British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Bombing and Gunnery schools using the Bristol Fairchild Bolingbroke Mark IVT


No. 1 – Jarvis Ontario
No. 2 – Mossbank Saskatchewan
No. 3 - Macdonald Manitoba
No. 4 - Fingal Ontario
No. 5 - Dafoe Saskatchewan
No. 6 - Mountain View Ontario
No. 7 - Paulson Manitoba
No. 8 – Lethbridge Alberta
No. 9 – Mon-Joli Quebec
No. 10 - Mount Pleasant PEI
No. 31 - (RAF) – Picton Ontario

Although the original purpose of the Bristol Blenheim was maritime patrol, this aircraft as the Canadian version Bristol Fairchild Bolingbroke, showed a great ability to take on a number of diverse assignments. In World War II it proved to be an excellent platform for gunnery and radio training in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and an aircraft well suited for maritime patrol on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as in the Aleutian Islands to help the United States.

In the mid-1930s, the Royal Air Force took on the Bristol Blenheim Type 142M as a replacement for the Avro Anson as its primary reconnaissance and bomber aircraft. This aircraft utilized the Mercury VIII engines of the civilian aircraft on which it was based. It also featured an all-metal stressed-skin construction, retractable landing gear, flaps, a powered gun turret and variable-pitch propellers.  Modifications to the nose of the Blenheim gave the aircraft its unique, asymmetrical look. The change to the nose was instituted to allow more room for the bombardier while retaining a good view for the pilot while taking-off and landing.

Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
016 of 150 Canada 150 Vignettes
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
Aircraft of the BCATP - The Bolingbroke

Bolingbroke Mark IV Specifications

Maximum speed – 250 knots (284 mph), cruise speed 174 knots (200 mph), range 1617 nautical miles (1860 miles), maximum altitude 27000 feet.

Armament – Guns - 1 fixed forward firing .303 Browning machine gun or two Browning machine guns in a turret in the Bristol Type B1 Mark IV, Bombs – 2-500 lb. or 4-250 lb. bombs (no explanation was given why the Bolingbroke had a 1000 lb. limit on Bombs while the Blenheim was allowed 1200).

In the beginning of World War II, the Blehneim saw duty as a long-range and/or night fighter and bomber for the RAF. This 1930s aircraft was not a good match for the advanced technology of the enemy’s air force and anti-aircraft measures.  It was replaced by the more advanced Bristol Beaufighters and Beauforts for direct action against Germany. The Blenheim continued to provide coastal patrol and submarine-hunting duties to the end of the war in Europe.

Coming to the aid of the Canadian war effort, the Blenheim was licensed to the Fairchild Aircraft Company in Canada which was built as the Bristol Bolingbroke. It was virtually identical to its British cousin, the Bristol Blenheim Mk IV. Typical crew for the two versions of this aircraft was a pilot, navigator/bomber and telegraphist/air gunner.

Seven versions of the Bolingbroke were built by Fairchild in Canada at its factory in Longueuil, Quebec. The primary specification set out by the Royal Canadian Air Force for the Bolingbroke was that it be adapted to the needs of Canadian maritime patrol duties. The RCAF initially took delivery of 18 Bolingbroke Mark Is which were equipped with twin Bristol Mercury VIII radial engines and British instrumentation. Of the original 18 Mark Is, one was equipped as a floatplane and another was equipped with American instrumentation.

Production of the Bolingbroke Mark IV variant began with changes to the more powerful Bristol Mercury XV radial piston engine, anti-icing boots on wing surfaces, a dinghy for forced landings on water and both American and British instrumentation. In expectation of a shortage of the Bristol engines, Fairchild switched to the Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp Junior engines with 825 horsepower. Fifteen of these Mark IVW variants were built and then, production was discontinued when it was found the engines had insufficient power to perform as needed. Bomb loads were reduced to 500 pounds on these aircraft.

Fairchild brought back the Bristol Mercury engines in what was branded the Mark IV Bolingbroke.  Of the total 626 Bolingbrokes produced by Fairchild-Canada, 457 were produced for training purposes and were known as the Mark IVT. Six of these were built with dual controls and 89 were built as target tug aircraft for gunnery practice. Bolingbrokes utilized as target tugs were given winching gear and storage space for the targets used in air gunnery practice. One hundred and fifty-one Mark IV versions were built.

Four Home War Establishment RCAF squadrons used Bolingbrokes extensively while another four squadrons had limited use of the aircraft.