Vickers Wellington

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Wellington
Vickers Wellington.jpg
Wellington B Mark IA. The geodesic construction is evident through the perspex windows along the aircraft's side.
Role bomber, anti-submarine aircraft
Manufacturer Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd.
Designer R.K. Pierson
First flight 15 June 1936
Introduction October 1938
Retired March 1953
Primary users Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Fleet Air Arm
Polish Air Forces
Produced 1936–1945
Number built 11,461[1]
Variants Vickers Warwick
Vickers VC.1 Viking

The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engined, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, Rex Pierson in response to specification B.9/32. Issued in the middle of 1932 this called for a twin-engined day bomber of perceptibly higher performance than any previous designs. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a bomber by the larger four-engined "heavies" such as the Avro Lancaster. The Wellington continued to serve throughout the war in other duties, particularly as an anti-submarine aircraft. It was the only British bomber to be produced for the entire duration of the war, and was still first-line equipment when the war ended. The Wellington was one of two bombers named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the other being the Vickers Wellesley.

Design and development[edit]

Wellingtons under construction showing the geodesic airframe

The Wellington used geodesic construction, devised by Barnes Wallis inspired by his work on airships, and previously used to build the single-engined Wellesley light bomber. The fuselage was built from 1650 elements, consisting of aluminium alloy (duralumin) W-beams formed into a framework. Wooden battens screwed to the aluminium were covered with Irish linen, which, treated with layers of dope, formed the outer skin of the aircraft. The metal lattice gave the structure strength, because any one stringer could support some of the weight even from the opposite side of the aircraft. Blowing out one side's beams would still leave the aircraft as a whole intact; as a result, Wellingtons with huge areas of framework missing returned home when other types would not have survived; the dramatic effect was enhanced by the doped fabric skin burning off, leaving the naked frames exposed (see photo).

Wellington Mark I aircraft, with the original Vickers turrets, of the RNZAF — anticipating war, the New Zealand government loaned these aircraft and their aircrews to the RAF in August 1939

In one incident, a German Bf 110 night-fighter attacked a Wellington returning from an attack on Münster, Germany, causing a fire at the rear of the starboard engine. Co-pilot Sergeant James Allen Ward climbed out of the fuselage in flight, kicked holes in the doped fabric of the wing for foot and hand holds to reach the starboard engine, and smothered the burning upper wing covering. He and the aircraft returned home safely, and Ward was awarded the Victoria Cross.[2]

The geodesic structure was strong and light for its size, which gave the Wellington a load-and range-to-power-ratio advantage over similar aircraft, without sacrificing robustness or the protection of armour plate or self-sealing fuel tanks.[citation needed] The construction took longer to build than other designs using monocoque construction. It was difficult to cut holes in the fuselage to provide access or equipment fixtures. The Leigh light was deployed through the mounting for the absent FN9 ventral turret. Nonetheless, in the late 1930s Vickers built Wellingtons at one a day at Weybridge and 50 a month at Broughton in North Wales. Peak wartime production in 1942 saw monthly rates of 70 at Weybridge, 130 at Broughton and 102 at Blackpool.

Wellington Mark X HE239 of No.428 Sqn. RCAF, illustrating the geodesic construction and the level of punishment it could absorb while maintaining integrity and airworthiness.

The Wellington was built in 16 variants plus two training conversions after the war. The prototype serial K4049 designed to Ministry Specification B.9/32, first flew as a Type 271 (initially named Crecy) from Brooklands on 15 June 1936, with chief test pilot Joseph Summers as pilot. After many changes to design, it was accepted on 15 August 1936 for production with the name Wellington. The first model was the Wellington Mark I, powered by a pair of 1,050 hp (780 kW) Bristol Pegasus engines, of which 180 were built, 150 for the Royal Air Force and 30 for the Royal New Zealand Air Force (which were transferred to the RAF on the outbreak of war and used by 75 Squadron). The Mark I entered service with No. 9 Squadron RAF in October 1938. Improvements to the turrets resulted in 183 Mark IA Wellingtons, which equipped the RAF Bomber Command heavy bomber squadrons at the outbreak of war. The Wellington was initially outnumbered by its twin-engined contemporaries, the Handley Page Hampden and the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley but outlasted them in service. The number of Wellingtons built totalled 11,461 of all versions, the last rolled out on 13 October 1945.

