The VICKERS WELLINGTON was a British twin-engined, long-range medium
bomber . It was designed during the mid-1930s at
The Wellington was widely used as a night bomber in the early years
of the Second World War , performing as one of the principal bombers
A larger heavy bomber aircraft designed to Specification B.1/35 , the Vickers Warwick , was developed in parallel with the Wellington; the two aircraft shared around 85% of their structural components. Many elements of the Wellington were also reused in a civil derivative, the Vickers VC.1 Viking .
* 1 Development
* 1.1 Origins * 1.2 Prototype and design revision * 1.3 Production * 1.4 Further development
* 2 Design * 3 Operational history
* 4 Variants
* 5 Operators * 6 Aircraft on display * 7 Specifications (Wellington Mark IC) * 8 In popular culture * 9 See also
* 10 References
* 10.1 Notes * 10.2 Citations * 10.3 Bibliography
* 11 External links
Wellingtons under construction, showing the geodesic airframe
In October 1932, the British
Air Ministry invited Vickers to tender
for the recently issued Specification B.9/32 , which sought a
twin-engine medium daylight bomber. In response, Vickers conducted a
design study, led by Chief Designer
Rex Pierson Early on, Vickers'
chief structures designer
Vickers studied and compared the performance of various air and liquid-cooled engines to power the bomber, including the Bristol Pegasus IS2 , Pegasus IIS2, the Armstrong Siddeley Tiger , and the Rolls-Royce Goshawk I . The Pegasus was selected as the engine for air-cooled versions of the bomber, while the Goshawk engine was chosen for the liquid-cooled engine variant. On 28 February 1933, two versions of the aircraft, one with each of the selected powerplants, were submitted to the tender. In September 1933, the Air Ministry issued a pilot contract for the Goshawk-powered version. In August 1934, Vickers proposed to use either the Pegasus or Bristol Perseus engines instead of Goshawk, which promised improvements in speed, climb rate, ceiling, and single-engine flight capabilities without any major increase in all-up weight; the Air Ministry accepted the proposed changes.
Other refinements of the design had also been implemented and
approved, such as the adoption of variable-pitch propellers , and the
use of Vickers-produced gun turrets in the nose and tail positions.
By December 1936, the specification had been revised to include front,
rear, and midship wind-protected turret mountings. Other
specification changes included modified bomb undershields and the
inclusion of spring-loaded bomb bay doors. The proposal had also been
developed further, a mid-wing arrangement was adopted instead of a
shoulder-mounted wing for greater pilot visibility during formation
flight and improved aerodynamic performance, as well as a
substantially increased overall weight of the aircraft. Design
studies were also conducted on behalf of the
Air Ministry into the
adoption of the
In spite of a traditional preference of the establishment to strictly adhere to the restrictive tare weight for the aircraft established in the tender, both Pierson and Wallis firmly believed that their design should adopt the most powerful engine available. Perhaps in response to pressure from Vickers, the Air Ministry overlooked, if not openly accepted, the removal of the tare weight restriction, as between the submission of the tender in 1933 and the flight of the first prototype in 1936, the tare weight eventually rose from 6,300lb to 11,508lb. The prescribed bomb load and range requirements were routinely revised upwards by the Air Ministry; by November 1935, figures within the Ministry were interested in the possibility of operating the aircraft at an all-up weight of 30,500lb, which aviation author C.F. Andrews stated to be "a very high figure for a medium bomber of those days".
During the development phase of the aircraft, the political and
military situations in Europe drastically transformed. With the rise
of fascist dictatorships in
PROTOTYPE AND DESIGN REVISION
In early 1936, an initial prototype, K4049, which was originally designated as a Type 271, was assembled. The prototype could accommodate a payload of nine 250lb or 500lb bombs, and both nose and tail gun positions were fitted with hand-operated turrets furnished with a single gun in each, provisions for a third retractable gun in a dorsal position were also present. It had provisions for a crew of four, along with a fifth position for performing special duties.
