Aircraft of the Month
The Vickers Vimy emanated from the 1917 requirement for a night bomber capable of attacking targets in Germany. A contract was let for three prototypes in August of that year with the first of these taking to the air on 30th November. Due to engine supply difficulties, the prototypes were tested with several different power plants before production orders were announced. With just three machines being delivered to the RAF by October 1918, the Vimy was too late for 1st World War operations and did not truly enter service until July 1919, at which time it was delivered to No 58 Squadron in Egypt. The aircraft then formed the main bomber force in the Middle East and UK until being replaced in 1925 – although a reserve squadron was retained until 1929. Thereafter, it was employed as a training machine and air ambulance with use as a target for searchlight crew training extending until 1938.
The in-service Vimy was powered by 2 x Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines of 360 hp, albeit many of the later training aircraft were re-equipped with either Bristol Jupiters or Armstrong Siddeley Jaguars. Armament comprised a single .303 in Lewis gun in each of the nose and mid-fuselage positions and the aircraft was capable of carrying a bomb load of up to 2,500 lb. The Vimy was operated by 11 RAF squadrons and a commercial version found favour with the UK and four other countries. It was this civil guise that it saw operational service as a bomber during the Second Zhili-Fengtian War in 1924 China.
It was in long-distance flights that the Vimy truly made its name, the most significant being the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic by Alcock and Whitten Brown in 1919. The type was also the first aircraft to fly from the UK to Australia with an all-Australian crew. The two machines concerned have been preserved and are on display at the Science Museum London and in Adelaide respectively. Of two airworthy replicas produced, one is on display at the RAF Museum Hendon and the other at the Brooklands Museum.