Setting the Assembly Record[edit]

As a propaganda and morale-boosting exercise in October 1943, workers at the Broughton factory gave up their weekend to build Wellington number LN514 rushed by the clock. The bomber was assembled in 23 hours 50 minutes, and took off after 24 hours 48 minutes, beating the record of 48 hours set by a factory in California. The bomber was usually built within 60 hours. The effort was filmed for the Ministry of Information, for a newsreel Worker's Week-End, broadcast in Britain and America.[3][4]

Operational history[edit]

A closeup of a Vickers Wellington DWI Mark II of No. 1 General Reconnaissance Unit with degaussing ring to detonate naval mines at Ismaliya, Egypt.

The first RAF bombing attack of the war was made by Wellingtons of No. 9 and No. 149 Squadron, with Bristol Blenheims, on German shipping at Brunsbüttel on 4 September 1939. During this raid, the two Wellingtons became the first aircraft shot down on the Western Front. Numbers 9, 37 and 149 Squadrons saw action on 18 December 1939 on a mission against German shipping on the Schillig Roads and Wilhelmshaven. Luftwaffe fighters destroyed 12 of the bombers and badly damaged three others, thus highlighting the aircraft's vulnerability to attacking fighters, having neither self-sealing fuel tanks nor sufficient defensive armament. In particular, while the aircraft's nose and tail turrets protected against attacks from the front and rear, the Wellington had no defences against attacks from the beam and above, as it had not been believed that such attacks were possible owing to the high speed of aircraft involved.[5] As a consequence, Wellingtons were switched to night operations and participated in the first night raid on Berlin on 25 August 1940. In the first 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne, on 30 May 1942, 599 out of 1,046 aircraft were Wellingtons (101 of them were flown by Polish aircrew). With Bomber Command, Wellingtons flew 47,409 operations, dropped 41,823 tons (37,941 tonnes) of bombs and lost 1,332 aircraft in action.

Wellington GR Mk XIII showing anti-submarine radar masts

Coastal Command Wellingtons carried out anti-submarine duties and sank their first enemy vessel on 6 July 1942. DWI versions (see below) fitted with a 48 ft (14.63 m) diameter metal hoop were used for exploding enemy mines by generating a powerful magnetic field as it passed over them. In 1944, Wellingtons of Coastal Command were deployed to Greece, and performed various support duties during the RAF interference in the Greek Civil War. A few Wellingtons were operated by the Hellenic Air Force.

While the Wellington was superseded in the European Theatre, it remained in operational service for much of the war in the Middle East and in 1942, Wellingtons based in India became the RAF's first long-range bomber operating in the Far East. It was particularly effective with the South African Air Force in North Africa. This versatile aircraft also served in anti-submarine duties with 26 Squadron SAAF based in Takoradi, Gold Coast (now Ghana).

A captured Vickers Wellington Mk.IC (RAF serial L7842) in service with the German Luftwaffe, probably at the test center at Rechlin, circa 1941.

