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Vickers Wellesley

The Vickers Wellesley was a medium bomber of World War 2.

It was one of two aircraft to be named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the other being the Vickers Wellington.

The Wellesley was developed during the early 1930s in response to Specification G.4/31.

The biplane Vickers Type 253 was effectively an early incarnation of the aircraft, sharing its radical geodesic airframe and many other features.

The Type 253 was determined to be the best submission received by the Air Ministry, thus an order for 150 production aircraft was issued.

As a private venture, Vickers has also developed the monoplane Type 256; following flight testing of this aircraft, the order placed for the Type 253 was converted for the Type 256 instead.

The vast majority of the Wellesley’s production run were supplied to the Royal Air Force (RAF), a total of six squadrons under RAF Bomber Command operated the type at its peak.

A high-profile demonstration of the aircraft’s capabilities was conducted during early November 1938 via a flight of three Wellesleys that flew non-stop for two days from Ismailia, Egypt to Darwin, Australia, a distance of 7,162 miles (11,526 km), setting a world distance record in the process.

While the type was considered to be obsolete by the start of the Second World War and thus unsuited to the European air war, the Wellesley was operated overseas in the desert theatres of East Africa, Egypt and the Middle East.

The final Wellesley-equipped unit, 47 Squadron, ended its use of the type as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft, during September 1942.


Type 281 Wellesley

Company designation for the Wellesley bomber.

Type 287 Wellesley Mk I

Two, and later three-seat medium bomber aircraft.

The Wellesley Mk I had separate canopies for pilot and gunner’s cockpits.

Wellesley Mk II

Unofficial designation used for examples with an extended canopy covering pilot and bombardier.

Type 289

Engine testbed to test the Hercules HE15 radial piston engine.

Type 291

Blind-flying model.

Type 292

Five aircraft modified for long-distance flying by the RAF’s Long-Range Development Unit Flight.

Alterations included extensive development work with a fuel dumping system to allow an emergency landing early in a long-distance flight when the weight of fuel would cause the aircraft to exceed its maximum landing weight.

Visible differences included NACA-type long-chord cowlings.

Three were used on the record-breaking flight.

Type 294

Prototype with strengthened wing for cutting barrage balloon cables.

Type 402

Three-seat experimental aircraft.





39 ft 3 in (11.96 m)


74 ft 4 in (22.66 m)


15 ft 3+1⁄2 in (4.661 m)

Wing area

630 sq ft (59 m2)

Empty weight

6,760 lb (3,066 kg)

Gross weight

11,048 lb (5,011 kg)

Max take-off weight

12,500 lb (5,670 kg)


1 × Bristol Pegasus XX radial engine,

925 hp (690 kW)


Maximum speed

228 mph (367 km/h, 198 kn) at 19,700 ft (6,000 m)

Cruise speed

180 mph (290 km/h, 160 kn) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m) (57% power)


1,220 mi (1,960 km, 1,060 nmi)

Service ceiling

25,500 ft (7,800 m)

Time to altitude

17.8 min to 15,000 ft (4,600 m)



One × .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun in right wing

One × .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine gun in rear cockpit


2,000 lb (910 kg) of bombs.




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