Seven hundred Beaufort aircraft were produced in Australia for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) from August 1941 to August 1944. Forty-six were modified as Beaufreighters. The RAAF Beaufort was a version of the Bristol Beaufort, designed in the United Kingdom, but modified for Australian requirements.
The production of the Beaufort, Australia’s first all-metal aircraft, was a major triumph for Australian industry, paving the way for a viable aircraft industry and establishing other industries hitherto unknown in the country. Prior to the Beaufort, Australia had mainly built light aircraft of canvas and wood construction.
A work force of 23,800 people, one-third of who were women, produced the aircraft, while another 10,500 workers were employed as aircraft servicing contractors. Thousands more were employed as sub-contractors, producing 39,000 components for each aircraft.
In addition to six hundred smaller firms, the major contributors to the Beaufort production were:
Department of Aircraft Production (Beaufort Division): government aircraft factories comprising major assembly plants at Fishermen’s Bend, Victoria, and Mascot, NSW; area workshops at Chullora, NSW, Newport, Victoria, and Islington, South Australia (formerly railway workshops).
Government Annexes: Hydraulic Landing Gear and Airscrew Annex at Alexandria, NSW; Heavy Forge Annex at Granville, NSW; Magneto Annex at Marrickville, NSW; Aircraft Engine Factory at Lidcombe, NSW.
Private aircraft manufacturers: Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Fishermen’s Bend, Victoria; De Havilland Aircraft Pty Ltd, Mascot, NSW.
Major aircraft contractors: General Motors Holden Ltd, Woodville, South Australia, and Fishermen’s Bend, Victoria; Richards Industries Ltd, Mile End, South Australia; Technico Ltd, Marrackville, NSW; Amalgamated Wireless (A/Asia) Ltd, NSW; Commercial Steel & Forge Co. Ltd, NSW.
The aircraft and its role:
The Beaufort was the main general reconnaissance–strike bomber for the RAAF in the South West Pacific theatre during the Second World War. The aircraft was primarily used for bomber–torpedo operations, general reconnaissance, anti-submarine and convoy patrols, and for providing close air support for ground troops. The Beaufort was colloquially referred to as the RAAF’s “workhorse”. Seventeen operational squadrons were equipped with Beauforts, including 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 32, and 100 Squadrons, as well as another 26 communication, training, and other support units.
During the war 2,150 RAAF aircrew trained on Beauforts, at 1 Operational Training Unit, Bairnsdale and East Sale, Victoria, while 9,500 ground crew served and maintained the aircraft. On 15 August 1945 aircraft from 7, 8, and 100 Squadrons carried out the last RAAF raid of the war, bombing enemy positions in the vicinity of Kiarivu, New Guinea. The last aircraft on target was 7 Squadron Beaufort A9-608, flown by Warrant Officer Alan Fraser.
There were 466 RAAF Beaufort aircraft fatalities, constituting approximately 21 per cent of trained Beaufort aircrew. There were a further 39 fatalities among RAAF aircrew flying in Royal Air Force (RAF) Beaufort squadrons and training units.
In addition to the Australian Beauforts, 1,400 Beauforts were built in the United Kingdom and, during the war, were flown in the RAF and Royal Navy (Fleet Air Arm) Service. The Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, South African, and Turkish Air Forces also flew Beauforts.
DAP Beaufort Mk VIII
Type: Torpedo bomber
Entered service: 1942
Wing span: 17.63 m
Length: 13.49 m
Weight (unladen): 10,206 kg
Endurance: range with standard fuel 1,706 km; endurance six hours
Speed: maximum 431 km/h
Armament: 990 kg bomb load or torpedo; 0.303 inch, later .050 inch machine-guns in turret, nose, or wing