From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Vickers Wellington was a British
twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s
at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer,
R. K. Pierson. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War,
before being displaced as a bomber by the larger four-engine
"heavies" such as the Avro Lancaster. The Wellington continued
to serve throughout the war in other duties, particularly as an anti-submarine aircraft. It was
the only British bomber to be produced for the entire duration of
the war. The Wellington was popularly known as the Wimpy
by service personnel, after J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons and a Wellington
"B for Bertie" had a starring role in the 1942 propaganda film
One of Our Aircraft Is
Missing. The Wellington was one of two bombers named after
1st Duke of Wellington (Victor over Napoleon), the other being
Wellington Mark I aircraft, with the original Vickers turrets, of
anticipating war, the New Zealand
government loaned these
aircraft and their aircrews to the RAF in August 1939
The Merlin-engined Wellington Mark II. This aircraft belongs to No. 104
. Notice the criss-cross geodesic construction through the
perspex fuselage panels.
Wellington Mark X HE239
RCAF, illustrating the geodesic construction and the level
of punishment it could absorb while maintaining integrity and
The Wellington used a geodesic construction method, which
had been devised by Barnes Wallis inspired by his work on airships, and had previously
been used to build the single-engine Wellesley light bomber. The fuselage was built up from a number of
aluminium alloy (duralumin) channel-beams that were formed
into a large framework. Wooden battens were screwed onto the
aluminium, and these were covered with Irish linen, which, once treated with many layers of dope, formed the
outer skin of the aircraft. The metal lattice gave the structure
tremendous strength, because any one of the stringers could support
some of the weight from even the opposite side of the aircraft.
Blowing out one side's beams would still leave the aircraft as a
whole intact; as a result, Wellingtons with huge areas of framework
missing continued to return home when other types would not have
survived; the dramatic effect was enhanced by the doped fabric skin
burning off, leaving the naked frames exposed (see photo).
The geodetic structure also gave a very strong but light
structure for its large size, which gave the Wellington a load and
range per horsepower advantage over similar aircraft, without
sacrificing robustness or protective devices such as armour plate or
self-sealing fuel tanks.
However, the construction system also had some distinct
disadvantages, in that it took considerably longer to complete a
Wellington than for other designs using monocoque construction techniques. Also, it
was difficult to cut holes into the fuselage to provide additional
access or equipment fixtures. The Leigh light, for instance, was deployed
through the mounting for the absent FN9 ventral turret. 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
The Wellington went through a total of 16 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 (and
initially named Crecy) from Brooklands on 15 June 1936
with chief test pilot Joseph Summers as pilot. 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 Mark I, powered by a pair of
1,050 hp (780 kW) Bristol Pegasus engines, of which 180
were built, 150 for the Royal Air Force and 30 for the Royal New Zealand Air Force
(which were transferred to the RAF on the outbreak of war and used
by 75 Squadron). The
Mark I first entered service with No. 9 Squadron RAF in October 1938.
Improvements to the turrets resulted in 183 Mark
IA Wellingtons and this complement of aircraft equipped
Bomber Command heavy bomber squadrons at the outbreak of
war. The Wellington was initially out-numbered by its twin-engine
contemporaries, the Handley Page Hampden and the Armstrong Whitworth
Whitley, but would ultimately outlast them in productive
service. The number of Wellingtons built totalled 11,461 of all
versions, the last of which rolled out on 13 October 1945.
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 Brunsbüttel on 4 September 1939. During
this raid, the two Wellingtons became the first aircraft shot down
on the Western Front. Numbers 9,
37 and 149 Squadrons saw action on 18 December 1939 on a mission
against the Schillig Roads and Wilhelmshaven. Luftwaffe fighters
destroyed 10 of the bombers and badly damaged three others; thus
highlighting the aircraft's vulnerability to attacking fighters,
having neither self sealing fuel tanks nor sufficient defensive
armament. As a consequence, Wellingtons were switched to night
operations and participated in the first night raid on Berlin on 25 August 1940. In the
first 1000-aircraft raid on Cologne, on 30 May 1942, 599 out of 1046
aircraft were Wellingtons (101 of them were flown by Polish
With Bomber Command, Wellingtons flew 47,409 operations, dropped
41,823 tons (37,941 tonnes) of bombs and lost 1,332
aircraft in action.
Coastal Command Wellingtons carried out anti-submarine duties
and sank their first enemy vessel on 6 July 1942. DWI versions (see
below) 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 Greece, and performed various
support duties during the RAF involvement in the Greek Civil
War. A few Wellingtons were operated by the Hellenic Air
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 India became the RAF's first long-range bomber operating in the
Far East. It was
particularly effective with the South African Air Force in North Africa. This
versatile aircraft also served in anti-submarine duties with 26 Squadron
SAAF based in Takoradi, Gold Coast (now known as
In late 1944, a radar-equipped Wellington was modified for use
by the RAF's Fighter Interception Unit as
what would now be described as an Airborne Early Warning and Control
operated at an altitude of some 4,000 ft (1,219 m) over
the North Sea to control de Havilland Mosquito fighters
intercepting Heinkel He 111 bombers flying from Dutch
airbases and carrying out airborne launches of the V-1 flying
- 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 Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, although
only the two 1,000 hp (750 kW) Pegasus XVIII engines were
used in practice. Main
landing gear moved forward 3 in (8 cm). Fitted with Nash &
Thomson gun turrets. 187 built at Weybridge and Chester.
