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27 Squadron Blenheim Mk 1f With Fighter Band And Night/sky Undersurfaces


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There are clearly two aircraft with the nose glass covered over. The first is in Black Port, the other in all sky underside. It was noted that perhaps the one in all Sky was undergoing service. The other one is clearly being manhandled about.

Question: I realize that blacked out glass may have been used in the night fighter role, but is it possible that they are undergoing repainting to apply black and what we are seeing is just masking of the glass?

Just asking....

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Graham Warner's book on the Blenheim lists the following losses for 27 Sqn airframes. Some of the aircraft involved are illustrated in the LIFE images we’ve been discussing:

Pre-war:

L6667 – 4 Apr 41, spun into sea while doing aerobatics. Sqn Ldr Hacket, Flt Lt Mansel-Lewis (243 Sqn Buffalo pilot) and Sgt Beaman were all killed.

L6632 – 28 Jun 41, dived into ground near Akyab, Flt Lt Box, FS Seaward, LAC Spratt and Cpl Fish (passenger) killed.

L6635 – 26 Jul 41, engine cut, overshot landing at Kuala Lumpur, swung and undercarriage collapsed (damaged beyond repair).

L8526 – 29 Sep 41, force-landed in bad weather, overshot paddy field into river near Nong Chut Nai, Siam.

Operational Losses:

L6669 – 8 Dec 41, damaged by a bomb while taking off from Sungei Patani, Sgt Willows and Sgt Rhodes fatally wounded.

In addition to the above, we already know that L8618 (PT-F) was captured by the Japanese.

Interestingly, Warner cites that prior to the Japanese invasion, 62 Sqn attempted to intercept high-altitude Japanese reconnaissance aircraft using specially-lightened Blenheims (p.547). One presumes these were standard bomber airframes using just the single forward-firing .303 (not much chance of obtaining a kill with that).

Adding to the confusion, Warner identifies photos of 27 Sqn’s Blenheims on p.541 as belonging to 62 Sqn, “This series of propaganda photographs was taken when 62 Sqn left Tengah, Singapore, for Alor Star, northern Malaya, on 8 February 1941.” The photos were obviously taken at the same time as the LIFE images we’ve been examining (in fact they may be from the same source) that were taken in April 1941 – they cannot have been taken in February because Buffalos only started arriving in Singapore in March (and the pics cannot have been taken at Tengah because Buffalos never operated from there – Kallang was the location of both 27 Sqn and the first Buffalo units as of April 1941).

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In addition to the above, we already know that L8618 (PT-F) was captured by the Japanese.

This profile identifies L1134 as PT-F of 62 Squadron. Halley's Squadrons of the Royal Airforce also says that the PT codes ere 62 Squadron. Alan Lake in Flying Units of the RAF says the PT codes belong to 27 Squadron??????????

L1134-1.jpg

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The codes have been discussed higher up the thread - the best source for such things is Combat Codes, by Vic Flintham and Andy Thomas. Fortunately, it has been recently reprinted - its original appearance coincided with the collapse of the publisher and I'm not sure how many were distributed.

I'd like to point out the codes from the start of the alphabet are day fighters (with one apparent exception) whereas codes from the rear are bombers/nightfighters. I suggest this is a role split between A and B Flights, possibly restricted in time to fit with availability of gunpacks?

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The codes have been discussed higher up the thread - the best source for such things is Combat Codes, by Vic Flintham and Andy Thomas. Fortunately, it has been recently reprinted - its original appearance coincided with the collapse of the publisher and I'm not sure how many were distributed.

I'd like to point out the codes from the start of the alphabet are day fighters (with one apparent exception) whereas codes from the rear are bombers/nightfighters. I suggest this is a role split between A and B Flights, possibly restricted in time to fit with availability of gunpacks?

You may consider your source the best, but there is clearly divergent opinions. Repeating Combat Codes is the best source does not resolve the issue.

BTW, does the RAF Museum have a phone information service?

