Intended as a twin-engined bomber the Warwick was beset with engine problems and would never enter service in large numbers in its intended role. Instead it would be used by British Overseas Airways
Corporation and by RAF Transport Command and just under 850 Vickers Warwick aircraft were produced.
Issued in January 1935 Air Ministry Specification B.1/35 called for a twin-engined heavy bomber which had a range of 2,000 miles with a bomb load of 2,000lb and could cruise at 15,000ft at 195mph
and have a wing span of 100ft or less so it could be accommodated in a standard Royal Air Force hangar. Vickers response to this was the Type 284, which would become known as the Warwick, and was
a heavy bomber design based on another Vickers aircraft the Wellington.
Originally the Warwick was to be powered by a pair of Bristol Hercules engines but by now the Avro Manchester, designed for Specification P.13/16, was under development with the new Rolls-Royce
Vulture engine as its intended powerplant. The Warwick would be compared to the Avro design and a modified Specification B.1/35 was issued allowing one aircraft to be fitted with the Vulture whilst
another would have Napier Sabre engines.
The first of the Warwick prototypes to fly was the Rolls-Royce Vulture powered example which flew from Brooklands on the 13th August 1939 with J 'Mutt' Summers at the controls. Due to the
Rolls-Royce Vulture having development problems which eventually lead to the engine being cancelled this variant was a non-starter, and would also effect the Manchester. The second prototype would
also suffer engine woes as the Napier Sabre was now being given to Hawker Typhoon production only. This would
see the Warwick go full circle and be powered by a Bristol engine, this time the Centaurus.
Once again J Summers was at the controls when the Centaurus powered prototype made its maiden flight on the 5th April 1940, however deliveries of this engine saw delays so the Warwick needed its
fourth change of engine, Despite all these delays in its development two orders were placed on the 28th December 1940. The first was for 150 Mk Is to be powered by the Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine
whilst the second was for 100 Mk IIs powered by the Centaurus. The Double Wasp R-2800-S1C4G would power the prototype and this would fly for the first time during July 1941. Once again a lack of
engines would blight the program and only 16 B.Mk Is were produced whilst only a prototype B.Mk II appeared.
It had been intended for the Warwick to serve with the Wellington but by the time the first production Warwick B.Mk I flew on the 1st April 1942 all three of Bomber Command's four-engined heavy
bombers the Avro Lancaster, Handley Page Halifax
and Short Stirling were in service. This would mean the type was no longer needed in its original role of bomber and this would see the Warwick moved to the air-sea rescue role in January 1943.
The Warwicks which served as air-sea rescue aircraft were converted from its bomber design and would be known as ASR Is and there would be three different stage aircraft. Early ASR Is which had
Lindholme rescue equipment and a Mk I lifeboat, normally carried underneath the fuselage, were known as Stage A aircraft. Later types were known as Stage B and had a Frazer-Nash turret installed
in the tail and if required fitted with Air-to-Surface Vessel radar. The final version of the 275 ASR Is were Stage C aircraft and could hold the most amount of equipment.
The Warwick would also find a role serving with British Overseas Airways Corporation when 14 were ordered during 1942. The modifications to the aircraft to serve in this role would see all military
equipment, nose and tail turrets removed. Power would be supplied by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp R-2800s and these aircraft were designated C.I. The new type would make its first flight
on the 5th February 1943 before undergoing testing at Boscombe Down before entering service in the Middle East with BOAC until 1944. Then they would be transferred to No. 167 Squadron, RAF Holmsley
South to serve with Transport Command.
The transport version of the Warwick underwent more development leading to the Mk III, of which 100 were built. Essentially a C.I this version had a large cargo pannier fitted underneath the
fuselage and could be configured in a number of different ways. When carrying cargo upto 6,710lb could be transported. In passenger configuration 8-10 VIPs could be transported or 24 men and equipment.
These Mk IIIs would also serve with Transport Command and would stay in service until 1946.
During 1943 a supply of Bristol Centaurus engines became available and this would lead to the creation of a general-reconnaissance version known as the GR.II. Powered by the 2,500-hp VI engine and
with armament consisting of six 0.303-in machine-guns in the nose, one in the dorsal turret and the tail turret would have four and able to carry upto 12,250lb bombs. In total 133 would be
produced and these would serve in the Middle and Far East as part of Coastal Command.
The final Warwick variant was the GR.V which made its maiden flight in April 1944 from Brooklands, this was followed by service trails at Hullavington. Based on the GR.II the V featured a change to
its armament which would see the dorsal turret replaced by beam guns. Also fitted was a Leigh Light housed alongside a radar scanner beneath the nose of the aircraft. A total of 212 would be
produced. The first of these reached No. 179 Squadron based at RAF St Eval on the 22nd November 1944. Only one other squadron operated the GR.V, No. 621 Squadron, before the Second World War (1939 - 1945)
In total 843 Vickers Warwick aircraft were built.