Saturday, June 26, 2010

1/144 Vickers Wellington from Atlas Editions

The Wellington was Vickers' response to the British Air Ministry's 1932 specification for a twin-engined medium bomber. It was built using a unique and ingenious geodetic construction developed by the brilliant Barnes Wallis, who later developed the bouncing bomb. The aircraft's fuselage was built of a large criss-cross metal mesh which gave the aircraft incredible strength. This meant that fabric-covered Wellingtons came home with very large holes in them caused by flak or cannon fire when other aircraft would have broken up in mid-air. However with unsealed fuel tanks, the "Wimpy" was very vulnerable in daylight missions so it was soon switched to night operations.

The Wellington proved to be a very successful night bomber and carried out bombing raids deep into Germany and Italy. The night of Aurgust 25-6, 1940 saw Wellingtons of Nos.99 and 149 Squadrons join Hampdens and Whitleys on Bomber Command's first attack on the heart of the Third Reich, Berlin. The Cologne raid of May 30, 1942, saw no fewer than 599 Wellingtons take part in the mission.

The type also saw use in the Middle East, North Africa, India and in Greek campaigns. Its last offensive mission in Europe was on the night of October 8-9, 1943 aganst Hanover.

This Mk.Ic Wellington in 1/144 scale model from Atlas editions suffers from quality issues and doesn't do justice to this great RAF bomber unfortunately. It joined my collection for only 2 Euros however, so I wasn't so upset in the end :)
I decided to write a short review, since there is another Wimpy in this scale from Altaya which might be better. Things I don't like:

- the lattice-work construction are not visible on the wings.
- no fabric covering on the fuselage sides
- the undercarriage has oversized disks
- exhaust pipes barely visible
- heavy gaps in fuselage parts

Wellington serial number L7818 of No.75 Squadron, has quite an interesting story. The first New Zealand pilot, Sergeant James 'Jimmy' Ward, was awarded the Victoria Cross:

On the night of 7th July 1941, Sergeant Ward was second pilot of a Wellington returning from an attack on Munster. When flying over the Zuider Zee at 13,000feet, the aircraft was attacked from beneath by a Messerschmitt which secured hits with cannon shell and incendiary bullets. The rear gunner was wounded in the foot but delivered a burst of fire which sent the enemy fighter down, apparently out of control. Fire then broke out near the starboard engine and, fed by petrol from a split pipe, quickly gained an alarming hold and threatened to spread to the entire wing. The crew forced a hole in the fuselage and made strenuous efforts to reduce the fire with extinguishers and even the coffee in their vacuum flasks, but without success. They were then warned to be ready to abandon the aircraft.
As a last resort, Sergeant Ward volunteered to make an attempt to smother the fire with an engine cover which happended to be in use as a cushion. At first he proposed to discard his parachute to reduce wind resistance, but was finally persuaded to take it. A rope from the dinghy was tied to him, though this was of little help and might have become a danger had he been blown off the aircraft. With the help of the navigator, he then climbed through the narrow astro-hatch and put on his parachute.

The bomber was flying at a reduced speed but the wind pressure must have been sufficient to render the operation one of extreme difficulty.
Breaking the fabric to make hand and foot holds where necessary, and also taking advantage of existing holes in the fabric, Sergeant Ward succeeded in descending three feet to the wing and proceeding another three feet to a position behind the engine, despite the slipstream from the airscrew, which nearly blew him off the wing. Lying in this precarious position, he smothered the fire in the wing fabric and tried to push the cover into the hole in the wing and on to the leaking pipe from which the fire came. As soon as he removed his hand, however, the terrific wind blew the cover out and when he tried again it was lost. Tired as he was, he was able with the navigator's assistance, to make successfully the perilous journey back into the aircraft. There was now no danger of the fire spreading from the petrol pipe as there was no fabric left nearby, and in due course burnt itself out.

When the aircraft was nearly home some petrol which had collected in the wing blazed up furiously but died down quite suddenly. A safe landing was then made despite the damage sustained by the aircraft. The flight home had been made possisble by the gallant action of Sergeant Ward in extinguishing the fire on the wing, in circumstances of the greatest difficulty and at the risk of his life.

* Source:
Art Profile & photos source: "Wellington in Action - Squadron/Signal Publications"

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