In late 1944, a radar-equipped Wellington XIV from 407 Sqn. RCAF was modified for use by the RAF's Fighter Interception Unit as what would now be described as an airborne early warning and control aircraft.[6] It operated at an altitude of some 4,000 ft (1,219 m) over the North Sea to control a de Havilland Mosquito and a Bristol Beaufighter fighter intercepting Heinkel He 111 bombers flying from Dutch airbases, and carrying out airborne launches of the V-1 flying bomb. The FIU operators on the Wellington would search for the He-111 aircraft climbing to launch altitude, then direct the Beaufighter to the bomber, while the Mosquito would attempt to intercept the V-1 if launched.[7]

The Wellington is listed in the appendix to the novel KG 200 as one flown by the German secret operations unit KG 200, which also tested, evaluated and sometimes clandestinely operated captured enemy aircraft during the Second World War.[8]

Variants[edit]

Bomber variants[edit]

Scale comparison diagram of the trio of British twin-engined medium bombers at the outbreak of the Second World War: Wellington (blue), Handley Page Hampden (yellow) and Armstrong Whitworth Whitley (pink).
Type 271
The first Wellington bomber prototype.
Type 285 Wellington Mark I
One pre-production prototype. Powered by two Bristol Pegasus X radial piston engines.
Type 290 Wellington Mark I
The first production version. Powered by two 1,000 hp (750 kW) Bristol Pegasus XVIII radial piston engines. Fitted with Vickers gun turrets, 183 built at Weybridge and Chester.
Type 408 Wellington Mark IA
Production version built to B Mark II specifications with provision for either Pegasus or Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, although only the two 1,000 hp (750 kW) Pegasus XVIII engines were used in practice.[9] Main landing gear moved forward 3 in (8 cm). Fitted with Nash & Thomson gun turrets. 187 built at Weybridge and Chester.
Type 416 Wellington Mark IC
The first main production variant was the Mark IC which added waist guns to the Mark IA. A total of 2,685 were produced. The Mark IC had a crew of six; a pilot, radio operator, navigator/bomb aimer, observer/nose gunner, tail gunner and waist gunner. A total of 2,685 were built at Weybridge, Chester and Blackpool.
The Merlin-engined Wellington Mark II. This aircraft belongs to No. 104 Sqn. Notice the criss-cross geodesic construction through the perspex fuselage panels.
Type 406 Wellington Mark II
The B Mark II was identical to the Mark IC with the exception of the powerplant; using the 1,145 hp (855 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin X engine instead. A total of 400 were produced at Weybridge.
Type 417 Wellington B Mark III
The next significant variant was the B Mark III which featured the 1,375 hp (1,205 kW) Bristol Hercules III or XI engine and a four-gun tail turret, instead of two-gun. A total of 1,519 Mark IIIs were built and became mainstays of Bomber Command through 1941. A total of 1,517 were built at Chester and Blackpool.
Type 424 Wellington B Mark IV
The 220 B Mark IV Wellingtons used the 1,200 hp (900 kW) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp engine and were flown by two Polish and two RAAF squadrons. A total of 220 were built at Chester.
Type 442 Wellington B Mark VI
Pressurised with a long wingspan and 1,600 hp (1,190 kW) Merlin R6SM (60-series, two-stage) engines, 63 were produced and were operated by 109 Squadron and as Gee radio navigation trainers. A total of 63 were built at Weybridge. This is the aircraft that spurred Rolls-Royce into developing the two-stage supercharged Merlin 60-series engine.
Type 440 Wellington B Mark X
The most widely produced variant of which 3,804 were built. It was similar to the Mark III except for the 1,675 hp (1,250 kW) Hercules VI or XVI powerplant and a fuselage structure of light alloy, instead of steel. The Mark X was the basis for a number of Coastal Command versions. A total of 3,803 were built at Chester and Blackpool.

