Canadian Warplanes 3: Vickers Wellington

Vickers Wellington.

(NASM Photo 1B46195)

Vickers Wellington B. Mk. III (Serial No. X3763), coded KW-E, No. 425 'Alouette' (B) Squadron, RCAF, late summer of 1942. X3763 served with No. 425 Squadron, RCAF in the UK from September 1942, coded "KW*E". The aircraft failed to return from a mission to Stuttgart on 15 April 1943. It crashed at Mussey-sur-Marne (Haute Marne), on the West bank of the Marne, 8 km south of Joinville, France. Four RCAF aircrew were lost.

The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine medium bomber.  A key feature of the aircraft is its geodetic fuselage structure, which was principally designed by Barnes Wallis.  The Wellington was used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, serving as one of Bomber Command's primary bombers.  Many were flown by RCAF aircrews.  The Wellington served throughout the war in other duties, including anti-submarine patrols.  It holds the distinction of having been the only British bomber that was produced for the duration of the war, and of having been produced in a greater quantity than any other British-built bomber.  The Wellington remained as first-line equipment when the war ended, although it had been increasingly relegated to secondary roles.  11,462 were built. (Wikipedia)

Two Wellingtons have been preserved in the UK, Wellington Mk. IA (Serial No. N2980 is owned by the Brooklands Museum in Surrey, and Wellington T.10 (Serial No. MF628) in the RAF Museum London, Hendon.

RCAF 400 Squadron (1), Canadian Aircraft Losses (1217), Canadian Ferried (1). Detailed records of all known RCAF and Canadian casualties in the RAF during the Second World War may be viewed on line in the Canadian Aircraft Serials Personnel Information Resource (CASPIR). The CASPIR website is researched, coded, maintained entirely by Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) volunteers with only one staff assisting periodically. This work has taken several years and is unlikely to be finished as continuing research leads to “new finds” and rediscovered Canadian aviation heritage and history.  The CWHM volunteer team looks forward to continuing to update and correct the record as additional information and photos are received. Check here.

The loss records for the Wellington can be viewed here.

(RAF Photo)

Vickers Wellington Mk. IA, RAF (Serial No. N2887), 5, of the Central Gunnery School (CGS) based at Sutton Bridge flying south-east of Chatteris, 24 June 1943.  N2887 started out with No. 99 Squadron based at Mildenhall.  Retired from ops it later served with Nos. 11 and 15 Operational Training Units (OTUs), then the Air Armament School (AAS), then with the CGS from 6 Apr 1942 to 23 Feb 1944. N2887 was then despatched to the Far East, where it finished its days and was Struck off Charge (SOC) on 26 Apr 1945.

(RAF Photo via Christ Charland)

Vickers Wellington B. Mk. X, No. 24 OTU RAF Honeybourne,  Worcestershire. The unit converted to 'Wimpies' as the Wellington was affectionately known as during April, 1944 in preparation for the of training R.C.A.F. night bomber crews who were already there training on the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk. V. The 'FB' on the fuselage indicates that this aircraft is from 'A' Flight while 'H' is the individual aircraft radio call sign.

The first RCAF Wellington casualties at the OTU were the seven-man crew of Wellington B. Mk. III (Serial No. BK251). On the night of the 3rd/4th of July, 1944 while landing back at Honeybourne after a cross-country training flight, the aircraft crashed into the the station's bomb dump. Seven RCAF aircrew died in the crash.

(IWM Photo, CH 9867)

Vickers Wellington Mk. X, RAF (Serial No. HE239), No. 428 Squadron, RCAF. This aircraft completed its bomb run despite losing the rear turret and then flew back home for a successful landing with its bomb bay doors stuck open due to lack of hydraulic power.   No. 428 Squadron was based at Dalton, Yorkshire.  The damage was caused by a direct hit from anti-aircraft gun fire while the aircrew were approaching to bomb Duisburg, Germany on the night of 8/9 April 1943.  Despite the loss of the rear turret and its gunner, as well as other extensive damage, the pilot, Sergeant L F Williamson, continued to bomb the target, following which it was found that the bomb doors could not be closed because of a complete loss of hydraulic power. Williamson nevertheless brought HE239 and the remainder of his crew back for a safe landing at West Malling, Kent, where this photograph was taken.

