Blenheim MkIF RAF 84Sqn VAG L1381 warming up at Menidi Tatoi Greece 1941 IWM CM264

The crew of Bristol Blenheim Mark I, L1381 'VA-G', of No. 84 Squadron RAF, prepare to board their aircraft at Menidi/Tatoi, Greece, for a raid on an Italian port in Albania. L1381 was one of four Blenheims lost during a raid on Valona on 7 December 1941, when it crash-landed near Sarande after being damaged by an Italian fighter.

Imperial War Museum IWM CM 264

Blenheim MkIV RAF 45Sqn U at waterlogged Gambut Libya Nov IWM CM1927

A Bristol Blenheim Mark IV, 'U' (serial number unclear) of No. 45 Squadron RAF, undergoes an engine overhaul at waterlogged Gambut, Libya, after violent rainstorms in November and December 1941 rendered many of the forward airfields unusable during Operation CRUSADER.

Imperial War Museum IWM CM 1927

Blenheim MkV RAF 34Sqn N BA576 at an airstrip in north-eastern India IWM CI295

A mobile X-ray unit of the Indian Army Medical Corps is unloaded from Bristol Blenheim Mark V, BA576 'N', of No. 34 Squadron RAF at an airstrip in north-eastern India

Imperial War Museum IWM CI 295

Blenheim MkI RAF 2 School of Technical Training at Cosford Feb 1940 IWM HU106262

Fairey Battles and Bristol Blenheims being used for maintenance instruction at No. 2 School of Technical Training at Cosford, February 1940.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 106262

Blenheim MkIF RAF 604Sqn NG at Northolt Apr 1940 IWM HU106272

The crew of a Bristol Blenheim Mk 1F of No. 604 Squadron climb from their aircraft at Northolt, April 1940.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 106272

Blenheim MkI RAF 90Sqn TWK in flight 1938 IWM HU106277

Blenheim Mk Is of No. 90 Squadron in flight, circa 1938.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 106277

Blenheim MkIF RAF 17OTU WRW L1359 at Upwood 1940 IWM HU107771

Aircrew with Blenheim Mk IF L1359 'WR-W' at an OTU in the Midlands, 1940. Probably No. 17 OTU at Upwood.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 107771

Bristol Blenheim MkIV RAF 14Sqn W Z5893 over the Western Desert IWM CM3108

A formation of five Blenheim Mark IVs (Z5893 'W' nearest) of No. 14 Squadron RAF in flight over the Western Desert. A Curtiss Kittyhawk, one of the escorting fighters, can be seen on the far right.

Imperial War Museum IWM CM 3108

Blenheim MkIV RAF 45Sqn A V6149 at Gambut Libya IWM CM2037

A Bristol Blenheim Mark IV returns to Gambut, Libya, in the failing evening light, after completing a sortie. In the foreground, Blenheim Mark IV, V6149 'A', of No. 45 Squadron RAF has been 'bedded down' for the night with tarpaulin covers over the engines and nose section.

Imperial War Museum IWM CM 2037

Blenheim MkIVs RAF 270 Wing bomb El Magrun Libya operation CRUSADER Dec 1941 IWM CM2017

Bombs from Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs of No. 270 Wing RAF explode among Junkers Ju 52s parked on the landing ground at El Magrun, Libya, in the afternoon of 22 December 1941. Blenheims, from Nos, 14 and 84 Squadrons RAF and the Lorraine Squadron of the Free French Air Force, made a series of attacks on El Magrun on 21-22 December, which was being used extensively by the Luftwaffe to provide air support for their retiring ground forces during operation CRUSADER.

Imperial War Museum IWM CM 2017

Blenheim MkIVs hit an Italian motor vessel Mediterranean IWM C1912

A bomb explodes by the side of an Italian motor vessel, under attack from Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs in the Mediterranean.

Imperial War Museum IWM C 1912

Blenheim MkIVs RAF 105Sqn and 139Sqn off the Dutch coast IWM C1936

Low level oblique taken during an attack on an enemy convoy off the Dutch coast by Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs of No, 2 Group. Eight vessels sailing between Ijmuiden and the Hague were intercepted by aircraft drawn from Nos. 105 and 139 Squadrons RAF. Although hits were scored on the ships, 3 Blenheims were shot down and 2 crash-landed on return to their base. Here, bombs can be seen narrowly missing MV DELAWARE, a Danish-registered vessel as aircraft attack at low level. The photograph was taken from the mid-upper gun turret of another Blenheim.

Imperial War Museum IWM C 1936

Bristol Blenheim MkI RAF 84Sqn VAO at Menidi-Tatoi Greece IWM MERAF336

Ground crew run an engine test on Bristol Blenheim Mark I 'VA-O', of No. 84 Squadron RAF at Menidi/Tatoi, Greece.

Imperial War Museum IWM ME(RAF) 336

Bristol Blenheim MkIV RAF 245Sqn at RAF Aldergrove Northern Ireland IWM HU107158

Three Bristol Blenheim long range fighters of No. 245 (Northern Rhodesian) Squadron at RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 107158

Bristol Blenheim MkIV RAF 245Sqn at RAF Aldergrove Northern Ireland IWM HU107159

A close up view of the turret on a Bristol Blenheim long range fighter of No. 245 (Northern Rhodesian) Squadron at RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 107159

Bristol Blenheim MkIV RAF 245Sqn at RAF Aldergrove Northern Ireland IWM HU107160

The observer climbing into the cockpit of a Bristol Blenheim long range fighter of No. 245 (Northern Rhodesian) Squadron at RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 107160

Bristol Blenheim MkIV RAF 245Sqn at RAF Aldergrove Northern Ireland IWM HU107161

The pilot and the observer in the cabin of a Bristol Blenheim long range fighter of No. 245 (Northern Rhodesian) Squadron at RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 107161

Bristol Blenheim MkI RAF 54OTU L1295 RAF Cranwell IWM CH655

Bristol Blenheim Mark I, L1295 in flight above the clouds. This aircraft commenced service in August 1938 with No. 107 Squadron RAF, followed by No. 600 Squadron RAF, the Royal Aircraft Establishment, No. 54 Operational Training Unit, RAF Cranwell, No. 3 Radio School, and finally No. 12 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit, with whom she was damaged beyond repair after crash-landing at Harlaxton on 29 July 1943. For reasons not known, the fuselage roundel and unit code were painted out at the time this photograph was taken.

