Vickers Wellington World War Two Bomber to be Restored with Original Czech Markings?

One of only two remaining Vickers Wellington long-range bombers that flew during World War Two is being restored to its former, original glory. A Czech contingent is lobbying for the plane to be restored with its original Czech markings in honour of Czech pilots, who flew with the British Royal Air Force in the war.

The aircraft is currently housed and awaiting restoration at RAF Cosford in Shropshire, England. It is the most well-preserved remaining Vickers Wellington; one other crashed during the war and was found at the bottom of Loch Ness, Scotland in the 1980s.

The Vickers Wellington bomber was the aircraft flown by the 311th Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron on behalf of the Allied forces. The 311th Squadron was commissioned at Honington Royal Air Force base in England in 1940. At the end of the war, the squadron was decommissioned and its crewmen returned to Czechoslovakia.

The squadron had used the Wellington bombers for their initial sorties, and by 1943 began to fly the Consolidated Liberator bombers. To signify and identify their squadron, the Wellingtons would have ‘KX’ painted on the side, while the Liberators would have ‘PP’ painted there.

The aircraft being restored is a T.10 model, serial number MF628. After the war it was modified and stored for training purposes only. It is now owned by the Royal Air Force Museum and has been undergoing reconstruction since 2010 in order to bring it back to its original condition and appearance, the Prague Post reports.

It is hoped that the reconstruction will be completed by the end of 2015, and it is likely that the aircraft will be displayed at the RAF Museum in Hendon near London. However, the Czech authorities are eager to ensure the 311th Squadron insignia is repainted on the aircraft so the plane will be a permanent reminder and memorial to the Czech crewmen who fought during World War Two.  Both the Czech embassy in London and the British embassy in Prague, as well as several leading British MPs and officials, are backing the inclusion of the insignia on the aircraft.

Wellington GR Mk XIII showing anti-submarine radar masts – Wikipedia

Czechoslovak pilots who flew with the RAF during World War Two were also recently honoured with a new Winged Lion statue in Prague’s Malá Strana. The statue was unveiled by Sir Nicholas Soames, Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson and a British MP. During the event, a war-time Spitfire painted with the Czech insignia did a fly-past.  Some Czech conservatives have opposed the statue, but the Czech government has said it will remain in place.

The Vickers Wellington

The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engined, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs’ Chief Designer, Rex Pierso. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a bomber by the larger four-engined “heavies” such as the Avro Lancaster.

Wellington Mark I aircraft, with the original Vickers turrets, of the RNZAF — anticipating war, the New Zealand government loaned these aircraft and their aircrews to the RAF in August 1939 – Wikipedia

The Wellington continued to serve throughout the war in other duties, particularly as an anti-submarine aircraft. It was the only British bomber to be produced for the entire duration of the war, and was still first-line equipment when the war ended. The Wellington was one of two bombers named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the other being the Vickers Wellesley.

Role: bomber, anti-submarine aircraft
Manufacturer: Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd.
First flight: 15 June 1936
Introduction: October 1938
Retired March 1953
Produced: 1936–1945
Number built: 11,461

A captured Vickers Wellington Mk.IC (RAF serial L7842) in service with the German Luftwaffe, probably at the test center at Rechlin, circa 1941. Bundesarchiv / Wikipedia

There are two complete surviving Vickers Wellingtons preserved in the United Kingdom. Some other substantial parts also survive.

Wellington IA serial number N2980 is on display at Brooklands Museum at Brooklands, Surrey. Built at Brooklands and first flown in November 1939, this aircraft took part in the RAF’s daylight bombing raids on Germany early in the Second World War but later lost power during a training flight on 31 December 1940 and ditched in Loch Ness. All the occupants survived except the rear gunner, who was killed when his parachute failed to open.

The aircraft was recovered from the bottom of Loch Ness in September 1985 and restored in the late 1980s and 1990s. A new Wellington exhibition around N2980 was officially opened by Robin Holmes (who led the recovery team), Penelope Keith (as trustee of Brooklands Museum), Norman Parker (who worked for Vickers) and Ken Wallis (who flew Wellingtons operationally) on 15 June 2011, the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the type’s effective prototype in 1936.

Wellington T.10 serial number MF628 is held by the Royal Air Force Museum.[12] It was delivered to RAF No.18 MU (Maintenance Unit) for storage at RAF Tinwald Downs, Dumfries, as a Wellington B.X, on 11 May 1944.

In March 1948 the front gun turret was removed in its conversion to a T.10 for its role as a postwar aircrew trainer; the RAF Museum later refitted the front gun turret in keeping with its original build as a B.X (wartime mark numbers used Roman numerals, Arabic numerals were adopted postwar).In Autumn 2010, this aircraft was taken to the RAF Museum’s site at Cosford for restoration over the next four or five years.

Wellingstons at War

A propaganda movie from 1939 showing the Wellington Bomber:

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE