Vickers Vimy

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Vickers Vimy.jpg
Role Heavy bomber
Manufacturer Vickers Limited
Designer Reginald Kirshaw Pierson
First flight 30 November 1917
Introduction 1919
Retired 1933
Primary user Royal Air Force
Variants Vickers Vernon

The Vickers Vimy was a British heavy bomber aircraft developed and manufactured by Vickers Limited. Developed during the latter stages of the First World War to equip the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Vimy was designed by Reginald Kirshaw "Rex" Pierson, Vicker's chief designer.

The Vimy achieved success as both a military and civil aircraft. Only a handful of aircraft had entered service by the time that the Armistice of 11 November 1918 came into effect, thus the type was not used in active combat operations during the war. During the interwar period, the Vimy set several notable records for long-distance flights; perhaps the most celebrated and significant of these was the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, which was performed by Alcock and Brown in June 1919. The type continued to be operated after the conflict as late as the 1930s in both military and civil capacities.

Design and development[edit]

Vickers F.B.27 Vimy side view

Reginald Kirshaw "Rex" Pierson, chief designer of Vickers Limited (Aviation Department) in Leighton Buzzard, designed a twin-engine biplane bomber, the Vickers F.B.27 to meet a requirement for a night bomber capable of attacking targets in Germany, a contract being placed for three prototypes on 14 August 1917.[1] Design and production of the prototypes was extremely rapid, with the first flying on 30 November 1917,[2] powered by two 200 hp (150 kW) Hispano Suiza engines. It was named after the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Owing to engine supply difficulties, the prototype Vimys were tested with a number of different engine types, including Sunbeam Maoris, Salmson 9Zm water-cooled radials, and Fiat A.12bis engines, before production orders were placed for aircraft powered by the 230 hp (170 kW) BHP Puma, 400 hp (300 kW) Fiat, 400 hp (300 kW) Liberty L-12 and the 360 hp (270 kW) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines, with a total of 776 ordered before the end of the First World War. Of these, only aircraft powered by the Eagle engine, known as the Vimy IV, were delivered to the RAF.[3] Total Vimy production was 239 aeroplanes of which 134 were built at Brooklands.

Operational history[edit]

RAF service[edit]

By October 1918, only three aircraft had been delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF), one of which had been deployed to France for use by the Independent Air Force. The war ended, however, before it could be used on operations.[4] The Vimy only reached full service status in July 1919 when it entered service with 58 Squadron in Egypt.[5] The aircraft formed the main heavy bomber force of the RAF for much of the 1920s. The Vimy served as a front line bomber in the Middle East and in the United Kingdom from 1919 until 1925, when it was replaced by the Vickers Virginia, but continued to equip a Special Reserve bomber squadron, 502 Squadron at Aldergrove in Northern Ireland until 1929.[6] The Vimy continued in use as a training aircraft, many being re-engined with Bristol Jupiter or Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar radial engines. The final Vimys, used as Target aircraft for searchlight crews, remained in use until 1938.[7]

Long-distance flights[edit]

The Vimy was used in many pioneering flights.

Alcock and Brown's crashed Vimy at Clifden, Ireland on 15 June 1919
(L-R) Lt Col van Ryneveld with First Lt Quintin Brand, February 1920, in front of Vickers Vimy Silver Queen, before their England to South Africa flight

Vimy Commercial[edit]

Vickers Vimy Commercial
Vickers Vimy Commercial

The Vimy Commercial was a civilian version with a larger-diameter fuselage (largely of spruce plywood), which was developed at and first flew from the Joyce Green airfield in Kent on 13 April 1919. Initially, it bore the interim civil registration K-107,[11] later being re-registered as G-EAAV.[9]

The prototype entered the 1920 race to Cape Town; it left Brooklands on 24 January 1920 but crashed at Tabora, Tanganyika on 27 February.[9]

A Chinese order for 100 is particularly noteworthy; forty of the forty-three built were delivered to China, but most remained in their crates unused; only seven were put into civilian use.

Fifty-five military transport versions of the Vimy Commercial were built for the RAF as the Vickers Vernon.[12]

Role in the Second Zhili-Fengtian War[edit]

After the First Zhili-Fengtian War, 20 aircraft were secretly converted into bombers under the order of the Zhili clique warlord Cao Kun, and later participated in the Second Zhili-Fengtian War.[13]

During the Second Zhili-Fengtian War, these bomber versions of the Vimy Commercial were initially highly successful due to the low-level bombing tactics used, with the air force chief-of-staff of the Zhili clique, General Zhao Buli (趙步壢) personally flying many of the missions. However, on 17 September, returning from a successful bombing mission outside Shanhai Pass, General Zhao's bomber was hit by ground fire from the Fengtian clique in the region of Nine Gates (Jiumenkou, 九門口) and had to make a forced landing. Although General Zhao was able to make a successful escape back to his base, the bombers subsequently flew at much higher altitude to avoid ground fire, which greatly reduced their bombing accuracy and effectiveness.[13]

After numerous battles between Chinese warlords, all of the aircraft fell into the hands of the Fengtian clique, forming its First Heavy Bomber Group.[13] These bombers were in the process of being phased out at the time of the Mukden Incident and therefore were subsequently captured by the Japanese, who soon disposed of them.