Imperial War Museum IWM CH 655

Bristol Blenheim MkIV at a Maintenance Unit in Egypt IWM MERAF1473

Fitters running up and checking the Bristol Mercury XV engines of a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV at a Maintenance Unit in Egypt, before releasing it for operational service. Note the Vokes air filters over the carburettor intakes under the engines, and the four .303 machine-gun pack fitted beneath the fuselage.

Imperial War Museum IWM ME(RAF) 1473

Bristol Blenheim MkI RAF 30Sqn taking off from Eleusis, Greece IWM MERAF1101

Two Bristol Blenheim Mark Is of 'A' Flight No. 30 Squadron RAF, taking off from Eleusis, Greece, for a bombing raid over Italian-occupied Albania. Both aircraft are carrying external bomb loads in the Light Series Carriers fitted under the fuselage.

Imperial War Museum IWM ME(RAF) 1101

Bristol Blenheim MkIV RAF 105Sqn GBJ V6014 at Luqa Malta IWM CM1357

Bristol Blenheim Mark IV, V6014 'GB-J', of No. 105 Squadron RAF Detachment in a dispersal at Luqa, Malta. Canvas covers protect the cockpit and glazed nose section from the sun. From July to September 1941, 105 Squadron was detached from the United Kingdom to Malta, to operate against targets in the Mediterranean and North Africa, losing 14 aircraft during the period. Note the modified gun mounting under the nose.

Imperial War Museum IWM CM 1357

Bristol Blenheim MkIVs attack on Ypenburg airfield Holland 1940 IWM C1781

Composite of two aerial photographs taken during an attack on Ypenburg airfield, Holland, by Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs of the Advanced Air Striking Force. 250-lb GP bombs can be seen falling over the main Delft-Den Haag road onto the airfield where two Focke-Wulf Fw 58 are parked near the hangars. The bomb craters on and around the site were made during Luftwaffe attacks immediately prior to the German invasion.

Imperial War Museum IWM C 1781

Bristol Blenheim MkIV RAF 226Sqn over England 18 Aug 1941 IWM CH8605

A Bristol Blenheim Mark IV of No. 226 Squadron demonstrates the effectiveness of its camouflage as it flies over the English countryside, 18 August 1941.

Imperial War Museum IWM CH 8605

Bristol Blenheim MkVD RAF 614Sqn P BA783 dispersal area at Canrobert Algeria IWM CNA105

Armourers of No. 614 Squadron RAF preparing to load a 250-lb GP bomb into Bristol Blenheim Mark VD, BA783 'P', at Canrobert, Algeria.

Imperial War Museum IWM CNA 105

Bristol Blenheim MkVD RAF 13Sqn C dispersal area at Canrobert Algeria IWM CNA108

Fitters, armourers and mechanics of No. 13 Squadron RAF prepare Bristol Blenheim Mark VD 'C' for a sortie at Canrobert, Algeria.

Imperial War Museum IWM CNA 108

Bristol Blenheim MkVD RAF 326 Wing dispersal area at Canrobert Algeria IWM CNA110

A Bristol Blenheim Mark VD of No. 326 Wing RAF, silhouetted against the sun as it undergoes maintenance at Canrobert, Algeria.

Imperial War Museum IWM CNA 110

Blenheim MkVD RAF 614Sqn refuelling at Blida Algeria IWM CNA51

Bristol Blenheim Mark VDs of No. 614 Squadron RAF undergoing maintenance and refuelling at Blida, Algeria, in preparation for a sortie.

Imperial War Museum IWM CNA 51

Blenheim MkI RAF 84Sqn X L8374 at Menidi Tatoi Greece 22 Dec 1940 IWM CM306

The sun rises over the airfield at Menidi/Tatoi, Greece, as groundcrew remove the covers from Bristol Blenheim Mark I, L8374 'X', of No. 84 Squadron RAF, for a morning raid over Albania. L8374 was one of two Blenheims shot down when nine aircraft of the Squadron bombed the Kucera oil fields on 22 December 1940.

Imperial War Museum IWM CM 306

Bristol Blenheim IV RAF 110Sqn at Wattisham Aug 1940 IWM HU104641

A Bristol Blenheim Mk IV of No. 110 Squadron running up its engines at Wattisham, August 1940.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 104641

Blenheim MkIV RAF 110Sqn VEA R3741 at Wyton Huntingdonshire IWM CH775A

Blenheim MkIV RAF VEA R3741 Q.6 Petrel P5634 of the RAF Northolt Station Flight, parked alongside Bristol Blenheims at Wyton, Huntingdonshire.

Imperial War Museum IWM CH 775A

Bristol Blenheim IV RAF 110Sqn VEA R3741 at Wyton Huntingdonshire IWM CH776

Percival Q.6 Petrel, P5634, of the RAF Northolt Station Flight, parked at the head of a line of Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs of No. 2 Group at Wyton, Huntingdonshire. R3741 'VE-A' of No. 110 Squadron RAF has been modified by the addition of gun mountings in the rear of the engine nacelles, while T1947 'LS' of No. 15 Squadron RAF has been fitted with a long gun tray beneath the nose.

