Rolls-Royce Welland

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Welland183- (1).JPG
A Rolls-Royce Welland restored by Aero Engines Carlisle, exhibited in Solway Aviation Museum
Type Turbojet
Manufacturer Rolls-Royce
First run 1942
Major applications Gloster Meteor
Number built 167

The Rolls-Royce RB.23 Welland was Britain's first production jet engine.[1] It entered production in 1943 for use on the Gloster Meteor. The name Welland is taken from the River Welland, in keeping with Rolls' naming of jet engines based on the smooth flow of air not unlike water in a river.

The engine was originally developed Frank Whittle's team at Power Jets and known as the W.2, Whittle's second design and the first intended for eventual production. Power Jets was working with Rover who referred to it as the W.2B/23. The relationship between the companies was strained due to Rover's inability to deliver working parts, and broke when Whittle learned that a team of Rover engineers had designed their own version, the W.2B/26. Fed up with Whittle, Rover handed the project to Rolls-Royce, where Stanley Hooker joined the team from Rolls' supercharger division. Hooker's experience in turbocompressor design, along with improved metals and combustion systems, put the engine back on track and it soon entered production.

The Welland was used only for a short time. Hooker continued development of the W.2B/26, which featured a greatly simplified layout. This soon entered production as the Rolls-Royce Derwent at improved power settings, and Welland-equipped Meteors were either reengined or retired.

Design and development[edit]

Demonstration run of the Welland by Terry Jones. This example is the oldest working jet engine in the world (restored by Aero Engines Carlisle)

The W.2 was basically a larger version of Whittle's original flying design, the Whittle Supercharger Type W.1, or simply W.1, which flew in 1941 in the Gloster E. 28/39 experimental testbed aircraft. The engines used a single double-sided centrifugal compressor, or impeller, with the compressed air being taken off at several ports around the extreme outer edge of the compressor disk. They both used Whittle's "reverse flow" design, in which the flame cans (combustion chambers) were placed around the turbine to produce a shorter engine. This required the heated air to flow forward before reversing its direction to pass through the single-stage axial-flow turbine. For the W.2, the impeller was 19 inches (480 mm) in diameter and there were ten flame cans. Air was bled from the compressor and fed into the inner portion of the turbine for cooling. The entire engine weighed about 850 pounds (390 kilograms).

Problems and first flight test[edit]

The first examples produced by Rover had serious problems with "surging", in which the speed of the engine would suddenly increase out of control. Maurice Wilks eventually delivered a solution, by adding a set of 20-vane diffusers to the exhaust area. This solved the surging, but they now found that they had serious problems with the turbines failing, due to heat. J.P. Herriot of the Air Inspection Department (A.I.D.) was sent to Rover to provide improved turbine materials, and soon the engine achieved a 25-hour test at 1,250 lbf (5.6 kN) in November 1942. Meanwhile, the prototype Gloster F.9/40, soon to be known as the Meteor, was ready for flight, although the engines were not. Taxi tests were started by test pilot Jerry Sayer while the flight-quality engines waited. A real flight-test of the engine itself took place on 9 August 1942, fitted in the tail of a Vickers Wellington bomber.[1]

Rover/Rolls-Royce Deal[edit]

Whittle was constantly frustrated by Rover. He thought that there was an inability to deliver production-quality parts, and became increasingly vocal about his complaints. Whittle accused Rover of "tampering" with the design of the engine in order to avoid patent fees and enable Rover to claim the design as their own, whilst Rover's development work was proceeding at a slow pace. Rover was losing interest in the project after the delays and constant harassment from Whittle. Earlier, in 1940, Stanley Hooker of Rolls-Royce had met Whittle, and later introduced him to Rolls' CEO, Ernest Hives. Rolls had a fully developed supercharger division, which Hooker directed, which was naturally suited to jet engine work. Hives agreed to supply key parts to help the project along. Eventually, in early 1943, Spencer Wilks of Rover met Hives and Hooker for a dinner at the Swan & Royal Hotel, Clitheroe, and decided to trade the jet factory at Barnoldswick for Rolls' Meteor tank engine factory in Nottingham. A handshake sealed the deal.

