First formed in September 1917, RFC No 105 Sq was originally commissioned as a bomber unit to be stationed in France but was reassigned in April 1918 as an RFC reconnaissance squadron for service in Ireland where it operated Bristol Fighters patrolling the Irish Channel until the Squadron was disbanded in 1920.
In April 1937 105 Sq was reformed as a day-bomber squadron operating from RAF Harwell and now reequipped with the new Fairey Battles, soon found themselves transferred to France as part of Britain's Advanced Air Strike force, undertaking reconnaissance patrols along the France-German border.
With the German invasion of France in May 1940, these scouting missions quickly turned to bombing and strafing attacks on German ground forces sweeping across the countryside.
Unfortunately, much like the Hawker Hurricane fighter contingent also sent in support of the struggling France Airforce, the Fairey Battles found themselves no match for the more technologically advanced Luftwaffe fighters such as the Bf 109 and twin engined 110. Suffering horrendous losses the squadron was hastily withdrawn to England only a month later.
Becoming part of Bomber Command's 2 Group's offensive against the newly established German invasion ports and shipping along the English Channel, 105 Sq were retrained on the new twin engined Bristol Blenheims flying low level daylight bombing raids.
The German occupied ports and airfields were heavily defended by extensive anti-aircraft batteries and Flak ships which wreaked havoc on the low level attackers and whilst achieving some successes, these the raids were extremely costly with many missions resulting in a 100% casualty rate amongst the Blenheims
By late 1940, Britain's Bomber Command could no longer justify the alarming toll exacted on the Blenheim daylight raids and having been modified with long range tanks, switched their mission to those of night-time raiders.
With the commencement of British night-time bombing, the Germans were forced to expend considerable resources in establishing a strong night air defence system which comprised of a series of integrated control sectors equipped with radars and searchlights and each with their own night fighter.
Sector ground controllers would direct the night fighter into the visual target range of the British bombers as they became illuminated by the sector's criss-crossing search lights.
By early 1942, this air defence system had been significantly enhanced with the installation of the Lichtenstein airborne radar installed in the German night fighters which enabled fighters to home in on the bombers directly.
Paul Gilder had joined the Luftwaffe in 1935 after transferring from an infantry division and quickly gained an enviable reputation as one of the Luftwaffe’s most successful Bf110 pilots, claiming his first aerial victory during the Battle of France.
Transferring to the newly formed Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, Gilder's first night fighter victory occurred on the night of 3 Sept 1940, when he shot down a Handley Page Hampden during a raid on the German industrial centre of Ludwigshafen.
A week later he had claimed two Armstrong Whitworth bombers and by the end of 1941, was the Luftwaffe's second highest scoring night fighter pilot with 22 night-time victories.
One of these victories came with the shooting down of an RAF 105 Sq Bristol Blenheim, T1895 GB-X - which had been participating on a combined night-time bombing raid on the naval docks of the heavily fortified German port city of Wilhelmshaven
Wilhelmshaven was one of Germany’s key naval shipyards and had been the launching site of the infamous German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee.
As such, it remained a priority target for successive Allied bombing raids until the end of the war with over two thirds of the town's buildings destroyed although the shipyards remained operational until their capture in1945. Today it still remains as Germany’s only deep water port and its largest naval base.
On the night of 1/3/1941, RAF Flight Sgt John S Hardman and his two crew of Observer/bomb aimer Sylvester Jones and Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner John Bimson, had taken off from RAF Swanton Morely in Norfolk on a raid on the German naval docks.
105 squadron’s Blenheims were joined by a number of Hampden bombers from 106 Sq RAF Coningsby for a raid on the shipyards with the Hampdens tasked with laying mines across its shipping channels and the Blenheims, targeting the slipways and munitions facilities surrounding the docks.
The Blenheim bomb bays carried 2 x 500lb bombs plus another 320 lb on external wing racks and whilst being relatively light compared to the heavy ordinance carried by the Vickers Wellington and Avro Lancaster, during a low level attack, the Blenheims were capable of some remarkable target accuracy.
Unfortunately T1895 did not make it to the target, being intercepted by Paul Gilder’s BF 110 over the Dutch town of Groningen, some 61 miles SW of Wilhelmshaven.
Gilder’s Bf 110 had been based at the German-occupied Leeuwarden airfield on the Dutch coast and his sector had been one of the first to be alerted to the approaching bombers.
Diving from height, Gilder’s BF 110’s two, 20mm MG FF cannons and four MG 17nose mounted machine guns scored a direct hit between the Blenheim’s cockpit and the dorsal gun turret.
In a massive explosion, the aircraft broke apart but miraculously, Hardman was blown clear, managing to deploy his parachute as the Blenheim’s fiery wreckage crashed into the fields below.
His two crew were not so lucky and their bodies were recovered by a German patrol and later buried in what is now the military section of the Groningen cemetery.
Hardman was to spend the rest of the war as a POW at Stalag 357 in Poland, before he and his fellow prisoners were transported west into Germany in the face of Russian advances.
After inspection by German crash investigators looking for any useful intelligence data, the wreckage of Hardman’s Bristol Blenheim T1895 GB-X remained scattered across the Dutch farmland with locals retrieving the odd souveneir before the bulk of the wreckage eventually joined the many other hundreds of other destroyed Allied aircraft to be melted down as part of the German war effort.
Sometime in the late 1970’s a number of those souveneired pieces of T1895 made their way back to the RAF 105 Squadron Association. This reinforced canopy section is one of those and still retains some of its forest green camouflage, along with a section of metallic sheaved communication wiring and plug connector.
At 40cm high, this original Bristol Blenheim crash relic is a unique and irreplaceable reminder of the many sacrifices made by RAF personnel during the global struggle of WWII and would make an amazing and treasured RAF collectable for any pilot or aviation enthusiast.
Mounted on its 100 yr old mango-wood dispolay stand and documented in a laminiated, colour Fact Sheet, this Blenheim collectable also comes with an incredibly detailed, custom built 1/72 or larger 1/48 scale model of Hardman's Bristol Blenheim T1895 GB-X perched on a removable magntic display arm above.
This Bristol Blenheim Collectable comes complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of collectable in aircraft.
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