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Bristol Blenheim: The Yugoslav Story


Fin
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Bristol Blenheim: The Yugoslav Story
Operational Record 1937-1958

by
Aleksandar M. Ognjević

 

I keep being pleasantly surprised when it comes to books on the subject of aircraft that flew for, against and simply over Yugoslavia during the Second World War. After buying the Messerschmitt Bf 109: The Yugoslav Story I came across a book in a very similar format, but by a different author and from a different publisher, dedicated to the history of the Bristol Blenheim in Yugoslavia (for avoidance of any doubt I want to say that I have payed full price for my copy of the book, including the rather expensive Serbian Post that amounted to some 40% of the book`s cost). And the news keep getting better as this book`s author, Mr. Aleksandar M. Ognjević, has also been working on a title dedicated to the Hawkers (Hurricanes, Hinds and Furies) in Yugoslavia and this book is just months away from publication. Can`t wait!

 

To the Blenheims now...

The book is available from the publisher/author and you can also find a technical presentation there and some sample pages:

http://bristol-blenheim.leadenskybooks.com/
One small note: opening the presentation pdf file on the above address I`ve noticed that the photographs in that sample are rather murky, but the ones from the actual book are actually very clear.

Table of contents

Spoiler

Introduction - 4

Chapter 1 Golden Years - 5

Chapter 2 Leaden Sky - 27
    1.Bomber Regiment VVKJ (1.BP) - 27
    8.Bomber Regiment (8.BP) - 57
    11.Independent Long Range Reconnaissance Group (11.SGDI) - 91

Chapter 3 Royal Comrades in Arms - RAF in Greece - Operational Record related to Yugoslav Kingdom, March/April 1941 - 113
    11 Squadron - 115
    30 Squadron - 117
    84 Squadron - 118
    113 Squadron - 121
    211 Squadron - 121

Chapter 4 Serving the "U" - Independent State of Croatia AF - Operational Record 1942-1945 - 127

Chapter 5 Romanian Birds - RAAR - Operational Record 1941-? - 141

Chapter 6 In Hungarian Service Magyar Kiraly Honved Legiero - Operational Record 1941-1944 - 143

Chapter 7 With Blue Swastika Ilmavoimat - Operational Record 1944-1958 - 145

Chapter 8 Local Red Stars - Operational Record 1945-1947 - 147

Chapter 9 Camouflage and Markings - 149

Glossary - 150

Acknowledgements and Sources - 151

Colour Plates - 153

 

I found the book quite conveniently organized. The first chapter recounts such things as the Yugoslav acquisition and production of the Blenheim, complete with the savory adventures of the Yugoslav crews sent across the already at war Europe to bring home the lot of British produced aircraft. This chapter is also supported by three tables: one detailing the Blenheim types that entered Yugoslav service (complete with respective dates, numbers and serial numbers) as well as the prototypes and abandoned projects, a second listing both the British and Yugoslav serial numbers of the twenty British produced machines and a third table being a complete list of the Blenheims in Yugoslav service that mentions the units in which they served and - in many cases - also their fate.

 

The second chapter is dedicated to the April war and is divided into three sections, each following the history of the three major units that flew the Blenheim: the 1st and 8th Bomber Wings (Bombarderski puk - BP) and the 11th Independent Long Range Reconnaissance Group (SGDI). This means some episodes are recounted more than once - but from different perspectives - as some of the aircraft and units intermingled in time, but I liked this approach. I was left with a very clear image of the aircraft disposition and of which unit did what throughout the war. This was also helped by two useful maps showing not only relevant locations in Yugoslavia, but also the exact disposition of the Blenheim units at the start of the April war. The text of these chapters (and throughout the book) is well supported by the recollections of contemporaries (mostly the air crews) and is accompanied by a large number of photographs. In fact I think there is at least one photograph on each page, depicting both aircraft and crews. Among the latter, there are many portrait type photos of the airmen in uniform so that after you read their stories and memories you`ll be able to put a face on these. In this sense, the book lives up to its goal of keeping their memory alive.

 

The following chapters are dedicated to the other operators of the Blenheim over Yugoslavia (the RAF, Independent State of Croatia and Partisans) and to those countries that operated former Yugoslav aircraft (Hungary, Romania and Finland). The chapter on the Royal Air Force is once again organized according to the squadrons that operated the Blenheim (both Mk.I and Mk.IV) and recounts their adventures to the extent that they took place over Yugoslavia or encountered Yugoslav aircraft (including the one that transported the Yugoslav king to Greece). The chapter dedicated to the Croatian Blenheims is reasonably long and it includes a three pages operational diary of the Rajlovac Airport between 27.04.1942 and 24.06.1943, but the chapters on Romania and Hungary are brief enough as they only tell the story of the one Blenheim that defected to Hungary and the three Blenheims sold by the Germans to Romania. So too are the following two chapters dealing with the Finnish acquisition from Germany of B-4 (Mk.IV) parts and their assembly in Finland and the sole ex-Croatian (ex-Yugoslav) machine captured by the Partisans.

 

The next chapter is a discussion of the camouflage and markings of the Bristol Blenheim in Yugoslav service, with some notes on the machines taken over by the Independent State of Croatia, the ones sold to Romania and the Hungary defector. Though brief (one page worth of text) it is very informative: from the evolution of the styles of serial numbers to the one of the national insignia to the actual paint-jobs.

 

The text ends with a glossary, a list of comparative ranks of the VVKJ (Royal Yugoslav Air Force), ZNDH (Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia), Luftwaffe and VJA (Air Force of the Yugoslav Army) and finally a substantial bibliography.

 

Now, for all scale modellers interested in this subject, comes the exiting part: the Colour Plates section. It contains 24 profiles that depict thirteen Blenheims Mk.I - both Ikarus and Filton/Avro built - in Royal Yugoslav service, three of the RAF machines in Greece (two Blenheims Mk.I and one Blenheim Mk.IV), the single Hungarian - ex-Yugoslav - Blenheim Mk.I, one Croatian (Independent State of Croatia) Blenheim Mk.I, one Romanian - ex-Yugoslav - Blenheim Mk.I, the Partisan captured Blenheim Mk.I in two different camouflage styles, two Finnish Blenheims Mk.IV (one from the war period and another from 1955) and one profile of the sole, unlicensed, B-4 version in Yugoslav service (similar to the official Mk.IV). In addition there are three top views of Blenheims Mk.I (two Yugoslav and one ex-Yugoslav with Hungarian markings) and one bottom view of a Yugoslav Mk.I machine. These are very helpful for modellers given the somewhat complex pattern of the upper-side three-colours Yugoslav camouflage scheme. Each artwork is accompanied by a short description of the aircraft in question and taken together they highlight all the specific elements (from colours to stencils to certain modifications) that modellers will need to take into consideration when deciding how to build a certain machine. As mentioned, the Yugoslav camouflage schemes are quite colourful and should make eye catching models.

 

The back cover is not wasted either. It depicts two RAF Blenheims (an Mk.I and an Mk.IV) in Greece, a close in on the cabin of the Mk.I machine showing its emblem and another view with the front of a modified Mk.I in Yugoslav service which highlights the modification of the windscreen to support a frontal machine-gun.

 

In the end I`m gonna pull another "highly recommended" from my hat. Great book!

Edited by Fin
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