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Vickers Aircraft: Vimy

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1920. Vickers Aircraft Weybridge Works.
Sept 1940.

Note: This is a sub-section of Vickers Aircraft.

The Vickers Vimy was a British heavy bomber aircraft of the First World War and post-First World War era. It achieved success as both a military and civil aircraft, setting several notable records in long-distance flights in the interwar period.

Reginald Kirshaw "Rex" Pierson, chief designer of Vickers Limited (Aviation Department) in Leighton Buzzard, designed a twin-engine biplane bomber, the Vickers F.B.27 to meet a requirement for a night bomber capable of attacking targets in Germany, a contract being placed for three prototypes on 14 August 1917.

Design and production of the prototypes was extremely rapid, with the first flying on 30 November 1917, powered by two 200 hp Hispano-Suiza engines. It was named after the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Owing to engine supply difficulties, the prototype Vimys were tested with a number of different engine types, including Sunbeam Maoris, Salmson 9Zm water cooled radials, and Fiat A.12bis engines, before production orders were placed for aircraft powered by the 230 hp BHP Puma, 400 hp Fiat, 400 hp Liberty L-12 and the 360 hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines, with a total of 776 ordered before the end of the First World War. Of these, only aircraft powered by the Eagle engine, known as the Vimy IV, were delivered to the RAF.

By October 1918, only three aircraft had been delivered to the Royal Air Force, one of which had been deployed to France for use by the Independent Air Force. The war ended, however, before it could be used on operations.

Orders were made to Westland during the First World War for the Vimy.[1]

The Vimy only reached full service status in July 1919 when it entered service with 58 Squadron in Egypt. The aircraft formed the main heavy bomber force of the RAF for much of the 1920s.

The Vimy served as a front line bomber in the Middle East and in the United Kingdom from 1919 until 1925, when it was replaced by the Vickers Virginia, but continued to equip a Special Reserve bomber squadron, 502 Squadron at Aldergrove in Northern Ireland until 1929.

The Vimy continued in use as a training aircraft, many being re-engined with Bristol Jupiter or Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar radial engines.

The final Vimys, used as Target aircraft for searchlight crews remained in use until 1938.

The most significant was the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by Alcock and Brown in June 1919 (their aircraft is preserved in the London Science Museum)

In 1919, the Australian government offered £10,000 for the first All-Australian crew to fly an aeroplane from England to Australia. Keith Macpherson Smith, Ross Macpherson Smith and two other men completed the journey in Darwin on 10 December 1919 (their aircraft G-EAOU is preserved in a museum in Smith's hometown Adelaide, Australia)

In 1920, Lieutenant Colonel Pierre van Ryneveld and Major Quintin Brand attempted to make the first England to South Africa flight. They left Brooklands on 4 February 1920 in the Vimy G-UABA named Silver Queen. They landed safely at Heliopolis, but as they continued the flight to Wadi Halfa they were forced to land due to engine overheating with 80 miles still to go. A second Vimy was loaned to the pair by the RAF at Heliopolis (and named Silver Queen II). This second aircraft continued to Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia where it was badly damaged when it failed to take off. Rynevald and Brand then borrowed a Airco DH.9 to continue the journey to Cape Town. They were disqualified as winners but nevertheless the South African government awarded them £5,000 each.

The Vimy Commercial was a civilian version with a larger diameter fuselage (largely of spruce plywood), which was developed at and first flew from the Joyce Green airfield in Kent on 13 April 1919. Initially, it bore the interim civil registration K-107, later being re-registered as G-EAAV.

The prototype entered the 1920 race to Cape Town; it left Brooklands on 24 January 1920 but crashed at Tabora, Tanganyika on 27 February.

A Chinese order for 100 is particularly noteworthy, although a failure to pay interest from April 1922 probably led to the order not being completed. Forty of the 43 built were delivered to China but most remained in their crates unused, with only seven of these being put into civilian use.

Fifty-five military transport versions of the Vimy Commercial were built for the RAF as the Vickers Vernon.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Flight 1940/09/12