Bristol 142 Britain First


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Bristol 142 Britain First

In 1934 Lord Rothermere, who was then proprietor of the Daily Mail, required for his personal use a fast and spacious private aeroplane, for this aviation-minded organisation had then appreciated the potential of what is today called the business or corporate aircraft. Lord Rothermere envisaged his requirements as a fast aircraft that would accommodate a crew of two and six passengers, and it just so happened that the Bristol Aeroplane Company had already drawn up the outline of a light transport in this category.

The brain-child of Frank Barnwell, the new aeroplane had been designed originally to be powered by two 373kW Bristol Aquila I engines which were then under development. Lord Rothermere's interest in a high-speed transport resulted in Barnwell's proposal to mount a couple of 485kW Bristol Mercury VIS engines in his embryo airframe and this resulted in the Bristol Type 142. First flown at Filton on 12 April 1935, it sparked off a hubbub of comment and excitement when during its initial trials it was found to be 48km/h faster than the prototype of the most-recently procured British fighter. Named Britain First, it was presented to the nation by Lord Rothermere after the Air Ministry had requested that it might retain it for a period of testing to evaluate its potential as a light bomber. This, then, was the sire of the Bristol Blenheim, which proved an important interim weapon at the beginning of World War II. The Aquila-engined Type 143 was similar, and first flew in January 1936. Only limited testing was undertaken, performance being severely curtailed by the non-availability of variable-pitch propellers.

Bristol 142 Britain First

 MODEL142 Britain First
 ENGINE2 x 650hp Bristol Mercury VIS 2
  Take-off weight4248 kg9365 lb
  Empty weight3097 kg6828 lb
  Wingspan17.17 m56 ft 4 in
  Length12.12 m40 ft 9 in
  Height3.91 m13 ft 10 in
  Wing area43.57 m2468.98 sq ft
  Max. speed494 km/h307 mph
  Range1610 km1000 miles

Bristol 142 Britain FirstA three-view drawing (800 x 787)

George Galea, e-mail, 03.12.2016 17:25

This forgotten, privately funded & 307mph, fighter-bomber flew past recently purchased biplane fighters (at the time) by 100 mph faster and made the British Air force crap themselves! Brilliant! Nice read thanks.


Richard Brock, e-mail, 26.06.2014 23:04


I have a B&W photo-postcard from my late father's collection of what I believe to be the 'Britain First', standing on grass, 3 /4 front view. The wings are mounted near the bottom of the fuselage which I think distinguishes it from a Bristol Blenheim Mk1. I'd be happy to scan and send it if it is of interest.

Thanks for the informative article.

Best wishes


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