In 1940, the defence of Great Britain rested with a handful of volunteer aircrew, Churchill’s “few.” Overshadowed in later folklore by the more famous Spitfire and Hurricane pilots, there were other pilots, observers and air gunners—just as courageous—flying the Bristol Blenheim MKIV-F. The future of the country and arguably that of the free world depended also on their skill, morale, and sacrifice. Remarkably little has been chronicled of these men and their aircraft—the “Trade Protection” squadrons formed by Hugh Dowding—allotted to 11 Group in October, 1939. The aircraft’s range and endurance made it suitable for defense of coastal shipping against attack on the southern and eastern shores of Britain, and for operations further afield. Indeed, during bitter fighting casualties among Numbers 235, 236, 248, and 254 Squadron Blenheims were high on operations over Norway, Holland, France, Dunkirk, and then the Battle of Britain where the Blenheims were completely outclassed by Messerschmitt 109 and 110 fighters, and fell easy victims, scythed from the sky. But the record of the aircraft and their crew was an immensely proud one. Drawing on contemporary diaries, periodicals, letters, logbooks, memoirs, and interviews with survivors, historian Andy Bird reassesses the vital role they played and repositions it in history.
Bookplate signed by Wg Cdr Roger Morewood 248 Sqn Blenheim pilot, Wg Cdr Norman Jackson-Smith DFC 235 Sqn Blenheim pilot and the author.