|Blenheim||The Bristol Blenheim, the most plentiful aircraft in the RAFs inventory when WWII began, was designed by Frank Barnwell, and when first flown in 1936 was unique with its all metal monoplane design incorporating a retractable undercarriage, wing flaps, metal props, and supercharged engines. A typical bomb load for a Blenheim was 1,000 pounds. In the early stages of the war Blenheims were used on many daylight bombing missions. On the day that war was declared on Germany, a Blenheim piloted by Flying Officer Andrew McPherson was the first British aircraft to cross the German coast and the following morning 15 Blenheims from three squadrons set off on one of the first bombing missions
The Blenheim units operated throughout the battle, often taking heavy casualties, although they were never accorded the publicity of the fighter squadrons.
The Blenheim units raided German occupied airfields throughout July to December 1940, both during daylight hours and at night. Although most of these raids were unproductive, there were some successes; on 1 August five out of 12 Blenheims sent to attack Haamstede and Evere (Brussels) were able to bomb, destroying or heavily damaging three Bf 109s of II./JG 27 and apparently killing a Staffelkapitän identified as Hauptmann Albrecht von Ankum-Frank. Two other 109s were claimed by Blenheim gunners. Another successful raid on Haamstede was made by a single Blenheim on 7 August which destroyed one 109 of 4./JG 54, heavily damaged another and caused lighter damage to four more.
There were also some missions which produced an almost 100% casualty rate amongst the Blenheims. One such operation was mounted on 13 August 1940 against a Luftwaffe airfield near Aalborg in north-western Denmark by 12 aircraft of 82 Squadron. One Blenheim returned early (the pilot was later charged and due to appear before a court martial, but was killed on another operation); the other 11, which reached Denmark, were shot down, five by flak and six by Bf 109s.
Blenheim-equipped units had been formed to carry out long-range strategic reconnaissance missions over Germany and German-occupied territories, as well as bombing operations. In this role, the Blenheims once again proved to be too slow and vulnerable against Luftwaffe fighters and they took constant casualties
While great heroism was displayed by the air crews, tremendous losses were sustained during these missions. The Blenhiem was easy pickings at altitude for German Bf-109 fighters who quickly learned to attack from below. To protect the vulnerable bellies of the Blenheims many missions were shifted to low altitude, but this increased the aircrafts exposure to anti-aircraft fire.
In the German night-bombing raid on London on 18 June 1940, Blenheims accounted for five German bombers, thus proving that they were better-suited for night fighting. In July, No. 600 Squadron, by then based at RAF Manston, had some of its Mk IFs equipped with AI Mk III radar. With this radar equipment, a Blenheim from the Fighter Interception Unit (FIU) at RAF Ford achieved the first success on the night of 2–3 July 1940, accounting for a Dornier Do 17 bomber. More successes came, and before long the Blenheim proved itself invaluable as a night fighter.
One Blenheim pilot, Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for an attack on Singora, Thailand, on 9 December 1941. Another bomber of No. 60 Squadron RAF was credited with shooting down Lt Col Tateo Katō's Nakajima Ki-43 fighter and badly damaging two others in a single engagement on 22 May 1942, over the Bay of Bengal. Katō's death was a severe blow to the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force.|