The Vickers Warwick was a multi-purpose, twin-engined marine reconnaissance aircraft which bears a very strong resemblance to the well-known Vickers Wellington bomber.
It utilised the same Barnes Wallis designed geodesic method of airframe construction as the 'Wimpy' (a popular nickname for the Wellington) although the Warwick was a much larger and heavier aircraft, having a greater wingspan (by more than 10 feet) and a significantly higher all-up weight by some 50 percent.
Originally intended for use as a heavy bomber, the Warwick was created against Specification B.1/35 and it was the largest British twin-engine aircraft to serve during the Second World War.
Two prototypes were ordered, the first of which (K8178) was powered by 2 x 1,800hp Rolls-Royce Vulture II engines and it flew for the first time at Brooklands, Weybridge on 13th August 1939. With Joseph 'Mutt' Summers at the controls, the test only lasted a few minutes due to a defective carburettor linkage
The second prototype (L9704) did not fly until 5th April 1940 and initially carried two Bristol Centaurus engines although it was subsequently re-engined with two Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engines.
In later life, the aircraft flew with two remotely controlled rear firing cannon barbettes, fitted in the rear of the engine nacelles and added as part of the development programme of the four-engine Vickers Windsor.
The first production aircraft (BV214) flew in April 1942, powered by PW R-2800-S1A4-G engines. It was delivered to the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down on 3rd July 1942 as the Vickers Warwick B Mk1.
However, by this time the British heavy bomber policy had switched to using only four-engine designs such as the Shorts Stirling, Handley Page Halifax and the Avro Lancaster. As a result of this change and despite 150 x Type 422 Warwick B Mk I aircraft having been ordered, only 16 were finally completed before use of this twin engine type was abandoned for use in a bomber role.
The Vickers Warwick B Mk II (Type 413) bomber prototype was intended as a Bristol Centaurus-powered version of the design although none were actually built as such. In fact, only one single Warwick B Mk I was converted to Centaurus power and it subsequently served as an engine test-bed in support of the Centaurus development programme.
The Vickers Warwick C Mk I (Type 456) variant was ordered for use as an 'interim transport aircraft' for the wartime use of national carrier BOAC and some fourteen examples were built. The transport variant boasted increased fuel capacity whilst all turrets were removed and cabin side windows were added. The first example (BV243) flew for the first time on 5th February 1944.
Some fourteen Warwick C Mk I aircraft were built and initially allocated civilian registrations (G-AGEX to G-AGFK) and they operated with a a crew of four.
Fully loaded they could carry a 9,600 lb payload and they boasted a take-off weight of 41,996 lb. They were intended for use in Africa and the Middle East although poor engine performance when flying on one engine meant that these aircraft ultimately returned to service (with their original serial numbers) with the RAF, being operated by 525 Sqn and 167 Sqn from 1944.
Experience with the Warwick C Mk I then led to the introduction of the Vickers Warwick C Mk III (Type 460) whose main distinguishing feature (when compared with the C Mk I) was a long under-fuselage cargo pannier. One hundred aircraft were built for RAF transport use and they served with 525 Sqn from mid-1944 onward. It could carry four crew plus 26 fully-equipped troops or 20 paratroops. A freight / stretcher door was also provided on the starboard side of the fuselage.
In 1946, D.Napier & Sons Ltd engines were using a Vickers Warwick C MkIII (HG248 fitted with Sabre VI engines) as an engine test-bed.
The next significant role for the Warwick was as an air-sea rescue aircraft, carrying Lindholme survival equipment and/or an air-droppable lifeboat.
The Warwick B/ASR Mk I retained its nose and upper / tail turrets and was produced in various configurations. The first variant was the Warwick Bomber / ASR which could carry two sets of Lindholme gear although this did not include the lifeboat. 40 were built examples were built.
Next came 10 x Warwick ASR (Stage A) aircraft that could carry the lifeboat, or Lindholme gear. These were followed by 20 x Warwick ASR (Stage B) with ASV radar.
Finally, some 205 of the definitive Warwick ASR Mk I were built for the air-sea rescue role, carrying an improved lifeboat and powered by two 1,850 hp Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp radial piston engines.
The final Warwick Mk1 ASR variant to be ordered was designated (by Vickers) as the Warwick ASR Mk VI (type 485 although this designation was not used by the RAF) and 94 were built.
The Vickers Warwick GR Mk II (Type 469) was a Bristol Centaurus-powered version for use by Coastal Command as a torpedo bomber capable of carrying three 18-inch torpedoes, or two 24-inch torpedoes. The GR Mk II was fitted with an ASV Mk III or Mk VIB, mounted under the nose; 132 were built, of which 14 were modified for meteorological research as the Warwick GR Mk II Met.
The final version was the Warwick GR Mk V (Type 474) anti-submarine and general reconnaissance variant. It featured a retractable belly-mounted Leigh light and was armed with 7 machine guns, 6,000 lb of bombs, mines and depth charges. 210 aircraft were built and it operated with 179 Sqn RAF and with two SAAF squadrons. The first Warwick GR Mk V (PN697) was flown at Brooklands in April 1944.
A small dorsal fin was subsequently fitted to the GR Mk V (and retrospectively to earlier marks) to cure directional instability problems, which had caused the rudder to lock over, giving rise to a number of accidents.
Variants & Numbers
|Prototypes||Two K8178, L9704|
|B Mk I||16 from 150 ordered|
|C Mk I||14 transport aircraft for BOAC diverted to RAF use|
|ASR Bomber||40 aircraft Lindholme gear, no lifeboat|
|ASR Stage A||10 aircraft lifeboat or Lindholme gear|
|ASR Stage B||20 aircraft as Stage A with ASV radar|
|ASR Mk I||205 aircraft, improved lifeboat, no Lindholme gear|
|ASR Mk VI||94 aircraft (RAF designation remained ASR Mk I) PW R-2800-2SBG engines|
|B Mk II||Centaurus powered. One prototype converted from B Mk I BV216|
|GR Mk II||132 aircraft – 118 GR Mk II, 14 GR Mk II Met|
|C Mk III||100 transport aircraft for RAF use|
|GR Mk V||210 torpedo bomber reconnaissance for Coastal Command|
|GR Mk V experimental||HG336 converted to test turbo-charged PW R-2800-57 designated Vickers Type 606.|
|Total production||843 aircraft (with two conversions, as noted above)|
|Warwick ASR Mk I||Warwick GR Mk II|
|Powerplants||Two 1,850hp PW R-2800-S1A4-G||Two 2,500hp Bristol Centaurus VI|
|Span||98 ft 8.5 in||98 ft 8.5 in|
|Maximum Weight||45,000 lb||51,250 lb|
|Capacity and armament||Seven crew, twin gun front- and mid-upper turrets, four gun rear turret. Mk II air-droppable lifeboat||Five crew, twin gun front- and mid-upper turrets, four-gun rear turret. Leigh light, 15,520 lb bomb load|
|Maximum Speed||224 mph at 3,600 ft||262 mph at 2,000 ft|
|Range||2,300 miles at 150 mph and 5,000 ft||3,050 miles at 161 mph and 5,000 ft|