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Vickers Wellington

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Nicknamed the Wimpy the twin-engined Wellington would provide the backbone of Bomber Command during the first few years of the Second World War. With the introduction of the four-engined heavy bombers the Vickers Wellington would start to be replaced. Coastal Command would also use the type and post-war service saw it used for training.

Quick Facts
Vickers Wellington side profile image
First flight
15th June 1936
Entered service
10th October 1938
Total built

Front view
Sorry, no view photo available
Side view
Sorry, no view photo available
Rear view
Sorry, no view photo available

During September 1932 the Air Ministry issued Specification B.9/32 which required an aircraft with a range of 720 miles and a bomb load of 1,000lb. Vickers design, initially known as the 271 would compete with Handley Page's H.P. 52 design, which would also be ordered into production as the Hampden. Vickers entry would be built using the geodetic construction method, which had first been used on the Vickers Wellesley, power would be supplied by a pair of Rolls-Royce Goshawk engines. This enabled a range of 2,800 miles and a bomb load of 4,500lb.

The prototype Wellington was ready by May 1936 and featured the fin and rudder of a Supermarine Stranraer and instead of Rolls-Royce engines, a pair of 915-hp Bristol Pegasus engines were installed. The 15th June 1936 would see Captain Joseph Summers at the controls when the prototype made its maiden flight. Later that month, with the nose and tail cupolas of the aircraft covered, the Wellington appeared at the RAF Display, Hendon on the 27th June 1936. This was followed two months later on the 15th August 1936 by an order for 180 Wellington Mk Is by the Air Ministry. These aircraft would be produced under a different Specification B.29/36, which required a more angular fuselage, the tail unit to be revised and hydraulic powered turrets in the nose, ventral and tail positions.

Testing of the new aircraft was initially done by Vickers before being flown to Martlesham Heath so the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment could conduct official trials. However as these trials concluded the prototype crashed on the 19th April 1937. The cause was found to be elevator overbalance in a high-speed dive. Despite this set back, development of the Wellington continued and before the year was out, on the 23rd December 1937, the first production Wellington Mk I flew. Although originally fitted with the Bristol Pegasus X engine, April 1938 would see the 1,050-hp Bristol Pegasus XVIII engine used instead.

On the 10th October 1938 No. 99 Squadron based at RAF Mildenhall was the first to receive the new type, with a crew of up to six people, a top speed of 245 mph and able to carry 4,500lb bombs over 1,200 miles, and by the time war broke out the following September a total of ten squadrons were equipped with the Wellington. With larger main wheels and the landing gear strengthened the Mk IA appeared. This new version also had its Vickers turrets replaced with Nash and Thompson ones. The Mk IC followed and this had its ventral turret removed in favour of either a Vickers 'K' or Browning machine-gun firing from the beam position on either side. The Wellington's bomb bay was also strengthen to allow the use of a 4,000lb bomb. Just under one hundred and fifty Mk ICs would be used as torpedo bombers.

With a pair of 1,145-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines the Wellington Mk II appeared with a Wellington Mk I adapted to serve as the prototype. Making its maiden flight at Brooklands on the 3rd March 1939, this new version started to enter Royal Air Force service in October 1940.

Two Wellington Mk III prototypes were produced, the first was a converted Mk I fitted with Bristol Hercules HEISM engines, which made its maiden flight on the 19th May 1939, and the second was a Mk IC designed to take the 1,425-hp Hercules III engine, which flew in January 1941. In the end neither of these two engines were used when the Mk III went into production, with the 1-590-hp Hercules XI used. A new rear turret was introduced to the aircraft which had four 0.303-in machine-guns, which was twice the existing armament.

The Mk IV followed and this was powered by a pair of 1,050-hp Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-S3C4-G engines, which had been ordered by France but not delivered and were consequently available for use.

As a result of Vickers being asked to investigate whether a Wellington could be fitted with a pressurised cabin for use as a high altitude bomber/Pathfinder, the Mk V & VI would be developed, at the same time, for this role. The Mk V would be powered by Bristol Hercules VII engines and had a service ceiling of 36,800 ft, whilst the Mk VI was powered by 1,600-hp Merlin 60 engines and its service ceiling was 38,500 ft. Both aircraft featured a turret positioned in the tail that could be remotely controlled. It was to be the Mk VI that was the preferred of the two, but only sixty four would be built, four of which served in the pathfinder role. However by this time the de Havilland Mosquito was in service and was used in the role instead.

The next intended variant was the Wellington Mk VII which was to be powered by a pair of Merlin XX engines, but this only reached the prototype stage. In the end the sole example was used by Rolls-Royce to develop their Merlin 60 engine.