Imperial War Museum IWM CH 776

Bristol Blenheim I RAF 107Sqn OMW V6193 crashsite at Bremen IWM HU25727

Operation WRECKAGE: low level daylight attack on targets in Bremen by aircraft of No. 2 Group. Luftwaffe and German fire brigade personnel inspect the wreckage of Bristol Blenheim Mark IV 'OM-W' of No. 107 Squadron RAF which crashed at Bremen Blockland after being hit by anti aircraft fire over the target area. This aircraft is probably V6193, the pilot of which, Flight Lieutenant F Wellburn, survived, but the remaining three crew members of which, including the Station Armament Officer who went along 'for the experience', were killed.

Imperial War Museum IWM HU 25727

Blenheims RAF 2 Group hit a 500-ton German vessel over Heligoland Bight IWM C1995

Oblique aerial photograph showing a 500-ton German vessel burning after a direct hit amidships during an attack by Bristol Blenheims of No. 2 Group on a convoy of six enemy ships in Heligoland Bight. Taken from the mid-upper turret of one of the attacking aircraft.

Imperial War Museum IWM CM 1995

Bristol Blenheim IV RAF 110Sqn VEH or N R3600 at RAF Wattisham Suffolk IWM CH354

Bristol Blenheim Mark IV, R3600, of No. 110 Squadron RAF, undergoes an elaborate servicing for the photographer at RAF Wattisham, Suffolk. Armourers unload 250-lb GP bombs and Small Bomb Containers (SBCs) of incendiaries from a trolley, while other groundcrew refuel the aircraft and attend to the engines, the cockpit and the gun-turret, accompanied by a pet dog on the engine cowling. 17 days later, on 06/05/1941, BB IV R3600 VE, 110Sq, took off from Wattisham for shipping sweep in ’Beat 7’, crashed in North Sea off Dutch Coast. Crew: pilot F/Lt Edwards N Steel (pilot RAF) age 24 from Wellington (NZ); Sgt Ronald A Freestone (Obs) (both named Runnymede); Sgt Joseph D Bramhall (WOp/AG RAF) age 33 from Glasgow &buried Sage, Germany. Upsetting, but read this to get some understanding of how aircrew are feeling. GW: 18/04/1941, R2787, 110Sq. FTR: took off Watton on anti-shipping sortie, struck tree airfield perimeter, crashed, destroyed by fire. Sgt H Wright, Sgt N Kendall & F/Sgt G Cornwall KIA. 06/05/1941, R3600, 110Sq. FTR Shot down by flak during anti-shipping sortie. F/Lt E Steel (NZ), F/Sgt R Freestone & Sgt J Bramhall KIA. Named on Runnymede.

Further: During the spring and summer of 1940 it was the Blenheims of No 2 Group which sustained the heaviest losses—nearly 6 per cent of sorties flown. Operating chiefly by day, they were used to support the withdrawal of British forces from France and then to harass ports where an invasion fleet might be assembled. In June their operations were extended to Germany with the intention of preventing the deployment of some Luftwaffe fighter units to the Channel coast. Maximum bomb load was 1,000 lb for a 600-mile radius of action. No 110 Squadron's R3600 is here being armed with 250 lb HE bombs and SBCs (small bomb containers) of 416 incendiaries at Wattisham in June 1940. Apparently it is being refuelled at the same time, ground crew attention is more numerous than usual and included is a squadron pet—all of which suggests a special display for the photographer. This aircraft survived until 6 May the following year when it was shot down while attacking a convoy. (IWM CH364)
By the time it was lost, it was credited with 48 operational sorties. Its last crew was
F/L Edward Nation Steel, age 24, RAF, Pilot
F/S Ronald Albert Freestone, RAFVR, Observer
Sgt Joseph Dennis Bramhall, RAFVR, WOp/AG (information from Sara Mosher)

Imperial War Museum IWM CH 364

Web Source

Web Source

Blenheim IVF RAF 248Sqn WRL N6239 at North Coates Lincolnshire IWM MH42

Blenheim Mark IVF, N6239 WR-L, of No. 248 Squadron RAF, on the ground at North Coates, Lincolnshire.

Imperial War Museum IWM MH 42

Blenheim IVF RAF 248Sqn WRL N6239 at North Coates Lincolnshire IWM MH42

Blenheim Mark IVF, N6239 WR-L, of No. 248 Squadron RAF, on the ground at North Coates, Lincolnshire.

Blenheim MkIF RAF RAF 600Sqn BQN L1517 sd by 11./(N)JG2 Steinhoff at Wassenaar NL 10th May 1945 01

Photo: Bristol Blenheim Mk.1F L1517 (NG-B) of 604 (County of Middlesex) Sqaudron, RAF: Lost on combat operations - officially described as "Blenheim L1514 lost in air operations over Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 10 May 1940". Mission: Escort for the Bristol Blenheims of No. 110 Squadron to Ockenburg, Netherlands. 12 Blenheim Mk.IVs of 110 Squadron were escorted by 6 Blenheim Mk.1Fs of 604 Squadron. Took off from Northolt. Forced-landed on beach at Scheveningen damaged by flak, at 17.30 hrs. Aircraft abandoned North of Scheveningen Beach, in the Sand Dunes at Wassenaar. Both crew - Pilot Officer R C Haine and Pilot Officer M Kramer: originally posted as missing, later reported as safe and returned to unit

Royal Air Force Aircrft L1000-L9999 (James J .Halley, Air Britain, 1978 p 10

Bristol Blenheim

Role Light bomber / fighter
Manufacturer Bristol Aeroplane Company
Designer Frank Barnwell
First flight 12 April 1935
Introduction 1937
Retired 1944 (United Kingdom), 1956 (Finland)
Primary users Royal Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Finnish Air Force, Royal Yugoslav Air Force
Number built 4,422
Variants Bristol Beaufort, Bristol Fairchild Bolingbroke

The Bristol Blenheim was a British light bomber aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company that was used extensively in the early days of the Second World War. It was adapted as an interim long-range and night fighter, pending the availability of the Beaufighter. It was one of the first British aircraft to have all-metal stressed-skin construction, to utilise retractable landing gear, flaps, powered gun turret and variable pitch propellers. A Canadian-built variant named the Bolingbroke was used as an anti-submarine and training aircraft.

