Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Warplanes of the Second World War preserved in the United Kingdom, Boulton Paul Defiant

Boulton Paul Defiant in the United Kingdom

Data current to 6 Feb 2020.

The Boulton P.82 Paul Defiant was designed and built as a "turret fighter", without any forward-firing guns.  In the air battles over Britain that took place in the early days of the Second World War, the Defiant was found to be reasonably effective at its intended task of destroying bombers but was vulnerable to the Luftwaffe's more manoeuvrable, single-seat Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters.  The lack of forward-firing armament proved to be a great weakness in daylight combat and its potential was realised only when it was converted to the night fighting role.  The Defiant was flown by members of the RCAF serving in the UK in 1940.  As the war progressed, the Defiant was relegated other duties including gunnery training, target towing, electronic counter-measures and air sea rescue.

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I, RAF (Serial No. KB310), ca 1940.  (RAF Photo)

Boulton Paul P.82 Defiant, RAF (Serial No. L7026), ca. 1941. (RAF Photos)

 (RAF Photo)

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I, RAF, ca 1941.

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I, flown by members of the RCAF serving with the RAF in the UK, ca. 1941.  (RAF Photo)

 (IWM Photo CH 3448)

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I night fighter (Serial No. N3313), PS-P, of No. 264 Squadron, RAF based at West Malling, Kent, ca 1940.

 (RAF Photo)

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I night fighter, coded OZ-V, ca 1940.






Boulton Paul P.82 Defiant, coded JT-S.  (RAF Photos)

 (IWM Photo CH 4810)

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I night fighter (Serial No. N1801), PS-B, "Coimbatore II", of No. 264 Squadron RAF, undergoing a routine service in a dispersal, probably at Colerne, Wiltshire.  This aircraft was flown by the effective night-fighting team of Flying Officer F D Hughes (pilot) and Sergeant F Gash (gunner), and displays a victory tally of 5 enemy aircraft shot down.  In 1942 Hughes converted to the Bristol Beaufighter and, flying with Nos. 125 and 600 Squadrons RAF, further increased his score.  By the end of the war, he commanded No 604 Squadron RAF and had destroyed 18.5 enemy aircraft.

 (IWM Photo CH 2526)

Flight Sergeant E R Thorn (pilot, left) and Sergeant F J Barker (air gunner) pose with their Boulton Paul Defiant turret fighter at RAF Biggin Hill, Kent after destroying their 13th Axis aircraft.  Note the teddy-bear mascot.

 (IWM Photo CH 879)

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I of No. 264 Squadron RAF, with an air gunner in the turret training his four .303 Browning machine-guns skywards at Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire, ca 1940.

Fitters working on the 1,030hp Rolls-Royce Merlin III of a No 125 (Newfoundland) Squadron Defiant at Fairwood Common, January 1942.  (IWM Photo)

No. 125 Squadron (Newfoundland) was a Royal Air Force squadron active during and after the Second World War.  Like a number of Squadrons, No. 125 was initially formed during the later months of the First World War but never became operational before the Armistice.  No. 125 Squadron was reformed on 16 June 1941 at RAF Colerne in England where it was initially equipped with Boulton-Paul Defiant Mk. Is operating in a night fighter role with the Squadron Code VA on its aircraft.  The squadron became operational at the end of September covering western England and South Wales.

The squadron was raised as a result of a War Loan raised by the Newfoundland Commission on Government.  The Commission presented the British Government with $500,000 to establish the squadron with the hope that it would be manned by Newfoundlanders.

In September 1941 the squadron moved to RAF Fairwood Common and became fully operational with the Defiant proving to be a more than effective night fighter.  By March 1942, 125 Squadron started converting to the twin-engined Bristol Beaufighter Mk. IIF and later Mk. VI.  Defiants and Hawker Hurricanes were also used to supplement the Beaufighters.  Aircrews named some of their aircraft in recognition of its Newfoundland heritage.  St, John's, Corner Brook, Deer Lake and Buchans, Harbour Grace, Grand Falls, Bell Island, Bonavista, St. George’s, Heart’s Content, Grand Bank and Botwood were some of the names used.

November 1943 saw the squadron move to RAF Valley in Wales to enable patrols to take place over the Irish Sea.  With a conversion to de Havilland Mosquito Mk. XVII and later Mk. 30s in February 1944, No. 125 moved to RAF Hurn in preparation to cover the Operation Overlord landings in Normandy.  With the commencement of V-1 attacks on London the squadron moved to RAF Middle Wallop to assist in the City's defence and to fly patrols from RAF Bradwell Bay over the Low Countries.  A move to RAF Coltishall saw the squadron defend against enemy intruders and flying bomb carriers whilst undertaking reconnaissance to locate the remainder of German shipping. 

Before the war ended, the squadron destroyed some 44 enemy aircraft, and damaged 20.  Although airmen from other countries accounted for the majority of these attacks, volunteers from Newfoundland and Labrador also played their part.  On the night of July 28, 1944, Flight Sergeant Royal Cooper of Trinity Bay shot down the unit’s first V-1 flying bomb.

After the war, No. 125 squadron was reformed with Gloster Meteor night fighters on 31 March 1955 at RAF Stradishall.  de Havilland Venoms replaced the Meteors in late 1955 and remained with the squadron until it was disbanded on 10 May 1957. 


 (SDA&SM Photo)

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I night fighter (Serial No. V1110), RA-H, ca 1940.

 (Oxyman Photo)

 (Hugh Llewelyn Photo)

 (Oren Rozen Photo)

 (Alan Wilson Photo)

 (Tony Hisgett Photos)

Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I (Serial No. N1671), on display as a night fighter at the Royal Air Force Museum London, Hendon.  It was one of four Defiants delivered to 307 (Polish) Night Fighter Squadron at RAF Kirby in Lindsey, Lincolnshire on 17 September 1940.  It was passed to No. 153 Squadron at the end of October 41 and 285 Sqn in 1942.  In 1954, it was identified for storage as a historical aircraft and passed to the RAF Museum in 1971.  The aircraft was moved on 20 May 2009 to Rochester Airport, where it was restored by the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS).  It was returned to Hendon on 6 December 2012.