Coastal Command variants[edit]

Type 429 Wellington GR Mark VIII
Mark IC conversion for Coastal Command service. Roles included reconnaissance, anti-submarine and anti-shipping attack. A Coastal Command Wimpy was the first aircraft to be fitted with the anti-submarine Leigh light. A total of 307 were built at Weybridge, 58 fitted with the Leigh Light.
Type 458 Wellington GR Mark XI
Maritime version of B Mark X with an ordinary nose turret and mast radar ASV Mark II instead of chin radome, no waist guns, 180 built at Weybridge and Blackpool.
Type 455 Wellington GR Mark XII
Maritime version of B Mark X armed with torpedoes and with a chin radome housing the ASV Mark III radar, single nose machine gun, 58 built at Weybridge and Chester.
Type 466 Wellington GR Mark XIII
Maritime version of B Mark X with an ordinary nose turret and mast radar ASV Mark II instead of chin radome, no waist guns, 844 built Weybridge and Blackpool.
Type 467 Wellington GR Mark XIV
Maritime version of B Mark X with a chin radome housing the ASV Mark III radar and added RP-3 explosive rocket rails to the wings, 841 built at Weybridge, Chester and Blackpool.

Transport variants[edit]

Wellington C Mark XV
Service conversions of the Wellington Mark IA into unarmed transport aircraft; able to carry up to 18 troops.
Wellington C Mark XVI
Service conversions of the Wellington Mark IC into unarmed transport aircraft; able to carry up to 18 troops.

Trainer variants[edit]

Type 487 Wellington T Mark XVII
Service conversions of the Wellington bomber into training aircraft with Air Intercept radar; powered by two Bristol Hercules XVII radial piston engines.
Type 490 Wellington T Mark XVIII
Production version. Powered by two Bristol Hercules XVI radial piston engines. A total of 80 were built at Blackpool, plus some conversions.
Wellington T Mark XIX
Service conversions of the Wellington Mark X used for navigation training; remained in use as a trainer until 1953.
Type 619 Wellington T Mark X
Postwar conversions of the Wellington Bomber into training aircraft by Boulton Paul in Wolverhampton.[10] For navigation training the front turret was removed and replaced by a fairing and the interior re-equipped.[10] Some were sold to France and Greece.

Experimental and conversion variants[edit]

Type 298 Wellington Mark II prototype
one aircraft L4250; powered by two 1,145 hp (854 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin inline piston engines.
Type 299 Wellington Mark III prototype
two only.
Type 410 Wellington Mark IV prototype
Serial R1220; powered by two Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp radial piston engines.
Type 416 Wellington (II)
The original Wellington II prototype was converted with the installation of a 40 mm (1.57 in) Vickers S gun in the dorsal position.
Type 418 Wellington DWI Mark I
Conversion of four Wellington Mark IAs to minesweeping aircraft. Fitted with Ford V-8 petrol engine and Mawdsley electrical generator to induce magnetic field in a 48 ft (14.63 m) diameter loop mounted under fuselage. They had a solid nose with a bracket supporting the loop, which was also supported under the rear fuselage and the wings, outboard of the engines. DWI stood for "Directional Wireless Installation" – a cover story for the true purpose of the loop.
Type 419 Wellington DWI Mark II
DWI Mark I aircraft upgraded by installation of De Havilland Gipsy engine for increased generation power. At least 11 further aircraft converted to this standard.[11]
Type 407 and Type 421 Wellington Mark V 
Second and first prototypes respectively: three were built, designed for pressurised, high-altitude operations using turbocharged Hercules VIII engines.
Wellington Mark VI
One Wellington Mark V with Merlin 60-series engines, high-altitude prototype only.
Type 449 Wellington Mark VIG
Production version of Type 431. Two aircraft were only built.
Wellington Mark VII
Single aircraft, built as a testbed for the 40 mm Vickers S gun turret.
Type 435 Wellington Mark IC
conversion of one Wellington to test Turbinlite.
Type 437 Wellington Mark IX
one Mark IC conversion for troop transport.
Type 439 Wellington Mark II
one Wellington Mark II was converted with the installation of a 40 mm Vickers S gun in the nose.
Type 443 Wellington Mark V
one Wellington was used to test the Bristol Hercules VIII engine.
Type 445 Wellington (I)
one Wellington was used to test the Whittle W2B/23 turbojet engine, the engine was fitted in the tail of the aircraft.
Type 454 and Type 459 Wellington Mark IX
prototypes with ASV Mark II, ASV Mark III radars, and powered by two Bristol Hercules VI and XVI radial piston engines.
Type 470 and Type 486 Wellington
This designation covers two Wellington Mark II aircraft fitted with the Whittle W2B and W2/700 respectively.
Type 478 Wellington Mark X
one Wellington was used to test the Bristol Hercules 100 engine.
Type 602 Wellington Mark X
one Wellington was fitted with two Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engines.
Wellington Mark III
one Wellington was used for glider tug, for glider clearance for Hadrian, Hotspur and Horsa gliders.

