Designed by Barnes Wallis, who was to become famous later in the war with his Dambusting bouncing bomb. The Wellington was Vickers' response to the Air Ministry specification B.9/32 request for a twin-engined medium bomber.
Designed to replace the RAF's obsolete Heyford bombers, the prototype Wellington (K4049) first flew in June 1936. With its excellent range/bomb load performance plus, what was then considered a heavy self-defense system, the aircraft almost doubled the performance of the Heyford.
Two months after the prototypes first flight, the Air Ministry placed an order for 180 Production Mk.I's. However, it would be October 1938 before the type entered service with No. 99 Squadron, RAF stationed at Mildenhall.
By the outbreak of war, Bomber Command had only six fully equipped squadron's of Wellington's to begin offensive operations. Nevertheless, fourteen aircraft from these squadron's took part in the first bombing sorties over Germany on September 4, 1939.
The Wellington, or "Wimpy" as it came to be known, was almost completely fabric covered. But under this flimsy outer skin, the aircraft was constructed using Barnes Wallis' unique geodetic design. And it was this design that allowed the aircraft to sustain tremendous amounts of battle damage; and still be capable of flying. Many crews testified to the fact that had the aircraft not been construct in such a manner, they would not have been able to fly the aircraft back to England and would have been forced to bale out only to become prisoners of war.
During the wars first years, that main variant of the Wellington was the Mk.IC, a a total of 2,685 being built. Although, not all of them were destined to serve with Bomber Command.
By mid-1941 Wellington Mk.II's and Mk.III's had also entered service and were soon to be the most prominent RAF medium bomber type. However, even with the newer variants replacing earlier ones. By mid-1942 it was becoming obvious that the Wellington's usefulness as an effect bomber in the European Campaign was reaching its limit. Its role in this theatre of operations finally coming to an end when the last offensive sorties against Hannover on October 8/9, 1943 were carried out.
The Wellington's useful life was by no means over in Europe, and the type continued to play a vital role with both Coastal Command throughout the war and as an aircrew training aircraft within Bomber Command.
Even with its relegation to these none spectacular tasks within the European theatre, the "Wimpies" offensive career was by no means at an end. The type continued to be proved the backbone of No. 205 Group's long range night bombing force in the Mediterranean theatre well into 1944. In this capacity it continued to attack such heavily defended targets as: Bucharest, Giurgiu, Milan, the oil fields at Ploesti and also assisted in cutting off the flow of oil to the German military prior to D-Day by mining the River Danube at night from as low as 100 feet. The Wimpy would not be fully retired from its bombing role until March 13th, 1945 when No. 40 Squadron, RAF dropped the 4,000 lbs. "cookies" on Trevisio in the Italian theatre.
A total of 11,461 Wellington's of all variants were built - the most of any British multi-engined aircraft design.
Wellington Mk.IC Data
Crew : Six
Engines : Two, 1000 hp Bristol Pegasus XVIII
Span : 86'-2" (26.26 m)
Length : 64'-7" (19.69 m)
Height : 17'-5" (5.31 m)
Empty Weight : 18,566 lbs. (8,422 kg)
Loaded Weight : 29,500 lbs. (13,381 kg)
Maximum Speed : 235 mph at 15,500 ft. (4,724 m)
Ceiling : 18,000 ft. (5,486 m)
Range : 1,200 miles (1,931 km) with 4,500 lbs. (2,041 kg) of bombs.
1,550 miles (2,494 km) with 1,000 lbs. (454 kg) of bombs.
Two 0.303" machine guns mounted in both the front and rear turrets. One 0.303" machine gun mounted in the beam gun position, one each side of the aircraft. Maximum bomb load 4,500 lbs. (2,041 kg)
Bomber Command squadron's equipped with the Wellington
9, 12, 15, 38, 57, 75, 99, 101, 103, 109, 115, 148, 149, 156, 158, 166, 192, 196, 199, 214, 215, 218, 300, 301, 304, 305, 311, 405, 419, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 431, 432, 458, 460, 466
Mediterranean Strategic Air Force squadron's equipped with the Wellington
37, 40, 70, 104, 142, 150
Updated: January 2008