The Armstong-Whitworth Whitley was a sturdy airplane with few vices, generally liked by those crews who flew them on operations. It could take a lot of punishment and was said to be a pleasure to fly, although a little on the slow side.
The only one of the twin-engined bombers designed from the outset for night operations, the Whitley played a key role in Bomber Command operations until the advent of the four-engined aircraft in 1942. First flown in 1936, six squadrons were operational at the outbreak of the war and they were in action over Gemany from the first night in which they participated in a so called, “nickel” sortie, dropping leaflets over the Ruhr Valley. It was during these first leaflet raids that the Whitley’s aircrews first tackled the problems of night operations and night navigation. Soon the squadrons were actively involved in bombing operations, minelaying, and anti-submarine patrols.
Whitleys served widely during the early years of the war, participating in the first raids on Berlin and Italy in 1940. In 1941, they were used in the first paratroop operation of the war over southern Italy.
Having played its part with Bomber Command, the Whitley bowed out of front line operations in April, 1942. However it continued to serve with training units, Coastal Patrol, and as a glider tug.