The Vickers Wellington Wimpey

Great Britain
Great Britain

side view front view under view

When in 1939 the Second World War started, the Vickers Wellington was the main British bomber. Even though it appeared rather obsolescent, it had to carry on until the new heavy four-engined bombers became available. In the mean time this medium bomber carried out day bombing raids in the beginning, later relegated to night attacks only. And even after the advent of the four-engined heavies the Wellington was put to good use in the maritime reconnaissance bomber role.
The Wellington can be traced back to 1932, when the Air Ministry released its B.9/32 requirement for an andvanced twin-engined bomber. Vickers decided to enter the contest since it had gained experience with its Wellesley design in which new kinds of structures were used making the aircraft very sturdy. The resulting Type 271 design was a fabric-covered mid-wing monoplane with tailwheel landing gear including main units that retracted into the underside of the nacelles for the two wing-mounted engines, enclosed accommodation, turreted defensive armament and internal provision to carry nine bombs varying in weight between 250 and 500 lb (113 and 227 kg). Although the Air Ministry was very strict with it's demands concerning weight, Vickers was able to convince them, in order to retain structural strength and performance. The Type 271 eventually turned out to have an empty weight of 11,508 lb (5.220 kg) in stead of the required 6,300 lb (2.858 kg).
Not only Vickers was opposed against the tight weight requirements of the Air Ministry, other companies as well. Add to this the gradual build up of forces by Germany, and the Air Ministry changed it's course. From 1933 onward heavier structures were allowed, and by 1935 a type with a max take-off weight of 30,500 lb (13.835 kg) was considered by the Air Ministry. This extra weight was used for an increase in weapons load and armament.
Originally the Type 271 would be powered by two air-cooled radials, or two liquid cooled Vee engines. In the first case these would be the Bristol Mercury, in the second case these would be Rolls-Royce Goshawk, with a slight preference for the Goshawk by the Air Ministry. Armament would include a nose, dorsal and tail power-operated turrets. In the meantime the high-wing design was changed to mid-wing design to provide a better view for the pilots, and a number of aerodynamic changes to improve handling. Since all these changes kept increasing the weight, Vickers became concerned with the power that was delivered by the Goshawk. The Air Ministry then approved the use of either the Bristol Perseus or Pegasus. These engines had a much better power-to-weight ratio and would improve single-engined flight, better performance, beter climb ability, and a heigher ceiling. The choice was made in favor of two Pegasus radials, each driving a three-blade propeller of the variable-pitch type. Enlarged internal fuel capacity would provide a range of 1,500 miles (3.414 km) at 213 mph (343 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4.570 m), and manually operated nose and tail defensive gun positions would be of Vickers design.
Then, by 1936, the Air Ministry wanted to expand it's bomber force as fast as possible, and ordered the first Wellingtons.

Version list:

Further pictures:

Vickers Wellington prototype
Vickers Wellington prototype

Vickers Wellington's under construction
Vickers Wellington's under construction

Vickers Wellington GR.Mk XIII on an airfield
Vickers Wellington GR.Mk XIII on an airfield

Vickers Wellington T.Mk X on an airfield
Vickers Wellington T.Mk X on an airfield

 

