While the Royal

Australian Air

Force may have only had five squadrons equipped with Beaufighters in the Pacific Theatre, they punched well above their weight. Crews had three years of intensive low-level operations over land and sea, hitting the enemy hard; but often at the cost of men and aircraft lost. Combat in the Pacific was a war of grinding attrition.

The two most active RAAF Beaufighter units were 30 and 31 Squadrons, both of which were war-raised. No.30 was formed at Richmond, New South Wales, on March 9, 1942 and five months later 31 was created at Wagga Wagga, NSW.

No.30 remained

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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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Deserts and seas

Combat over the North Sea was challenging enough, but as its remit expanded Coastal Command faced wide-ranging commitments in the Mediterranean. The first Bristol Beaufort torpedo-bombers became operational in April 1940, dramatically increasing the Command’s potential. But it was the prospect of the Beaufighter that really got the ‘top brass’ salivating; here was a truly versatile strike weapon.

With a range of around 1,170 miles (1,882km) the Mk.I offered phenomenal ‘reach’ for a fighter; but Coastal Command needed more. Awesome though the Beaufighter’s battery of guns was, endurance was more important. It was decided to sacrifice the six machine-guns in

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