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Bristol 142M Blenheim I

A bomber and nightfighter variant later developed into the Bolingbroke maritime reconnaissance aircraft.  
Bristol 142M Blenheim I production Bristol 142M Blenheim I production at Filton with prototype K7033 in foreground.

 

When Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, first challenged the British Aircraft Industry to build a high-speed 6 passenger aircraft it was his ambition to see Britain build 'the fastest commercial aeroplane in Europe, if not the world'.  The year was 1934 and the German's led the world in high-speed designs and in addition to his motivation to recapture the title of the ‘fastest civilian aircraft’, he also wanted to own one for himself.
 
Bristol Aeroplane Company had been working on a twin-engine monoplane design, designated as the Type 135 and it was this that was further developed and adapted to produce the Type 142.  Rothermere himself placed an order for a single Type 142 with a 50% deposit and the balance payable upon the aircraft’s first flight.
 
The Type 142, christened ‘Britain First’ had its first flight at Filton on 12th April 1935 and tests soon proved the aircraft faster than predicted, so much so that it even outstripped all current RAF fighters.  The success of the Type 142 and its high performance resulted in immediate interest in a military version.
 
Designated Type 142M Blenheim, it differed slightly in that the wing was raised to allow a bomb bay in the lower fuselage and a bomb aiming station was provided in the nose.  Further military equipment and defensive armaments were installed whilst there were also modifications to the tail plane and elevators.
 
The type was ordered ‘off the drawing board’ against Specification 28/35, the first and only prototype (K7033) flying for the first time on 25th June 1936.
 
An initial contract for 150 aircraft followed in September 1935 and in addition to the RAF production, export orders were received from Finland, Turkey and Yugoslavia, with licence production negotiated for Finland and Yugoslavia. By the end of 1936 some 1,568 aircraft were on order and contract production in the UK was undertaken by AV Roe & Co Ltd at Chadderon and by Rootes Securities Ltd in Speke.

 

Bristol 142M Blenheim I K7059 Air to air photograph of RAF Bristol 142M Blenheim I K7059

 

The type was subsequently developed into the Type 149 Bolingbroke (Blenheim IV), Type 152 Beaufort and the Type 160 Bisley (Blenheim V), which are described separately.

 

Although arguably obsolescent against the best German fighters, the Blenheim gave most valuable service on operations in the early part of the Second World War.

 

The following production numbers are widely quoted: 1,134 in the UK (634 Bristol, 250 AV Roe & Co Ltd, 250 Rootes Securities) plus 45 in Finland and 16 in Yugoslavia for a total of 1,195.

 

The Blenheim IF was a long range night fighter version with a pack of 4 0.303 forward firing machine guns mounted under the fuselage; around 200 were converted to this role.

 

A single Blenheim I was converted to Blenheim II with long range tanks and a maximum weight of 14,000 lb allowing an increased bomb load to be carried. This aircraft led to the Type Bolingbroke (Blenheim IV), which was built in the UK and Canada and is described separately.

 

Bristol Blenheim Mk1 Image Gallery

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Bristol Blenheim Mk 1 Prototype K7033 over Larkhill
Bristol Blenheim Mk1 Prototype

Bristol Blenheim Mk1 Prototype (K7033) over Larkhill

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Bristol Blenheim Mk1 Prototype K7033
Bristol Blenheim Mk1 Prototype

Bristol Blenheim Mk1 Prototype K7033

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Bristol Blenheim Mk 1 'Britian First'
Bristol Blenheim Mk 1 'Britian First'

Bristol Blenheim Mk 1 'Britian First'

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Bristol Blenheim Mk1 & Comet
Bristol Blenheim Mk1

Bristol Blenheim Mk1 of Finnish Air Force BL-173 alongside DH106-3 Comet 3 (G-ANLO) at Helsinki Vantaa 5th June 1957

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Blenheim Mk1 Finnish (AF BL-173) at Helsinki Vantaa 5th June 1957
Blenheim Mk1 (Finnish AF)

Blenheim Mk1 - Finnish AF (AF BL-173) at Helsinki Vantaa 5th June 1957

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Bristol Blenheim Mk1 air to air
Bristol Blenheim Mk1

Bristol Blenheim Mk1 air to air

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2017 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
Bristol Blenheim Mk I, L6670 'UQ-R' - No. 211 Sqd
Blenheim Mk1 (L6670 - UQ-R)

Bristol Blenheim Mk I, L6670 'UQ-R' - No. 211 Sqd

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Bristol Blenheim Mk1 air to air over countryside
Bristol Blenheim Mk1

Bristol Blenheim Mk1 air to air over countryside

The images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2017 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)

 

Specification (Blenheim 1)

Powerplant Two 840 hp Bristol Mercury VIII
Span 56 ft 4 in
Maximum Weight 12,250 lb
Capacity  Three crew (pilot, navigator / bomb aimer, gunner). Fixed forward firing Browning gun in port wing, one Lewis gun in dorsal turret, internal bomb load 1,000 lb. The Blenheim IF carried four additional forward firing Browning machine guns in an under-fuselage pannier. 
Maximum Speed 285 mph
Endurance / Range       1,125 miles

Numbers built

Blenheim I                   A total of 1,195 Blenheim I aircraft were built including licence production in Finland and Yugoslavia. See also Bristol 149 Blenheim IV / Bolingbroke, Bristol 152 Beaufort and Bristol 160 Bisley / Blenheim V.

Survivors

Blenheim I                   No original Blenheim I aircraft survive.
Bolingbroke Mk IVT (RCAF10201) This aircraft was rebuilt at Duxford, flying in May 1993. Following an accident in August 2003 the aircraft was again rebuilt, this time with a Blenheim I nose, flying in November 2014, painted as Blenheim I L6739.

Other information