Technical data on the Vickers Wellington Mk IC
Powerplant 2 × Bristol Pegasus XVIII radial, rated at 1000 hp (745.49 kW) each Role during war
  • Medium Bomber
  • Torpedo Bomber
  • U-boat Destroyer
  • Maritime/Coastal patrol reconnaissance Bomber
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
  • Trainer
Length 64 ft 7 inch Height 17 ft 5 inch
Empty weight 18556 lb Operational weight 28500 lb max
Wing Span 86 ft 2 inch Wing Aspect ratio 8.84
Wing Area 840 sq ft Service ceiling 18000 ft
Maximum speed 235 mph at 15500 ft Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate 1,120 ft per min Range 1200 miles typical
Fuel capacity internal 750 Imp gal (901 US gal), plus provision for 250 Imp gal (300 US gal) of auxilliary fuel in a weapons bay tank Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 0.303 inch Browning trainable forward-firing in a power-operated Frazer-Nash nose turret
  • 2 × 0.303 inch Browning trainable rearward-firing in a power-operated Frazer-Nash tail turret
  • 2 × 0.303 inch Vickers 'K' trainable lateral-firing in two beam positions
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 4,500 lb of disposable stores carried in a lower-fuselage weapons bay rated at 4,500 lb. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 9 × 500 or 250 lb bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 5: pilot, navigator.bombardier, radio operator/gunner, 2 gunners Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) August 1936 Operational Service 1938 - 1953
Manufacturer Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Number produced 9.040 total, 2.685 this version
Metric system
Length 19.68 m Height 5.31 m
Empty weight 8417 kg Operational weight 12928 kg max
Wing Span 26.26 m Wing Aspect ratio 8.84
Wing Area 78.04 m² Service ceiling 5486 m
Maximum speed 378 km/h at 4724 m Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate 341 m per min. Range 1931 km typical
Fuel capacity internal 3.409 liters, plus provision for 1.136 liters of auxilliary fuel in a weapons bay tank Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 7,7 mm Browning trainable forward-firing in a power-operated Frazer-Nash nose turret
  • 2 × 7,7 mm Browning trainable rearward-firing in a power-operated Frazer-Nash tail turret
  • 2 × 7,7 mm Vickers 'K' trainable lateral-firing in two beam positions
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 2.041 kg of disposable stores carried in a lower-fuselage weapons bay rated at 2.041 kg. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 9 × 227 or 113 kg bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -

Technical data on the Vickers Wellington GR.Mk VIII
Powerplant 2 × Bristol Pegasus XVIII radial, rated at 1050 hp (782.76 kW) each Role during war
  • Medium Bomber
  • Torpedo Bomber
  • U-boat Destroyer
  • Maritime/Coastal patrol reconnaissance Bomber
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
  • Trainer
Length 64 ft 7 inch Height 17 ft 5 inch
Empty weight 21118 lb Operational weight 30000 lb max
Wing Span 86 ft 2 inch Wing Aspect ratio 8.84
Wing Area 840 sq ft Service ceiling 19000 ft
Maximum speed 235 mph at 15500 ft Cruising speed 144 mph at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate unknown Range 2550 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 750 Imp gal (901 US gal), plus provision for 250 Imp gal (300 US gal) of auxilliary fuel in a weapons bay tank Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 0.303 inch Browning trainable forward-firing in a power-operated Frazer-Nash F.N.7A nose turret
  • 2 × 0.303 inch Browning trainable rearward-firing in a power-operated Frazer-Nash F.N.7A tail turret
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 4,500 lb of disposable stores carried in a lower-fuselage weapons bay rated at 4,500 lb. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 9 × 500 or 250 lb bombs, or
  • 2 or 4 × 420 lb depth charges
Torpedoes/rockets Alternatively to bombs or depth charges, two torpedoes of unknown weight/diameter
Crew 5: pilot, navigator/bombardier, radio operator/gunner, two gunners. Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) August 1936 Operational Service 1938 - 1953
Manufacturer Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Number produced 9.040 total, 394 this version
Metric system
Length 19.68 m Height 5.31 m
Empty weight 9579 kg Operational weight 13608 kg max
Wing Span 26.26 m Wing Aspect ratio 8.84
Wing Area 78.04 m² Service ceiling 5791 m
Maximum speed 378 km/h at 4724 m Cruising speed 232 km/h at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate unknown Range 4104 km max
Fuel capacity internal 3.409 liters, plus provision for 1.136 liters of auxilliary fuel in a weapons bay tank Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 7,7 mm Browning trainable forward-firing in a power-operated Frazer-Nash F.N.7A nose turret
  • 2 × 7,7 mm Browning trainable rearward-firing in a power-operated Frazer-Nash F.N.7A tail turret
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 2.041 kg of disposable stores carried in a lower-fuselage weapons bay rated at 2.041 kg. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 9 × 227 or 113 kg bombs, or
  • 2 or 4 × 191 kg depth charges
Torpedoes/rockets Alternatively to bombs or depth charges, two torpedoes of unknown weight/diameter

