Top positive review
20 people found this helpful
Wimpys and Sticklebacks: Vickers Wellington, the 'Basketweave' Bomber.
on 5 February 2013
Having read Dr Murray's previous two publications - Bouncing Bomb Man: The Science of Sir Barnes Wallis and The Dam Busters Manual - a book about the Wellington bomber was clearly an obvious choice of subject for his third work.
The Vickers Wellington Owners' Workshop Manual is a detailed look at the most numerous multi-engined aircraft ever built in Great Britain. It is clear from the author's previous publications that he is an authority on geodetic aircraft structures and all things associated with the work of Sir Barnes Wallis, who was Chief Designer (Structures) at Vickers during the period the Wellington was being developed.
The book's Introduction looks at the theory, development and manufacture of geodetic structures in aircraft and covers the G.4/31, Wellesley and the B.9/32 Wellington prototype. Of course the basketweave structure still had its weaknesses: the book explains why the Wellington still had to have wing spars and intermediate fuselage bulkheads.
Chapter One examines all the different marks of the Wellington and the parallel development of the Vickers Warwick. The high-altitude Wellingtons and their novel pressure cabins are also included, as are the Wellington flying test-beds for the Whittle jet engines and the RR Dart turboprop. There is also a useful 'Wellington Spotters' Guide' table comparing engines, external features, colour schemes, etc. across the various marks.
Chapter Two, The Wellington at War, covers the aircraft's operations in all the theatres in which it served. The chapter concludes with a look at the Wellington's service with Operational Training Units and with other air forces. There is a table comparing the aircraft's survivability with other bombers. A useful subsection, The Wellington At The Movies, gives details of four feature films in which the aircraft plays a starring or a supporting rôle.
Chapter Three is The Anatomy of the Wellington, and the author has gone into every nook and cranny of the skeletal Wellington MkIA 'R for Robert' at the Brooklands Museum to get nice clear photographs of parts described in the text. These are accompanied by several fine photos and drawings from the National Archives. There are also diagrams of the Wellington's autopilot servos, fuel and hydraulics systems, turret diagrams, etc. Weapon loads and load-out options are described and there is also a diagram showing how a pair of air-tailed MkXII torpedoes are accommodated in the bomb bay.
Chapter Four describes the various types of engines fitted to the Wellington: the Bristol Pegasus and Hercules, the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp and the Rolls-Royce Merlin. There are so many fine photographs and engine cutaways that this chapter would appeal to anyone interested in piston aero-engines.
Chapter Five tells the story of the recovery of Wellington MkIA 'R for Robert' from Loch Ness in 1985 and its subsequent restoration. The reader is given the history of the aircraft, which took part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight, and an account of its final flight and accident in the Great Glen in Scotland.
The following chapter looks at the crews' rôles including pre- and post-flight checks, take-off and landing techniques and emergency drills.
The final chapter deals with servicing and maintenance, and the re-arming and bombing up of the Wellington. It concludes with a description of the recovery and repair of crashed aircraft.
In common with Dr Murray's previous books, the final pages of the Wellington Manual include several useful appendices with glossaries and tables of production marks, prototypes and Wellington conversions.
I would also recommend this book for those readers interested in naval warfare. The DWI equipped Wellington was used to sweep for magnetic mines in British and Dutch waters and also in the Suez Canal and eastern Mediterranean area. Manufacture, fitting and operation of the hoop coil used to detonate the mines is well described.
Air-to-Surface Vessel radar/Leigh Light equipped Wellingtons were in action against the U-Boat threat. The MkII and MkIII ASV equipment, operation and tactics employed are covered in some detail, including Kriegsmarine counter-measures - and RAF Coastal Command counter-counter-measures.
What really makes this book is the little details included in its pages: such as the photo of a rear gunner clambering over the retracted ventral turret of a MkIA in order to get to his post, or the tale of Wellington P2521 which was used as an 'airborne telephone exchange' to relay messages to allied agents in France. If you are looking for information on the Vickers Wellington, or if you are simply interested in aircraft of that era, then this is a must-have publication.
Donald B. Forbes 5th February 2013.