- Type 416 Wellington Mark IC
- The first main production variant was the Mark
IC which added waist guns to the Mark IA. A total of 2,685
were produced. The Mark IC had a crew of six; a pilot, radio
operator, navigator/bomb aimer, observer/nose gunner, tail gunner
and waist gunner. 2,685 built at Weybridge, Chester and
- Type 406 Wellington Mark II
- The B Mark II was identical with the exception
of the powerplant; using the 1,145 hp (855 kW) Rolls-Royce
Merlin X engine instead. 400 were produced at Weybridge.
- Type 417 Wellington B Mark III
- The next significant variant was the B Mark
III which featured the 1,375 hp (1,205 kW) Bristol
Hercules III or XI engine and a four-gun tail turret, instead
of two-gun. A total of 1,519 Mark IIIs were built and became
mainstays of Bomber Command through 1941. 1,517 built at Chester
- Type 424 Wellington B Mark IV
- The 220 B Mark IV Wellingtons used the
1,200 hp (900 kW) Pratt
& Whitney Twin Wasp engine and were flown by two Polish
squadrons. 220 built at Chester.
- Type 442 Wellington B Mark VI
- Pressurised with a long wingspan and 1,600 hp
(1,190 kW) Merlin R6SM engines, 63 were produced and were
operated by 109 Squadron and as Gee radio navigation trainers. 63 built at
- Type 440 Wellington B Mark X
- The most widely produced variant of which 3,804 were built. It
was similar to the Mark III except for the 1,675 hp
(1,250 kW) Hercules VI or XVI powerplant and a fuselage
structure of light alloy, instead of steel. The Mark X was the
basis for a number of Coastal Command
versions. 3,803 built at Chester and Blackpool.
- Type 429 Wellington GR Mark VIII
- Mark IC conversion for Coastal Command
service. Roles included reconnaissance, anti-submarine and
anti-shipping attack. A Coastal Command Wimpy was the first
aircraft to be fitted with the anti-submarine Leigh light. 307 built
built at Weybridge, 58 fitted with the Leigh Light.
- Type 458 Wellington GR Mark XI
- Maritime version of B Mark X with an ordinary nose turret and
mast radar ASV Mark II instead of chin radome, no waist guns, 180
built at Weybridge and Blackpool.
- Type 455 Wellington GR Mark XII
- Maritime version of B Mark X armed with torpedoes and with a chin radome housing the
ASV Mark III radar, single nose
machine gun, 58 built at Weybridge and Chester.
- Type 466 Wellington GR Mark XIII
- Maritime version of B Mark X with an ordinary nose turret and
mast radar ASV Mark II instead of chin radome, no waist guns, 844
built Weybridge and Blackpool.
- Type 467 Wellington GR Mark XIV
- Maritime version of B Mark X with a chin radome housing the ASV
Mark III radar and added RP-3 explosive rocket rails to the wings, 841 built at
Weybridge, Chester and Blackpool.
- Wellington C Mark XV
- Service conversions of the Wellington Mark IA into unarmed
transport aircraft. Able to carry up to 18 troops.
- Wellington C Mark XVI
- Service conversions of the Wellington Mark IC into unarmed
transport aircraft. Able to carry up to 18 troops.
- 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. 80 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 Bomber into training
aircraft by Boulton Paul in Wolverhampton.
For navigation training the front turret was removed and replaced
by a fairing and the interior re-equipped.
Some were sold to France and
- Type 298 Wellington Mark II prototype
- One aircraft L4250. Powered by two 1,145 hp (854 kW)
Rolls-Royce Merlin inline piston engines.
- Type 299 Wellington Mark III prototype.
- Two only.
- Type 410 Wellington Mark IV prototype.
- Serial R1220. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp
radial piston engines.
- Type 416 Wellington (II)
- The original Wellington II prototype was converted with the
insstallation of a 40 mm (1.57 in) Vickers S gun in the dorsal position.
- Type 418 Wellington DWI Mark I
- Conversion of four Wellington Mark IAs to minesweeping aircraft. Fitted with
Ford V-8 petrol engine and Maudsley electrical generator to induce magnetic field in
a 48 ft (14.63 m) diameter loop mounted under fuselage.
They had a solid nose with a bracket supporting the loop, which was
also supported under the rear fuselage and the wings, outboard of
the engines. DWI stood for Directional Wireless
Installation – a cover story for the true purpose of the
- Type 419 Wellington DWI Mark II
- DWI Mark I aircraft upgraded by installation of De Havilland Gipsy engine for
increased generation power. At least 11 further aircraft converted
to this standard.
