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Under other flags

Despite its proven track record, ease of maintenance and its reliable Hercules engines, what could have been a vibrant export market for Beaufighters failed to materialise. Only three countries directly opted for the type, while a third acquired a handful through a clandestine route. Two of these nations used them in anger.

During the war, four Commonwealth air forces flew ‘Beaus’: Australia (five squadrons in the Pacific, two in the UK), Canada (four in the UK), New Zealand (two in the UK) and South Africa (two in the Middle East). As charted in the feature Whispering Death, Australia also built

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Tugging in sleeves

After such an incredible war, the mighty Beaufighter was destined for a rapid and wide-sweeping stand down. Battle-hardened night-fighter, torpedo bomber and a strike weapon of awesome capability, it seemed that there was little use for the big Bristol with the advent of peace.

It was not just that the need had drastically shrunk but the layout that had made the twin so opportune when it first entered service in 1940 was working against it five years later. That slim fuselage was not capable of taking more advanced airborne interception gear and the remoteness of the gunner-turned-radar operator did not

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Beau

Nearly 6,000 Beau fighters were built, and the pages of this magazine are testament to the aircraft’s exceptional contribution to world aviation heritage. So it is a great pity that today there are only nine substantially complete airframes. At Duxford in Cambridgeshire one is under restoration to flying condition, but we will have to be patient for the day when it takes to the skies.

The last time a Beaufighter flew was in I960 — take a look at Tugging at Sleeves. The RAF Museum was still a pipedream in those days and bringing an old airframe all the way

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Adapt, improve, excel

There are times when the luxury of a blank sheet of paper on a designer’s drawing board is not an option. Time constraints require a more practical solution. Some of the best aircraft of World War Two were adaptations of another type, very likely one that was not overly graced with achievement. Despite such make-do-and-mend origins, these machines excelled — such was the Beaufighter.

Bristol’s big, capable, formidably-armed fighter was the third of a dynasty of twin-engined warriors and all of them owed their lineage to a newspaper mogul. More members of the family followed but it was the Blenheim

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