Operators[edit]

Survivors[edit]

Wellington IA N2980 on display at Brooklands

There are two complete surviving Vickers Wellingtons with both preserved in the United Kingdom.[10] Some other substantial parts also survive.[10]

  • Wellington IA serial number N2980 is on display at Brooklands Museum at Brooklands, Surrey. Built at Brooklands and first flown in November 1939, this aircraft took part in the RAF's daylight bombing raids on Germany early in the Second World War but later lost power during a training flight on 31 December 1940 and ditched in Loch Ness. All the occupants survived except the rear gunner, who was killed when his parachute failed to open. The aircraft was recovered from the bottom of Loch Ness in September 1985 and restored in the late 1980s and 1990s. A new Wellington exhibition around N2980 was officially opened by Robin Holmes (who led the recovery team), Penelope Keith (as trustee of Brooklands Museum), Norman Parker (who worked for Vickers) and Ken Wallis (who flew Wellingtons operationally) on 15 June 2011, the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the type's effective prototype in 1936.
  • Wellington T.10 serial number MF628 is held by the Royal Air Force Museum.[12] It was delivered to RAF No.18 MU (Maintenance Unit) for storage at RAF Tinwald Downs, Dumfries, as a Wellington B.X, on 11 May 1944.[10] In March 1948 the front gun turret was removed in its conversion to a T.10 for its role as a postwar aircrew trainer; the RAF Museum later refitted the front gun turret in keeping with its original build as a B.X (wartime mark numbers used Roman numerals, Arabic numerals were adopted postwar).[10][12] In Autumn 2010, this aircraft was taken to the RAF Museum's site at Cosford for restoration over the next four or five years.

Specifications (Wellington Mark IC)[edit]

Orthographic projection of the Wellington Mark Ia, with profile views of Mark I (Vickers turrets), Mark II (Merlin engines), Mark III (Hercules engines, 4-gun tail turret), GR Mark VIII (maritime Mark Ic, metric radar) and GR Mark XIV (maritime Mark X, centimetric radar)

Data from Vickers Aircraft since 1908 [13]

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

In popular culture[edit]

The Wellington was popularly known as the Wimpy by service personnel, after the portly J. Wellington Wimpy character from the Popeye cartoons. Wellington "F for Freddie" appeared in the film Target for Tonight in 1941 and Wellington "B for Bertie" had a starring role in the 1942 Oscar-nominated Powell and Pressburger film One of Our Aircraft Is Missing. James Robertson Justice is sucked out of a hole in the fuselage of a Wellington in Very Important Person (1961) and Terence Rattigan's play Flare Path focuses on the crew of a Wellington before, during and after a bombing raid. The record construction of Vickers Wellington LN514 was documented in the 1943 Worker's Week-End newsreel, and in the 2010 Wellington Bomber documentary. TV Miniseries The Winds of War features the plane during the first raid on Berlin in its fourth episode.

