RAAF Bristol Beaufighter – “Whispering Death”

The Imperial War Museum Duxford in the UK has an incredible aviation collection including areas where you can see conservation in action, bringing historic aircraft back to life. From a personal point of view I was pleased to see in the restoration area during my visit in June 2012 a Bristol Beaufighter that was formerly in the Royal Australian Air Force. The Beaufighter was a World War Two era heavy attack fighter that was fast (up to 515 kmph / 320 mph), heavily armed (4 x 20mm cannons, 4-6 machine guns, plus bombs and rockets) and very quiet at low-level, hence the nickname allegedly given to it by the Japanese “Whispering Death” (the sound thing is true, but the nickname was probably just great propaganda!).

RAAF Beaufighter IWM Duxford UK
RAAF Bristol Beaufighter @ Duxford
Bristol Beaufighter Duxford IWM UK
Nose guns of the Beaufighter
RAAF Bristol Beaufighter Duxford UK
Restoring the Beaufighter to its former glory
RAAF Beaufighter New Guinea 1942
An RAAF Beaufighter over New Guinea in 1942

Of nearly 6,000 Bristol Beaufighters produced around the world between 1940 to 1946 only 6 complete airframes are currently on display so this new restoration will be a welcome addition. An RAAF Beaufighter is a rare bird indeed with only 2 on display in Australia (of 364 built there between 1944-1945, plus British built variants operated by the RAAF between 1942-1944). There is an added highlight to the one at Duxford, they are restoring it to flight condition! What an Aussie Beaufighter was doing in the UK I do not know, but to hear it will fly some day was great news!

Both of the Beaufighters on display in Australia were actually built there. I have only seen the one at the Australian National Aviation Museum – Moorabbin Air Museum in Melbourne, Victoria. This is a DAP Mk.21 Beaufighter (A8-328 built by the Australian Department of Air Production i.e. DAP) which was built the day Japan surrendered in World War Two on August 15th, 1945 and served in the RAAF until 1956.

DAP Mk.21 Bristol Beaufighter
DAP Mk.21 Beaufighter @ Moorabbin Air Museum
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33 thoughts on “RAAF Bristol Beaufighter – “Whispering Death”

  1. leaving aside the duxford plane, with two of 364 production surviving, a beaufighter in australia can hardly be described as a rare bird, because of 5,564 built in england, only four are left: two in north america, one in scotland, one in england.

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    1. Hi Rick, given that I was only discussing the DAP model, less than 1% survivors of the production run is rare to me. But I fully agree a British Beaufighter is extremely rare. I have actually seen all of them except the one in Scotland

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      1. deano, the numbers speak for themselves, but the duxford beaufighter will surpass them all. saw it again recently. not much seems to have happened since my previous visit some years ago. i’m now willing the restoration boys on, being desperate to see and hear this wonderful aircraft climbing into that big east anglian sky before i shuffle off this mortal coil…..

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  2. G’day, busy researching the Beau at present to build a couple of 1/32 scale models (old Revell Kits) and stumbled across your site, useful images for detail thanks. The Duxford a/c has certainly progressed since I was there in 2006 when the nose section was separate, the fuse and centre wing section was on support stands and the empennage minus hori and vertical stabs was on a dolly. It is amazing how few of not only the Beaus there are left but many WW11 aircraft, particularly British types (saw the Mosquito flying at Ardmore in Sep 2012, stupendous! Peter Jackson here in NZ is slowly building up WW 1 aircraft types but alas I doubt we will ever see someone doing the same for the missing or rare but important WW11 aircraft (Stirling, Wellington, Halifax, Whirlwind, Hampden etc). Great site, thanks

    Brent H, Wellington NZ (Jan 13)

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    1. Hi Brent,

      Thanks. Glad the photos were of some help (unfortunately that day I was running really low on memory card space and did not take too many of the Beaufighter). I have just been to Wings Over Wairarapa for 3 days watching that Mosquito and a large part ot Peter Jacksons collection (in 2009 I also went to Omaka – great stuff). It was fantastic to see it fly – what a machine! Imagine seeing the Mossie and Beaufighter flying together! 🙂

      I will be putting up a number of blogs from Wairarapa I think – took so many photos!

      Peter Jackson is meant to be working on a modern version of the Dambusters movie – who knows what he may be putting together for that?

      Regards
      Deano

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  3. On a different note, I too would love to see this big beautiful ( looks are in the eye of the beholder) aircraft go back where it belongs, in the sky but my friends grandad used to fly them & he says he hopes they get it rebuilt but never try to fly it because it will be crashed within its first three take offs as it was such a pig on the ground with horrible swing, doesn’t matter how good a pilot you are theres no substitute for experience on an aircraft & theres not much chance to get experience with such a rare machine. Personally though I say go for it, what a sight it will make flying low almost silently.

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    1. Hi Cliff,

      Interesting to hear. When the time comes for the Beaufighter to fly it will be in the hands of an expert pilot. There are guys out there flying the airshow circuit that are qualified in flying so many different types of aircraft I am sure they will have one of the best on hand. I hope to get the chance to see it fly someday.

