The aircraft for today is the light bomber aircraft of which many heavy fighter and bomber variants were also produced. We are talking about the Bristol Blenheim which was designed and built by the company named Bristol Aeroplane Company back in the early 1930s and was later used by the British Royal Air Force as well as the many other world militaries for almost 2 decades. The aircraft was also sued extensively by its many operators in the first 2 years of World War II.
The Bristol Blenheim was developed as the civil airliner designated as The Type 142 which first flew back in 1935. The British Air Ministry as impressed by the performance of this airliner and they ordered an aircraft under designation Type 142M for the RAF to work as their bomber. The deliveries were then made to the RAF under the name Bristol Blenheim in March of 1937.
The Bristol Blenheim was one of the first aircraft for the British RAF that came in the all-metal skin along with retractable gears, flaps, a powerful gun turret as well as a variable pitch propeller. While the Bristol Blenheim was faster the development of the monoplanes made these daytime bombers a vulnerable target in the daytime raids.
The origin of the Bristol Blenheim came from back in the early 1930s when the owner of a newspaper named Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere laid down a challenge to the aircraft manufacturing companies in England to develop the fastest aircraft of Europe. Stemming from that challenge was the Bristol Blenheim which was named as Type 142 at the time.
The aircraft was indeed an impressive one that allowed for the Air Ministry to lay down the specification B.28/35 for an aircraft back in 1935 that would serve the roles of a twin-engine and the heavy bomber and light fighter. The resulting aircraft was named Type 142M which was then named Bristol Blenheim to serve the RAF.
Claiming the first submarine kill for RAF:-
The Bristol Blenheim was entered into the service of the RAF back in March of 1937 and they were the first one to enter the German Airspace for a reconnaissance mission back on 3rd September 1939. Then the very next day the Bristol Blenheim attacked the naval assets of the Germans located in Elbe Estuary but that raid proved to be failed one as only 5 of the initial 10 bombers could make it back.
The aircraft was then revised in its armament configuration which led to it having an overall machine-gun defense. These newly fortified Bristol Blenheim went on to earn the first submarine kill for the RAF back on 11th March 1940 after they destroyed one of the German U-boats.
First aerial kill with nighttime fighter:-
The Bristol Company then went on to equip the Bristol Blenheim as a night fighter and this fleet was delivered to the RAF’s Squadron no. 25 and was used in the Battle of Britain back in the 1940’s summer. The very first aerial kill for the RFA during that battle was also claimed by a night fighter Bristol Blenheim. During that aerial kill, a Bristol Blenheim took down a German medium bomber designated as Dornier Do 17. This series went on to be a crucial asset for the RAF for their nighttime defense as it could muster up both an improved performance and the firepower.
There are many other operators of the Bristol Blenheim other than Britain’s RAF. Some of these other operators include the following.
- New Zealand
- South Africa
These overseas operators used their fleet of Bristol Blenheim in the following war theaters of World War II.
- Middle East
- Far East
- North Africa
- The Mediterranean such as Crete and Finland
The very first of all these operators to export the Bristol Blenheim was Finland when it gained the aircraft not only through direct orders but also through licensed production. Finland used these aircraft later on in the war against the Soviet Union; mainly during the Winter War and Continuation War.
The Bristol Blenheim was a twin-engine powered aircraft that was fitted with 2 of the Bristol Mercury XV radial position engines each of which created 920 HP to drive its 3-blade propeller units. This much power allowed for the Bristol Blenheim to fly at a top speed of nearly 267 mph for a maximum range of 1460 miles at a maximum altitude of 27264 feet.
The heavy fighter and the high-altitude bomber variant:-
One model of the Bristol Blenheim was designated as Mk.IVF which was similar to the design of the night fighter variant Mk.IVF and served the role of the long-range heavy fighter. Even the variant designated as Mk.IV was modified to become the Mk.IVF and nearly 60 of them were created.
Total number of aircraft produced:-
All in all, a total of 4422 of the Bristol Blenheim aircraft were manufactured from the main factories of Bristol Company as well as the other companies that were given the production license. The factories based in Yugoslavia produced 44 of these Bristol Blenheim aircraft while Finland produced 55 of these aircraft under license. As for Canada, they created their own aircraft based on the design of Bristol Blenheim but designated as Bolingbroke was produced at the Bristol Fairchild factories. The production at these factories started back in 1939 and ended in the year 1943 and during that time, nearly 626 of these aircraft were manufactured.
The night fighter variants of the Bristol Blenheim eventually started to serve out their purposes back in 1942 and soon were replaced by the other aircraft like the British made de Havilland Mosquitoes, Bristol Beaufighters, and the American Douglas Boston. As for all the other variants of the Bristol Blenheim, RAF eventually retired them back in 1944.
The last country to retire their fleet was Finland which retired them back in 1956.