See also[edit]

1942 Ruislip Wellington accident, Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Page 40 of 101 Great Bombers By Robert Jackson
  2. ^ Richards 1995, p. 115.
  3. ^ "Building a bomber plane in just a day." BBC News Magazine, 13 September 2010.
  4. ^ "Workers weekend" "Workers weekend (video)"The National Archives. Retrieved: 12 February 2014.
  5. ^ Richards 1953, p. 46.
  6. ^ Jackson 2007, p. 217.
  7. ^ R.H. Hamilton in Perkins, L.W., ed., Flight into Yesterday - A Memory or Two from Members of the Wartime Aircrew Club of Kelowna, L.P. Laserprint, Ltd., Kelowna, B.C., 2000, and 407 Squadron History 1941-1996 - a Narrative History, 407 Squadron, 1996
  8. ^ Gilman and Clive 1978, p. 314.
  9. ^ Andrews 1970, pp. 44–56.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Simpson, Andrew. "Vickers Wellington X MF628/9210M: Museum Accession Number 69/A/17." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 13 January 2008.
  11. ^ "Pewter Aircraft Wellington DWI page." Pewter Aircraft. Retrieved: 14 January 2008.
  12. ^ a b "Vickers Wellington X." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 13 January 2008.
  13. ^ Andrews and Morgan 1988, p. 340.
  14. ^ 4× from Mark III onwards
  15. ^ deleted from Mark III onwards

Bibliography[edit]

  • Andrews, C.F. The Vickers Wellington I & II (Aircraft in Profile 125). Leatherhead, Surrey: Profile Publications Ltd., 1970, First edition 1967. No ISBN.
  • Andrews, C.F and E.B. Morgan. Vickers Aircraft since 1908. London: Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-815-1.
  • Bowman, Martin. Wellington, The Geodetic Giant. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1989. ISBN 1-85310-076-5.
  • Bowyer, Chaz. Wellington at War. Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7110-1220-2.
  • Bowyer, Chaz. Wellington Bomber. London: William Kimber & Co Ltd., 1986. ISBN 0-7183-0619-8.
  • Cooksley, Peter G. Wellington, Mainstay of Bomber Command. Wellingborough, Northhamptonshire: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1987. ISBN 0-85059-851-6.
  • Crosby, Francis. The World Encyclopedia of Bombers. London: Anness Publishing Ltd., 2007. ISBN 1-84477-511-9.
  • Delve, Ken. Vickers Armstrong Wellington. Ramsbury, Wiltshire, UK: The Crowood Press Ltd., 1998. ISBN 1-86126-109-8.
  • Flintham, V. Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present. New York: Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 0-8160-2356-5.
  • Gilman J.D. and J. Clive. KG 200. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1978. ISBN 0-85177-819-4.
  • Hall, Alan W. Vickers Wellington, Warpaint Series No. 10. Husborne Crawley, Berfordshire: Hall Park Books Ltd., 1997. No ISBN.
  • Jackson, Robert. Britain's Greatest Aircraft. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2007. ISBN 978-1-84415-383-1.
  • Lihou, Maurice. Out of the Italian Night: Wellington Bomber Operations 1944-45. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84037-405-5.
  • Lumsden, Alec. Wellington Special. Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Ltd., 1974. ISBN 0-7110-0527-3.
  • Mackay, Ron. Wellington in Action, Aircraft Number 76. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-89747-183-0.
  • Murray, Dr. Iain Bouncing-Bomb Man: The Science of Sir Barnes Wallis. Haynes, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84425-588-7.
  • Murray, Dr. Iain Vickers Wellington Manual. Haynes, 2012. ISBN 978-0-85733-230-1.
  • Ovčáčík, Michal and Karel Susa. Vickers-Armstrongs Wellington Medium Bomber variants. Prague, Czech Republic: 4+ Publications, 2003. ISBN 80-902559-7-3.
  • Richards, Denis. The Hardest Victory: RAF Bomber Command in the Second World War. London: Coronet Books, 1995. ISBN 0-340-61720-9.
  • Richards, Denis. Royal Air Force 1939–1945: Volume I The Fight at Odds. London: HMSO, 1953.
  • Tarring, Trevor and Mark Joseland. Archie Frazer-Nash .. Engineer. London: The Frazer Nash Archives, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9570351-0-2.

External links[edit]