(DND Archives Photo, PL-7091)

Vickers Wellington aircrew.  From left, No. 419 Squadron, RCAF, riggers Leading Aircraftman James Gardiner (Yorkton, Saskatchewan); Leading Aircraftman Fred Fitzhugh (Verdun, Quebec); and Leading Aircraftman Fred Scott (Midland, Ontario); and a Royal Air Force crewman, load ammunition onto a Wellington aircraft at a Royal Canadian Air Force bomber base in England on 9 Feb 1942.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4111678)

Vickers Wellington B. Mk. III's from No. 419 'Moose' (B) Squadron, RCAF, being bombed up, Nov 1942.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, PL-15981, MIKAN No. 4435173)

No. 420 (Bomber) Squadron, Vickers Wellington, Pilot J. Mason and his aircrew.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5131009)

Vickers Wellington Mk. II (Serial No. W5515), RCAF No. 405 Squadron.  W5515 was initially coded LQ*M.  It later became also LQ*R and finally LQ*Y, and nicknamed "Moonshine" and later, "Berlin or Bust".  The flight flight crew is in northern England.   Left to right: F/Sgt. C.W. Higgins, pilot, F/Sgt. H. Wigley, pilot, Sgt. Lawrence J. Nadeau, wireless-operator air-gunner, Sgt. F.H.J. Farrell, navigator, Sgt. A. Smith, air gunner and Sgt. I Watters, second wireless-operator air-gunner.  Each member of the crew wears a tiny figure as that depicted on their plane as a mascot.

(IWM Photo, HU 108387)

Vickers Wellington Mk. II, RCAF, No. 405 (Vancouver) Squadron aircrew board their bomber at Pocklington, UK, July 1941.

Thirteen RCAF Squadrons flew the Vickers Wellington during the Second World War:

No. 405 Squadron RCAF 'Vancouver Squadron', Code letters "LQ".

No. 407 Squadron RCAF Code Letters "RR".

No. 415 Squadron RCAF Code Letters "6U".

No. 419 Squadron RCAF 'Moose Squadron' Code letters "VR".

No. 420 Squadron RCAF 'Snowy Owl Squadron' Code letters "PT".

No. 424 Squadron RCAF 'Tiger Squadron' Code letters "QB".

No. 425 Squadron RCAF 'Alouette Squadron' Code letters "KW".

No. 426 Squadron RCAF 'Thunderbird Squadron' Code letters "OW".

No. 427 Squadron RCAF 'Lion Squadron' Code letters "ZL".

No. 428 Squadron RCAF 'Ghost Squadron' Code letters "NA"

No. 429 Squadron RCAF 'Bison Squadron' Code letters "AL".

No. 431 Squadron RCAF Code Letters "SE".

No. 432 Squadron RCAF 'Leaside Squadron' Code letters "QO".

(IWM Photo, HU 104761)

Vickers Wellington Mk. I (Serial No. L4251) in flight, March 1940.

(RCAF Photo via James Craik)

Vickers Wellington B. Mk. III (Serial No. W5553), coded DL-Q, No. 425 'Alouette' (B) Squadron, RCAF.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4558167)

Vickers Wellington, RCAF bomber crewmen, Sergeant Lalonde, bomb aimer, Sergeant Nault, Navigator and Sergeant Rochon, Air Gunner.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4359665)

Vickers Wellington Mk. IA with RCAF flight crew, Sergeant McGillvray, Sergeant J. Holsch, Sergeant Spackman and Sergeant R.H. Gervin, plus one.  

(DND Archives Photo, PL-7096)

The all-Canadian crew of No. 419 Squadron, RCAF, Vickers Wellington Mk. 1C bomber, coded “H” for Harry, gather for a photograph on their Royal Canadian Air Force base in England on 9 Feb 1942.  From left are Squadron Leader F.W.S. Turner (Ganges, British Columbia); Pilot Officer K.E. Hobson (Winnipeg, Manitoba); Flight Sergeant G.P. Fowler (Victoria, British Columbia); Flight Sergeant C.A. Robson (Truro, Nova Scotia); Flight Sergeant N.G. Arthur (Edmonton, Alberta); and Flight Sergeant H.T. Dell (Niagara Falls, Ontario).  The groundcrew member on the wing is unidentified.