The Blenheim Mk I outshone most biplane fighters in the late 1930s but stood little chance against the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 during daylight operations, though it proved successful as a night fighter. The Mark IV variant was equally unsuccessful, suffering major losses in the early stages of the war.[1]

Design and development

Blenheim Mk IV cockpit. Note the asymmetry of the instrument console, indicating the position of the scooped out area of the nose in front of the pilot. The ring and bead gunsight for the forward firing guns is visible.

In 1934, Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail newspaper, challenged to the British aviation industry to build a high-speed aircraft capable of carrying six passengers and two crew members. At the time, German firms were producing a variety of record-breaking high-speed designs, and Rothermere wanted to recapture the title of fastest civilian aircraft in Europe. Bristol had been working on a suitable design as the Type 135 since July 1933, and further adapted it to produce the Type 142 to meet Rothermere's requirements.

Named Britain First, this first flew at Filton on 12 April 1935,[2] and proved to be faster than any fighter in service with the Royal Air Force at the time.[3] The Air Ministry was obviously interested in such an aircraft and quickly sent out Specification B.28/35 for prototypes of a bomber version; the Type 142M (M for military). The main change was to move the wing from a low-wing to a mid-wing position, allowing room under the main spar for a bomb bay. The aircraft was all-metal with two Bristol Mercury VIII air-cooled radial engines, each of 860 hp (640 kW). It carried a crew of three - pilot, navigator/bombardier and telegraphist/air gunner.[4] Armament comprised a single forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine gun outboard of the port engine and a .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun in a semi-retracting Bristol Type B Mk I dorsal turret firing to the rear. From 1939 onwards, the Lewis gun was replaced by the more modern .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers VGO machine gun of the same calibre. A 1,000 lb (450 kg) bomb load could be carried in the internal bay.

To achieve its relatively high speed, the Blenheim had a very small fuselage cross-section, with its upper front glazing all at one angle in the form of a 'stepless cockpit', that used no separate windscreen panels for the pilot. Pilot's quarters on the left side of the nose were so cramped that the control yoke obscured all flight instruments while engine instruments eliminated the forward view on landings. Most secondary instruments were arranged along the left side of the cockpit, with essential items like propeller pitch control actually placed behind the pilot where they had to be operated by feel alone. Like most contemporary British aircraft, the bomb bay doors were kept closed with bungee cords and opened under the weight of the released bombs. Because there was no way to predict how long it would take for the bombs to force the doors open, bombing accuracy was consequently poor.[5]

The aircraft was ordered directly from the drawing board with the first production model serving as the only prototype.[6] The service name then became Blenheim Mk I after the famous battle during the War of the Spanish Succession. Subsequent deliveries started on 10 March 1937, with 114 Squadron being the first squadron to receive the Blenheim.[6] The aircraft would prove to be so successful that it was licensed by a number of countries, including Finland and the Yugoslavia, which completed 60 examples. Other countries bought it outright, including Romania, Greece and Turkey. Total production of the Blenheim Mk I in England amounted to 1,351 aircraft.[6]

Bristol Blenheim bomber at the RAF Museum, London

Work on an extended-range reconnaissance version started as the Blenheim Mk II, which increased tankage from 278 gal (1,264 L) to 468 gal (2,127 L), but only one was completed. Another modification resulted in the Blenheim Mk III, which lengthened the nose, and thereby dispensed with the 'stepless cockpit' format of the Mk.I in introducing a true windscreen in front of the pilot, to provide more room for the bombardier. This required the nose to be 'scooped out' in front of the pilot to maintain visibility during takeoff and landing. However both of these modifications were instead combined, along with a newer version of the Mercury engine with 905 hp (675 kW) and the turret acquired a pair of Brownings instead of the Vickers K; creating the Blenheim Mk IV. A total of 3,307 were produced.

Another modification led to a long-range fighter version; the Blenheim Mk IF. For this role, about 200 Blenheims were fitted with a gun-pack under the fuselage for four .303 in (7.7 mm) Brownings. Later, the Airborne Intercept (AI) Mk III or IV radar was fitted to some aircraft in use as night fighters; these were the first British fighters to be equipped with radar. Their performance was marginal as a fighter, but they served as an interim type, pending availability of the Beaufighter. About 60 Mk IVs were also equipped with the gun pack as the Mk IVF and were used by Coastal Command to protect convoys from German long-range bombers.

The last bomber variant was conceived as an armoured ground attack aircraft, with a solid nose containing four more Browning machine guns. Originally known as the Bisley, (after the shooting competitions held at Bisley), the production aircraft were renamed Blenheim Mk V and featured a strengthened structure, pilot armour, interchangeable nose gun pack or bombardier position, and yet another Mercury variant, this time with 950 hp (710 kW). The Mk V was ordered for conventional bombing operations, with the removal of armour and most of the glazed nose section. The Mk V, or Type 160, was used primarily in the Middle East and Far East.

The Blenheim served as the basis for the Beaufort torpedo bomber, which itself led to the Beaufighter, with the lineage performing two complete circles of bomber to fighter.