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      1. Me too Deano , I was just saying that someone who’s life relied on their ability to fly it & did so dozens of times was still wary of it on take off, they even extended the tail along the fuselage to try & reduce swing. I just hope I’m there when it does get up though. On a separate note, when I saw it in the workshop we came out just in time to see a Spitfire take off to run through a display performance trial flight, I just thought to myself, that’s what I call job satisfaction. 😉

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      2. If only we could join them! 🙂

        Imagine many of the pilots in wartime often didnt have a huge amount of experience flying the high performance aircraft before they first got into them. Must have been a harrowing experience on that first flight!

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  4. Just realised that one of the old boys in our local pub used to fly Westland Whirlwinds & he said it had the same problem on take off, so it’s a twin engine thing, he also said it was unbelievably quick as long as you could keep both engines going.

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    1. The Whirlwind was a beast apparently. Very fast and lot of firepower but those engines were it’s demise. Too many problems. You are lucky to be able to meet guys who flew these things. Must be some great stories floating around over a beer or two?

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      1. Unfortunately when they had a couple of pints most of their tales were unprintable, unfortunately not seen them for a while now so I don’t even know if they are still with us.

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  5. Hello. My name is Peter. My dad David flew Beaufighters during the Second World War, mainly over New Guinea. I still have his log book and a number of photos taken from the nose camera. The dive shots are amazing. Unfortunately dad died in ’94 but I am still looking forward to going to Duxford, England to watch their restored Beau take to the air.

    Dad learnt to fly in a tiger moth which is still flying and I’ve flown her quite a few times. He also flew a Mustang with the Yanks out of a strip somewhere up in the N T for a few months.
    Dad told me he’d always wanted to fly a Spitfire but didn’t,t get there. I’ flown the Harvard they have at Mareeba FNQ. And with any luck will get a seat in the Spit at Temora this year. Peter.

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    1. Hi Peter,
      Thanks for taking a look at my blog. I hope you get to see the Beau fly (hope I am there too!). The collection of items your Dad kept must be incredible to read and look through? A flight in a Spitfire would be amazing (only been in the back seat of a Harvard and Tiger Moth, done a few DC-3 flights too)

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    2. Hiya Peter

      Great post, shame your Dad is no longer with us, you think of the questions when you can no longer ask them, I know I do. Still he left you some wonderful memories & memento’s to enjoy, I personally would love to see the nose camera fotos. Thanks for taking the trouble to share on here.

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    3. My father Doug Raffen flew beau’s 30 squadron New Guinea, radio man Dick ? Wrote a book on 30 Squadron.
      All his and his 2 brothers stuff is at the Midura airport war museum.
      Peter Raffen

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      1. Hi Peter, I had hoped to go to that museum when last passing through Mildura but it is only open certain days and it was closed. There is a nice memorial next to it for RAAF Mildura crews

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      2. Yes the statue is very good attended the opening ceremony for it,
        The museum is very good it focuses on the pilots who learnt to fly there during the war, and of interest is that 56 pilots were killed up there learning to fly for the war, the first 8 or so were just burued in the cemerty, then they created a war section.
        Pilots were killed learning to fly – crash landings, engine failures, mid air collisions, strafing runs hit the ground.

        Peter

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  6. Hi, I picked up an old tail wheel with part of its landing gear attached to it and some cockpit parts (throttle board panel, control switch & turning lever, and another lever) and was told they were from a Bristol Beaufort or Beaufighter bomber…. I’m not an aircraft expert, just curious to know if they are actually genuine Beaufort/Beaufighter parts, here are the serial numbers, Throttle panel – CH-26297, Wheel Hub – AH05023/IX and 036734…..Landing gear frame – 4K1536… Control switch and turning lever – A M 10D18186… I can take photos of these parts if needed, thank you regards Fred

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    1. Hi again Deano, I contacted the Australian National Aviation Museum, and their secretary Ewan McArthur was able to identify the aircraft parts from the photos I sent him….. Unfortunately none were Bristol Beaufort or Beaufighter parts, but still interesting pieces…. The throttle panel is from an Airspeed Oxford, the tail wheel with its supporting leg frame is from an Avro Anson, and the channel selector levers were used early on but superseded quickly on Wirraways. The museum was interested in the levers, it’s a part that’s missing from their Wirraway A20-10, Apparently it is the oldest surviving Wirra and oldest CAC aircraft….so I’ve decided to donate that part to them, the other parts I might sell on eBay. Thanks for your help, and pointing me in the right direction, I will mention your help in the note that I’ll send with the part…. Cheers, with kind regards Fred

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      1. That’s great Fred. The Liberator Restoration Fund in Werribee are building a replica Airspeed. They may be interested the throttle panel.

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      2. I’ll contact The Liberator Restoration Fund too see if they’re interested in the throttle panel, if so I’ll donate it to them… Cheers, regards Fred

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      3. Hi Deano, I contacted the B-24 Liberator Restoration Australia Fund in Werribee yesterday regarding the throttle panel and they said that they would be delighted to have it… The piece will be used in their Replica Oxford Airspeed project. Once again thanks for pointing me in the right direction, it’s good too see these parts being put to good use for everyone to enjoy… Cheers, Fred

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