Tuesday 13 December 2022

Bristol Beaufighter - Favourite aircraft of the week


The "Beau" was the first effective British Night-Fighter - illustrated above as flown by the first and highest-scoring night ace John 'Cats Eyes' Cunningham. I read a biography of him as a pre-teen. 

It was actually radar, plus superlative skill - including from his radio/radar-operator Jimmy Rawnsley, that explained Cunningham's success (DSO and two bars; DFC and bar etc.). 

But since radar was secret, his achievements were attributed to superlative night-vision ("cats-eyes") from eating plenty of carrots (i.e. Vitamin A)!  

The Bristol Beaufighter has always been a favourite of mine since I made it as an Airfix kit. 

Not my model - long since lost and destroyed! The above lacks the blobs of cement 'melted' all over the body and especially the 'glass' - and I was always too impatient and cheapskate (not enough colours) to paint them properly. 

I also attempted to include All of the armament options provided - bombs of various sizes, rockets, torpedoes... whatever - were all glued direct onto the wings and fuselage as necessary to cram them all in; and often I applied All the optional transfers ('decals'). 

I liked the Beaufighter mainly for its rugged looks, its multi-purpose functionality, and the heaviness of its firepower (probably the greatest firepower of its era: (Often with 4 X 20mm Hispano cannon under the nose - the Hispano being probably the best aircraft cannon of WWII - plus six .303 machine guns in the wings). 

And because it came from the Bristol company; and I lived not far from Bristol. 

Greg - of Greg's Airplanes and Automobiles - has done an excellent video on the Beau, which he called the most under-rated aircraft of WWII. 

The Beaufighter was not an obvious 'star' like the Spitfire or Mosquito - not especially fast or nimble; but it was beloved by its pilots (mostly) for its capacity to take punishment and get you home safe. 

The Aussies, in particular, had a special affection to for Beau - having received a lot of them!

And objectively it was the only airplane that was conspicuously successful in all the major theatres of the second world war. It was used as a heavy fighter (bomber destroyer), night fighter, fighter-bomber, ground attack tank-buster, torpedo bomber, anti-shipping strafing and rocket attack, and in other roles - and it continued to be used after the war, mainly overseas. 

The Beaufighter also performed some of the most spectacular operations of the war, such as this one:


Surprisingly, from its looks - with those huge Hercules radial engines - the Beaufighter was remarkably quiet. Especially when flying at ultra-low altitude on ground attack missions. 

This, and its often devastating effectiveness, earned from the Japanese a nickname that translates as Whispering Death.

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