Operational history

Blenheim Mk Is of No. 62 Squadron RAF lined up at RAF Tengah, Singapore, circa February 1941 On the day that war was declared on Germany a Blenheim piloted by Flying Officer Andrew McPherson was the first British aircraft to cross the German coast and the following morning 15 Blenheims from three squadrons set off on one of the first bombing missions.[7] With the rapid advances in technology which had taken place in the late 1930s, by then the aircraft was already obsolescent. The Blenheim was regarded as a pleasant aircraft to fly, although it did have some characteristics which could catch even experienced pilots by surprise. It had become heavier as extra service equipment was installed; much of this was found to be needed through operational experience. This, coupled with the rapid performance increases of fighters, had eclipsed the Blenheim's speed advantage.[8]

The light armament of one .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers VGO in the turret and one .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine gun in the port wing was seldom able to deter fighter opposition. Squadrons were forced to use several different improvisations in an attempt to provide better defensive armament, until officially sanctioned modifications were able to be introduced in early 1940. The Blenheim also proved to be vulnerable to flak, especially around the rear fuselage. Flexible, self-sealing liners had been fitted to the fuel tanks but they were still not fully protected against the 20 mm MG FF cannon carried by the Luftwaffe's Bf 109s and Bf 110s.[9]

After France fell to Germany in June 1940, the Free French Air Force was formed at RAF Odiham in the form of Groupe Mixte de Combat (GMC) 1, consisting of a mixed bag of Blenheims and Westland Lysander liaison/observation aircraft, which eventually went to North Africa and saw action against the Italians and Germans.

The Battle of Britain

The Blenheim units operated throughout the battle, often taking heavy casualties, although they were never accorded the publicity of the fighter squadrons.

The Blenheim units raided German occupied airfields throughout July to December 1940, both during daylight hours and at night. Although most of these raids were unproductive there were some successes; on 1 August five out of 12 Blenheims sent to attack Haamstede and Evere (Brussels) were able to bomb, destroying or heavily damaging three Bf 109s of II./JG 27 and apparently killing a Staffelkapitan identified as Hauptmann Albrecht von Ankum-Frank. Two other 109s were claimed by Blenheim gunners.[10][f] Another successful raid on Haamstede was made by a single Blenheim on 7 August which destroyed one 109 of 4./JG 54, heavily damaged another and caused lighter damage to four more.[11]

There were also some missions which produced an almost 100% casualty rate amongst the Blenheims; one such operation was mounted on 13 August 1940 against a Luftwaffe airfield near Aalborg in north-eastern Denmark by 12 aircraft of 82 Squadron. One Blenheim returned early (the pilot was later charged and due to appear before a court martial but was killed on another operation), the other 11, which reached Denmark, were shot down, five by flak and six by Bf 109s.[12] As well as the bombing operations, Blenheim-equipped units had been formed to carry out long-range strategic reconnaissance missions over Germany and German-occupied territories. In this role, the Blenheims once again proved to be too slow and vulnerable against Luftwaffe fighters and they took constant casualties.[13]

Cologne power stations raid

The action on 12 August 1941 was described by the Daily Telegraph in 2006 as the 'RAF's most audacious and dangerous low-level bombing raid, a large-scale attack against power stations near Cologne.'[14] The raid was a low-level daylight raid by 54 Blenheims under the command of Wing Commander Nichol of No. 114 Squadron RAF. The Blenheims hit their targets (Fortuna Power Station in Oberaußem-Fortuna and the Goldenberg Power Station in Hürth-Knapsack) but 12 of the Blenheims were lost during the raid, 22% of those that took part which was far above the sustainable loss rate of less than 5%. The England cricketer S/L Bill Edrich was awarded the DFC for his part in the raid.[15][14][16][17][18][19]

Long-range fighter

The Bristol Blenheim was used by both Bomber and Fighter Commands. Some 200 Mk I bombers were modified into Mk IF long-range fighters with 600 (Auxiliary Air Force) Squadron based at Hendon, the first squadron to take delivery of these variants in September 1938. By 1939, at least seven squadrons were operating these twin-engine fighters and within a few months, some 60 squadrons had experience of the type. The Mk IF proved to be slower and less nimble than expected, and by June 1940, daylight Blenheim losses were to cause concern for Fighter Command. It was then decided that the Mk IF would be relegated mainly to night fighter duties where No. 23 Squadron RAF who had already operated the type under night time conditions had better success.

Night fighter

In the German night bombing raid on London, 18 June 1940, Blenheims accounted for five German bombers thus proving they were better suited to a nocturnal role. In July, No. 600 Squadron, by then based at RAF Manston, had some of its Mk IFs equipped with AI Mk III radar. With this radar equipment, a Blenheim from the Fighter Interception Unit (FIU) at RAF Ford achieved the first success on the night of 2–3 July 1940, accounting for a Dornier Do 17 bomber. More successes came and, before long, the Blenheim proved itself invaluable in the night fighter role. Gradually, with the introduction of the Bristol Beaufighter in 1940-1941, the Blenheim was supplanted by its faster, better armed progeny.

