Abstract The fracture behaviour of M2 high speed steel was examined at both ambient and elevated temperatures using four-point bend specimens oriented both longitudinally and transversely to the inherent carbide banding. For the former orientation it was shown that the sites of fracture initiation frequently included the cross section of a carbide cluster as well as cavities. The fracture behaviour was found to be well described by the concepts of linear elastic fracture mechanics. In the transversely oriented specimens the fracture path basically followed the banding network and hence to a large extent the fracture surfaces were covered by areas of high carbide density. No clear sites of fracture initiation were found on these fracture surfaces.