One essential qualification for all RAF pilots, was to be able to read and send morse code at a minimum speed of 15 words per minute.
Mounted on the port wall of the Blenheim’s cockpit at the pilot’s left and connected to the aircraft’s Identification Lights, the Morse Code Key was used for air to air communication with other fighter/bombers nearby when radio silence was required.
With later models being massed produced in bakelite, this rare and original all-metal, No.2 MkIII Morse Code Key makes it one of the first units to be installed in the early Bristol Blenheims, Handley Page Hampdens, Hurricanes and the Mk IA Spitfire.
Leading up to and during the early war years, the British Government quickly realised that they were going to be short of two critical resources to enable them to resist the German onslaught.
One was a massive and steady supply of new pilots and aircrew the other, a reliable source of new aircraft to replace their ever diminishing squadrons.
The first was achieved through the establishment of the British Commonwealth Plan (BCATP), or Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) - a joint military aircrew training program created by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Recruits undertook basic pilot training in their home countries before transferring to Canada for advanced pilot and aircrew training after which they were dispersed amongst the RAF squadrons operating in Europe and other theatres of war.
All tooled up…
The second was addressed through the outsourcing of additional aircraft and aircraft component production to Canada - a country far from the threat of the Luftwaffe’s relentless bombing campaign devastating British manufacturing infrastructure.
To that end, Canada took receipt of duplicate tooling to produce a Canadian version under licence, of the British wooden-framed fighter and fighter/bomber, the Hawker Hurricane and De Havilland Mosquito along with the British heavy bomber, the Avro Lancaster.
Using original British tooling, Canadian factories were also churning out a wide range of aircraft components and instrumentation that could be quickly shipped to Britain and used across the RAF’s dwindling fleet as replacement stock for damaged or destroyed fighters and bombers.
British manufactured heavy and medium bombers such as the Lancaster, Handley Page Halifax and Hampden carried Canadian built Altimeters at their navigator’s desks whilst other aircraft such as the Westland Lysander, Spitfire, Hurricane and the later Typhoon, could all be found with a wide and eclectic combination of domestic and overseas instrumentation.
Britain’s Coastal Command’s torpedo and depth charge carrying Bristol Beaufighters, Handley Page Halifaxs, Vickers Wellington and Short Sunderlands carried a number of USN instruments that had been supplied through the US government’s Lend Lease program.
One of these was the USN’s Radio Altimeter system normally installed in the TBF Avenger and Curtiss SB2 Helldiver carrier-launched dive bombers, which bounced a radio signal off the ocean's surface in order to maintain extremely accurate pre-set low level heights for the successful launching of their torpedos.
This No.2 MkIII Morse Code Key is a classic example of Britain’s aircraft component outsourcing program.
Featuring identical components both inside and out as well as an identical printed wiring instruction label on the inside of the swing-out lockable face, this early all-metal Canadian built Morse Code Key also features the identical British Serial Number 5c/372 and model identification No2 Mk III on its face with the only difference being the British, ‘AM & Crown' stamp replaced by the wording ‘CANADA’
With the advent of the new bakelite moulded instrument housings and components, the labour intensive all-metal Mk III’s were quickly superseded by bakelite models which the British Air Ministry could produce quickly and cheaply, removing the need to continue outsourcing the Canadian versions.
This is an extremely rare example of an early Bristol Blenheim Morse Code Sender Key and would make a fantastic and totally unique and treasured, original aircraft collectable from a bygone era and one of the world’s iconic fighter aircraft.
As far as can be determined, this Morse Code Sender Key seems to have all its components and appears in full working order.
Mounted in its 100yr old, hand-crafted Mango Wood display stand with engraved plaque and highly detailed scale model of a Bristol Blenheim perched atop its magnetic display arm, plus a detailed laminated Fact Sheet featuring a photo of the instrument in the Blenheim's cockpit, this Recovery Curios Aircraft Collectable would make a perfect gift for the pilot or aviation enthusiast in your life.
This Bristol Blenheim Instrument comes complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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