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Steven,

What you say is true, but you might consider that the presence of gun packs would point toward the Blenheims in question being part of a fighter squadron. 62 was a bomber squadron, and would not have had so many gun packs installed, if at all.

Best wishes,

Grant

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I am not relying upon a single source. It is more a case of recognising which sources are dedicated to the subject and backed by the evidence, as opposed to sources which are more open to errors in such matters, because code allocations are not the prime purpose of their existence. The subject of RAF code letters has a long history of discussion and research: Combat Codes being the latest publication in a series that has always relied upon research and feedback from interested parties. Andy Thomas is particularly noted as a collector of appropriate photographs and as produced a number of articles on the subject for specialist magazines. This doesn't make it error-proof, as I'm sure the authors will recognise, but there is no more comprehensive single source on the specific subject of RAF unit codes. That's not just my opinion. (Frankly, I defy anyone who has actually seen it and other attempts to come to any other conclusion.) So if CC is clear on the allocation of codes to the Blenheim squadrons in Malaya (or anything else), we can be sure that the authors have considered earlier opinions on the subject.

In this particular case, 27 Sq is recorded as the only Blenheim unit with fighters and the only fighter Blenheims photographed carry PT codes. If that is not enough, then we know that 27 used PT before this period in its history and (I believe there are Beaus in the Med with this code?) 27 used PT after this period in its history. The other codes used in the theatre can be tied to earlier and/or later use by the respective units. This all can be found outside of Combat Codes.

Some confusion may indeed have arisen from the exchange of aircraft between squadrons, and the merger of units during these eventful months, but this does not affect the allocation of codes to units. Indeed, 27 appears to have remained somewhat separate from such activities because of its earlier losses and specialist role, but it would perhaps be unwise to place too much emphasis on that.

I promised the serials from Fighter Squadrons of the RAF (I know, now an old source...) L4928, L6628, L6633, L6666. L8507, L8540, L8621, all decribed as Mk.If, which may of course be an assumption. Checking these serials against the Air Britain listings confirms them all and also provides L4927, L6632 - dived into ground Akyab 28/6/41 - L6635 Landing crash Kuala Lumpur 26/7/41 - L6667 spun into sea 4/4/41 - L6668, L6689, L8618. That's 14 aircraft, including two early service losses. Only the L49xx aircraft had previous service, both with 60 Sq. None are listed with any other unit - but then after December 1941 they wouldn't be.

Edited by Graham Boak
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Hi Graham,

Pretty compelling points.

I think that the only 27 Squadron aircraft with Post Munich Crisis PT codes were the Wapitis, the one shown in photographs, Mk. V, JG754, is ironically, also PT*F. When the squadron reformed in India, they never used codes on their Beaufighters, just single aircraft letters.

Best wishes,

Grant

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So is it then not possible that given the necessities of the day Scarf was flying one of 27s bomber Blenheims codes PT-F on his VC action? Or have I missed something about L1134?

Edited by justplanecrazy
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My apologies for not merging your info from Warner. I have made a edit for a typo on L6669.

I presume the two ex-60 series aircraft were bombers. It is possible that the other ones with only 27 Sq service were modified as fighters before delivery, as some of the others in the same serial sequences clearly were. If true, we would only be looking for the two bombers: evidence of more would cast doubt, but without knowing more of the individual aircraft's histories re build standard, MUs, storage and despatch we can't be sure.

The Wapiti picture I have is captioned as 1 STFS(I), post-27 Sq. This does of course come from Andy Thomas's collection, thus taking us back to the dreaded Combat Codes! Although we have to ask then why he linked the code to 27 Sq. I was presumably thinking confusedly about 252's PN coded Beaus in the Med.

Edit (for x-posting) L1134 is linked to 82 Sq and then 62 Sq. Therefore it would not be carrying PT codes. The confusion has presumably arisen from these Life photographs showing Scarf in PT.F, which survived the campaign.