Eastern service


Blenheims continued to operate widely in many combat roles until about 1943, equipping RAF squadrons in the UK and in British bases in Egypt, Iraq, Aden, India, British Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies. Many Blenheims were lost to Japanese fighters during the Malayan Campaign, battles for Singapore, and Sumatra. By that point, the traditional daylight light bomber role was more effectively carried out by suitable fighter-bombers, and the surviving examples were relegated to training duties. Nonetheless, the Blenheim played a role in preventing India from falling and recapturing Burma, destroying over 60 aircraft on the ground in raids on Bangkok early in the campaign.[20]

One Blenheim pilot, Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for an attack on Singora, Thailand, on 9 December 1941. Another bomber of No. 60 Squadron RAF was credited with shooting down Lt Col Tateo Katō's Nakajima Ki-43 fighter and badly damaging two others in a single engagement on 22 May 1942, over the Bay of Bengal. Katō's death was a severe blow for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force.[21]

The Air Ministry's replacement for the Blenheim as a daylight bomber, another Bristol design the Buckingham, was overtaken by events and changes in requirements and considered inferior to the de Havilland Mosquito, and as such did not see combat. The final ground attack version - the Blenheim Mk V - first equipped 139 Squadron in June 1942. Eventually 13 squadrons - mainly in the Middle East and Far East - received this variant but operated them generally only for a few months.[22]


Bristol Blenheim BL-129 of Finnish Air Force LeLv 44

In 1936, the Finnish Air Force ordered 18 Blenheim Mk Is from Britain and two years later, they obtained a manufacturing license for the aircraft. Before any aircraft could be manufactured at the Valtion lentokonetehdas (State Airplane Factory) in Finland, the Winter War broke out, forcing the Finns to order more aircraft from the UK. A further 24 British-manufactured Blenheims were ordered during the Winter War. After the Winter War, 55 Blenheims were constructed in Finland, bringing the total number to 97 aircraft (75 Mk Is and 22 Mk IVs).[23]

The Finns also received 20 half-completed ex-Yugoslavian Mk IV Blenheims captured by Germany, together with manufacturing tools and production equipment, as well as a huge variety of spare parts. Yugoslavia had ceased production of the Mk I and commenced a production run of Mk IVs just prior to the April 1941 invasion.[24]

The Finnish Blenheims flew 423 missions during the Winter War, and close to 3,000 missions during the Continuation War and Lapland War. Blenheim machine gunners also shot down eight Soviet aircraft. Thirty-seven Blenheims were lost in combat during the wars.[23]

After the war, Finland was prohibited from flying bomber aircraft. However, some of the Finnish Blenheims continued in service as target tugs until 1958.

Bolingbroke IVT in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, Brandon, Manitoba


Blenheim Mk IF
Two-seat night fighter variant.
Blenheim Mk I
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. Company designation Type 142M.
Blenheim Mk IF
Night fighter version, equipped with an AI Mk III or Mk IV airborne interceptor radar, armed with four 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns in a special gun pack under the fuselage. About 200 Blenheim Mk Is were converted into Mk IF night fighters.
Blenheim Mk II
Long-range reconnaissance version with extra fuel tankage. Only one Blenheim Mk II was built.
Blenheim Mk III
Blenheim Mk IV
Improved version, fitted with protective armour, powered by two 905 hp (675 kW) Bristol Mercury XV radial piston engines, armed with a 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun in the port wing, plus two 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine-guns in a powered operated dorsal turret, and two remotely controlled rearward-firing 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun mounted beneath the nose, maximum bombload 1,000 lb (450 kg) internally and 320 lb (150 kg) externally. 3,307 built.
Blenheim Mk IVF
Long-range fighter version, armed with four 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns in special gun pack under the fuselage. About 60 Blenheim Mk IVs were converted into Mk IVF fighters.
Blenheim Mk V
High-altitude bomber version, powered by two Bristol Mercury XV or XXV radial piston engines.


Australia Canada Croatia Finland France Greece India New Zealand Portugal Romania South Africa Turkey United Kingdom Yugoslavia


There are currently no Blenheim or Bolingbroke aircraft that are airworthy. The first airworthy Blenheim had been rebuilt from a scrapped Bolingbroke over a 12-year period, only to crash at an airshow at Denham within a month of completion.[25] A replacement Bolingbroke Mk IVT was rebuilt to flying status in just five years and painted to represent a Blenheim Mk IV in RAF wartime service. It began appearing at air shows and exhibitions in the UK, flying since May 1993 and was used in the 1995 film version of Shakespeare's Richard III. This aircraft crashed on landing at Duxford on 19 August 2003; the crash was feared to have made it a write-off,[25] but it is presently undergoing an extensive repair and conversion to Mark 1 status ('Short nose' version) in conjunction with The Aircraft Restoration Company (ARC or ARCo), most of the work being done by volunteers. Funds are raised through donations and also by The Blenheim Society who run a Grand Flying Draw among many other activities. The aircraft is currently in Hangar 3 at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and is the property of Blenheim (Duxford) Ltd.

In Canada, a number of other Bolingbrokes survived the war but were summarily consigned to the scrap heap. Postwar, enterprising farmers often bought surplus aircraft such as these for the scrap metal content, tires for farm implements, and even for the fuel remaining in the tanks. Some surviving examples in Canada of the Bolingbroke can be traced back to this period. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario is rebuilding a Bolingbroke to airworthy status. The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, Manitoba has restored the exterior of one Bolingbroke, painting it in the Air Training Plan yellow color. This particular aircraft is on display at a location[26] on the Trans-Canada Highway in Brandon. A restored Bolingbroke is on static display at the British Columbia Aviation Museum in Victoria, British Columbia. The Canadian Museum of Flight at Langley Airport, Langley, British Columbia has on display the restored nose and cockpit section of a Bolingbroke, and holds the rest of an entire airframe in storage pending future restoration and display.

