially frowned upon when it entered service in 1936, respected by the beginning of the Second World War and deemed legendary by the time peace was declared. The world must have looked on in awe at our powerful Royal Navy and its large carriers and with equal bemusement at the seemingly fragile biplanes, with their single torpedo and light armament upon their decks. However, the Swordfish was the only torpedo bomber we had in significant numbers at the beginning of the war and it would prove to be so much more. Designed with one role in mind, the Swordfish evolved into one of the most versatile of Naval aircraft. Its slow speed, which was criticised from the outset, proved to be one of its strengths, especially when it came to anti-submarine work, in which it claimed 21 U-boats sunk between April 1940 and December 1944. The later combination of RPs and ASV radar made the Swordfish particularly effective against U-boats and shipping, of which it claimed over 300,000 tons sunk.
During August 1940, when Britain undoubtedly had its back to the wall, Lord Portal announced the Air Staff's intention to re-equip the RAF's strategic bombing force solely with four-engined aircraft. This might appear to be a very ambitious aim, but only days earlier the RAF's first four-engined "heavy", the Short Stirling, had been delivered to 7 Sqn. The Handley Page Halifax was not far behind, bringing the idea of a heavy bomber force closer to reality. That same month the first production Avro Type 679 Manchester arrived at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down for evaluation and, at this stage, the twin-engine aircraft was an unknown quantity. However, it promised to be as good, if not better in certain respects such as bomb load, top speed and altitude, than the Halifax and Stirling. Behind closed doors the Manchester was throwing up many questions, mainly centring on its Rolls-Royce Vulture engines.