Boulton Paul Defiant
After a two and a half year restoration
The only Boulton Paul Defiant fighter left in the world arrived in the workshops of the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society at Rochester Airport on the 22 April 2009. Built by Boulton Paul at its Pendeford, Wolverhampton factory in February 1938, it was fitted with a a Merlin III engine. N1671 was the 179th production aircraft out of a total build of 1,064. From the factory, it was taken on charge at No.6 Maintenance Unit at Brize Norton before being issued to 307 (Lwowski) Polish Squadron then based at Kirton-on-Lindsey on September 17 1940. On October 2, it was one of three Defiants dispersed to Caistor for a working up phase. Returning on the 27th the squadron moved to Jurby on the Isle of Man on November 7 for shipping protection operations over the Irish Sea. The Station Operations Record Book states that the Squadron Commander, Sqd Ldr Tomlinson, flew N1671 with FO Karwowski for air-ground firing practice on the 15th of the month. The first operational flight, a daylight patrol, came on December 12 1940. Lasting 1 hour 35 minutes no incidents were recorded. Six days later with Sgt Dukszte at the controls, N1671 was on a convoy patrol when it was fired on by a ship in the convoy it was protecting. Returning to Brize Norton in January 1941 for the fitting of VHF and IFF, it returned to 307 Squadron a month later. The squadron moved to Colerne in Wiltshire with N1671 carrying out its first night patrol on April 8 with crew Sgts Piwko and Trawacki. No contact was made with the enemy. Further night patrols came, again with no contact, until April 26 when 307 moved to Exeter. N1671 suffered category 3 damage when it swung off the runway at Church Stanton where it had been dispersed on June 9 1941. Repaired at 46 MU at Lossiemouth, it joined the new formed 153 Squadron at Ballyhalbert in Northern Ireland. It flew just one sortie with the squadron before moving to No.285 (Anti-Aircraft Co-operation) Squadron at Wrexham. October 29 1942 saw the unit move to Honiley before N1671 was taken to No.10 MU Hullavington which was an aircraft storage unit. There it remained before a request from the Air Historical Branch of the RAF requested a Defiant aircraft of Battle of Britain vintage for museum display. After several more moves in maintenance units, the aircraft arrived at Cosford and Hendon respectively for display.
The Defiant introduced a new concept to fighter aircraft in that it carried no forward firing guns. All offensive firepower was provided by a power-operated turret aft of the pilot. 264 Squadron, who received the Defiant in December 1939, first took them into action on May 12 1940. By the 31st of the month they had shot down 65 enemy aircraft as the German pilots failed to realise just how effective the turret was. However, this glory was short-lived for, when they realised that the guns could not be bought to bear downwards, the enemy came up under the aircraft and shot into the belly. With the losses increasing alarmingly, it was decided to withdraw the Defiant from day operations and to use it in the night-fighter role.
The aircraft was transported to MAPSL in April 2009 for restoration. It was another indication of the high esteem held by the RAF Museum for the work carried out on previous museum aircraft. The aircraft was eventually returned to the RAF Museum at Hendon in January 2013 but has since been moved to Cosford.