Vimy replicas[edit]

Vickers Vimy replica NX71MY, 2005

Apart from a replica transatlantic Vimy cockpit section built by Vickers for the London Science Museum in the early 1920s, three full-size replicas have also been built. The first was a taxiable replica commissioned by British Lion Films from Shawcraft Models Ltd of Iver Heath, Bucks; the planned film about Alcock & Brown's transatlantic flight was never made, but the model was completed and paid for. Its fate remains a mystery[14] although it appeared on static display at the Battle of Britain air display at RAF Biggin Hill in 1955 and may have been subsequently stored dismantled in East London until at least the late 1980s.

In 1969, an airworthy Vimy replica (registered G-AWAU) was built by the Vintage Aircraft Flying Association at Brooklands (this aircraft was first flown by D G 'Dizzy' Addicott and Peter Hoare but was badly damaged by fire that summer and was displayed until February 2014 at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London).[15][16] It is currently stored dismantled by the RAF Museum in Stafford.[15]

A second flyable Vimy replica, NX71MY, was built in 1994 by an Australian-American team led by Lang Kidby and Peter McMillan, and this aircraft successfully recreated the three great pioneering Vimy flights: England to Australia flown by Lang Kidby and Peter McMillan (in 1994),[17] England to South Africa flown by Mark Rebholz and John LaNoue (1999) and in 2005, Alcock and Brown's 1919 Atlantic crossing was recreated, flown by Steve Fossett and Mark Rebholz. The aircraft was donated to Brooklands Museum in 2006 and was kept airworthy in order to commemorate the 90th anniversaries of the Transatlantic and Australian flights until retired in late 2009. Its final flight was made by John Dodd, Clive Edwards and Peter McMillan from Dunsfold to Brooklands on 15 November 2009 and four days later, in just 18 hours, the aircraft was dismantled, transported the short distance to the Museum and reassembled inside the main hangar by a dedicated volunteer team. Two days later a special Brooklands Vimy Exhibition was officially opened by Peter McMillan, and this unique aircraft is now on public display there.


Vickers Vimy 3-view.svg
F.B.27 Vimy
Prototypes; four built, powered by two 200 hp (150 kW) Hispano-Suiza 8 piston engines..
F.B.27A Vimy II
Twin-engine heavy bomber aircraft for the RAF, powered by two 360 hp (270 kW) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII piston engines.
Vimy Ambulance
Air ambulance version for the RAF.
Vimy Commercial
Civilian transport version, powered by two 360 hp (270 kW) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII piston engines.
A.N.F. 'Express Les Mureaux'
Vimy Commercial No.42 re-engined with 2x 370 hp (280 kW) Lorraine 12Da V-12 engines.


Military operators[edit]

NIVO-painted Vickers Vimy F8614 at the RAF Museum London
 United Kingdom

Civil operators[edit]

  • The Government of China (Vimy Commercial).
 Soviet Union
  • One aircraft.
  • The Government of Spain (Vimy).
 United Kingdom

Specifications (Vimy)[edit]

Data from[citation needed]

General characteristics



See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era



  1. ^ Jarrett 1992, p. 9.
  2. ^ Mason 1994, p. 95.
  3. ^ Mason 1994, p. 96.
  4. ^ Thetford 1992, p. 32.
  5. ^ Andrews and Morgan 1988, p. 90.
  6. ^ Mason 1994, p. 98.
  7. ^ Andrews and Morgan 1988, p. 93.
  8. ^ Jackson 1988, p. 201.
  9. ^ a b c d Jackson 1988, p. 202.
  10. ^ "Vickers Vimy." Discover Collections: State Library of NSW. Retrieved: 4 December 2012.
  11. ^ Andrews and Morgan 1988, p. 95.
  12. ^ "The Vickers "Vimy-Commercial" Biplane." Flight, Volume XI, Issue 29, Np. 551, 17 July 1919, pp. 936–941. Retrieved: 12 January 2011.
  13. ^ a b c "我國最早航運機隊主力 -商用維美運輸機"(Vickers Vimy Commercial in Chinese language) Retrieved: 15 March 2008.
  14. ^ Aeroplane magazine, May 2010
  15. ^ a b "Vickers Vimy replica due to leave RAF Museum". Pilot. 21 February 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  16. ^ Jackson 1988, p. 203.
  17. ^ McMillan 1995, pp. 4–43.


  • Andrews, C.F. and Eric B. Morgan. Vickers Aircraft since 1908, Second edition. London: Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-815-1.
  • Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft 1919-1972: Volume III. London: Putnam, revised second edition, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-818-6.
  • Jarrett, Philip. "By Day and By Night: Part Six." Aeroplane Monthly Volume 20, No. 11, November 1992, pp. 8–14. London: IPC.
  • Mason, Francis K. The British Bomber Since 1914. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1994. ISBN 0-85177-861-5.
  • McMillan, Peter. "The Vimy Flies Again" National Geographic, Volume 187, No. 5, May 1995, pp. 4–43.
  • Thetford, Owen. "By Day and By Night: Part Seven." Aeroplane Monthly, Volume 20, No. 12, December 1992, pp. 30–38. London: IPC.
  • Winchester, Jim, ed. "Vickers Vimy." Biplanes, Triplanes and Seaplanes (Aviation Factfile). London: Grange Books plc, 2004. ISBN 1-84013-641-3.

External links[edit]