It is incredible that such and important warplane, built in great numbers, and playing a vital role in Bomber Command, should not be represented by at least one airworthy example. Unfortunately, very few examples survive on static display. It is also amazing that Barnes Wallace is not better known for his design of the Wellington and the innovative geodetic construction system. Most will know him only as the designer of the dam Buster’s bouncing bomb, and some may also know him for his 5 ton and 10 ton earthquake bunker busting bombs which were used to sink the Tirpitz and destroy key German bunkers and railway tunnels.
NAME: Vickers Wellington, 1936 to 1953 (all marks and models), Owner’s Workshop Manual
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Iain R Murray
PUBLISHER: NNP Books
BINDING: soft back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: RAF, Bomber Command, strategic bombing, Coastal Command, maritime reconnaissance and attack, geodetic, twin engine bombers, WWII, World War Two, Barnes Wallace, medium bombers, long range bombers
DESCRIPTION: It is incredible that such and important warplane, built in great numbers, and playing a vital role in Bomber Command, should not be represented by at least one airworthy example. Unfortunately, very few examples survive on static display. It is also amazing that Barnes Wallace is not better known for his design of the Wellington and the innovative geodetic construction system. Most will know him only as the designer of the dam Buster’s bouncing bomb, and some may also know him for his 5 ton and 10 ton earthquake bunker busting bombs which were used to sink the Tirpitz and destroy key German bunkers and railway tunnels.
Barnes Wallace began his career designing airships, perfected the use of geodetic construction in aircraft design, designed the aircraft that used this unique construction system, designed the dam and earthquake bombs, and in his 80s was still at his drawing board, working on super advanced designs including a variable geometry super-sonic airliner and bomber. Wallace always said that he was inspired by others rather than being a true pioneer. Certainly, the geodetic construction system started with rigid airships where the huge bulk of the gas bags required a very large but very light structure to contain and protect them. Howeve, it was Wallace who saw how the principles could be applied to heavier-than-air machines to reduce weight significantly without reducing strength in the structure. It may be a more accident than design, but the Wellington and Warwick bombers were able to avoid battle damage because shrapnel often passed through the spaces between geodetic frames rather than blowing dangerous holes as happened when metal aircraft flew through anti-aircraft fire. Some bombers landed with so many holes it seem unbelievable that they had flow hundred of miles in that condition. They were also rapidly repaired and returned to duty, sometimes the next day, when other aircraft would have been fit only for scrap or never made it home.
The first geodetic design to enter service was the Wellesley bomber. It was a slightly odd looking monoplane, carrying its bomb load in under-wing panniers and having its crew under separate canopies, but it was very successful. It offered exception range and ceiling, over-flying Mount Everest and gaining a distance record that stood for seven years before being broken by a Boeing B-29 Superfortress. This provided a solid base for Wallace to move on to designing the Wellington as a very large and capable bomber with outstanding performance gained, as in the Wellesley through the significant weight-saving and durability that its geodetic structure provided. It was also an relatively easy aircraft to build and famously was filmed being built and test flown in a 24 hour period. In 1939, what RAF Bomber Command desperately needed was a very large fleet of very rugged and reliable aircraft that could carry a worthwhile bomb load to Berlin and return home to fly again. The Wellington was that bomber. Until the superlative Lancaster four engine bomber entered service with the ability to carry one of Wallace’s 10 ton earthquake bombs, the Wellington was the star and mainstay of Bomber Command.
The Wellington featured a large internal bomb bay that could carry up to 4,500 lb of bombs which was a heavy bomb load at the time, although soon to be dwarfed by the 22,000 lb capacity of a Lancaster. The defensive armament was good, with nose and tail powered turrets and single waist guns, the early ventral position being deleted. As an aircraft, it was much loved by its crews and was not finally taken out of service until 1953. Although best known as a bomber, the Wellington served in several roles. One very important role was to fly with a huge DWI ring to explode magnetic mines. This allowed large areas of coastal waters to be swept quickly and frequently to eliminate the danger presented by magnetic mines to convoys and vessels entering port. The Wellington was also used to drop experimental versions of the dam buster bomb. That these duties required a relatively small number of aircraft on duties that enjoyed the strongest support of Winston Churchill may explain why the RAF was prepared to release the aircraft from bombing missions. Generally, the RAF was very reluctant to transfer aircraft for vital maritime duties, a reluctance that was to continue to the end of the war.
When the RAF did agree to Wellingtons being assigned permanently to Coastal Command, it was to prove a most effective maritime patrol and attack aircraft. Its long range capability enabled it to fly long patrols and it was easily adapted for new weapons and equipment. In its later service, the Coastal Command Wellington was equipped with powerful radar and under-wing rockets, in addition to Leigh light searchlights and depth bombs in the internal bomb bay.
As with other books in this popular workshop series, the author has collected the views of crew members and engineers. The book is lavishly illustrated through with many photographs and drawings appearing in full colour. There a very interesting chapter on the Lock Ness Wellington, now displayed at Brooklands Musuem, which is the only Wellington on display that saw active service. From a chance discovery of the wreck, a dramatic recovery operation was planned and executed. ‘R for Robert’ then underwent a major and painstaking restoration, temporarily doubling the number of preserved Wellingtons, although MF628 is due to complete restoration at Cosford in 2015 and is expected to return to the RAF (Hendon) museum.
The quality of illustration and production of this book is outstanding and makes a valuable contribution to the history and knowledge of a unique aircraft.