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Vickers Wellington  Wimpey
Vickers Wellington Mk I This version (Type 290) was the first production version of the Wellington. With this version the British Royal Air Force started the War, and soon all weaknesses were ruthlessly exploited by the Axis pilots.
Number built: 181
Vickers Wellington Mk IA This version (Type 408) contained actually was based on the Wellington Mk II, and carried three Frazer-Nash turrets, each carrying 2 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning trainable guns. The electrical system was changed from 12Volts to 24 Volts, the oxygen system was improved and cabin heating was added. The hydraulic system was now fitted with two pressure levels: high pressure for the primary functions of the aircraft, and lower pressure for movement of turrets. The structure was restressed to allow the greater max take-off weight of 28,000 lb (12.701 kg), and together with this the main landing gear was reinforced and fitted with wheels carrying larger tyres.
This version just reached frontline squadrons at the outbreak of the War
Number built: 187
Vickers Wellington DWI Mk I This version (Type 418) was a conversion of the Mk IA. The aircraft were fitted with a large external metal, magnetical hoop. This hoop was magnetised by a fuselage mounted 35kW Maudesleygenerator driven by a Ford V-8 petrol engine. The magnetized hoop was able to provide a flux that detonated magnetically fused sea mines. DWI was short for Direction Wireless Installation, a name that was chosen to confuse the German intelligence.
Number converted: 4+
Vickers Wellington DWI Mk II This version (Type 419) was a conversion of the Mk I. Like the DWI. Mk I the aircraft were fitted with a large external metal, magnetical hoop. This hoop was magnetised by a fuselage mounted 90kW English Electric generator powered by a de Havilland Gipsy Six inline engine. The magnetized hoop was able to provide a flux that detonated magnetically fused sea mines.
Number converted: 11+
Vickers Wellington Mk IC The experiences of the earlier versions were hard lessons learned, but resulted in the Mk IC. This version had the airframe and systems improvements of the earlier version, and then some. The ventral ('dustbin') gun position was replaced b 2 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Vickers 'K' trainable lateral-firing guns in the two beam positions. Alternatively, these new guns could be Brownings of the same calibre as well, but placed a litther furhter aft.
About 138 aircraft were delivered with provisions to carry torpedoes, or the single 4,000 lb (1.814 kg) 'blockbuster' bomb.
Number built: 2.685
Vickers Wellington B.Mk II The Type 406 was quite similar to the Mk IA. The main differenc lay in the powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin X Vee, rated at 1,145 hp (854 kW) each.
Other differences from the Mk IC are: weapons load of 4,000 lb (1.814 kg) often comprising a single 4,000 lb (1.814) kg) ‘blockbuster’ bomb whose carriage was pioneered in this model, empty weight of 20,258 lb (9.189 kg), max take-off weight of 33,000 lb (10.058 kg), max level speed of 254 mph (409 km/h) at 17,500 ft (5.335 m), economical cruising speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4.570 m), max range of 2,200 miles (3540.5 km), initial climb rate of 670 ft (204 m) per minute, and service ceiling of 23,500 ft (7.165 m).
Number built: 401
Vickers Wellington B.Mk III The prototype for this type (the Type 299) flew for the first time in May 1939, and was powered by 2 7t Bristol HEISM radial engines, each fitted with a two-stage supercharger and driving a three-blade de Havilland propeller of the constant-speed type. Since the powerplant failed to meet expectations, alternatives were searched. The prototype was handed over to Bristol in order to continue with the development of the engines.
This was a major set-back for Bomber Command, which had hoped to have the bomber available before the War broke out. In order to have an alternative the Air Ministry asked Vickers to complete a second prototype powered with 2 × Bristol Hercules II radial, each driving a three-balde Rotol propeller of the constant-speed type. This engine was the most powerfull engine in the catalogue of Bristol at the moment. However, although production and delivery were delayed, the delay was used well in order to improve armor protection, add self-sealing tanks, install balloon cable-cutters in the ing leading edges and provision for long-range fuel tanks and sand/dust filters over the carburetor inlets for use in the North African Theatre. All these changes resulted in the final B.Mk III production version:
The Type 417 was designed in parallel to the B.Mk II, and was similar to the Mk IA. The powerplant consisted of 2 × Bristol Hercules XI radial, rate dat 1,425 hp (1.063 kW) each. The Frazer-Nash F.N.20a tail turret was fitted with 4 × 0.303 inch (7,7 mm) Browning trainable guns, although it was considered as well to fit the turret with a single 20 mm cannon. Besides the 'standard' bombing role, the B.Mk III was fitted with provisions for torpedoes, provisions to tow an Airspeed Horsa assault glider or General Aircraft Hamilcar freight glider, or alternatively it could deliver 10 paratroopers with 4 350 lb (159 kg) containers with equipment.
Number built: 1.519
Vickers Wellington B.Mk IV Shortly after the War had started the Air Ministry realised that the Wellington would have to do yet for quite some time since the four-engined heavy bombers were too far off yet. Also, the number of airframes built exceeded the number of engines built, especially since the liquid-cooled Vee engines were prioritised for single engine fighters. It was mainly this latter reason that the Air Ministry decided to look for other posible engines, outside of Britain. At one time the Italian Alfa-Romeo radial engine was suggested, Britain was not yet at War with the Italians. However, the Italians declined the British proposals, and so britain turned it's interrest toward the United States. There, Pratt & Whitney and Wright had radial engines in stock that offered the correct power ratings. Ultimately the choice was made in favour of the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-SC3-G Twin Wasp.
