Vickers Wellington

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The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R. K. Pierson. 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-engine "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. The Wellington was one of two bombers named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the other being the Vickers Wellesley. Template:TOC limit

Contents

Design and development

Wellingtons under construction showing the geodesic airframe
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
The Merlin-engined Wellington Mark II. This aircraft belongs to No. 104 Sqn. Notice the criss-cross geodesic construction through the perspex fuselage panels.
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 used a geodesic construction method, which had been devised by Barnes Wallis inspired by his work on airships, and had previously been used to build the single-engine Wellesley light bomber. The fuselage was built up from 1650 elements, consisting of aluminium alloy (duralumin) W-beams that were formed into a large framework. Wooden battens were screwed onto the aluminium, and these were covered with Irish linen, which, once treated with many layers of dope, formed the outer skin of the aircraft. The metal lattice gave the structure tremendous strength, because any one of the stringers could support some of the weight from even 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 continued to return 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).

In one case, 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 physically smothered the burning upper wing covering. He and the aircraft returned home safely, and Ward was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.<ref name="Richards Hardest p115">Richards 1995, p. 115.</ref>

The geodesic structure also gave a very strong but light structure for its large size, which gave the Wellington a load and range to power ratio advantage over similar aircraft, without sacrificing robustness or protective devices such as armour plate or self-sealing fuel tanks.Template:Citation needed

However, the construction system also had a distinct disadvantage in that it took considerably longer to build a Wellington than other designs using monocoque construction techniques. Also, it was difficult to cut holes into the fuselage to provide additional access or equipment fixtures. The Leigh light, for instance, was deployed through the mounting for the absent FN9 ventral turret. Nevertheless, in the late 1930s Vickers succeeded in building Wellingtons at a rate of one a day at Weybridge and 50 a month at the Chester factory (located at Broughton in North Wales). Peak wartime production in 1942 saw monthly rates of 70 achieved at Weybridge, 130 at Broughton and 102 at Blackpool.

The Wellington went through a total of 16 variants during its production life plus a further two training conversions after the war. The prototype serial K4049 designed to satisfy Ministry Specification B.9/32, first flew as a Type 271 (and initially named Crecy) from Brooklands on 15 June 1936 with chief test pilot Joseph Summers as pilot. After many changes to the 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 first 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-engine contemporaries, the Handley Page Hampden and the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, but ultimately outlasted them in productive service. The number of Wellingtons built totalled 11,461 of all versions, the last of which was rolled out on 13 October 1945.

Construction record

As a propaganda and morale boosting exercise, in October 1943 workers at the Vickers Broughton factory gave up their weekend to build Wellington number LN514 against the clock. The bomber was assembled in new world record time of 23 hours 50 minutes, and took off after 24 hours 48 minutes, beating the previous record of 48 hours set by an American factory in California. The bomber was usually built within 60 hours. The effort was filmed for the Ministry of Information, forming the basis of a newsreel Worker's Week-End, broadcast in Britain and America.<ref name=beeb>"Building a bomber plane in just a day." BBC News Magazine, 13 September 2010.</ref><ref>"Workers weekend." The National Archives. Retrieved: 23 September 2011.</ref>

Operational history

AClose-up of a Vickers Wellington DWI Mark II of No. 1 General Reconnaissance Unit with degaussing ring to detonate naval mines at Ismaliya, Egypt.
Wellington GR Mk XIII showing anti-submarine radar masts
A captured Vickers Wellington Mk.IC (RAF serial L7842) in service with the German Luftwaffe, probably at the test center at Rechlin, circa 1941.

The first RAF bombing attack of the war was made by Wellingtons of No. 9 and No. 149 Squadrons, along 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.<ref name="Richards v1 p46">Richards 1953, p. 46.</ref> 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-aircraft 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.

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 involvement 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 known as Ghana).

In late 1944, a radar-equipped Wellington 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.<ref name="bga">Jackson 2007, p. 217.</ref> It operated at an altitude of some Template:Convert over the North Sea to control de Havilland Mosquito fighters intercepting Heinkel He 111 bombers flying from Dutch airbases and carrying out airborne launches of the V-1 flying bomb.

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.<ref>Gilman and Clive 1978, p. 314.</ref> Template:Clearleft

Variants

Bomber variants

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 (pink) and Armstrong Whitworth Whitley (yellow).
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.<ref>Andrews 1970, pp. 44–56.</ref> 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 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

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 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

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

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.<ref name = "WV MF628 history"/> For navigation training the front turret was removed and replaced by a fairing and the interior re-equipped.<ref name = "WV MF628 history"/> 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 Maudsley 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.<ref>"Pewter Aircraft Wellington DWI page." Pewter Aircraft. Retrieved: 14 January 2008.</ref>
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

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Survivors

Wellington IA N2980 on display at Brooklands

There are two complete surviving Vickers Wellingtons with both preserved in the United Kingdom.<ref name = "WV MF628 history">Simpson, Andrew. "Vickers Wellington X MF628/9210M: Museum Accession Number 69/A/17." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 13 January 2008.</ref> Some other substantial parts also survive.<ref name = "WV MF628 history"/>

  • 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.<ref name = "VW survivor"/> 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.<ref name = "WV MF628 history"/> In March 1948 the front gun turret was removed in its conversion to a T.10 for its role as a post-war 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).<ref name = "WV MF628 history"/><ref name = "VW survivor">"Vickers Wellington X." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 13 January 2008.</ref>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)

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)

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In popular culture

The Wellington was popularly known as the Wimpy by service personnel, after J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons. A 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).

See also

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References

Notes

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Bibliography

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  • 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.</ref>
  • 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. ISBN 978-1-84425-588-7.
  • 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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