The Aerial side of the Military-Industrial Complex
For almost two centuries, Vickers-Armstrong embodied the image of the super-giant industrial conglomerate, with ramifications and stratifications both horizontal and vertical from the industrial age to the end of the cold war. Building everything from battleships to machine-guns, the Company was for a long time, the British arsenal, and by extension through exports, the world's arsenal, at least before the Unites States took over this duty after WW2. Today part of Rolls-Royce plc, Vickers was funded in 1828, as a Sheffield-based steel foundry by the miller Edward Vickers and his father-in-law George Naylor. It started with church bells and after the railway industry, the company evolved into the military area and shipbuilding (Vickers, Sons & Maxim) by purchasing the Barrow-in-Furness shipbuilder and its subsidiary Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company. It also acquired in 1905 The Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company and later Whitehead and Company, well-known torpedo manufacturers. In 1911 as Vickers Ltd the company took interest on the aviation business. In 1912 Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department) and the Vickers School of Flying were opened at Brooklands, and reinforced by the acquisition of the British Westinghouse electrical company. Later in parallel to its activity in armament, it logically moved during the Great war to the realm of Tanks, carrying out the bulk of the British production from 1917 to the 1970s.
Vickers Aircraft lineage
Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department) of 1911 produced the FB5 (fighting biplane) Gun Bus, specifically tailored to carry a machine gun, a logical product extension of the company's catalogue. It was also one of the first. One of its most spectacular success during the war was the Vimy heavy bomber. Postwar modifications made these first aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop and led to the Virginia, a mainstay bomber in the interwar years. In 1965 the company was integrated into BAC. Daughter companies were Canadian Vickers Limited (which ceased operations in 1944) and Canadair was founded shortly afterward by the team (Now Bombardier Aerospace).
During WW2 the company will produced models such as the Wellington bomber, ...and under supervision of Barnes Wallis a gigantic "city-leveller" of a bomber called the Vickers "Victory Bomber" which stayed at paper stage; It was based on the already large Vickers Windsor.
During the cold war, the company produced one of the three famous "V" atomic Bombers, the Valiant (1951).
Vickers Airship construction
Vickers R23 and Sopwith Camel "parasite" fighter underwing, in 1918 (Imperial War Museum archives).
Mid-way between shipbuilding and aircraft manufacturing, the company was well-placed to try airships as well. It began work on the first British rigid airship for the Admiralty in mid-1909 already in Cavendish Dock, Cumbria. HMA No. 1, was the largest airship in service when completed, but broke up on her second trip on 23 September 1911. A team was formed with H B Pratt, working for J. Samuel White at Cowes and was persuaded to return to Vickers, bringing with him Barnes Wallis. They were given the latest intelligence on the LZ.216 and designed models featuring floating cars slung beneath them while mooring techniques and swivelling motors were refined during the war.
The experimental No. 9r was built in 27 November 1916 for the RNAS (more in a dedicated post). They also delivered the 23 class, counting four airships like the No. 23r and R26, but also the SS class blimps (158 all variants) which played a great role for the RNAS in ASW warfare and sea reconnaissance from 1915 to 1918. The R80 was a large military airship from November 1917, but it was only achieved in 1920 after many modifications as an airliner and ended as being used for training the United States personnel.
Their last airship was in fact a small non-rigid blimp for the Japanese government in 1921. But by 29 November 1923 a subsidiary called the Airship Guarantee Company Limited was created to work on a massive six-engined experimental airship called R100 as part of the Imperial Airship Scheme.
Vickers Gunbus, first commercial success for the company (1914).
Vickers WW1 Planes in detail
The story started when the company decided to burn the steps and leap forward to an already proven design. Vickers purchased a French-built R.E.P. monoplane as a demonstrator with its rear fuselage for future production. REP stands for Robert Esnault-Pelterie, the designer. Apart its service with the Vickers Flying School, Brooklands, Surrey from 1912, it was also the first to fly over Antarctica, part of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911. The next Experimental Fighting Biplane No. 1 was designed as the first offensive aircraft for the RNAS in 1913. It was a unequal-span staggered wing, pusher powered biplane which stayed at the prototype stage. The next FB.5 was the first plane to carry a machine-gun, therefore nicknamed "gunbus", which stuck. It was of the "Farman" pusher layout, which freed the front part of the nacelle, helping to fit a Vickers standard liquid-cooled 0.303 cal. (8 mm) machine gun. This made it an early two-seat fighter, introduced in numbers from March 1915. It was later declined into the FB.6 and FB.9 in 1915-16. They used the British-built Monosoupapes (Gnome) rotary engines, apparently less reliable than the French models. Next, the ES.1 was a late 1914 project of test pilot Harold Barnwell, which designed a fighter around a Clerget 9-cylinder rotary engine, 110 hp (82 kW). Three prototypes were built. Although a very sound, even forward-thinking design for its time, extremely fast with 118 mph (190 km/h), and fitted with the Vickers-Challenger gun synchroniser, it was also reputed extremely difficult to fly (tiring even), heavy on commands, not very agile, and difficult to land, but most of the expertise was passed onto the FB.19 later.
Vickers Vimy Blueprint - 3 views
Here are Vickers WW1 (or prewar) aircraft designs. Production models are in bold, production figures in brackets.
- Vickers monoplane 1911 (8)
- Vickers EFB N°1 1913 (1)
- Vickers FB N°5 1914 (224)
- Vickers ES.1 1915 (3)
- Vickers E.F.B.7 1915 (1)
- Vickers E.F.B.8 1915 (1)
- Vickers FB.11 1916 (1)
- Vickers FB.12 1916 (c22)
- Vickers FB.14 1916 (c100)
- Vickers FB.16 fighter 1916 (5?)
- Vickers FB.19 fighter 1916 (62)
- Vickers F.B.24 fighter 1916 (3?)
- Vickers F.B.25 night fighter 1917 (1)
- Vickers Vampire fighter 1917 (4)
- Vickers Vimy 1917 (c2000)
The company on wikipedia
Vickers Limited on wikipedia