RACF Squadron 415

A pair of Bristol Beauforts from 217 Squadron in flight.

A pair of Bristol Beauforts from 217 Squadron in flight.

On this date – August 20 – in 1941, the Royal Canadian Airforce‘s (RCAF) only torpedo squadron, the 415 Maritime Patrol, was formed on Thorney Island, England, equipped with Beaufort’s, and later Handley’s.

When the 415 was formed, it would receive six Bristol Beaufort Type 152‘s in September of 1941, but it was felt that they were under-protected, and were returned to the RAF (Royal Air Force) in January 1942.

The Beaufort’s were used to drop torpedoes, requiring a successful approach run to the target to be straight and at a speed and height where the torpedo would enter the water smoothly: too high or too low and the torpedo could “porpoise” (skip through the water), dive, or even break up.

The height over the water had to be judged without the benefit of a radio altimeter and misjudgement was easy, especially in calm conditions.

For the Beaufort’s using the 450-mm (18-inch) Mk XII aerial torpedo, the average drop-height was 21 meters (68 feet) and the average range of release was 610 meters (670 yards).

During the run-in, the aircraft was vulnerable to defensive anti-aircraft fire. The Beaufort’s optimum torpedo dropping speed was a great deal higher than that of other planes, so it took a lot of practice to accurately judge the range to, and speed of, the target ship.

In action, torpedoes were often released too far away from the target. For safety reasons, torpedo warheads had a set distance (usually about 274 meters or 300 yards) from the release point before they were armed. It also took some distance for the torpedo to settle to its running depth.

Once the torpedo had been dropped, if there was room, a sharp turn away from the enemy was possible: more often than not the aircraft had to fly around or over the ship, usually at full-throttle and below mast height. A sharp pull-up could be fatal, as it could expose a large area of the aircraft to anti-aircraft guns.

Beaufort I Specifications:

  • Crew: 4;
  • Length: 13.46 meters (44′ – 2″);
  • Wingspan: 17.63 meters (57′ – 10″);
  • Height: 4.34 meters (14′ – 3″);
  • Wing area: 46.73 meters² (503 feet²);
  • Empty weight: 5,945-kilograms (13,107-pounds);
  • Loaded weight: 9,629-kilograms (21,230-pounds);
  • Powerplant: 2 × Bristol Taurus II, III, VI, XII or XVI 14-Cylinder sleeve valve radial engine, 1,130 horsepower (843 kW) each.


  • Maximum speed: 420 kph (271.5 mph) at 1,982-meters (6,500 feet);
  • Cruise speed: 410 kph at 1,981 meters (255 mph at 6,500 feet);
  • Range: 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles);
  • Service ceiling: 5,030 meters (16,500 feet);
  • Rate of climb: 6.096 meters per second (1,200 feet/minute);
  • Wing loading: 206 kilogramsg/meters² (42.2 pounds/feet²;)
  • Power/mass: 0.175 kW/kilogram (0.106 hp/pound).


  • Guns: 7.7- mm Vickers GO machine guns (two in Bristol Mk IV dorsal turret, one in port wing);
  • Six 7.7-mm Vickers GO machine guns: Two fixed in nose, two in turret, one in port wing and one firing laterally from entry hatch. Late production;
  • One 7.7-mm Browning machine gun in rear-firing chin blister;
  • Bombs:  728 kilogram, (11,605 pound), with 18 in Mk XII torpedo or 907 kilogram (2,000 pound) of bombs or mines.

Needless to say, a better plane was required.

The next planes to arrive on Thornley were the Handley’s

The Handley Page HP.52 Hampden was a British twin-engine medium bomber of the Royal Air Force serving in WWII (seen above as part of the No. 455 Squadron of the RAAF in May, 1942).

Handley Page Hampden in the air.

Handley Page Hampden in the air.

Along with the Armstrong Whitworth A.W.38 Whitley and Vickers Wellington, the Hampden bore the brunt of the early bombing war over Europe, taking part in the first night raid on Berlin and the first 1,000-plane raid on Cologne, Germany.

Cockpit of the Handley Page Hampden as a torpedo-bomber.

The newest of the three medium bombers, the Hampden, known as the “Flying Suitcase” because of its cramped crew conditions, was still unsuited to the modern air war and, after operating mainly at night, it was retired from Bomber Command service in late 1942.

The former British Royal Air Force station is located 10.6 kilometers (6.6 miles) west of Chichester, West Sussex, England and 11.4 kilometers (7.1 miles) east of Portsmouth, Hampshire.


Aerial view of Thorney Island during WWII.

The airfield was built in 1938 as an airfield for fighter aircraft including involvement with the Battle of Britain when RAF Thorney Island‘s airfield  was attacked by Germany’s Luftwaffe on the same day as other stations such as RAF Ford and RAF Poling radar station.

RAF Thorney Island was transferred to RAF Coastal Command for the protection of shipping and other various roles, and had their concrete runways laid in 1942. The station closed as an RAF airfield on March 31, 1976, but the site was reopened in 1982 by the Royal Artillery.

About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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