The Bristol Beaufort at Hendon

I went on a trip to RAF Hendon Museum a few years ago, and I would like to share one or two of the more interesting aircraft with you over the months. Hopefully I will only be using my own photographs, so here are my excuses first. The Museum in  places is really quite dark, so that the daylight or bright artificial lights have no effect on the (poor quality) Second World War paint. This gives rise to a distinct purplish tone on many of the photographs. The museum is also very cramped, so try as I might, I could not get all of the aircraft into the shot at once.

This is a Bristol Beaufort, the only monoplane produced for the Royal Air Force that was designed from the start for general reconnaissance and as a torpedo bomber. It was named after the late and great Duke of Beaufort, whose very large ancestral home was near to the headquarters of the Bristol company.

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The prototype first flew on October 15th 1938 and Beauforts entered service with No.22 Squadron in November 1939. They were Coastal Command’s standard torpedo bomber until 1943 and also laid mines.

The Beaufort was very successful as a torpedo bomber, and saw action over the North Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic. In 1942, Beaufort squadrons were deployed to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean to meet a changing enemy threat. Malta-based aircraft were particularly successful in attacks on Axis shipping at a critical time in the war in North Africa.

Total Beaufort production was 1380, including 700 which were built in Australia.

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The Beaufort at Hendon was assembled from bits of various Australian aircraft found at Tadji Airstrip and West Sepik in Papua and New Guinea.  Five airframes were salvaged from these sites by Dr Charles “Bunny” Darby  in  1974  and as far as is known, significant bits of some 28 Beauforts are still there.
In October 1987, two Gate Guard Spitfire Mk XVIs were swapped for a P-40 Kittyhawk and a Beaufort. The latter eventually arrived at Hendon via a workshop in Hawkins, Texas and then Felixstowe and  Cardington in Bedfordshire.

To me, a Beaufort always looks like a half way between a Blenheim and a Beaufighter. Here is a proper photograph, purloined from my best friends at Google Images. I just didn’t want you to think that all Beauforts strongly resembled a very large twin engine blackcurrant:

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The best illustration of a Beaufort is, in fact, a model. There wasn’t an Airfix one, as far as I can remember, so perhaps this is a Frog kit or something even more exotic. I couldn’t find a good picture of a Beaufort in Australian colours:

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35 Comments

Filed under Aviation, History

35 responses to “The Bristol Beaufort at Hendon

  1. Timely post as we are observing the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks which plunged us into the second world war. I can see by the dates some of these planes were built these types of planes played a central role in the war.

  2. Thanks John, I’m getting a little sick of all the Facebook links that show mostly American War planes and forget that there are others. I hope you show us a Mosquito.

  3. Some great pictures John. The kit is a Frog/Novo kit, the Encore kit is a re-boxed Frog kit. High Planes based in Australia do the most up-to-date kit in 1/72, the: High Planes DAP Bristol Beaufort Mk VIII RAAF Kit. It’s a beautiful and underrated aircraft. Thanks for the post.

  4. Pierre Lagacé

    Found this one John…

  5. Pierre Lagacé

    Lovely plane and great post on a seldom seen WWII plane.

    • Yes, I don’t think it is top of anybody’s charts. I don’t think it is in any film I’ve ever seen. Years back I remember seeing RCAF Douglas Bolos or Digbys, out chasing spies. That must be even more obscure.

  6. Pierre Lagacé

    A video…

  7. Pierre Lagacé

    Last one…

  8. “I just didn’t want you to think that all Beauforts strongly resembled a very large twin engine blackcurrant” Too funny!

    • I’ve got Photoshop but I don’t ever use it for anything other than cropping and contrast/brilliance. That is a really weird effect though. It did not look purple on the day, which was admittedly very dim. Thanks a lot for your appreciation.

  9. I know what you mean about Hendon, for photos it is truly a nightmare. I’ve been a couple of times and always fail to get ‘great’ pictures. Nice to see a lesser known aircraft getting the limelight even if it is a slight shade of purple!

  10. Great pictures, John! Thank you so much for taking the time to us these aircraft! 💗

  11. This series is going to bring back a lot of memories about my Airfix collection – https://aipetcher.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/age-of-innocence-1956-the-lancaster-bomber-and-airfix-model-planes/
    If you read this then note the last comment – your Beaufighter gets a brief mention!

    • I found kits exactly the same problem as you. Glue and more glue. Eight fingers and three thumbs on each hand. And impatience. My first kit was the Grumman Cougar but I don’t know how I got that because it must be American.

      • My first was the Hurricane. I never cared for that Spitfire duck-egg blue. I tried to make the Bismarck but got in an awful tangle with the gun turrets and after that never attempted another ship.
        In my mind the models were all perfect, I knew that my dad had kept them and I asked for them one time. Boy was I shocked when I saw what a complete mess they all were. Long consigned to the bin now!
        The Grumman Cougar was a jet plane wasn’t it?

  12. Dayton Air Force Base and Museum is really great at featuring diverse aircrafts as well as international and rockets, too! Thanks for sharing the Bristol museum, John. 🙂

    • Yes, air force museums are fantastic places wherever they might be. There must be a fantastic Canadian one somewhere, and a Russian one, and maybe even a German or Japanese one too. It does help if you like planes and history and warfare though.

  13. The Grumman Cougar was indeed a jet plane which the Americans attempted to use in Korea off carriers but they eventually had to be abandoned. The early jet engines weren’t powerful enough and didn’t have the acceleration to take off very easily, and any kind of problem, you were fatally stuffed. Add that to the poor lift capabilities of a swept wing and you have to phone up Headquarters and get them to send you those 10,000 Corsairs you have taken the care to store away so carefully. All this from Eric Brown’s “Wings on my Sleeve” a superb aviation book, possibly the best I’ve ever read.

  14. Extraordinary pictures, John! Much obliged to you such a great amount for setting aside the opportunity to us these airplane

  15. My father-in-law was in the RAAF but never went into action. He very successfully crashed two Beauforts in training and they gave him a desk job. He was very bitter about that and turned to drink in later life.

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