Vickers Wellington B.Mk VI
Vickers Wellington B.Mk X The Type 440 was the final bomber variant, and the version produced in the largest numbers as well. The B.Mk X was more or less similar to the Wellington B.Mk III, except with respect to it's powerplant. This was 2 × Bristol Hercules VI or XVI radial, rated at 1,675 hp (1.249 kW)> At the same time, the structure of the 'Wimpey' was built of light alloy rather than mild steel for additional strength (and thus performance) without any increase in structure weight.
The Wellington B.Mk X was dimensionally identical to the Wellington Mk IC, and had the same offensive and defensive armament as the Wellington Mk III. Other than the powerplant, the Wellington B.Mk X differed from the Wellington Mk IC in details such as its empty weight of 22,474 lb (10.194 kg), max take-off weight of 36,500 lb (16.556 kg), max level speed of 255 mph (410 km/h) at optimum altitude, economical cruising speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) at optimum altitude, range of 1,885 miles (3.033 km) with a weapon load of 1,500 lb (680 kg), climb to 15,000 ft (4.570 m) in 27 minutes 42 seconds, and service ceiling of 22,000 ft (6.705 m).
Number built: 3.803
Vickers Wellington T.Mk 10 When the War was over, a number of the aircraft were converted to the Wellington T.Mk 10 trainer standard with the Vickers designation Type 619. The trainers were stripped of their nose and tail turrets, the resulting openings being faired over, and remained in service with the Air Navigation School up to 1953.
Number converted: unknown
Vickers Wellington C.Mk XV When the early versions of the Wellington were withdrawn from front-line use, the aircraft were put to good use in other roles. This version, a conversion from the Mk IA, was used as a transport for troops, able to transport 18 troops. Initially, this conversion was designated Wellington C.Mk IA, but later redesignated C.Mk XV
Number converted: unknown
Vickers Wellington C.Mk IA Original designation for the C.Mk XV (see above)
Redesignated aircraft
Vickers Wellington C.Mk IC Original designation for the C.Mk XVI (see below)
Redesignated aircraft
Vickers Wellington C.Mk XVI Like the Vickers Wellington C.Mk XV, this was a conversion for transport of (18) troops. Unlike the Vickers Wellington C.Mk XV, this version was based on th Vickers Wellington Mk IC
Number converted: unknown
Vickers Wellington GR.Mk VIII When finally the heavy four-engined bombers entered service, the Wellington still had developmental potential. It's main task, night-bombing, was taken over by the four-engined bombers, but there was still a great need for maritime reconnaissance bombers and transport/trainer aircraft.
The first true version of the Wellington that was not a bomber was the GR.Mk VIII which was used against German submarines in the Atlantic. For this, the Wellington was fitted with a variety of systems and weapons enabling the aircraft crew to detect and attack submarines. Amogst this was an ASV.Mk II air-to-surface radar and a so-called 'Leigh-Light' for the detection of the target within a kind of 'fire-control system' that supervised the release of depth charges, torpedoes or bombs. This way of dealing with submarines wasn't new, but the fact that the target was detected with radar, and illuminated at the last moment before the real attack commenced, was. The Leigh Light was a tight beam light, whereas the opposing idea, the Helmore Turbinlite, was a wide-beam light.
Of this version there existed two subversion. One was for the night anti-submarine role fitted with a Leigh Light (58 produced), the other wasfor the day role without the Leigh Light but with bombs and torpedoes (339 produced).
Number built: 397
Vickers Wellington GR.Mk XI This version (Types 454 and 458) was the daylight maritime reconnaissance version of the Wellington B.Mk X. There were 180 aircraft built, either with ASV.Mk II or ASV.Mk III radar (resulting in subvariants known to the manufacturer as the Types 454 and 458 respectively), and a powerplant of 2 × Bristol Hercules VI or Hercules XVI radials.
Number built: 180
Vickers Wellington GR.Mk XII This version (Type 455) was the night version of the Wellington GR.Mk XI with ASV.Mk III radar and a Leigh Light
Number built: 58
Vickers Wellington GR.Mk XIII This version (Type 466) was a daylight torpedo bomber with ASV.Mk III radar and a powerplant of 2 × Bristol Hercules XVII radial, rated at 1,735 hp (1.294 kW) each. It was dimensionally identical to the Wellington GR.Mk VIII but differed in details such as its empty weight of 21,988 lb (9.974 kg), max take-off weight of 31,000 lb (14.062 kg), max level speed of 250 mph (402 km/h) at optimum altitude, range of 1,750 miles (2.816 km), and service ceiling of 16,000 ft (4.875 m).
Number built: 844
Vickers Wellington GR.Mk XIV This version (Type 476) was the night torpedo bomber version of the Wellington GR.Mk XIII with ASV.Mk III radar and a Leigh Light.
Number built: 841
Vickers Wellington T.Mk XVII This version (Type 487) was the night fighter crew trainer version. These aircraft were all conversions, mostly from the GR.XI, and fitted with the Airborne Interception radar like tthe one used in the de Havilland Mosquito.
Number converted: unknown
Vickers Wellington T.Mk XVIII This version (Type 490) was a conversion of the GR.Mk XI for use as a trainer. This was the production version of the Wellington T.Mk XVII with airborne interception radar, the navigator and radio operator compartment modified in order to be able to carry one instructor and four trainees, and a powerplant of 2 × Bristol Hercules XVI radial engines.
Number built: 80 + unknown converted
Vickers Wellington T.Mk XIX This designation was applied to Wellington B.Mk Xs converted as bomber trainers with all the changes and additional equipment of late-production bombers
Number converted: unknown