(DND Archives Photo)

Vickers Wellington Mk. XIV L/L (Leigh Light), (Serial No. NB858), No. 407 "Demon" (GR) General Reconnaissance Squadron, RCAF.  This crew served with RAF Coastal Command.

The Vickers Wellington was affectionately known as the “Wimpy” (after J. Wellington Wimpy, Popeye's hamburger-loving cartoon friend). It was armed with twin .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns in the nose and tail turrets. It also had two manually operated .303 guns in the beam positions and could carry a 4,500 lb (2,041 kg) bomb load. Its slow speed, limited ceiling, and a small bomb load soon made the Wellington obsolete, although one significant design advantage was famed designer, Sir Barnes-Wallace's geodesic latticework fuselage construction. This made the Wimpy extremely tough, and it often survived battle damage that would have destroyed other aircraft. Its other nickname, “The Flying Cigar”, alluded to the shape of the fuselage as seen from the profile perspective.

After having early on proved the inadequacy of the turret firepower in fending off attacking fighters during daylight attacks, the Wellington went on to build a great reputation for reliability and ruggedness in night bombing operations. In April 1941, they were the first to drop the deadly "block-buster" bomb, during a raid on Emden, Germany, and they helped to initiate the Pathfinder target-indicating tactics. No Wellingtons were “officially” on RCAF strength during the war although eleven RCAF bomber squadrons flew the aircraft in the European theatre from 1941 until 1944. A further two RCAF squadrons, Nos 407 and 415, flew Wellingtons on Coastal Command missions. 407 Squadron sank four U-boats with Leigh-light equipped Wellingtons.

(DND Archives Photo, PL33323)

The first No. 407 “Demon” Squadron crew to take to the air on D-Day consisted of (from left) Sergeant C.T. Bryan, Sergeant J. Smith, Flying Officer I. Hoffman, Flying Officer Corrigan, Flying Officer M.N. Gilchrist and Pilot Officer E. Bowler.

(IWM Photo, TR 11)

Royal Air Force ground crew push a 4,000lb blast bomb towards the bay of a Vickers Wellington bomber of No. 419 Squadron, RCAF at RAF Mildenhall in the UK, 1 May 1942.

(RAF Photo)

Vickers Wellington, RAF Bassingbourn OTU, 1940.  Two are preserved in the UK.

(IWM Photo, CH 478)

A crew member on board a Vickers Wellington places night flares in position in the cramped rear fuselage.  Note the Elsan chemical lavatory to the right.

(IWM Photo, CH 13880)

Tail gunner on a Vickers Wellington, 1942.  The turrets used a power-operated Nash & Thompson control unit, with the tail gunner being armed with four .303-inch Browning machine guns.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4558163)

Sergeant Raymond Trudeau, Air Gunner speaking with another gunner in the front turret of a Vickers Wellington, 2 May 1944.

(IWM Photo HU 107810)

Vickers Wellington Mk. I (Serial No. P9249), overhead view, ca 1940.

(RAF Photo)

Vickers Wellington (Serial No. N2887), 13 July 1943.

(RAF Photo)

Loading bombs onto a Wellington.

(IWM Photo, H 10305)

Winston Churchill inspecting a Wellington bomber and its ground crew during a visit to an RAF bomber station, 6 June 1941.

(RAF Photo)

Vickers Wellington bomber formation, c1940.

(IWM Photo, HU 107812)

Vickers Wellington Mk. IC bombers of No. 149 Squadron in flight, circa August 1940.

(IWM Photo, FLM 1995)

Vickers Wellington GR Mk. XIVs at Chivenor, Devon.  In the foreground is (Serial No. MP774), coded P, of No. 179 Squadron RAF, while the other aircraft including (Serial No. HF127), coded 2-C, belong to No. 407 Squadron RCAF.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 2266824)

Vickers Wellington Mk. II, coded LQ-O, Canada Stamp.

(IWM Photo, CH 3027)

Vickers Wellington Mk. II (Serial No. W5379), in flight from Aldergrove, County Antrim, prior to delivery to No. 12 Squadron, RAF. at Binbrook, Lincolnshire.  It was lost over Cologne on 11 October 1941. One of the aircrew lost was RCAF Flt Sgt Alfred Joseph Childs.

(IWM Photo,  CNA 2699)

Vickers Wellington B Mk. X, No. 20 Squadron, RAF in Italy, similar to the bombers flown by No. 431 Squadron.

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