First really successful British heavy bombers were no less impressive than their German counterparts.
As early as December 1914 during the First World War the Royal Navy's Director of the Air Department, Captain Murray Sueter requested "a bloody paralyser" of an aircraft from Frederick Handley Page for long-range bombing. The phrase had originated from Commander Charles Rumney Samson who had returned from the front.
Handley Page responded to the Navy's requirements with a biplane having a wingspan of 100 ft/30 m (the original source of the O/100 designation). The first prototype flew on 7 December 1915 and featured a glazed cockpit and armour sufficient to protect from rifle fire around the crew compartment and engines. The aircraft proved somewhat underpowered, so the glazing and armour were deleted on the second prototype that flew the following April and formed the basis for series production of the machine. A total of 46 of the O/100s were built.
The success of the type prompted the development of an uprated version with more powerful engines, a new bombsight and other refinements—designated the O/400. First flying in 1918, over 400 were supplied before the Armistice. Another 107 were licence-built in the USA by the Standard Aircraft Corporation (out of a total order of 1,500 by the air corps). Forty-six out of an order for 50 were built by Clayton & Shuttleworth in Lincoln.
The first O/100s to be deployed to France were received by 7A Squadron of the RNAS's 5th Wing at Dunkirk in late 1916. Their first combat came on the night of March 16, 1917 when a single aircraft was sent to bomb a railway junction at Moulins-lès-Metz. Initially, they were also used for daylight attacks, damaging a German destroyer on 23 April 1917, but the loss of an aircraft to fighter attack two days later resulted in a switch to exclusive night attacks, usually by single aircraft against German occupied Channel ports, railway targets and airfields. O/100s were also used for anti-U boat patrol off the mouth of the River Tees in September 1917, while a single O/100 was flown to Moudros on the Greek island of Lemnos, being used to carry out bombing raids on Constantinople.
The improved O/400 started to enter service in April 1918, gradually allowing the re-equipment of more squadrons, being used for both support for the ground forces on the Western Front, particlularly during the German Spring Offensive, and for strategic bombing under the control of the Independent Air Force. The O/400s could carry a new 1,650 lb (750 kg) bomb which were aimed with the Drift Sight Mk 1A bombsight. In service, they were deployed in force, with up to 40 aircraft participating in a raid. A single O/400 also served with 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps in the Middle East.
After the war, O/400s remained in British service until replaced by the Vickers Vimy towards the end of 1919. War-surplus aircraft were converted for civilian use in the UK and nine were used by Handley Page's pioneering airline, Handley Page Transport.
The legacy of the aircraft was such that for many years after the war, any large aircraft came to be called a "Handley Page" in Britain. Furthermore, the aircraft plays a prominent part in the short story Turnabout by William Faulkner; the story provides an insider's view of what it was like to fly the Type O in combat. The importance of the Type O to the company cannot be overestimated, establishing the firm as a maker of large multi-engine aircraft.
The Handley Page V/1500 was a British night-flying heavy bomber built by Handley Page towards the end of the First World War. It was a large four-engined biplane, which resembled a larger version of Handley Page's earlier O/100 and O/400 bombers, intended to bomb Berlin from East Anglian airfields. The end of the war stopped the V/1500 being used against Germany, but a single aircraft was used to carry out the first flight from England to India, and later carried out a bombing raid on Kabul during the Third Anglo-Afghan War. It was colloquially known within the fledgling Royal Air Force as the "Super Handley".
While the V/1500 had a similar fuselage to that of the O/900, it had longer-span, four-bay biplane wings and was powered by four 375 hp (280 kW) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines mounted in two nacelles, so two engines were pulling in the conventional manner and two pushing, rather than the two Eagles of the smaller bomber. Construction was of wood and fabric materials. A relatively novel design feature was the gunner's position at the extreme rear of the fuselage, between the four fins.
Three aircraft were delivered to No. 166 Squadron at RAF Bircham Newton (Norfolk) during October 1918. The squadron commander did not get clear orders for his mission until November 8, due to debate at high level. A mission was scheduled for that night (bomb Berlin, fly on to Prague as the Austro-Hungarian forces had surrendered by then, refuel, re-arm, bomb Düsseldorf on the way back). No mission was flown - a technical expert insisted that all the engines on one aircraft be changed. The same happened the following day (but with a different aircraft). The three aircraft were about to taxi out after the second set of engine changes when an excited ground crew member ran out to stop them — the Armistice had just been declared.
Source: Wikipedia (O/100-400, V/1500)