Rover handed over a total of 32 W.2B/23 engines to Rolls-Royce as well as four "straight-through" W.2B/26 engines, developed by Rover's Adrian Lombard. Rolls-Royce named their engines, and the continuous flow of air through the jets inspired Hooker[citation needed] to name them after the flow of British rivers. The W.2B/23 became the RB.23 Welland (RB standing for Rolls Barnoldswick), and the W.2B/26 became the RB.26 Derwent. Adrian Lombard moved with the engines from Rover to Rolls-Royce. Stanley Hooker helped in the task of ironing out the remaining problems, and things soon improved. A flight-quality /23 was fitted to a Gloster G.40, an updated version of the E.28 that had flown the W.1, and was flown by John Grierson on 1 March 1943. Starting in April, the ratings had been improved to 1,526 lbf (6.79 kN) thrust, and passed a run at 1,600 lbf (7.1 kN) on 7 May 1943. The prototype F.9/40 was finally fitted with 1,700 lbf (7.6 kN) engines and was flown by Michael Daunt on 24 July 1943.

Meteor testing[edit]

Two Wellands were installed in the first production Meteor Mk.1,[1] Serial number EE210/G, (the "/G" signifying "Guard", meaning that the aircraft was to have an armed guard at all times while on the ground) which was test flown by Daunt on 12 January 1944. This Meteor was then sent to the US in exchange for a General Electric J31 (Power Jets W.1) powered Bell XP-59A Airacomet, RG362/G. The Meteor was first flown at Muroc Army Airfield by John Grierson on 15 April. Several test flights followed, and by December it had been shipped back to the UK. Production of the Meteor continued, with EF211 to 229 and 230 through 244 entering service No. 616 Squadron RAF in May 1944. The Wellands were rated at 1,600 lbf (7.1 kN), with 180 hours between overhauls. The Jumo 004B, which entering service only a few weeks earlier, was rated at 1,984 lbf (8.83 kN), but required overhaul after 10–20 hours. Flying from RAF Manston, near the English Channel, the 616 first saw action against the V-1 flying bombs en route to London on 27 July 1944.


From October 1943 a total of 167 Wellands were dispatched from the Rolls-Royce facility at Barnoldswick. By this point, Adrian Lombard's straight-through design, which became the Rolls-Royce Derwent, had proved to be both more reliable and somewhat more powerful, and production of the Welland ended.

Specifications (Welland)[edit]

An example of the engine with parts cut away to show its workings

Data from [2]

General characteristics

  • Type: Centrifugal compressor turbojet
  • Length: 62 in (1,574.8 mm)
  • Diameter: 43 in (1,092.2 mm)
  • Dry weight: 850 lb (385.6 kg)


  • Compressor: Single-stage double-sided centrifugal
  • Combustors: 10 reverse-flow can
  • Turbine: Single-stage axial
  • Fuel type: Kerosene (R.D.E.F./F/KER)
  • Oil system: pressure feed, dry sump with scavenge cooling and filtration, oil grade 40 S.U. secs (3.4 cs) (Intavia 7105) at 38 °C


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Janes 1989, p.268.
  2. ^ Wilkinson, Paul H. (1945). Aircraft Engines of the world 1945. New York: Paul H. Wilkinson. pp. 292–293. 


  • Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London. Studio Editions Ltd, 1989. ISBN 0-517-67964-7
  • Kay, Anthony L. (2007). Turbojet History and Development 1930-1960 1 (1st ed.). Ramsbury: The Crowood Press. ISBN 978-1-86126-912-6. 
  • Wilkinson, Paul H. (1945). Aircraft Engines of the world 1945. New York: Paul H. Wilkinson. pp. 292–293. 

External links[edit]