Saturday, January 24

Review: Airframe Album No.5: The Bristol Blenheim – A Detailed Guide to The RAF’s First Modern Monoplane Bomber

The latest Airframe Album is out – and this one features a well-known and much loved early WWII bomber. Today we read and review the new all in one book on the Bristol Blenheim.
Airframe Album No.5: The Bristol Blenheim
– A Detailed Guide to The RAF’s First Modern Monoplane Bomber
by Richard A. Franks
English text
A4 Portrait format
130 pages
ISBN 978-0-9575866-5-9
£16.95 + P&P from Valiant Wings Website.

The Airframe Album series of books from Valiant Wings Publishing in the UK promised to be another in their well-known series of “all under the one roof” books that feature historical, photographical, drawing plans and variant types as well as colouring and modelling knowledge all in one book. We have reviewed a heap of these on our site and we thought that you might want to see how this book – on the venerable Blenheim Bomber fares up against the competition and its own stable mates. Let’s begin.

The fifth title in the Airframe Album series us a glossy covered A4 softcover with lovely artwork on the front and rear as well as a book full of colour and black and white pictures in a book of 128 pages. Page quality is good and there is no bleed through even though the stock is not that thick. A lot is packed into this little spine.
The many sections of this book are started off with a small preface/ introduction into this kite. We look at some very thirties looking Blenheim’s with large glass noses and then into the military variants in MK’s I through V as well as the two prototype close support (yes I said close support) Bisley project and the production of the Blenheim in Canada at Bolingbroke at the Fairchild factory there.
The introduction also features a complete specification breakdown of the aircraft listing all specification and performance as well as ordinance and some other details.

The next section of the book is for the detail freak and scratch builders out there. The technical description of the Blenheim is just that. We go from the cockpit of the aircraft right through to the tail in close detail inside and out. The use of technical drawings of the period are aided with old and new photographs to better illustrate and prove what the author is trying to show you.

This tree pronged attack of drawings, and old and new pictures pinpoints many things you would have never known without combining them into one place.
If you want to know what the undercarriage looks like – well they have a detailed shot, same with all of the aircraft, the while internal cockpit and structure is both photographed and detailed showing dials, levers and cabling as well as the gun and bomber/navigator stations. We also look are structure, equipment and armament used as well as the different noses of this aircraft through it’s development, a prime feature as there are many types!
Next is one of Valiant Wing’s party pieces – the isometric view line drawings of each and every aircraft in the Blenheim lime drawn by Wojciech Sankowski. This is a great addition to these series and one of the easiest ways of quickly discerning each variant apart from an almost identical mark or sub type.
Weapons, internal and instrumentation on the outside of the aircraft are detailed on each progressing drawing. We see the very first very civilian looking Bristol type 142 through to the early marques of the bomber with a pointed nose and large dome turret on the spine.
The elongated noses of the later types, Ski equipped and even floatplane equipped Blenheims are here as well as the cutest electric car you have ever seen in the form of and electric car which is now being rebuilt into the Duxford restoration.

Another good part of these books is the camouflage and markings section. This book starts with ten pages of explanation of the colouring and markings of Blenheims with pictures and captions to add to the description.  This might seem like a lot to describe colours and markings but there are many different schemes to cover, night fighters and bombers as well as day schemes and European, Middle East and Asian schemes are all here. There is a lot to cover and it is described by the author very well and in an easy to understand way (as is the rest of this tittle). 
The many types of colours are shown here in several windows showing slight variations of colour and patterns. Roundels, and markings are also shown in the book, with photographs here to point out what is being said this is an interesting section of the book when you look at all the nations who used the Blenheim there is a lot to cover here. Even captured Luftwaffe variants are shown in this comprehensive round up.

The always well illustrated colour profiles and camouflage detail is again present in this volume. Drawn by Richard J. Caruana these profiles cover nine pages and feature the side profiles of four aircraft ton each of these pages. There are again a vast number of airframes and colours presented here as was hinted in the last chapter with just how many services flew the aircraft. It’s a great part of the book and inspirational in the ideas department of new models to build. 
Lastly we look at the production of the aircraft in mark numbers from each factory as well as a bibliography of both books to read on the Blenheim and models and their aftermarket which is cataloged in the rear of the book. The completest would be happy with these sections.

I am so used to seeing models of the featured type in these books being built I would like this to be added – but 130 pages already seems like already a little too big for the rather small asking price.

Well that is all that is in this book – when I say all there is much more than I ever thought I could know about the Blenheim and I am happy to have been able to read it. This series sets it’s own high bar and I can say that this is a really worthy title to share the bookcase with it’s brothers.

Adam Norenberg 
For every copy bought directly from Valiant Wings £1.00 will be donated to The Blenheim Society to help support the example at Duxford that is being restored to fly again. Orders can be made via the Valiant Wings website, or by ‘phone on 01234 273434 (+44 1234 273434 if calling from outside the UK)