Edited by Graham Boak
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Folks,

I agree that much of the confusion results from L1134 being identified as PT-F and then associated with 62 Sqn and Arthur Scarf - just because a "fact" has been repeated numerous times does not make it correct. The LIFE photos showing PT-coded Blenheims were taken at Kallang in April 1941 by which time 62 Sqn had already deployed to Alor Star in northern Malaya. There is no way these PT-coded aircraft could belong to 62 Sqn. Scarf may well have flown L1134 on his VC mission but it wasn't coded PT-F at the time or he may have flown PT-F but it wasn't L1134. Blenheim PT-F as captured by the Japanese was L8618 and it wore full 'Day Fighter' markings as per these other LIFE images of 27 Sqn aircraft (Sky fuselage band split across the serial number, 50/50 Sky/Black undersides) - experience with other units in the Malayan Campaign indicates that allocation of markings and code letters was a really low priority so it's extremely doubtful whether L8618 was a replacement for L1134, particularly since L8618 seems to have been captured at a forward airfield in Northern Malaya. Sorry for not posting the images of this airframe but I don't have a scanner and am snowed in in Northern Virginia so can't get to a place where I can scan and post them. Whether L1134 belonged to 62 Sqn or 27 Sqn is probably moot since the crews would fly whatever aircraft were available (I say moot unless, like me, you originally planned to make a model of Scarf's aircraft). The only way to make headway here is to ask the Air Historical Branch for any information from their aircraft and casualty records about Scarf, L1134 and L8618 which my provide insights into the origin of the Scarf/L1134/PT-F association.

Regards,

Mark

Edited by mhaselden
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I'm not convinced that the crews would fly whatever aircraft was available to them at the very start of the campaign. This would not have happened immediately. The squadrons were independently-minded organisations, and it's not as though there was a shortage of crews: quite the contrary with so many aircraft lost on the ground. Each could fill their own available aircraft with their own crews. Later, after the bomber squadrons merged, that might well be different, but even then I suggest that initially the units may have been as one operationally, but still two when it came to crewing. Towards the end, well, they'd do what they could. In a fairly rapid evolution, at that, but the conditions at the end should not be transferred to the beginning.

However, it seems that 27 didn't merge, at least initially, staying an independent unit, and recorded as such late in the campaign. Perhaps some of its surplus crews would be transferred out, which is not the same thing.

To be fair, a Squadron Leader could have pulled rank to participate regardless of the squadron organisation. I think the odds are high against L1134 being a 27 Sq machine.

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I'm not convinced that the crews would fly whatever aircraft was available to them at the very start of the campaign. This would not have happened immediately. The squadrons were independently-minded organisations, and it's not as though there was a shortage of crews: quite the contrary with so many aircraft lost on the ground. Each could fill their own available aircraft with their own crews. Later, after the bomber squadrons merged, that might well be different, but even then I suggest that initially the units may have been as one operationally, but still two when it came to crewing. Towards the end, well, they'd do what they could. In a fairly rapid evolution, at that, but the conditions at the end should not be transferred to the beginning.

However, it seems that 27 didn't merge, at least initially, staying an independent unit, and recorded as such late in the campaign. Perhaps some of its surplus crews would be transferred out, which is not the same thing.

To be fair, a Squadron Leader could have pulled rank to participate regardless of the squadron organisation. I think the odds are high against L1134 being a 27 Sq machine.

Graham,

I agree with everything you're saying. There are multiple potential scenarios but the most likely is that L1134 wasn't a 27 Sqn machine at that time. Again, a review of 27 Sqn and 62 Sqn 540s might reveal some aircraft movements (eg aircraft returned to 151 MU for major servicing, receipt of replacement airframes etc). However, I want to put to bed once and for all the concept of 62 Sqn having PT codes in these photos - it just doesn't make sense in aircraft role, time or geographic terms.

Cheers,

Mark

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Mark,

I went and got the two wartime issues of Aviation Review with the Blenheim photos, (Mar. and Aug, 1942) and have cut the pages out to scan them better, but haven't gotten my HP All in One scanner/Photoshop Elements 6 to work properly yet.

