Canadian Warplanes 3: Bristol Blenheim

Bristol Blenheim

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3602838)

Bristol 142M Blenheim Mk. IV, RAF (Serial No. DJ702). One on strength with the RCAF.

The Bristol Blenheim is a British light bomber aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company (Bristol) which was used extensively in the first two years and in some cases throughout the Second World War. The aircraft was developed as Type 142, a civil airliner, in response to a challenge from Lord Rothermere to produce the fastest commercial aircraft in Europe. The Type 142 first flew in April 1935, and the Air Ministry, impressed by its performance, ordered a modified design as the Type 142M for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a bomber. Deliveries of the newly named Blenheim to RAF squadrons commenced on 10 March 1937. In service the Type 142M became the Blenheim Mk.I which would be developed into the longer Type 149, designated the Blenheim Mk.IV, except in Canada where Fairchild Canada built the Type 149 under licence as the Bolingbroke.

In addition to operating as medium bombers, both versions were converted into heavy fighters by the addition of a gun pack with four Browning .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns mounted under the fuselage. The Mk. IV was also used as a maritime patrol aircraft and both aircraft were also used as bombing and gunnery trainers once they had become obsolete as combat aircraft.

The Blenheim was one of the first British aircraft with an all-metal stressed-skin construction, retractable landing gear, flaps, a powered gun turret and variable-pitch propellers. The Mk. I was faster than most of the RAF's biplane fighters in the late 1930s but advances soon left it vulnerable if flown in daylight, though it proved successful as a night fighter. The Blenheim was effective as a bomber but many were shot down. Both Blenheim types were used by foreign operators, and examples were licence built in Yugoslavia and Finland, in addition to Canada. (Wikipedia)

RCAF On Strength (1), Canadian Aircraft Losses (197). Detailed records of all known RCAF and Canadian casualties in the RAF during the Second World War may be viewed on line in the Canadian Aircraft Serials Personnel Information Resource (CASPIR). The CASPIR website is researched, coded, maintained entirely by Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) volunteers with only one staff assisting periodically. This work has taken several years, and is unlikely to be finished as continuing research leads to “new finds” and rediscovered Canadian aviation heritage and history. The CWHM volunteer team looks forward to continuing to update and correct the record as additional information and photos are received.

(RAF Photo)

Bristol Type 141M Blenheim Mk. I (Serial No. K7033), prototype, June 1936. The Blenheim was a three-seat twin-engined light bomber, powered by two 840 hp (630 kW) Bristol Mercury VIII radial piston engines, armed with a 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun in the port wing, plus a 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K gun in the dorsal turret, maximum bombload 1,000 lb (450 kg). 1,552 built.

(CF Photo)

Bristol Blenheim Mk. I in flight.

(IWM Photo, CM 292)

The Commanding Officer of No. 211 Squadron RAF, Squadron Leader J R Gordon-Finlayson, and his wireless operator/air gunner, Pilot Officer A C Geary, photographed in a Bristol Blenheim Mark I at Menidi/Tatoi, Greece, after returning from Corfu. On 24 November 1941, Gordon-Finlayson's aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire during a bombing raid on Valona, Albania. Unable to reach Menidi, he force-landed on a beach at Corfu, where he and his crew were toasted and feted before returning to the mainland by fishing boat and rejoining their unit. Gordon-Finalyson is carrying bottles of wine and other gifts given to them by their Greek hosts.

(Falcon Photo)

Ex-RCAF Fairchild Bolingbroke (Serial No. 10038) (1942-1945) converted into a Bristol Blenheim Mk. I F, coded YP-Q, in 2014, airworthy in 2015, Duxford, UK, flown in the film Dunkirk in 2017.

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