© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons

Blenheim Vs


1942 Formation and training phase:

The British built version of the Blenheim was the Mk V.  Over 940 were built, the majority being the VD tropical variant.  These were shipped out to North Africa to support the Eighth Army in the Western Desert but again, the Blenheims suffered appalling combat losses against the Messerschmitt Bf109s and were soon replaced by US-supplied Baltimores and Venturas.


General characteristics

Crew: 3

Length: 42 ft 9 in (13 m)

Wingspan: 56 ft 4 in (17.17 m)

Height: 12 ft 10 in (3.91 m)

Wing area: 469 ft² (43.6 m²)

Empty weight: 9,790 lb (4,440 kg)

Loaded weight: 14,400 lb (6,530 kg)

Powerplant: 2× Bristol Mercury XV radial engines, 920 hp (690 kW) each


Performance

Max. Speed: 266 mph (231 knots, 428 km/h)

Range: 1,950 mi (1,690 nm, 3,140 km)

Service Ceiling: 31,500 ft (9,600 m)

Rate of Climb: 1,500 ft/min (7.6 m/s)

Wing loading: 30.7 lb/ft² (150 kg/m²)

Power/Mass: 0.13 hp/lb (210 W/kg)


Pilot's cockpit Blenheim


Guns:

1× .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine gun in the nose

2× .303 in Browning machine guns in chin turret

2× .303 in Browning machine guns in dorsal turret


Bombs:

4× 250 lb (110 kg) bombs or

2× 500 lb (230 kg) bombs


454 Squadron's formation and training phase began at Aqir in Palestine and continued at Qaitara in Iraq with W Cmdr I. Campbell as commanding officer (16/10/42 to 16/11/43). The ground crew of 454 RAAF squadron, originally planned as a light bomber unit in the United Kingdom in mid 1941 with ground crew sent from Australia, proceeded to the Middle East, and having no aircraftor crew awaiting them serviced Middle East heavy bomber squadrons (e.g. 462 RAAF).


Later reformed in September 1942, nominally as a light bomber squadron, the ground party of 500 personnel made the difficult desert trip to a location near Mosul in Iraq, as a "D Force" squadron. This army and air force initially as to cover the rich Mesopotamian oil fields coveted by the Axis; to be the left flank and guardian of the Lend Lease supply line to Southern Russia; and to help protect the alternative Middle East - Persian Gulf - India supply line.  Equipped with a small number of Blenheim Vs (Bisleys), 454 was a refresher/conversation/ advanced operational training unit as the mixed RAF and RAAF air crew and ground crew personnel were moulded by Campbell and his flight commanders into a solid team. From the beginning, high standards of serviceability were demanded and the ground crews invariably responded with serviceable aircraft on time in the operational years ahead, even after considerable damage sustained during earlier sorties.