Best wishes,

Grant

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I just skimmed through a most interesting book, "Three Times Lucky" by Jack Woodward who served on 27 Sqn in Malaya. He states, "We were equipped with Mark I Blenheim aircraft - (knowned as short nosed Blenheims) - twelve in all, with six of them being deemed fighter aircraft and the other six bomber aircraft." This is likely the declared operational total of aircraft. RAF units typically had 12 Initial Equipment (IE) aircraft and a number of Immediate Reserve (IR) airframes so that, accounting for routine maintenance and unserviceability, a squadron could typically field 12 aircraft operationally. For example, most Buffalo units in Malaya had at least 6 IR airframes.

For the first mission on 8 Dec 41, Woodward comments, "The aircraft were carrying bombs and were armed to carry out strafing attacks." This statement seems to indicate that at least some of the Blenheims were fitted with the gun pack.

Woodward was eventually evacuated to Palembang where he continued flying operations. By this stage, according to Woodward, 62 and 27 Sqns had combined into a single unit known as 27 Sqn. His book contains photos of a Blenheim MkI in which he crashed while evacuating P2 airfield. The aircraft is identified as L8936 but carries the code letters FX-N.

I thought these details from a surviving member of 27 Sqn might prove interesting to this thread.

Edited by mhaselden
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That serial is in the Mk.IV black-out block L8877 to L9019. I can't find any obvious possibilities.

I've just been through the AB L/N book looking for 34 Sq serials, and come to much the same conclusion as for 27: 12 aircraft allocated plus replacements for those lost before the war. It doesn't seem as though either had 6 IR aircraft specifically allocated. Several of the 34 Sq aircraft are passed on to 62, presumably after the arrival of the Mk.IVs (although one example may be prewar). I didn't notice any large numbers of aircraft held in theatre. Although some must have been there initially it may be that all (or the majority) had been passed out to the units following attrition. 62 does seem to have suffered considerable losses, and it's aircraft are even older than 27s - there is even one K serial, so I'd better check back there for other examples in theatre. To be more definite would mean going through all the FE Blenheims for unit allocation, and I'm not quite up for that yet.

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That serial is in the Mk.IV black-out block L8877 to L9019. I can't find any obvious possibilities.

I've just been through the AB L/N book looking for 34 Sq serials, and come to much the same conclusion as for 27: 12 aircraft allocated plus replacements for those lost before the war. It doesn't seem as though either had 6 IR aircraft specifically allocated. Several of the 34 Sq aircraft are passed on to 62, presumably after the arrival of the Mk.IVs (although one example may be prewar). I didn't notice any large numbers of aircraft held in theatre. Although some must have been there initially it may be that all (or the majority) had been passed out to the units following attrition. 62 does seem to have suffered considerable losses, and it's aircraft are even older than 27s - there is even one K serial, so I'd better check back there for other examples in theatre. To be more definite would mean going through all the FE Blenheims for unit allocation, and I'm not quite up for that yet.

I suspect the serial quoted by Woodward is incorrect. Unfortunately, the serial isn't visible in the photos contained in his book; just the code letters FX-N. Given the imperatives of the time, I'm hardly surprised he misidentified the serial number - log book errors are commonplace in my experience, particularly when pilots may only update their logbooks weekly or even less frequently due to operational imperatives.

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I agree about the misidentified serial, but these are often simple inversions of a pair of numbers, so it may still be identifiable. The serial quoted for EG.M in Combat Codes is for an aircraft that never left the UK.

There was only the one K serial Blenheim in the Far East, so that was a red herring.

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I agree about the misidentified serial, but these are often simple inversions of a pair of numbers, so it may still be identifiable. The serial quoted for EG.M in Combat Codes is for an aircraft that never left the UK.

There was only the one K serial Blenheim in the Far East, so that was a red herring.

Could be L8369 or L8396 which were MkIs built at Speke.

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The first is UK only: the second was 60 Sq, lost in FE. Seems a reasonable bet.

