Corgi AA38409 RAF Bristol Blenheim Mk. IV Light Bomber - R3843/WV-F, "F for Freddie", No. 18 Squadron, "Operation Leg", RAF Watton, Norfolk, August 1941 (1:72 Scale)
"With courage and faith"
- Motto of No. 18 Squadron
Bristol Aeroplane's Blenheim was a British high-speed light bomber used extensively in the early days of the Second World War. It was later adapted into a successful heavy fighter. A Canadian-made variant named the Bolingbroke was used as an anti-Submarine and training aircraft. It was the first British aircraft to have all-metal stressed skin construction and one of the first to utilize retractable landing gear, flaps, powered gun turret and variable-pitch propellers.
The Type 135 civil twin design was on Bristol drawing boards by July 1933.
In 1934 Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, issued a challenge 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 high-speed designs that were breaking records, 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.
When it first flew as Britain First at Filton on April 12th, 1935, it proved to be faster than any fighter in service with the Royal Air Force at the time. The Air Ministry was obviously interested in such an aircraft, and quickly sent out Specification B.28/35 for prototypes of a bomber version of the Bristol called the Type 142M (M for "military"). The main changes were to move the wing higher on the fuselage from its former low position, to allow room under the spar for a bomb bay. The aircraft was all-metal with twin Bristol Mercury VIII radial engines of 860 hp (640 kW) each. It carried a crew of three – pilot, navigator/bombardier and gunner/wireless operator and was armed with a forward firing 0.303 inch (7.7 mm) machine gun outboard of the port engine and a 0.303 inch machine gun in a semi-retracting dorsal turret firing to the rear. A 1,000-lb (454 kg) bombload was carried in the internal bay.
To achieve its relatively high speed, the Blenheim had a very small fuselage. 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 rather mediocre.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a RAF Bristol Blenheim Mk. IV light bomber that dropped an artificial leg over St. Omer, France, which was intended to be used for the captured ace and double amputee, Wing Commander Douglas Bader.
Now in stock!
Release Date: September 2019
Historical Account: "Operation Leg" - At a time when Britain and her Commonwealth were enduring their 'Darkest Hour', the nation were in need of inspirational heroes and perhaps nobody answered this call more famously than Douglas Bader. Losing both his legs as a result of a pre-war flying accident, Bader's determination to re-join the RAF saw him playing a significant role in leading Fighter Command's defiant resistance against the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain and later taking part in fighter sweeps over Northern France, as the RAF went on the offensive. It was during one of these operations on August 9th, 1941, that Bader's Spitfire collided with another aircraft, severing the tail and sending him spinning towards the ground. Although managing to exit the aircraft and parachute to safety, one of his prosthetic legs had remained stuck in the cockpit and crashed to earth with the stricken Spitfire.
Clearly a huge propaganda coup for the Germans, they contacted the RAF with news of Bader's capture and to offer safe passage to an aircraft bringing a replacement leg for their illustrious guest. Not wanting to allow the Germans an even greater propaganda victory, the RAF planned to parachute drop a new leg, not by accepting the safe passage option, but as part of a full 'Circus' bombing raid. On August 19th, 1941, six Blenheim Mk.IVs supported by a large force of Spitfires launched an attack against the power station at Gosnay, with Blenheim R3843 also carrying a rather unusual payload, Douglas Bader's new leg. The wooden box containing the prosthetic limb was unceremoniously bundled out of the Blenheim over the target area, before all six bombers turned for home, their bombs unreleased, due to heavy cloud cover over the target area and the fear of inaccurate bombing causing civilian casualties. The protecting Spitfires did not fare so well, with eight aircraft lost during the operation.