In Finland, the sole surviving original Blenheim in the world, a Mk IV registered as BL-200 of the Finnish Air Force, has been completely restored and is now on show at the Aviation Museum of Central Finland at Tikkakoski.[27]

In the summer of 1996, a Bristol Blenheim Mk IVF was recovered from the sea, a few kms off Rethymnon, Crete. The aircraft belonged to the 203 Squadron RAF and was downed by friendly fire on 28 April 1941. The Blenheim was restored and moved to the Hellenic Air Force Museum. [28]


Bristol Aeroplane Company, Filton, United Kingdom or Valtion Lentokonetehdas (VL), Tampere, Finland, particles of series V and VI also by Ikarus A.D., Zemun, Yugoslavia

Country of origin:

  • Mk. I
  • Series I, IV: United Kingdom
  • Series II: Finland [this series was also called "Bristol Blenheim Mk.II (Finnish licence)"]
  • Series V: Finland / Yugoslavia
  • Mk. IV (Longnose)
  • Series III: United Kingdom
  • Series VI: Finland / Yugoslavia / Germany

Crew 3 - pilot, observer / bomber, radio operator / rear turret MG gunner
- 2x Bristol or Tampella Mercury VIII or VIIIA / 840 hp, 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engines or
- Series III, V (partly) and VI (partly): 2x Bristol or Tampella Mercury XI / 905 hp (100 octane fuel), 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engines
- metallic de Havilland or Hamilton Standard variable pitch (adjustable) propellers or
- wooden VLS 8000 (Fin) variable-pitch (adjustable, two positions) propellers,
- wooden VLS 8001 (Fin) variable-pitch (adjustable, two positions) propellers
Maximum speed:
- Series I, II, IV: 435 km/h (at 4.150 m)
- Series V: 440 km/h (at 5.000 m)
- Series III, VI (Longnose): 450 km/h (at 5.000 m)
Cruising speed: 300 km/h
Maximum ceiling: ? m
Maximum range: / operating time: 600 km / approx. 4 h
Fuel capacity: 2x 630 l Dimensions
Wing span: 12.17 m
- Mk. I: 12.12 m
- Mk. IV (Longnose): 12.98 m
- Mk. I: 2.98 m
- Mk. IV (Longnose): 3.05 m
- Mk. I (Series III, IV): 4.140 kg (empty), 6.500 kg (full combat)
- Mk. IV (Longnose, series IV): 4.175 kg (empty), 6.600 kg (full combat)
Radio: Marconi (I, III, IV, UK), 1257 (II, Fin) or P-12-14 (Fin), (since spring 1944) Telefunken FuG 10 (Ger)
Cameras: Eagle IV (25 or 30/18x24) (UK), Carl Zeiss RMK 20/30x30 (Ger), (40-) Carl Zeiss Rb 75/30x30 (Ger) or (41-) Fairchild FRD-K-3C (30,6/23x23) (USA)
Bomb load: practical 600 kg (for all models)
- Series I: 800 or 972 kg
- Series II, V: 850 kg / 402 kg with incendiary bomb cassettes
- Series III, IV: typical British style load only 526 kg
- Series V, VI: 800 or 972 kg / 402 kg with incendiary bomb cassettes
Bomb racks:
Series I:
- in open bomb bay (bombs partly outside fuselage, no doors): 8 - Tolfvan RMS 100 1/BL for 50 or 100 kg bombs
- in both wings (bombs partly outside): 2 - Tolfvan RMS 12,5 1/BL for 12,5 or 25 kg bombs
Series II, V and BL-109 of Series I:
- bomb bay (bombs inside fuselage): 2 - RMS-250 (or two 115 kg R.A.E. incendiary bomb cassettes), 2 - RMS-100 and two additional bomb cassettes for 12 tiny 3 kg bombs each - in both wings (bombs inside wing): 2 - RMS-100 Series III, IV:
- bomb bay (bombs inside fuselage): 4 - R.S.250/150lbs.No.1 Type E.M./E.F.Mk.I for four 250 lbs or 2 - R.S.260lbs.No.2 Type E.M./E.F.Mk.I for two 500 lbs bombs
- rear fuselage (bombs outside): 8 - R.S.20lbs.Type E.M.Mk.I for light flares or training bombs
- in both wings (bombs inside wing): 2 - R.S.20lbs.Type E.M.Mk.II for target marking or light flares
Series V, VI:
- bomb bay (bombs inside fuselage): 8 - RMS-100-II and 2 - RMS-250-I plus two additional bomb cassettes for 12 tiny 3 kg bombs each
- both wings (bombs inside wing): 2 - RMS-100-I for 25 kg bombs
Bombing sight:
- optical: Wimperis or Goertz I
- mechanical: PW 2 (Fin) or TM m/42 (Fin)
Defensive armament
Series I:
- in left wing: 1 - 7.62 mm Vickers MG (400 rds box)
- in rear turret: 1 - 7.62 mm L-33/BL MG (7x 75 rds drum)
Series II:
- in wings: 2 - 7.7 mm Browning FN MG
- in rear turret: 1 - 7.7 mm L-33/36/IX MG (7x 75 rds drum)
Series III, IV:
- in wings: 2 - .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning Mk.II MG
- in rear turret: 1 - .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers G.O.MI MG (7x 75 rds drum)
Series V, VI:
- in wings: 2 - 7.7 mm Browning FN MG (450 rds box for each MG)
- in rear turret: 1 - 7.7 mm Browning FN MG (625 rds belt)

Specifications (Blenheim Mk IV)

Data from British Warplanes of World War II[29]

General characteristics

Crew: 3
Length: 42 ft 7 in (12.98 m)
Wingspan: 56 ft 4 in (17.17 m)
Height: 9 ft 10 in (3.0 m)
Wing area: 469 ft² (43.6 m²)
Empty weight: 9,790 lb (4,450 kg)
Loaded weight: 14,400 lb (6,545 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × Bristol Mercury XV radial engine, 920 hp (690 kW) each
Propellers: Three-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller


Maximum speed: 266 mph (231 kn, 428 km/h at 11,800 ft (3,597 m))
Cruise speed: 198 mph (172.25 kn, 319 km/h)
Range: 1,460 mi (1,270 nmi, 2,351 km)
Service ceiling: 27,260 ft (8,310 m)
Rate of climb: 1,500 ft/min (7.6 m/s)
Wing loading: 30.7 lb/ft² (150 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.13 hp/lb (.21 kW/kg)


