With some particularly challenging specification requirements the new aircraft had to satisfy and a need to develop powerful new engines, these factors combined with Bristol’s existing Blenheim production commitments would result in quite lengthy delays during the Beaufort’s early development. For an initial contract which was placed in August 1936, it would be more than two years before the prototype Beaufort took to the air, despite the RAF’s pressing need for this important new aircraft. Eventually entering Royal Air Force service with No.22 Squadron Coastal Command in January 1940, the Bristol Beaufort proved to be a rugged and highly manoeuvrable attack aircraft, even though the development of the new engines continued to be something of a problem. Initially employed on missions laying mines in enemy waters, Beauforts would later mount attacks against the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, however, in the European theatre of operations, the aircraft would mainly go on to operate as a medium bomber. In the Mediterranean, Beauforts operating from Egypt and Malta would take a terrible toll of Axis shipping and during a concerted maritime onslaught from the middle of 1942, would make a significant contribution in denying Rommel’s Afrika Korps the vital supplies they needed to continue fighting the desert war. Due to the relatively heavy weight of the Beaufort, a steep diving approach whilst launching a torpedo attack was both ineffective and could prove fatal for the aircraft’s crew. The attack run had to be effected at a relatively low, flat attitude and quite some way from the target, if the torpedo release was to be successful and not enter the water at too steep an angle. This obviously made the aircraft vulnerable to accurate defensive fire from the vessels being attacked, however, Beaufort pilots were brave and aggressive in their flying, making full use of the aircraft’s excellent manoeuvrability at low altitude to evade the attentions of enemy gunners.