Vickers Wellington

Vickers Wellington

Twin-engined medium bomber of geodetic construction. It was the main British bomber during the first part of WWII, but the RAF was soon forced to abandon daylight attacks because of its vulnerability. The Wellington was in production until the end of the war. After its replacement in Bomber Command by the new four-engined bombers it was flown on numerous other duties, and some were used until the 1950s. The Mk.X introduced a fuselage structure of light alloy, instead of steel. There were also prototypes and a small production series (about 60) of the Mk.V and Mk.VI, with early cabin pressurisation systems, which did not enter service. 11461 Wellingtons were built, with Pegasus, Hercules, Merlin or Twin Wasp engines.

The Vickers Wellington was a twin-engine, medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R.K. Pierson. It was widely used in the first two years of World War II, before being replaced as a bomber by much larger four-engine designs like the Avro Lancaster. The Wellington was popularly known as 'the Wimpy' by service personnel, after J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons.

Type: Wellington Mk.IC
Function: bomber
Year: 1937
Crew: 6
Engines: 2 * 1050hp (780 kW) Bristol Pegasus XVIII radial
Wing Span: 26.26 m
Length: 19.68 m
Height: 5.33 m
Wing Area: 69.7 m²
Empty Weight: 8417 kg
Max.Weight: 11703 kg
Wing loading: 168 kg/m²
Speed: 410 km/h
Ceiling: 6710 m
Range: 2900 km (other sources claim 3540 km)
Armament: 8*mg 7.7mm (2 in nose turret, 4 in tail turret, 2 in waist positions), 2040 kg bombs

Type: Wellington B Mk.III
Function: bomber
Crew: 6
Engines: 2 * 1500hp Bristol Hercules XI
Wing Span: 26.26m
Length: 18.54m
Height: 5.31m
Wing Area: 78.04 m2
Empty Weight: 8471 kg
Max.Weight: 13381 kg
Speed: 410 km/h (at 3810m)
Ceiling: 5790 m
Armament: 8*mg 7.7mm, 2014 kg payload

Type: Wellington B Mk.X
Function: bomber
Year: 1943
Crew: 6
Engines: 2 * 1675hp Bristol Hercules XVI
Wing Span: 26.30m
Length: 19.76m
Height: 5.33m
Wing Area: 78 m2
Empty Weight: 10194 kg
Max.Weight: 16556 kg
Speed: 410 km/h (at 3810m)
Ceiling: 6700 m
Armament: 8*mg 7.7mm, 1814 kg payload

Design and deployment

The Vickers Wellington used a unique geodetic construction designed by the famous Barnes Wallis for airships and was also used to build the single-engined Vickers Wellesley bomber. The fuselage was built up from a number of steel channel-beams that were formed into a large network. This gave the plane tremendous strength because any one of the stringers could support some of the weight from even the opposite side of the plane. Blowing out one side's beams would still leave the plane as a whole intact. Wellingtons with huge holes cut out of them continued to return home, when other planes probably would not have survived.

The construction system also had a distinct disadvantage, in that it took considerably longer to complete a Wellington than for other designs using monocoque construction techniques. Nevertheless, in the late 1930s Vickers succeeded in building Wellingtons at a rate of one per day at Weybridge and 50 per month at Chester. Peak wartime production in 1942 saw monthly rates of 70 achieved at Weybridge, 130 at Chester and 102 at Blackpool.

The Wellington went through a total of sixteen 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 from Brooklands on 15 June 1936. 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 Mk I, powered a pair of 1,050 hp Bristol Pegasus engines, of which 180 were built, 150 for the Royal Air Force and 30 for the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The Mk I first entered service with No. 9 Squadron RAF in October 1938. Improvements to the turrets resulted in 183 Mk IA Wellingtons and this complement of aircraft equipped the RAF Bomber Command heavy bomber squadrons at the outbreak of war.

The Wellington was out-numbered by its twin-engined contemporaries, the Handley Page Hampden and the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, but would ultimately outlast them in productive service. 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 BrunsbŁttel on September 4, 1939. During this raid, the two Wellingtons became the first aircraft shot down on the Western Front. Wellingtons also participated in the first night raid on Berlin on 25 August 1940. With Bomber Command, Wellingtons flew 47,409 operations, dropped 41,823 tons of bombs and lost 1,332 aircraft in action.

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