Guns: 1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine gun in port wing
1 or 2 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning guns in rear-firing under-nose blister or Nash & Thomson FN.54 turret
2 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning guns in dorsal turret
Bombs: 1200 lb (540 kg)
4 × 250 lb (113 kg) bombs or
2 × 500 lb (227 kg) bombs internally and 8× 40 lb (18 kg) bombs externally

IL-2 Sturmovik Cliffs of Dover - COD/CLOD skins


  1. Wheeler 1992, p. 20.
  2. Barnes 1964, p.258.
  3. Barnes 1964, p. 259.
  4. Barnes 1964, pp. 266–267.
  5. Gunston, Bill. Classic World War II Aircraft Cutaways. London: Osprey, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-526-8.
  6. Mason 1994, p. 269.
  7. Falconer 1998, p. 212.
  8. Warner 2005, p. 158.
  9. Warner 2005, pp. 155-158.
  10. Ramsay 1989, p. 552.
  11. Ramsay 1989, p. 555.
  12. Warner 2005, p. 255.
  13. Warner 2005.
  14. 'Obituary of Wing Commander Tom Baker.' Daily Telegraph, 10 April 2006.
  15. David Frith 1987, p. 365.
  16. Gardner. James. 'Bristol Blenheims' (Pencil and watercolour on board, 1941). National Archives. Retrieved: 22 July 2008.
  17. "Bristol" Blenheim' (A bibliography of the raid). Retrieved: 22 July 2008.
  18. 'Photograph: Blenheim V6391 after bombing Goldenburg Power Station, Cologne.' Retrieved: 25 July 2008.
  19. 'Photograph: Blenheims Attack Fortuna Power Station in Cologne.' Retrieved: 25 July 2008.
  20. Lake 1998, pp. 89–90.
  21. Sakaida 1997, p. 27.
  22. Jefford 2001
  23. Perttula, Pentti. 'Bristol Blenheim.' Backwoods Landing Strip: Finnish Air Force Aircraft, FAF in Colour. Retrieved: 27 June 2009.
  24. Ciglic and Savic 2002, p. 62.
  25. 'Blenheim may be a write-off.' Air Classics, November 2003. Retrieved: 8 March 2010.
  26. 'Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseon (The Aviation Museum of Central Finland).' Retrieved: 21 July 2010.
  27. 'Μουσείο Πολεμικής Αεροπορίας (Hellenic Airforce Museum).' Retrieved: 18 April 2012.
  28. March 1998, p. 43.


  • Air Ministry Pilot's Notes: Blenheim. London: OHMS/Air Data Publications, 1939.
  • Air Ministry Pilot's Notes: Blenheim V. London: OHMS/Air Data Publications, 1942.
  • Barnes, C.H. Bristol Aircraft Since 1910. London: Putnam, 1970. ISBN 0-85177-804-6.
  • Boiten, T. Bristol Blenheim. Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK: The Crowood Press, 1998. ISBN 1-86126-115-2.
  • Bowyer, C. Bristol Blenheim. London: Ian Allen, 1984. ISBN 0-7110-1351-9.
  • Chorley, W.R. RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War: 1939-40 v. 1. Earl Shilton, Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing, 1998. ISBN 978-0-904597-85-1.
  • Ciglic, Boris and Dragan Savic.Croatian Aces of World War II (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces - 49). London: Oxford, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-435-3.
  • Donald, David. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
  • Falconer, Jonathon. The Bomber Command Handbook 1939-1945. Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing Limited, 1998. ISBN 978-0-7509-1819-0.
  • Frith, David. Pageant of Cricket. Melbourne: The MacMillian Company of Australia, 1987. ISBN 978-0-333-45177-9.
  • Keskinen, Kalevi et al. Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 10, Bristol Blenheim (in Finnish). Loviisa, Finland: Painoyhtymä Oy, 2004. ISBN 952-99432-1-0.
  • Jefford, C.G. RAF Squadrons: A Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of All RAF Squadrons and Their Antecedents Since 1912. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Lake, Jon. Blenheim Squadrons of World War 2. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-85532-723-6.
  • Mackay, Ron. Bristol Blenheim in Action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1998. ISBN 0-89747-209-8.
  • March, Daniel J., ed. British Warplanes of World War II. London: Aerospace, 1998. ISBN 1-874023-92-1.
  • Marttila, Jukka. Bristol Blenheim - Taitoa ja tekniikkaa (in Finnish). Vantaa, Finland: Blenimi-Publishing, 1989. ISBN 952-90-0170-3.
  • Mason, Francis K. The British Bomber Since 1914. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1994. ISBN 0-85177-861-5.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to American Aircraft of World War II. London: Aerospace Publishing Ltd, 1996. ISBN 0-7858-1361-6.
  • Sakaida, Henry. Japanese Army Air Force Aces 1937-45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1997. ISBN 1-85532-529-2.
  • Thomas, A. Bristol Blenheim (Warpaint No. 26). London: Hall Park Books, 2000. ISBN 1-84176-289-X.
  • Warner, G. The Bristol Blenheim: A Complete History. London: Crécy Publishing, 2nd edition 2005. ISBN 0-85979-101-7.
  • Wheeler, Barry C. The Hamlyn Guide to Military Aircraft Markings. London: Chancellor Press, 1992. ISBN 1-85152-582-3.

    Magazine References: +

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  • FlyPast (English) -
  • Flugzeug Publikations GmbH (German) -
  • Flugzeug Classic (German) -
  • Klassiker (German) -
  • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) -
  • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) -
  • Osprey (English) -
  • Revi Magazines (Czech) -

    Web References: +

  • History of RAF Organisation:
  • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:


This webpage was updated 16th November 2021