Operational remarks:

The Wellington was the main bomber of Bomber Command at the outbreak of the War, and remained so for quite some time. Together with Blenheims it flew the first offensive sortie of the RAF during WW2 on september 4, a raid to attack shipping in the area of Brunsbüttel. These were the first bombings on German territory of the War as well.
Later, in December 1939, the vulnerability of the Wellington due to unprotected fuel tanks was painlfully shown to the RAF. The RAF had believed that the defensive return fire of a large group of bombers in tight formation was so strong that the bombers could operate without fighter escort. During raids on the Schilling Roads the attacking bombers were mercilessly attacked, damaged and destroyed, with seemingly impunity for the enemy fighters.
The Wellington was in the front line during a number of other historic occasions. The Wellington participated during the first raid on Berlin which took place on 25/26 August 1940. In the first 1000-bomber raid, aimed at Cologne in the night of 30 may 1942, there were 599 Wellingtons out of 1.046 aircraft. After 9 October 1943 there were no more operational sorties flown by Wellingtons from Bomber Command.
,bHowever, the Wellington still had important duties to fulfil for Coastal Command. Wellingtons were first fitted with Degaussing devices to detonate magnetic mines. These devices were large metal rings, first 52 ft (15,85 m) in diameter and later 48 ft (14,63 m), with a coil. This coil was powered by a separate engine on board of the mother aircraft, and created a strong megnetic field. The first of such operations started in early 1940.
Other Wellingtons were fitted with a search light called 'Leigh Light', after the inventor of the specific device. In June 1942 a GR.Mk VIIImade the first attack on a U-boat on 3 June 1942. The first U-boat kill was recorded one month later, on 6 June.
On the whole, the Wellington remained operational during the whole War, on a lot of fronts. It was active in the European Theatre of Operations, the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Far East. The last sortie of the War by a Wellington was on 13 March 1945 while attacking the marshalling yards at Treviso in Italy, together with Consolidated Liberators. Elsewhere, where the Wellington was relieved of it's bombing duties, they were used for tansport and training duties.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 5/27/02