On 15 June 1936, K4049 conducted its maiden flight from Brooklands. Vickers chief test pilot Joseph Summers flew K4049 on its first flight, accompanied by Wallis and Trevor Westbrook. The aircraft soon came to be largely regarded as being an advanced design for its era and proved to have considerable merit during its flight trials. In April 1937, K4049 was destroyed by an accident during a service test flight. The cause was the failure of the elevator 's horn balance due to excessive slipstream exposure, leading to the aircraft inverting and rapidly descending into terrain. It was completely destroyed in the crash, which also had resulted in the death of the navigator. The horn balances would later be deleted, and thus not feature on production aircraft.
On 5 June 1936, the name Crecy was initially chosen for the type, and it was publicly displayed as such. On 15 August 1936, the aircraft was accepted for production. On 8 September 1936, the name Wellington was adopted for the type; Pierson later explained that this was due to Air Ministry nomenclature and also followed the tradition set by the Vickers Wellesley of possessing names referring back to the Duke of Wellington . On 12 December 1936, a corresponding works order was issued for the Wellington.
In addition to the prototype, refinement of the Wellington's design was influenced by the issuing of Specifications B.1/35 and B.1/35 , the latter of which had led to the parallel development of a larger bomber aircraft, the Vickers Warwick . According to Andrews, the Wellington was practically redesigned to form the first production model of the aircraft, during which extensive details attributed to the Warwick were added, such as the deepening of the fuselage, the lengthening of the nose, a reshaped horizontal tail unit, and an increased crew complement for four to five members. Other changes made included the adoption of a retractable tailwheel and constant-speed propellers ; the Air Ministry also requested the adoption of a Nash L4212 subsequently participated in an intensive flight program. Flight trials with L4212 confirmed the aerodynamic stability initially encountered by K4049, but also revealed the aircraft to be nose-heavy during dives, which was attributed to the redesigned elevator. Accordingly, modifications, including the interlinked of the flaps and the elevator trim tabs , were successfully trialled on L4212 to resolve the issue.
Wellington Mark X HE239 of No.428 Sqn. RCAF. It completed its bomb run despite losing the rear turret and then flew back home for a successful landing with its bomb bay doors stuck open due to lack of hydraulic power
In August 1936, an initial order for 180 Wellington Mk I aircraft,
powered by a pair of 1,050 hp (780 kW)
Construction took longer to build due to the geodesic fuselage in
comparison to other designs using monocoque approach, leading to
criticism of the Wellington. In particular, it was difficult to cut
holes in the fuselage for access or equipment fixtures; to aid
In October 1943, as a propaganda and morale-boosting exercise, workers at Broughton 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. Each Wellington was usually built within 60 hours. It was filmed for the Ministry of Information for a newsreel Worker's Week-End, and was broadcast in both Britain and America. It was the first time in the world that a British aircraft manufacturer had attempted such a feat with a metal aircraft of this scale.
A total of 180 Wellington Mk I aircraft were built; 150 for the RAF
and 30 for the Royal
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The Wellington Mk I was quickly superseded by several successive variants featuring various improvements. Improvements to the turrets and the strengthening of the undercarriage quickly resulted in the Wellington Mk IA. According to Andrews, the IA model bore more similarities to the later Wellington Mk II than to its Mk I predecessor. Due to armament difficulties encountered that left the Wellington with weaker than intended defenses, the Wellington Mk IB was proposed for trials, but appears to have been unbuilt. Further development of various aspects of the aircraft, such as the hydraulics and electrical systems, along with a revision of the ventral turret gun, led to the Wellington Mk IC.
In January 1938, design work on what would become the Wellington Mk II formally commenced. The principal change on this model was the adoption of the Merlin engine in place of the Pegasus XVIII; other modifications included hydraulic and oxygen system revisions along with the installation of cabin heating and an astrodome . On 3 March 1939, L4250, the prototype Mk II, performed its maiden flight; this had been delayed due to production delays of its Merlin X engines. Stability and balance issues were encountered during flight tests of the prototype, resulting in further changes such as the enlargement of the tailplane. By late 1939, the Mk II was capable of delivering superior performance to the Mk IC, such as higher cruising and top speeds, increased all-up weight or alternatively greater range, and a raised ceiling.
