|Wellington B Mark IA. The geodesic construction is evident through the perspex windows along the aircraft's side.|
|Manufacturer||Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd.|
|First flight||15 June 1936|
|Primary users||Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Fleet Air Arm
Polish Air Forces
|Number built||11,461 or 11,462|
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 with structure designed by Barnes Wallis, in response to specification B.9/32. Issued in the middle of 1932, this called for a twin-engined day bomber of higher performance than any previous design. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being superseded as a bomber by the larger four-engined "heavies" such as the Avro Lancaster.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 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.
A larger heavy bomber aircraft designed to specification B.1/35 in parallel with the Wellington was the Vickers Warwick; the two aircraft shared around 85% of their structural components.
- 1 Design and development
- 2 Operational history
- 3 Variants
- 4 Operators
- 5 Aircraft on display
- 6 Specifications (Wellington Mark IC)
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Sources
- 12 External links
Design and development
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.
In one incident, a German Bf 110 night-fighter attacked a Wellington returning from an attack on Münster, causing a fire at the rear of the starboard engine. Co-pilot Sergeant James Allen Ward climbed out of the fuselage, 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.
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. The construction took longer to build than other designs using monocoque construction and 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.
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 design changes, 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 9 Squadron 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 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. Shadow factories were set up to produce parts for the Wellington all over the British Isles.
Setting the assembly record
As a propaganda and morale-boosting exercise in October 1943, workers at the Broughton factory near Chester 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.
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, 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. 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 30 May 1942, 599 out of 1,046 aircraft were Wellingtons (101 of them were flown by Polish aircrews). With Bomber Command, Wellingtons flew 47,409 operations, dropped 41,823 tons (37,941 tonnes) of bombs and lost 1,332 aircraft in action.
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 intervention 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. The Wellington also served in anti-submarine duties with 26 Squadron SAAF based in Takoradi, Gold Coast (now Ghana).
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. It operated at an altitude of 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.
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.
- 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. 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.
- 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. The B.VI's high-altitude fuselage design optimised for pressurisation had a solid, bullet-like nose with no nose turret, and a cockpit with a Canberra-like bubble canopy. 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
- 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 Wellington 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 RP-3 explosive rocket rails under the wings. 841 built at Weybridge, Chester and Blackpool.
- 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.
- 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. For navigation training the front turret was removed and replaced by a fairing and the interior re-equipped. Some were sold to France and Greece.
Experimental and conversion variants
- 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.
- 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.
A total number of 11,461 aircraft is most often quoted, notably by Andrews & Morgan (1988); however, they appear to have totalled incorrectly as, using their own data, the total is 11,462. There is some question over several individual aircraft, so the actual total may be a few either side of this figure. Together with 846 Warwicks, these two aircraft represent over 75% of the total number of aircraft built by the Vickers-Armstrongs company.
- Free France
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
Aircraft on display
- 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. 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. 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). In Autumn 2010, this aircraft was taken to the RAF Museum's site at Cosford for restoration which is currently ongoing.
Specifications (Wellington Mark IC)
Data from Vickers Aircraft since 1908.
- Crew: six
- Length: 64 ft 7 in (19.69 m)
- Wingspan: 86 ft 2 in (26.27 m)
- Height: 17 ft 5 in (5.31 m)
- Wing area: 840 ft² (78.1 m²)
- Empty weight: 18,556 lb (8,435 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 28,500 lb (12,955 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Bristol Pegasus Mark XVIII radial engines, 1,050 hp (783 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 235 mph (378 km/h) at 15,500 ft (4,730 m)
- Range: 2,550 mi (2,217 nmi, 4,106 km)
- Service ceiling: 18,000 ft (5,490 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,120 ft/min (5.7 m/s)
- Wing loading: 34 lb/ft² (168 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.08 hp/lb (0.13 kW/kg)
- Guns: 6-8× .303 Browning machine guns:
- Bombs: 4,500 lb (2,041 kg) bombs
In popular culture
- Target for Tonight (1941), a documentary about a Wellington on a raid over Germany.
- Worker's Week-End (1943), a documentary newsreel about the construction of Vickers Wellington LN514 in record time.
- Nebeští jezdci ("Riders in the Sky") (1968), about a Czechoslovakian bomber crew in the RAF, based on the real operations of No. 311 Squadron RAF.
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
- Dornier Do-17
- Douglas B-18 Bolo
- Handley Page Hampden
- Heinkel He 111
- Junkers Ju-88
- North American B-25 Mitchell
- Related lists
- 4× from Mark III onwards
- deleted from Mark III onwards
- Andrews and Morgan, 1988
- Murray, 2012
- "Remembering Rex Pierson". Flight and Aircraft Engineer LXII (2287): 651. 21 November 1952. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
- Richards 1995, p. 115.
- "Building a bomber plane in just a day." BBC News Magazine, 13 September 2010.
- "Workers weekend" "Workers weekend (video)"The National Archives. Retrieved: 12 February 2014.
- Richards 1953, p. 46.
- Jackson 2007, p. 217.
- 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
- Gilman and Clive 1978, p. 314.
- Andrews 1970, pp. 44–56.
- Simpson, Andrew. "Vickers Wellington X MF628/9210M: Museum Accession Number 69/A/17." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 13 January 2008.
- "Pewter Aircraft Wellington DWI page." Pewter Aircraft. Retrieved: 14 January 2008.
- Murray, 2012, p.39
- "Vickers Wellington X." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 13 January 2008.
- Andrews and Morgan 1988, p. 340.
- Kucera, Pawel Recreating a Wimpy Aeroplane Monthly, September 2001 pp72-5
- 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, Northamptonshire: 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.
- Jackson, Robert, ed. 101 Great Bombers. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4358-3594-8.
- 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.
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