Bristol Blenheim BA194

Charterhall, Duns, Berwickshire




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Aircraft Type Photo


BELOW: A Bristol Blenheim Mk I bomber in flight.


A Bristol Blenheim Mark I in flight


Photo: [pre-1949] Taken by a member of the Canadian armed forces. Now, in the public domain.



BELOW: A Bristol Bolingbroke (the Canadian-built variant of the Blenheim).


Note the longer nose on this variant, compared to the Mk I variant above. This longer nose was a feature of both the Canadian-built Bolingbrokes and the British-built Blenheim Mk IV'sthe latter being the type featured here.


A Bristol Bolingbroke - the Canadian-built equivalent of the Blenheim


Photo: [pre-1949] Original source unknown.






Aircraft Type and Background


RAF Bristol 142M Blenheim V / BA194



(Click here for RAF history of this type)



Ordered and funded initially by Lord Rothermere, the civilian Bristol Type 142 was designed to meet this tycoon's requirements for a private 'executive' aircraft. However, it proved so successful in trials that the Air Ministry requested the use of this aircraft for further evaluation.


Lord Rothermere donated his aircraft (named, 'Britain First') to the nation, whereupon the RAF immediately began extensive trials with this type. Ultimately, Lord Rothermere's Type 142 was to become the Bristol Type 142M (Military) and designated the 'Blenheim.'


The Bristol Type 142 had first flown in 1935. The Type 142M ('M' for 'Military' version) entered service with the RAF in 1937.


By the time war broke out, most of the Mk I Blenheims had been replaced by Mk IV variants (and later the Mk V). The Mks IV and V were essentially the same airframe, but equipped with two Bristol Mercury XV radial engines (or later in the Mk V). The Mk IV also had an extended nose and some other modifications.


The bomber was equipped with one 7.7mm / 0.303in Browning machine gun (port wing), and one 7.7mm / 0.303in Vickers machine gun (dorsal turret). It had an internal bomb capacity of 454kg / 1,000lb.


Unfortunately, the Blenheim was no match for the fast Luftwaffe fighters. Despite heroic attempts by the RAF to help avert shipping losses in the North Sea, many of these Blenheim bombers were lost in combat. Ultimately, the Mk IV Blenheims were replaced by Douglas Bostons and de Havilland Mosquitoes.



BELOW: A Bristol Blenheim Mk IV cockpit on display at the Imperial War Museum Duxford.


Bristol Blenheim Mk IV cockpit at IWM Duxford


Photo: 2005 Mark Murphy. Released by the author to the public domain. (More details at Wikipedia)






Aircraft Accident Details


On 18th January 1943, circling a beacon at night, Richard Hilary's Blenheim V BA194 spun into the ground at Crunklaw Farm and he and his navigator, F/Sgt. KWY Fison, were killed. The weather was bad and the aircraft may have been subject to icing.

BA194 was being flown by Richard Hillary who was retraining as a night-fighter pilot after recovering from severe burns to his face and hands incurred when his Spitfire was shot down during the Battle of Britain.

The aircraft is believed to have stalled and spun when descending to land at Charterhall in bad weather. The accident was probably the result of airframe ice accretion, and the situation would not have been helped by the difficulty that Hillary was known to be having in handling the controls of an aircraft owing to his physical injuries.

The unknown cause of the failure of Hillary’s plane and his and his radio operator’s fiery deaths retrospectively contributed to the popular reception of Hillary’s life story. In the words of Faulks “If Hillary’s life fitted the high cultural patterns these writers [Auden, Eliot, Pound] had created, his death appealed to a more popular taste: the mystery story” (200).

According to Ross, his death will remain a mystery because the dense fog above Charterhall on the night of the crash prevented any witnesses on land from seeing what was going on in the skies immediately prior to the crash. Ross speculates that Hillary’s friend and fellow RAF pilot Sgt. W. H. “Andy” Miller is correct in believing that Hillary’s plane probably experienced icing, then stalled, and quickly went into a spin dive. Miller participated in the same training exercise that killed Hillary, used the same kind of plane, and narrowly missed a crash due to icing. (See Ross 328-33.)






Aircraft Crew Casualties



The two airmen who died in this accident were:


Please click on the hyperlinked name above for further details at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website.





Richard Hillary Memorial Photos



(NOTE: There are no crash site photos for this aircraft.)



BELOW: Map showing the location of the memorial (1) at Charterhall Airfield (2). This airfield is still being used by light aircraft. Also shown is the farm on whose land the Blenheim crashed (3).


Map showing the location of the memorial at Charterhall Airfield


Photo: Courtesy, Gary Nelson



BELOW (next 2 photos) : The back of the Memorial.


(next 2 photos) : The back of the Memorial.


Photo: © 2015 Gary Nelson





Photo: © 2015 Gary Nelson



BELOW (next 2 photos) : The front of the Memorial.


(next 2 photos) : The front of the Memorial.


Photo: © 2015 Gary Nelson





Photo: © 2015 Gary Nelson




Richard Hillary Memorial
at Undiscovered Scotland







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Crash Date / Site



Aircraft page added: 4 July 2015


Page last updated: 4 July 2015



Accident Date: 18 Jan 1943


Accident Site:
(Crunklaw Farm fields)


Nearest main road: A6112


Region: Scottish Borders


Nearest towns or villages:

Duns (NE) or Greenlaw (W).


Nearest larger town:

Berwick-upon-Tweed (E)


OS Grid Ref. N/A


GPS Ref: N/A


Present Crash Site Status: No known remains at crash site. Memorial near Greenlaw W of Charterhall.




Aircraft Details



Registration or Serial: BA194


Operator: RAF(54 OTU)


Departure Station: RAF Charterhall.
(Charterhall Memorial plaque can be seen on one of the photos.)


Destination Station (Intended): RAF Charterhall.


Current Station Status: RAF operations ceased. Motor racing track from 1952 to 1964. Now, private airstrip.


Current Airfield Name: Charterhall Airfield.



Related Links



Accident Specific Link

Richard Hillary Memorial at Undiscovered Scotland.


RAF and Related Links

RAF Bristol Blenheim (History)


Other Links

Bristol Blenheim / Bolingbroke at Warbird Alley

Bristol Blenheim at Wikipedia



Amazon Book Link

The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history (2nd edition, hardcover)

bristol blenheim - a complete history - book

Author: Graham Warner




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