Vickers / Vickers-Armstrongs
When Edward Vickers bought Barrow Shipbuilding Company in 1897, he acquired its subsidiary The Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company. It was quickly renamed as Vickers, Sons and Maxim, manufacturer of guns, ammunition, ships, submarines and automobiles.
In 1908, and despite their lack of experience, the Admiralty asked the company to build a rigid airship along the lines of the German Zeppelin. Unofficially known as the Mayfly, construction began in 1909 although it was soon beset with delays and much wrangling with the Admiralty over funding. The name Mayfly must have surely have attracted ribald comment and in the press the ‘Mayfly’ became the ‘Neverfly’ because shortly after its completion in 1911 the airship broke its back without ever having flown.
Notwithstanding the initial failure of the airship project and a change of name, confidence in the aviation industry was so strong that the company formed Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department) in 1912. It had acquired a licence from Robert Esnault Pelterie to build the REP monoplane at its base at Joyce Green near Dartford, Kent to which it later added a Flying School at the new Brooklands Race Track and Flying Grounds. Despite being described by detractors as a ‘large wooden shed next to The Long Reach Tavern’, many key events were held at Joyce Green including the first flight of the Vickers FB.5 Gunbus and later the Commercial Vickers Vimy.
In 1915, Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department) relocated manufacturing to Brooklands where it produced a series of pusher aircraft which included the now thriving Gunbus, Britain’s first practical fighting aircraft which proved so successful in World War I.
So rapid was the growth in Vickers aviation engineering knowledge that they designed and built the prototype Vickers Vimy in just 5 months. The Vimy went on to achieve worldwide fame by becoming the first aeroplane to be flown non-stop across the Atlantic by Alcock and Brown in June 1919.
During 1928, Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department) finally formed an official aircraft company under the name Vickers Aviation Limited although only months later they became involved in a merger with the heavy engineering (i.e. non-aviation) interests of The Armstrong Whitworth Development Company.
Vickers returned briefly to airship manufacturing between the wars with the Barnes Wallis designed R.100 which completed a return Atlantic crossing in 1930 prior to being abandoned following the tragedy which befell the R.101.
Barnes Wallis himself became a significant personality within Vickers Limited during the pre-war years, especially with the introduction of the geodetic design concept in the Wellesley and Wellington. Wallis was probably better known however for his significant work on aerial bombs including the ‘Dambusters Bomb’ as well as the Tallboy and Grand Slam weapons.
The make up of the company gets a little confusing from this point because of a major re-organisation and it was only the defence and engineering businesses of Armstrong Whitworth that were actually merged with Vickers.
The merger did not include the aircraft manufacturing business, Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Limited and that entity remained until it later became part of the sale of the Armstrong Siddeley Development Company to Hawker Aircraft Limited.
However, Vickers-Armstrongs Limited took control of all of Vickers previous aviation interests and began aircraft construction under the Vickers designation at Weybridge alongside its sister company Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers) Limited in Southampton.
Both companies were finally combined in 1954 to formally become Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Limited and continued manufacturing aircraft under their own brand names until the merger with The Bristol Aircraft Limited, English Electric and Hunting Aircraft to form the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) in 1960.
|Vickers, Sons and Maxim Limited|
|1911||Vickers Limited (Aviation Department)|
|1928||Vickers (Aviation) Limited|
|1954||Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Limited|
|1960||British Aircraft Corporation|
|1914||FB 5||1929||Canadian Vancouver|
|1911||R.E.P. Type Monoplane||1927||Canadian Vanessa|
|1917||Vampire||1930||Type 143 (Bolivian Scout)|
|1918||Valentia (flying boat)||1930||Viastra|
|1922||Victoria||1933||Type 207 (M.1/30)|
|1922||Vulcan||1934||Type 264 Valentia (1934 transport)|
|1923||Vanguard Type 170||1935||Wellesley|
|1926||Wibault Type 121 Scout||1960||Vanguard|