The Wellesley light bomber was the first aircraft to be built using the geodetic construction method as devised by Barnes Wallis. Despite the type setting a world long distance record in
1938 it was already being replaced by newer aircraft. Remaining in operational service overseas, by 1944 the Vickers Wellesley was coming to the end of its service.
When Specification G.4/31 was issued Vickers took the unusual route of building both a bi-plane, which the specification called for, and a monoplane, the Wellesley, version to the
specification requirements. The bi-plane version flew on the 16th August 1934 followed ten months later by the monoplane version on the 19th June 1935 and as a result an order for 96
Wellesleys was placed.
Produced to a new Specification 22/35 the first production version flew from Brooklands on the 30th January 1937 before the Royal Air Force received the type on the 18th March 1937 so the
Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment based at Martlesham Heath could conduct its customary trials on the new aircraft. The second production plane was to undergo service
trials with No. 76 Squadron based at Finningley who would go on to be the first squadron re-equipped with the Wellesley. The Mk I featured a distinctive double canopy and by the time the
Mk II was produced this had been changed into one long canopy, the armament of the Wellesley consisted of up to 1,000lb bombs or two 250lb depth charges.
Serving in both the United Kingdom and aboard by the time the Second World War began Wellesleys serving in Bomber Command had been replaced by a number of aircraft including the Vickers Wellington, although some would remain in operational use overseas until 1944 by which time they had also been replaced. The Wellesley operated in a number of roles including
anti-submarine and reconnaissance.
The Wellesley did record a major achievement during 1938 when three Mk Is broke the long distance flight record. Taking off from Ismailia, Egypt on the 5th November the route would see the three
aircraft fly non-stop for 7,159 miles to Darwin, Australia. Only two of the three would make the full distance as one had to land in Kupang, Indonesia due to low fuel. Despite this it still broke
the previous record by around 450 miles. When the other two Wellesleys arrived in Australia on the 7th November 1938, just over 48 hours after taking off, they had set a new record some 950 miles
further than the previous record.
With a total of 177 built the Wellesley may not have played a major role in the air war of World War 2 but it would be the aircraft that would introduce Barnes Wallis geodetic construction method
enabling a plane to be strong but without the associated weight.