BS1 seems slightly confused: it lists 47 Blenheims in squadron service, plus the 8 of the 60 Sq detachment, but the previous page suggests 39 only. Double subtractions somewhere? Or an over-estimate on one of the units? Did 62 really have 18? Plus 15 in reserve, for the entire force. OK, I'll go looking for the rest of the Mk.Is, tomorrow. There is talk of 34 converting six of its Mk.Is to photo work, then 2 (the actuality as opposed to plans?) but 62 seem to have taken over the task - when 34 converted to the Mk.IV?

27 will have been the only surviving numbered unit in Java, as a cover for all surviving Blenheims. Or should I consult SB2 before posting? 60 was only a detachment, merged with 34 early. 62 merged with a Hudson unit - or, if you like, converted to Hudsons in mid campaign. What remained of the 34 staffing was sent "home". Dates in BS1.

Edited by Graham Boak
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The first is UK only: the second was 60 Sq, lost in FE. Seems a reasonable bet.

BS1 seems slightly confused: it lists 47 Blenheims in squadron service, plus the 8 of the 60 Sq detachment, but the previous page suggests 39 only. Double subtractions somewhere? Or an over-estimate on one of the units? Did 62 really have 18? Plus 15 in reserve, for the entire force. OK, I'll go looking for the rest of the Mk.Is, tomorrow. There is talk of 34 converting six of its Mk.Is to photo work, then 2 (the actuality as opposed to plans?) but 62 seem to have taken over the task - when 34 converted to the Mk.IV?

27 will have been the only surviving numbered unit in Java, as a cover for all surviving Blenheims. Or should I consult SB2 before posting? 60 was only a detachment, merged with 34 early. 62 merged with a Hudson unit - or, if you like, converted to Hudsons in mid campaign. What remained of the 34 staffing was sent "home". Dates in BS1.

L8396 might seem reasonable, except that if it was a 60 Sqn bird then why is it wearing 62 Sqn codes (FX-N)? Yet more confusion.

As for BS1 maths challenges, that's not surprising. It contains a number of errors of this nature (including the same aircraft being shot down twice...in different theatres. It's still the best resource out there short of ploughing through original documentation but it still must be read with caution in some areas.

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I'll give you another - there are 12 60 Sq Blenheim Mk.Is in the campaign not eight. The serials of a few are Mk.IVs, but they are described in Warner as Mk.Is, and it is known that some of the Air Britain listings are in error around this point. Presumably Mk.IV bits weren't ready, so a few aircraft were built as Mk.Is rather than slow production? It does seem that the unit sent all its Mk.Is south, and I do wonder how many were ever expected to go back? The runt of 60 Sq in Burma would be bulked up with new deliveries moving down the chain, as indeed they were. Two late survivors were handed over to 27 Sq - possibly this unit became a sink for the Mk.Is as the bomber units went to Mk.IVs (or Hudsons).

There appears to be no reserve Mk.Is (OK, maybe one) in Malaya, at least by the start of the fighting, so presumably the 15 in BS1 are all new Mk.IVs. The ones from 34 Sq when it converted to Mk.IVs were handed over to 27, 62 and 100 (converting to Beauforts), plus a nascent PR Unit. This does suggest restocking depleted units in the lack of comparatively fresh reserves. There would be little purpose in retaining reserves of Mk.Is when they were due for replacement in the near future. This also suggests a reason for the expansion of 62 Sq to 18 aircraft: it was about to spin off a conversion flight for Mk.IVs.

One little 60 Sq mystery is L1350 from Warner, not a FE aircraft, but L1530 also appears later. 13 aircraft? Air Britain records it as 60 Sq/Y flight. A similar 60 Sq/Z Flight appears to be India based, and I've not yet found a reference to a Y or Z Flight unit in Malaya.

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There appears to be no reserve Mk.Is (OK, maybe one) in Malaya, at least by the start of the fighting, so presumably the 15 in BS1 are all new Mk.IVs.

Sorry, but what is "BSI"?

bob

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