- Type 407 and Type 421 Wellington Mark V
- Second and first protypes respectively: Three were built,
designed for pressurised, high-altitude operations using turbocharged Hercules
- Wellington Mark VI
- One high-altitude prototype only.
- Type 449 Wellington Mark VIG
- Production version of Type 431. Two aircraft only.
- Wellington Mark VII
- Single aircraft, built as a test-bed for the 40 mm Vickers
S gun turret.
- Type 435 Wellington Mark IC
- Conversion of one Wellington to test Turbinlite.
- Type 437 Wellington Mark IX
- One Mark IC conversion for troop transport.
- Type 439 Wellington Mark II
- One Wellington Mark II was converted with the installation of a
40 mm Vickers S gun in the nose.
- Type 443 Wellington Mark V
- One Wellington was used to test the Bristol Hercules VIII
- Type 445 Wellington (I)
- One Wellington was used to test the Whittle W2B/23 turbojet engine, the engine was fitted in the
tail of the aircraft.
- Type 454 and Type 459 Wellington Mark IX
- Prototypes with ASV Mark II, ASV Mark III radars, and powered
by two Bristol Hercules VI and XVI radial piston engines.
- Type 470 and Type 486 Wellington
- This designation covers two Wellington Mark II aircraft fitted
with the Whittle W2B and W2/700 respectively.
- Type 478 Wellington Mark X
- One Wellington was used to test the Bristol Hercules 100
- Type 602 Wellington Mark X
- One Wellington was fitted with two Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop
- Wellington Mark III
- One Wellington was used for glider tug, for glider clearance
for Hadrian, Hotspur and Horsa
Wellington Mark IA N2980
on display at Brooklands
There are two surviving complete Vickers Wellingtons; both are
on display in the United Kingdom.
Some other substantial parts also survive.
- Wellington Mark IA serial number N2980 is on display at Brooklands
Museum at Brooklands, Surrey. This aircraft lost power
during a training flight in 1940 and ditched in Loch Ness. All the
occupants survived bar the rear gunner, who was killed when his
parachute failed to open. The aircraft was recovered from the
bottom of Loch Ness in September 1985 and restored, the propellers
remaining in their damaged state as a tribute to the gunner.
- Wellington T Mark X serial number MF628 is on display at the Royal Air Force Museum,
London. It was delivered to
RAF No.18 MU (Maintenance Unit) at RAF Tinwald Downs, Dumfries, as a Wellington
Mark X, on 11 May 1944.
In March 1948 the front gun turret was removed in its conversion to
a T Mark X for its role as a trainer aircraft; however, the museum
has refitted the front gun turret in keeping with its original
build as a Mark X.
(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,
from Vickers Aircraft since 1908 
- 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× Bristol Pegasus Mark XVIII radial
engine, 1,050 hp (783 kW) each
- Andrews, C.F. The Vickers Wellington I & II (Aircraft
in Profile 125). Leatherhead, Surrey: Profile Publications
Ltd., 1967. No ISBN.
- Andrews, C.F and Morgan, E.B. Vickers Aircraft since
1908. London:Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0 85177 815 1.
- Bowman, Martin. Wellington, The Geodetic Giant.
Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1989. ISBN
- Bowyer, Chaz. Wellington at War. Shepperton, Surrey:
Ian Allan Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7110-1220-2.
- Bowyer, Chaz. Wellington Bomber. London: William
Kimber & Co Ltd., 1986. ISBN 0-7183-0619-8.
- Cooksley, Peter G. Wellington, Mainstay of Bomber
Command. Wellingborough, Northhamptonshire: Patrick Stephens
Ltd., 1987. ISBN 0-85059-851-6.
- Crosby, Francis. The World Encyclopedia of Bombers.
London: Anness Publishing Ltd., 2007. ISBN 1-84477-511-9.
- Delve, Ken. Vickers Armstrong Wellington. Ramsbury,
Wiltshire, UK: The Crowood Press Ltd., 1998. ISBN
- Flintham, V. Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of
Air Combat, 1945 to the Present. Facts on File. (1990) ISBN
- Hall, Alan W. Vickers Wellington, Warpaint Series No.
10. Husborne Crawley, Berfordshire: Hall Park Books Ltd.,
1997. No ISBN.
- Lihou, Maurice. Out of the Italian Night: Wellington Bomber
Operations 1944-45. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd.,
2003. ISBN 1-84037-405-5.
- Lumsden, Alec. Wellington Special. Shepperton, Surrey:
Ian Allan Ltd., 1974. ISBN 0-7110-0527-3.
- Mackay, Ron. Wellington in Action, Aircraft Number 76.
Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1986. ISBN
- Ovčáčík, Michal and Susa, Karel. Vickers-Armstrongs
Wellington Medium Bomber variants. Prague, Czech Republic: 4+
Publications, 2003. ISBN 80-902559-7-3.