Wellington was a twin-engined British aircraft manufactured by Vickers-Armstrongs, which was mainly used as a bomber during the Second World War. Between 1936 and 1945 11,461 aircraft of different versions were produced. This makes the Wellington the most-built bomber of the RAF. The “Wimpys” were used as a flying test bed for the first jet engines and turboprops until the early 1950’s. The nickname “Wimpy” was based on the cartoon character “Popeye”, popular in the 1930’s, who had a friend named J. Wellington Wimpy. In the RAF the machine was almost exclusively called “Wimpy”.
In the early 1930s the Air Ministry issued the specification B.9/32 for a new heavy bomber. A heavy bomber in high wing design was considered too heavy. Therefore a mid-wing was designed, which promised lower rudder forces, higher speeds and a more economical fuel consumption. The disadvantage of the mid-wing configuration, however, is that the crossbar connecting the two wings has to absorb large forces – this is where the lift forces of the wings and the fuselage load meet – and must therefore be designed to be very powerful. The main spar is therefore best placed at the centre of gravity, where the bombs and main tank are also located. The consequence is a shift of the centre of gravity when dropping the bombs or emptying the tank during flight. The largest and heaviest component of this aircraft construction is a box spar which runs between the two engine nacelles and connects fuselage and wings. The heaviest components are attached to it: The two engines (600 kg each) and the main landing gear. Furthermore the bomb load (up to 2700 kg), the central fuel tanks and the outer wings. In order to maximize the size of the fuel tanks and bomb bay, the outer structure had to be as light as possible and without parts protruding into the aircraft interior.
Vickers chief designer Barnes Wallis then planned a twin-engine mid-wing with the patented geodesic fuselage and wing structure. In this design, bars of light metal were connected diagonally to form a lattice structure and then covered with fabric. The result was a very stiff, light and robust structure, in which only the fabric was damaged by fire but the stability of the airframe was only compromised by direct hits. The disadvantage of this construction method was that it was labour-intensive and therefore expensive. The consumption of resources, on the other hand, appeared to be acceptable. The low dead weight allowed innovations such as armoured pilot seats and control elements such as cables, hydraulic lines, batteries and an emergency fuel reserve, which were housed in the main spar. Large parts of the fuselage were freely accessible. This was an advantage when hits were received, because if the fuselage or wing covering was torn once, the covering was strongly bulged by the airstream. This resulted in a partly considerable change of the flight characteristics. In some cases, the crew used their life jackets to plug holes in the aircraft caused by hits during flight in order to regain control of the aircraft. One of the first further developments were lockable plywood bulkheads. The first flight of the prototype (K4049) was on 15 June 1936. Apart from an enlarged vertical tail, no major changes had to be made. In August 1936 the first series machines were ordered. The first Wellington Mk I had radial engines of the type Bristol Pegasus XVIII with 1000 hp and came in October 1938 to the No. 9 Squadron. The first large mission against the German naval base Wilhelmshaven turned out to be a fiasco. During the air battle on December 18, 1939, the thesis put forward by Stanley Baldwin in 1932 that a bomber group, in which the planes covered each other with their defensive weapons, “always gets through” (“Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through” …) was refuted. The fighter squadrons of the Luftwaffe were warned early by radar and were able to intercept the approaching 22 bombers with their Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Bf 110. The result was twelve shot down and another three badly damaged Wellingtons, which had to be written off as a total loss after their return to England, so RAF Bomber Command attacked mainly at night until the end of the war. Squadrons equipped with Wellingtons were used many times against Germany in the first years of the war, until the four-engined bombers (Short Stirling, Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster) were available in larger numbers. The Wellington, now classified as a medium bomber, was involved in the first thousand-engine bomber attack on Cologne on 30 May 1942, accounting for about 60 percent of the aircraft used. The type was built in many variants; most of the modifications involved new engines. Instead of the Pegasus also Bristol Hercules, Rolls-Royce Merlin and also Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp were installed. Also a high-altitude bomber version Mk V with pressurized cabin was tested, but 9,145 m altitude was insufficient. The Wellington was also used very successfully in North Africa and the Far East. After 1941, however, the RAF Coastal Command was the largest user. Here it was used as a anti-submarine bomber, minelayer and, with a magnetic ring, also as a minesweeper. It was also used for towing cargo gliders and dropping parachute agents. Without armament it was also used to transport troops and material. The production ended after nine years on 25 October 1945 and from 1944 the development of the passenger aircraft Vickers Viking began, for which the outer wing and landing gear of the Wellington were used.