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The tail turret of a Wellington, 1942
The Wellington typically had a crew of five. The bomb-aimer was located within the aircraft's nose. The Wellington could be fitted with dual flight controls, and specialised dual-control conversion sets were developed for the purpose of performing training upon the type. The cockpit also contained provisions for heating and de-icing equipment, which was introduced on later models of the Wellington. The Wellington Mk I had a maximum offensive bomb load of 4,500 lb (2,000 kg), more than one-fifth of the overall aircraft's 21,000 lb (9,500 kg) all-up weight. Additional munitions and an expanded bombing capacity were a recurring change made in many of the subsequent variants of the Wellington developed during the war, including the carrying of ever-larger bombs. A crew member inside a Wellington
Defensive armaments comprised the forward and tail turret gun positions, along with a retractable revolving ventral turret. Due to the high cruising speeds of the Wellington, it had been realised that fully enclosed turrets, as opposed to semi-enclosed or exposed turrets, would be necessary; the turrets were also power-operated in order to traverse with the speed and manoeuvrability necessary to keep up with the new generations of opposing fighter aircraft. Due to the specialised nature of increasingly advanced turrets, these were treated as ancillary equipment, being designed and supplied independently and replacing Vickers' own turrets developed for the aircraft. The turrets initially used a Nash & Thompson control unit, while each position was equipped with a pair of .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns . On many Wellington variants, the Vickers-built ventral turret of the Mk I was replaced by a Nash the linen, treated with layers of dope , formed the outer skin of the aircraft. The construction proved to be compatible with significant adaptations and alterations including greater all-up weight, larger bombs, tropicalisation, and the addition of long-range fuel tanks.
The metal lattice gave the structure considerable strength, with any single stringer able to support a portion of load from the opposite side of the aircraft. Heavily damaged or destroyed beams on one side could still leave the aircraft structure viable; as a result, Wellingtons with huge areas of framework missing were often able to return home when other types would not have survived, leading to stories of the aircraft's 'invulnerability'. The effect was enhanced by the fabric skin occasionally burning off leaving the naked frames exposed. A further advantage of the geodesic construction of the wings was its enabling of a unique method for housing the fuel, with each wing containing three fuel tanks within the unobstructed space provided between the front and rear spars outboard of the engines.
A Wellington DWI Mark II HX682 of No. 1 General Reconnaissance Unit. Note the magnetic field generator to detonate naval mines at Ismailia, Egypt
On 3 September 1939, the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War,
No. 3 Group of
On 4 September 1939, less than 24 hours after the commencement of hostility, a total of 14 Wellingtons of No. 9 and No. 149 Squadrons, alongside a number of Bristol Blenheim aircraft, performed the first RAF bombing raid of the war, targeting German shipping at Brunsbüttel . The bombing of the harbour itself had not been permitted by the Chamberlain War Cabinet for fear of injuring civilians. The effectiveness of the raid was diminished by a combination of poor weather and high amounts of anti-aircraft fire. During this opening raid, a pair of Wellingtons became the first aircraft to be lost on the Western Front .
On 3 December 1939, 24 Wellingtons of No. 38, No. 115 and No. 147 Squadrons attacked the German fleet moored at Heligoland . The bombing commenced from high altitude and, while results of the bombing itself proved negligible in terms of damage, the ability of a formation of Wellingtons to adequately penetrate strongly defended hostile airspace was validated. On 14 December 1939, 12 Wellingtons of No. 99 Squadron conducted a low-level raid upon German shipping at the Schillig Roads and Wilhelmshaven . Encountering enemy fire from warships, flak , and Luftwaffe aircraft, the Wellington formation lost five aircraft, along with another that crashed near its base, while only one enemy fighter was downed.