Although Coastal Command had been using the type it wasn't until the production of the Mk GR.VIII that a variant of the Wellington was produced specifically for use within Coastal Command. Based on the Wellington Mk IC the aircraft was fitted with Air-to-Surface Vessel Mk II radar and some versions would have a Leigh Light installed in the ventral turret with the light operator positioned in the nose meaning this armament was removed.

The Wellington Mk X was the last bomber version built and also the most produced. With its roots in the Mk III the Mk X would be powered by a pair of either 1,675-hp Bristol Hercules VI or Hercules XVI engines. As well as serving with Bomber Command some would serve with Operational Training Units, and post-war a number would become T.10 crew trainers after conversion work undertaken by Boulton Paul. The Mk X would also provide the basis for the Wellington Mk GR.XI and would serve with Coastal Command. These would have ASV Mk II radar installed at first before ASV Mk III radar replaced it and this would also equip the 1,735-hp Hercules XVII powered Mk GR.XII, which also featured a Leigh Light.

The Wellington would immediately see action the day after the Second World War (1939 – 1945) broke out, when on the 4th September 1939, alongside the Bristol Blenheim, they carried out the first raids on German territory by Bomber Command when they attacked German shipping at Brunsbuttel. The Wellington would operate during daylight as it was considered that by flying in tight formations its fire power would make them able to fend off attack successfully. However, early raids showed that its defensive armament was inadequate. As a result a gun was fitted in the beam position and the Wellington would now operate mainly at night.

The Wellington would play a big part in Bomber Command's early wartime operations. Major operations for the type saw it take part in the first raid on Berlin, Germany on the 25th August 1940 and drop the first 4,000lb 'Blockbuster' bomb on a raid over Emden, Germany on the 1st April 1941. At the height of its time with Bomber Command the Wellington made up 601 of the 1,047 aircraft for Operation Millennium when Cologne, Germany was attacked on the 30th May 1942. By the end of 1942 the Wellington's time as a frontline bomber was coming to an end as by now the four-engined heavy bombers that would form the backbone of Bomber Command from now on, the Avro Lancaster, Handley Page Halifax and Short Stirling, were now in service. The final time the Wellington would be used in major numbers by Bomber Command was on the 8th October 1943. There was still No. 300 Squadron using the type as 1944 got underway but they were only allowed to lay mines and attack minor targets. No. 192 Squadron would also keep using the aircraft for intelligence gathering into 1945.

The type would also serve with Coastal Command, which lead to perhaps one of the more unusual aircraft of the war. Appearing in 1940 with a metal ring under the fuselage, with the idea to detonate magnetic mines by use of a coil which created a field current.

As well as serving in Europe the Wellington would serve in the Middle East and Far East and would also be converted for transport and training duties. By the time the final Wellington, a Mk X, was delivered on the 25th October 1945, 11,461 had been produced and the type would serve until 1953 training pilots and navigators.

Technical Details

Click on the aircraft image to view a larger version.

Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Wellington Mk I 245 mph 1,200 miles 21,600 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
4,500lb bombs
Wellington Mk II 254 mph 1,540 miles 23,500 ft six 0.303-in machine-guns
4,500lb bombs
Wellington Mk II side profile image
Wellington B Mk III 235 mph 1,540 miles 19,000 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
4,500lb bombs
Wellington B Mk IV 255 mph 1,500 miles 18,000 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
4,500lb bombs
Wellington B Mk VI 300 mph 1,510 miles 38,600 ft four 0.303-in machine-guns
4,500lb bombs
Wellington B Mk X 255 mph 1,885 miles 22,000 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
4,500lb bombs
Wellington GR Mk VIII 235 mph 2,500 miles 18,000 ft six 0.303-in machine-guns
and either two depth charges or
Wellington GR Mk XI 255 mph 2,020 miles 19,000 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
4,500lb bombs
Wellington GR Mk XII 256 mph 1,810 miles 18,500 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
5,100lb bombs
Wellington GR Mk XIII 250 mph 1,760 miles 16,000 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
5,000lb bombs
Wellington GR Mk XIV 250 mph 1,760 miles 16,000 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
5,000lb bombs
Wellington C Mk XX Transport version able to carry eighteen people.
Wellington C Mk XVI Transport version able to carry eighteen people.
Wellington T Mk XVII Trainer version.
Wellington T Mk XVIII Trainer version.
Wellington T Mk XIX Trainer version.
Wellington T Mk X Trainer version.


Click on a photo to view a larger version.
Wellington Mk IA
Wellington B Mk X

See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Wellington Mk IA Brooklands Museum
Wellington Mk ? (F)
Wellington Mk I (R) Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum
Wellington B Mk X RAF Museum, Midlands

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