Vickers Wellington MK II
Entering serivce with the RAF in October 1938 the Wellington bomber was rated as the RAF’s best bomber at the beginning of the war. Wellingtons proved to be so useful and adaptable that they were the only aircraft type in use at the beginning of world war two still in production at the end of the war. Nicknamed "Wimpy" after the portly, hamburger eating character J Wellington Wimpy in the children's cartoon "Popeye." 11,460 Wellington's were produced by the time production ceased in 1945. Although the Wellington’s main roll was as a long range medium bomber the aircraft proved to be so versataile that it filled many rolls during the war. Wellingtons were used as submarine hunter-killers, torpedo-strike aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, freighters, supply droppers, air ambulances, and trainers. The Wellington continued in service with the RAF until 1953 when the last aircraft of the type, being used as a trainer at that time, was withrawn from service. Wellingtons were built using a strong geodetic cross member construction, designed by Barnes Wallis of Dam Buster fame. This geodetic construction enabled this aircraft type to suffer a huge amount of damage and still remain controllable.
The Vickers Wellington MK II was in operation with 158 Squadron from the date the squadron was reformed on 14 February of 1942 until 01 June of the same year when the type flew its last operation for 158. Over that time a total of approximately 37 Wellington's were allocated to the squadron. In June 1942 158 squadron was re-equipped with Halifax Mk II aircraft. Although only used by 158 squadron for a scant 4 month period Wellingtons flew a total of 35 bombing operations comprising a total of 204 sorties with the squadron.158 squadron lost a total of 18 Wellingtons during this time. 158 Squadron operated the Wellington with a crew of 5. The pilot and navigator ( designated observer at that time ) were the only two specifically trained crew for their trades. The other 3 crew men were designated Wireless Operator Air Gunner (WAG). The duties of the WAGS seems to have been interchangeable. These men were trained to operate the radios, act as bomb aimers or to take on the roll of air gunner. Often the Wellingtons of 158 carried a second pilot. This man was not part of the crew he was most often a new member of the squadron being given the opportunity to fly with an experienced crew before being given command of his own aircraft. Second pilots were known by slang term "second Dickie." In the early months of 158 squadrons operations many pilots started their careers as Second Dickie.
Full Complement Of 158 Squadron aircrew seen in front of a MK II Wellington.
Roll: Twin engine medium bomber
Power Plant: 2 x Rolls Royce Merlin X 1,145hp engines
Wing Span: 86ft 2in
Length: 64ft 7in
Height: 17ft 5in
Max Weight Fully Loaded: 33,000lbs
Service Ceiling at max weight: 23,500ft
Maximum Speed: 254 mph at 15,000ft
Range with full bomb load: 1,540 miles
Nose and Tail Gun Turrets: 2x .303 Browning Machine Guns in Nash and Thompson FN5 turrets
Beam Guns: 2x .303 Machine Guns
Max Bomb Load: 4,500lbs
Wellinton At War – Chaz Bower pub Littlehampton Book Services Ltd 1982, ISBN-10: 0711012202, ISBN-13: 978-0711012202
Haynes – Vickers Wellington Owner’s Workshop Manual – Haynes Publishing c2012, ISBN:978 0 85733 230 1