On 18 December 1939, 24 Wellingtons of No. 9, No. 37 and No. 149 Squadrons participated in the Battle of the Heligoland Bight against the German fleet and naval bases in both the Schillig Roads and Wilhelmshaven. The Wellingtons were unable to deploy their bombs as all vessels were in harbour, thus restrictions on endangering civilians prevented their engagement. Having been alerted by radar , Luftwaffe fighter aircraft intercepted the incoming bombers near to Heligoland and continuously attacked the formation much of the way home. In total, 12 of the bombers were destroyed and a further three were badly damaged, defensive fire from the turrets downed four aircraft. Wellington GR Mk XIII showing anti-submarine radar masts
The action at Heligoland highlighted the Wellington's vulnerability to attacking fighters, possessing neither self-sealing fuel tanks nor sufficient defensive armament. In particular, while the 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 of the losses taken, the tactic of unescorted day bombing was abandoned, and Bomber Command decided to use the Wellington force to attack German communications and industrial targets instead.
Another key decision made was to switch the Wellington to night
operations; on 25 August 1940, the type participated in the first
night raid on
In one high-profile incident, a German Bf 110 night-fighter attacked
a Wellington returning from an attack on
The Wellington was also adopted by
Coastal Command , in which it
contributed to the
Battle of the Atlantic . It was used to carry out
anti-submarine duties; on 6 July 1942, a Wellington sank its first
enemy vessel. Specialised DWI variants were developed 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
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
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
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.
Scale comparison diagram of the trio of British twin-engined
medium bombers at the outbreak of the Second World War: Wellington
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
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
EXPERIMENTAL AND CONVERSION VARIANTS
Type 298 Wellington Mark II prototype one aircraft L4250; powered by
two 1,145 hp (854 kW)
A total number of 11,461 aircraft is most often quoted, notably by Andrews 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. In combination, the Wellingtons and 846 Warwicks represent over 75% of the total number of aircraft built by the Vickers-Armstrongs company.
Main article: List of Vickers Wellington operators
AIRCRAFT ON DISPLAY
Wellington IA N2980 on display at
There are two complete surviving Vickers Wellingtons preserved in the United Kingdom. Some other substantial parts also survive.
* Wellington IA serial number N2980 is on display at Brooklands
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) Bomb bay of a Wellington bomber
Data from Vickers Aircraft since 1908, The
* 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 ×
* 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 :
* 2× in nose turret * 2× in tail turret * 2× in waist positions
* 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 .
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
* ^ 4× from Mark III onwards * ^ deleted from Mark III onwards
* ^ Andrews and Morgan 1988, p. 363.
* ^ Murray 2012,
* ^ "Remembering Rex Pierson". Flight and Aircraft Engineer. LXII
(2287): 651. 21 November 1952. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
* ^ A B C D E F G Andrews 1967, p. 3.
* ^ A B C D E F Andrews 1967, p. 5.
* ^ A B C D E F Andrews 1967, p. 6.
* ^ A B Andrews 1967, pp. 5–6.
* ^ Andrews 1967, pp. 3, 5–6.
* ^ Andrews 1967, pp. 6–7.
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K Andrews 1967, p. 7.
* ^ A B C D Andrews 1967, p. 10.
* ^ Andrews 1967, pp. 7, 10.
* ^ Andrews 1967, pp. 10–11.
* ^ A B C D Andrews 1967, p. 11.
* ^ Andrews 1967, pp. 3–4.
* ^ A B C D E F G H I Andrews 1967, p. 4.
* ^ Andrews 1967, pp. 4–5.
* ^ "Building a bomber plane in just a day." BBC News Magazine, 13
* ^ "Workers weekend" "Workers weekend (video)"The National
Archives . Retrieved: 12 February 2014.
* ^ Andrews 1967, pp. 11–12.
* ^ A B Andrews 1967, pp. 12–13.
* ^ Andrews 1967, p. 12.
* ^ A B C D E F Andrews 1967, p. 13.
* ^ Andrews 1967, pp. 13, 14.
* ^ A B C D E F Andrews 1967, p. 14.
* ^ A B Richards 1953, p. 46.
* ^ Richards 1995, p. 115.
* ^ 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.
* ^ A B C D E Andrews 1967, p. 16.
* ^ Andrews 1970, pp. 44–56.
* ^ A B C D E F Simpson, Andrew. "
* Andrews, C.F. The