Blackburn B-26 Botha

The Blackburn B-26 Botha torpedo-bomber, which proved far more dangerous to RAF pilots than it did to German sailors, was designed to compete for the same requirement that produced the Bristol Beaufort and was originally going to be powered by the same 843kW (1130hp) Bristol Taurus engines as the Beaufort. A shortage of these meant that the Perseus X, rated at only 656kW (880hp), was used for the initial versions.

The deficiency in power and a series of unexplained accidents in 1940 led to the Botha gaining a very poor reputation. A slightly more powerful version of the Perseus was fitted and a few other changes made, but this did nothing to reduce the accident rate, particularly as the Botha was issued to training units and thus being handled by inexperienced students. Despite its inadequacies, 580 examples of this (deservedly) forgotten bomber were delivered, at least 120 being lost in crashes.

The Botha never made a bomb or torpedo attack in anger and wound up as a trainer, where it arguably did more harm to the Allied war effort than good.

The short, tapered wings did not provide enough lift for the Botha to carry anything heavy very far.

The position of the engine nacelles and the high wing prevented the pilot from seeing much to either side or the rear.

The cockpit was very poorly designed. It was possible for a pilot flying solo to knock the fuel tank switches off but still start the engines, leading to engine failure a short time into the flight.

The Botha had a high-drag Frazer-Nash dorsal turret as seen on many Sunderlands and some Stirlings. As well as the two guns in this turret there was a single forward-firing gun operated by the pilot.

Blackburn B-26 BothaBlackburn B-26 Botha Specifications

  • CREW: 4
  • POWERPLANT: two 694kW (930hp) Bristol Perseus XA radial piston engines
  • MAX SPEED: 401km/h (249mph)
  • SPAN: 17.98m (59ft)
  • LENGTH: 15.58m (51ft 2in)
  • HEIGHT: 4.46m (14ft 7in)
  • WEIGHT: maximum 8369kg (18,450lb)