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The Bristol Beaufort
 
 
History of the Beaufort
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The Beaufort was developed from the Bristol Blenheim - originally built in 1934 as an executive aircraft for the proprietor of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere, who wanted a fast plane capable of carrying six passengers. Equipped with two Bristol Mercury engines, the Bristol Type 142, as it was then called, was 30 mph (48km/h) faster than the RAF's latest biplane fighter, the Gloster Gauntlet.

In 1937 a heavier version was developed, using much of the components of the Blenheim, including the wings, tail and most of the fuselage structure. Named Beaufort, it was originally designed as a torpedo bomber, but was quickly adapted to other roles.

In March 1939, the Australian Government announced that the Bristol Beaufort bomber was to be built in Australia. For a nation which at the time had no aircraft production capabilities, this was a huge challenge for the local industry. However, the Australian government, alarmed by developments in Europe and the Pacific, was looking ahead to a time when the nation might not be able to rely on Britain as its sole supplier of military equipment.

With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, Australia embarked on a major industrialisation program. With Australia’s first mass produced aircraft, the Wirraway trainer, already being built at Port Melbourne by the Commonwealth Aircraft Coproration,  the Department of Aircraft Production established the Beaufort Division on nearby land. The manufacture of a modern twin-engined aircraft required the establishment of factories and the training of personel in new skills - remember this was at a time when Australia did not even have a local automotive industry - and it is a credit to those involved that these facilities were created in less than twelve months.

The aircraft required almost 40,000 components and most of these were contracted out to over 600 firms. Seven factories handled the major sub-assemblies which were then transported to the main assembly plants. The Beaufort program made significant use of the existing workforce and skills of personel in the railway workshops at Newport Victoria, South Australian and New South Wales in addition to training new employees.

The first Australian Beaufort flew in August 1941, and was one of a batch of 180 ordered by the RAF for use in the Far East, however when Japan entered the war in December, it was agreed that all Beauforts would be taken over by the RAAF for the defence of Australia.

Although not one of the glamor aircraft of the war like the Spitfire or Hurricane, the Beaufort's contribution in the Pacific should not be underestimated, establishing an impressive record in operations against Japanese forces in New Guinea. They attacked shipping in all areas of the South-West Pacific as well as bombing and strafing land based supply dumps and troops. They were also used for routine convoy protection and coastal reconnaissance.

 
 

A tough aircraft, it could absorb battle damage and continue to fly - one of its endearing properties being an ability to perform a flat "rudder-turn",- a somewhat dangerous manouvre developed by Australian pilots for attacking Japanese shipping, allowing the "Beau" to turn away from a target without overflying and exposing the vulnerable underbelly.

When production ceased in August 1944, a total of 700 Beauforts had been built in Australia. After the war most were phased out of service and by 1950 only a few remained as target tugs or general purpose hacks. Recently a Beaufort that served in New Guinea and crashed near Tadji airfield was restored to exhibit status by the Australian War Memorial.

 
Specifications

 

Type: Four seat medium bomber (originally designed as a torpedo bomber). Built in Australia by the Commonwealth Department of Aircraft Production.
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Engines:
  • Two Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp 14 cylinder radials of 1200hp.
Dimensions:
  • Wing span: 57ft. 10 in. (17.63m)
  • Length: 44ft. 2 in. (13.46m)
  • Height: 14ft. 3 in. (4.34m)
Weights:
  • Empty: 13,107lbs. (5945 kg)
  • Max. Take-Off: 21,230lbs. (9629 kg)
Performance:
  • Maximum speed 270 mph
  • Cruise 180 mph
  • Ceiling 18,000ft
  • Range with 1500lb bombs 1200 miles.
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Armament varied according to squadrons but generally consisted of combinations of the following: Two wing mounted .50 calibre and two dorsal turret .30 calibre Browning machine guns, two Vickers .303 machine guns mounted on gimbals in the nose and two gimbal-mounted .303 Vickers side guns. Various combinations of bombs could be carried internally and on wing racks depending on range.
 
 
 
Flying the Beaufort
 
 
 
 
 
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