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Great Britain's Bristol Blenheim bomber

Photos

  • Bristol Blenheim Mk I bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk I bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim
  • Bristol Blenheim
  • Bristol Blenheim
  • Bristol Blenheim bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IF fighter
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IF fighter
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk IVF fighter
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk V bomber
  • Bristol Blenheim Mk V prototype
  • Bristol Blenheim

Design

Lord Rothermere, a newspaper owner, had asked Blenheim to make him the fastest commercial plane in Europe. The Blenheim was designed from the Bristol Type 142 light transport. This was known as the Bristol Britain First. As the Blenheim was faster than any of the Royal Air Forces' fighters of the time, it was ordered straight from the designs to meet Air Ministry Specification B.28/35.

Once the war started some models had a rear firing remotely controlled turret under the nose.

A fighter version had a pack under the fuselage with four machine guns.

Construction

The Blenheim was constructed of all metal materials. The wings were positioned midway up the fuselage.

Engine

The engines drove variable pitched metal propellers.

Crew

Some felt that the navigator's compartment was very small in Blenheim Mk Is to Blenheim Mk IIIs. The Blenheim Mk IV improved this space.

Armament

The Blenheim Mk I only had a forward firing Browning MG and a turret mounted Vickers MG for self defense.

Blenheim Mk IF

It was soon found that the Blenheim Mk I was inadequate and it was decided to convert some of them into night fighters. They had their bomb bays sealed and bombing gear removed.

In early 1939 gun packs of four 7.7 mm machine guns were made to be mounted under the fuselage of the Blenheim Mk IF.

Prototype

The Blenheim Type 142M prototype first flew on April 12, 1935 / June 25, 1936. At the time it was the fastest plane in the world. Several trials were conducted at Mattlesham Heath with a dummy turret. Full scale production was allowed to go forward in December 1935.

The Blenheim Mk IV first flew on September 24, 1937.

The Blenheim Mk V first flew in February 1941.

Production

An initial order of 150 was placed in September 1935 straight from the drawing board. In July 1936 another 434 more were ordered. This was later raised by 134 more.

Bristol (at Filton), Rootes (at Speke), and Avro (at Chadderton) built the Blenheims.

  • Blenheim Mk I: 1,365, 1,427, 1,552, 1,568 ordered
    • Manufacturer: Avro, Bristol, Rootes, Finland VLT, Ikarus
      • Bristol: 694
      • Avro: 250
      • Rootes: 422
      • VLT (Finland): 45
      • Ikarus (Yugoslavia): 16
    • Production: 1936 - 1939
  • Blenheim Mk IV: 3,286, 3,296
    • Manufacturer:
      • Bristol: 313, 316
      • Avro: 750
      • Rootes: 2,100, 2,250
      • VLT (Finland): 10
      • Fairchild (Canada), "Bolingbroke": 656, 676
    • Production: 1939 - ?
  • Blenheim Mk V: 942, 945
    • Manufacturer: Rhodes
  • Total: 3,297, 4,440, ~5,500

Variants

  • Blenheim Mk I: In production until late 1938. Entered service in early 1937.
  • Blenheim Mk IF: Was a short nosed model that was in service through 1940 as a night fighter. Had four 7.7 mm machine guns under the fuselage. 200 Mk Is were converted.
  • Blenheim Mk IV: First 80 has less powerful engines, and less fuel. Had longer nose and the stepped nose. Deliveries started in January 1938. It was to be used by Coastal Command as it met their requirements. More fuel tanks were installed to increase range.
  • Blenheim Mk IVF: Night fighter. Had the same ventral gun pack that was in the Mk IF. Starting in 1939, 125 were converted. Had self sealing fuel tanks. Armor was also added. Used a AI Mk III radar.
  • Blenheim Mk V also known as Bisley, and Bolingbroke: Close support. Was slower, but outfitted 10 RAF squadrons in North Africa and the Far East. Had the Mercury XXX engine. There were four guns in the nose. Entered service in November 1942.
  • Blenheim Mk VD: Was modified to fly in the tropics. First used in North Africa at the end of 1942.

Usage

The countries that used the Blenheim was Britain, Canada, Finland, Greece (10), Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Turkey (17), and Yugoslavia.

The Blenheim crews suffered the most casualties than any other RAF aircraft.

RAF squadrons started receiving the Blenheims in March 1939.

The Blenheim was the RAF's principal light bomber at the beginning of World War II.

On September 3, 1939, a reconnaissance flight over flew the German border. The first RAF bombing raid was conducted by Blenheim Mk IVs. The Blenheim Mk IVs outfitted seven RAF squadrons.

Units

  • Mk IF Night Fighter: No 23, No 25, No 29, No 64, No 600, No 601, No 604

First Unit

In March 1936/March 1937 the No. 114 Squadron, at Wyton, was the first unit to receive the Bristol Blenheim Mk I.

In January 1937 the first unit equipped with Blenheim Mk Is became operational. By the end of 1937 15 more units received the Blenheim Mk Is.

Munich Crisis

By the time of the Munich Crisis of September 1938 there were 16 / 17 squadrons equipped with Blenheims. Seven squadrons in No 1 Group, six in No 2 Group, and four in No 5 Group.

First Mission on September 3, 1939

The No 139 Squadron sent a Blenheim IV (N6215), flown by Flag Officer McPherson, to photograph German naval units at Wilhelmshaven. No flak or Luftwaffe units were encountered. The next day McPherson was sent out again. The 107th and 110th Squadrons attacked the German fleet. McPherson eventually received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

First U-Boat Kill for RAF

On March 11, 1940 a Blenheim Mk IV flown by Squadron Leader M. V. Delap of No 82 Squadron sank a U-Boat.

