Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Canadian Warplanes 3: The Second World War, Bristol Beaufort and Bristol Beaufighter

Canadian Warplanes of the Second World War, Bristol Beaufort and Bristol Beaufighter 

Data current to 22 Dec 2019.

 (RCAF Photo) 

Bristol Beaufort, coded S-AW in flight.  

The Bristol Beaufort Type 152 was a British twin-engined torpedo bomber At least 1,180 Beauforts were built by Bristol and other British manufacturers.  Beauforts first saw service with RAF Coastal Command and then the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm from 1940.  They were used as torpedo bombers, conventional bombers and mine-layers until 1942, when they were removed from active service and were then used as trainer aircraft until being declared obsolete in 1945.

Although it was designed as a torpedo-bomber, the Beaufort was more often used as a medium day bomber.  The Beaufort also flew more hours in training than on operational missions and more were lost through accidents and mechanical failures than were lost to enemy fire.  The Beaufort was adapted as a long-range heavy fighter variant called the Beaufighter, which proved to be very successful and many Beaufort units eventually converted to the Beaufighter.  Although flown by the RCAF, none are preserved in Canada.

Bristol 152 Beaufort Mk. I (15), (Serial Nos. L9938, L9967, L9968, N1005, N1006, N1007, N1021, N1026, N1029, N1030, N1045, N1078, N1107, W6473, W6484).

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3581951)

Cockpit view of the Bristol Beaufort bomber interior. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3581953)

Bristol Beaufort bomber interior. 

(BCAM Photo via Mike Kaehler)

Bristol Beaufort, RCAF (Serial No. N1006), 32 OTU, 1 Feb 1942, Patricia Bay, British Columbia. 

(Shearwater Aviation Museum Photo)

Bristol Beaufort Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. L9938), Y-AW.  These torpedo bombers were flown by the RCAF from Patricia Bay, British Columbia during the Second World War.  None have been preserved in Canada. 

 (IWM Photo, CH 3149)

Bristol Beaufighter Mk. IF, RAF (Serial No. R2198), coded PN-B, of No. 252 Squadron RAF, based at Chivenor, Devon, in flight over the snow-covered West Country.

 (RAF Photo)

Bristol Beaufighter, coded PN-B.  

The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter (often referred to simply as the "Beau") was a multi-role aircraft developed during the Second World War in the UK.  It was originally conceived as a heavy fighter variant of the Bristol Beaufort bomber.  Upon its entry to service, the Beaufighter proved to be well suited to the night fighter role, for which the RAF initially deployed the type during the height of the Battle of Britain, in part due to its large size allowing it to accommodate both heavy armaments and early airborne interception radar without major performance penalties.

As its wartime service continued, the Beaufighter was used in many different roles; receiving the nicknames Rockbeau for its use as a rocket-armed ground attack aircraft, and Torbeau in its role as a torpedo bomber against Axis shipping, in which it came to replace the Beaufort which had preceded it.  In later operations, it served mainly as a maritime strike/ground attack aircraft, RAF Coastal Command having operated the largest number of Beaufighters amongst all other commands at one point.

The Beaufighter saw extensive service during the war with the RAF (59 squadrons), Fleet Air Arm (15 squadrons), RAAF (seven squadrons), RCAF (four squadrons), USAAF (four squadrons), RNZAF (two squadrons), SAAF (two squadrons) and the Free Polish Air Force (one squadron).  In addition, variants of the Beaufighter were also manufactured in Australia by the Department of Aircraft Production (DAP), often called the DAP Beaufighter.  (Wikipedia)

  (IWM Photo)

Bristol 156 Beaufighter Mk. IIF (Serial No. T3037), No. 406 "Lynx" (NF) Squadron RCAF, based at RAF Station Aklington, Northumberland, Jan 1942.    At this stage in the war,  German bombers were increasingly using the night to make many small raids.  This decreased their chances of detection and reduced the need for fighter escort.  No. 406 "Lynx" (NF) Squadron RCAF, was formed at RAF Acklington in the UK on 10 May 1941, to meet this threat.  Armed with four 20-millimetre cannons and up to six .303 machine guns, at a time when fighters were armed with only four to eight .303 calibre machine guns, the Beaufighter had devastating firepower.  Its twin-engine reliability ensured many a crew returned home safely that otherwise would have been lost.  Two crewmen meant a dedicated radar operator who handled navigation and interception, leaving the pilot to focus solely on flying the aircraft and engaging the enemy once visually sighted. It was a deadly combination. The squadron expanded its role as attacks on England diminished, and they took the fight to Europe, conducting Night Ranger missions, essentially flying up and down the French coast, looking for trouble.

 (IWM Photo, MH 4560)

Bristol 156 Beaufighter Mk. IIF (Serial No. R2270), No. 406 "Lynx" (NF) Squadron RCAF, based at RAF Station Aklington, Northumberland, Jan 1942.  R2270 was the first production model, fitted with dihedral tailplanes and equipped with AI Mk. IV radar.

 (IWM Photos, CH 17873)

Bristol 156 Beaufighter TF Mk.X (Serial No. NV427), coded EO-L, of RCAF No. 404 Squadron based at Dallachy, Morayshire, England, breaking formation during a flight along the Scottish coast, 17 Feb 1945. 

(IWM Photo, CH 13179)

Armourers attaching 3-inch rocket projectiles fitted with 60-lb warheads to the starboard wing rails of a Bristol Beaufighter TF Mk. X of RCAF No. 404 Squadron at Davidstow Moor, Cornwall in the UK, ca 1944. 

 (IWM Photo, CH 13183)

Bristol Beaufighter TF Mk. X of No. 404 Squadron RCAF, based at Davidstow Moor, Cornwall, firing a pair of 3-inch rocket projectiles on a range off the Cornish coast.

 (Ces Ashman Photo, Vince Elmer Memorial Library)

Bristol Beaufighter TF Mk. X of No. 404 Squadron RCAF, at Tain, E-5 Scotland.

(RCAF Photo)

Bristol 156 Beaufighter TF Mk. X (Serial No. NE255), coded EE-H, No. 404 Squadron RCAF, Banff, Scotland, 21 Aug 1944.  The aircraft is carrying rocket projectiles (RP) with 25 lb. warheads for anti-shipping operations. 

(RCAF Photo)

Bristol 156 Beaufighter TF Mk. X, No. 404 Squadron RCAF, armed with 3-inch rockets, serving with RAF Coastal Command ca. 1944.

 (Author Photo)

Bristol Beaufighter TF. Mk. X (Serial No. RD867), is being restored at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. It is a semi-complete RAF restoration but lacks engines, cowlings or internal components. It was received from the RAF Museum in exchange for a Bristol Bolingbroke in 1969.