Battle of France

The Blenheims suffered heavy losses during the Battle of France.

First Night Victory

The first night AI victory was scored by a Mk IF on July 22, 1940 against a Dornier Do 17Z.

Night Battles

From 1939 there were 24 RAF squadrons that were equipped with the Blenheim Mk IF night fighter.

Middle East

The Blenheim Mk IVs started being delivered to the Middle East in early 1940, replacing Mk Is.

Last Operation

The Blenheim Mk IVs last operation was on August 18, 1942.

Anti Shipping

As an anti shipping bomber the Blenheims sank 70 enemy ships from January to June 1941.

Far East

There were four squadrons of Blenheims stationed in the Far East and suffered heavily when Japan invaded Malaya.

Squadron Leader A Scarf of the 62 Squadron was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross during these battles.

Finland

Ten Blenheim Mk IVs were built under license. The were used until 1956 in forestry and survey work.

Canada

Produced more than 600, known as the Bolingbroke. Most were used as trainers for navigation and gunnery. Some were fitted with ski gear for landing. A few were used in reconnaissance over the Atlantic.

Specifications

  Blenheim
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Mercury VIII
Cylinders Radial 9
HP 840 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 56' 4"
17.17 m
Length 39' 9"
12.12 m
Height 9' 10"
3 m
Performance  
Speed at 15,000' / 4,572 m 278 mph
447 kph
Cruising speed 200 mph
322 kph
Climb 1,540'/minute
469 m/minute
Service ceiling 25,500'
7,772 m
Range 1,050 miles
1,690 km
  Blenheim Mk I
Type Bomber, Light bomber
Crew 3
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Mercury
2: Bristol Mercury VIII
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
HP 840 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 56' 4"
Length 39' 9"
Height 9' 10"
Weight  
Loaded 12,500 lb
Performance  
Speed 285 mph
Speed at 11,800' / 3,595 m 260 mph
Service ceiling 27,280'
Range 1,125 miles
Armament  
Port engine 1: 0.303"
Wing 1: 0.303" MG
1: 7.7 mm MG
Port wing 1: MG
1: Browning MG
Dorsal turret 1: 0.303"
1: 7.7 mm Vickers K MG
Bombs 1,000 lb
454 kg
  Blenheim Mk IF
Type Day fighter, Heavy fighter, Night fighter
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Mercury VIII
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
HP 840 each
Dimensions  
Span 56' 4"
17.17 m
Length 40' 10"
12.45 m
Height 9' 10"
3 m
Wing Area 469 sq ft
43.57 sq m
Weight  
Empty 8,050 lb, 8,840 lb
3,651 kg, 4,010 kg
Loaded 12,100 lb, 12,500 lb
5,489 kg, 5,670 kg
Performance  
Speed at 14,000' / 4,265 m 260 mph
418 kph
Climb 1,600'/minute
488 m/minute
Service Ceiling 27,000'
8,230 m
Range 1,100 miles
1,770 km
Armament  
Port engine 1: 0.303"
Under Fuselage Tray 4: MG
4: 0.303" / 7.7 mm MG
Turret - Dorsal 1: 0.303" / 7.7 mm MG
  Blenheim Mk IV, Blenheim Mk IVB
Type Bomber, Light bomber
Crew 3
Pilot, navigator/observer, gunner
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Mercury XV
2: Bristol Mercury XX
Cylinders Radial, Radial 9 , 9
Cooling Air
HP 905 each, 920 each, 1,000 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 56' 4", 58' 4"
17.17 m
Length 42' 7", 42' 9"
12.98 m
Height 9' 10"
2.99 m, 3 m
Wing area 469 ft2
43.57 m2
Weight  
Empty 9,770 lb, 9,790 lb
4,441 kg, 4,445 kg
Loaded 13,500 lb, 14,370 lb, 14,400 lb
6,124 kg, 6,532 kg, 6,537 kg
Performance  
Speed 295 mph
Speed at 11,000' 266 mph
Speed at 11,500' / 3,505 m 266 mph
428 kph
Speed at 11,800' / 3,595 m 265 mph, 266 mph
423 kph, 428 kph
Cruising speed 198 mph
318 kph
Climb 1,500'/minute
457 m/minute
Service ceiling 22,000', 24,600, 27,250', 27,260'
6,705 m, 7,500 m, 8,310 m
Range 1,450 miles, 1,460 miles, 1,900 miles
2,333 km, 2,340 km, 2,350 km
Armament 5: MG
5: 7.7 mm MG
Wing 1: 0.303" MG
1: 7.7 mm MG
Port wing 1: 0.303"
Nose 1: 7.7 mm MG
Dorsal turret 1, 2: 0.303"
2: 7.7 mm MG
Rear Firing 2: 0.303" MG
2: 7.7 mm MG
Bombs 1,000 lb, 1,274 lb, 1,320 lb
454 kg, 579 kg, 600 kg
Bombs - internal 1,000 lb
454 kg
Bombs - external 320 lb
145 kg
  Blenheim Mk IVF
Type Day fighter
Night fighter
Armament  
Ventral tray 4: 0.303"
  Blenheim Mk V
Type Light bomber
Crew 3
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Mercury 30
OR 2: Bristol Mercury 25
Cooling  
HP 950 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Weight  
Empty 11,000 lb
4,990 kg
Loaded 17,000 lb
7,711 kg
Armament  
Under fuselage tray 2: 0.303"
Dorsal turret 2: 0.303"
Bombs 1,000 lb
454 kg

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Editor: Karen Leverington, 1995
  3. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  4. Blenheim Squadrons of World War 2, Jon Lake, 1998
  5. World War II Airplanes Volume 1, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  6. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  7. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
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