Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department) Limited

One of the most important companies in the history of British engineering and no more so than through its iconic aircraft,

Preface


The Vickers name has now been associated with engineering for nearly 200 years, ever since Edward Vickers took control of his father-in-law's business concerns at Naylor & Sanderson,  renaming it Naylor Vickers & Co.

Within these pages we chart the history of Vickers within aviation whilst alternative pages record other industries and successes, particularly in shipbuilding, munitions and armaments. 


 

Vickers & Vickers (Aviation Department)


Vickers Aviation
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 beset with delays and much wrangling with the Admiralty over funding. The name Mayfly must have surely have attracted ribald comment. In the Press, the ‘Mayfly’ soon 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 company name, confidence in the aviation industry was so strong that the company formed Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department) in 1911.
 
It had acquired a licence from Robert Esnault Pelterie, to build the REP monoplane at its base at Joyce Green near Dartford, Kent. Later, they added a Flying School at the new Brooklands Race Track and Flying Grounds at Weybridge, Surrey.
 
Despite being described by detractors as a ‘large wooden shed next to The Long Reach Tavern’, many key events were held at the Vickers Works at Joyce Green, including the first flight of the Vickers FB.5 Gunbus and a little later, the Vickers Vimy.
 
In 1915, Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department) relocated manufacturing to Brooklands where it developed a series of pusher aircraft and continued the production of the now thriving Vickers FB.5 Gunbus, Britain’s first practical fighting aircraft which proved so successful in World War I.
 
So rapid was the growth in aviation engineering expertise and knowledge within Vickers, that they designed and built the prototype Vickers Vimy in just 5 months. The Vickers Vimy went on to achieve worldwide fame by becoming the first aeroplane to be flown non-stop across the Atlantic by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown, in June 1919.
 

Vickers-Armstrongs


During 1928, Vickers (Aviation Department) Ltd was finally formed into an official aircraft company under the name Vickers Aviation Limited. This was only temporary however, as months later they became involved in a merger with the heavy engineering (i.e. non-aviation) interests of The Armstrong Whitworth Development Company. A new company emerged as Vickers-Armstrong Ltd, the 's' being removed from the name to differentiate it from the groups ship building activities in the North of England.
 
The make up of the company gets even more confusing from this point because of a major internal re-organisation of the group. It should be noted nevertheless, that it was only the defence and engineering businesses of Armstrong Whitworth that were merged with Vickers organisation, which often leads to a confusing legacy of company designations and product names.
 
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-Armstrong 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.
 
Vickers R100 moored at St Hubert near Montreal, Canada in 1930 Vickers R100 moored at St Hubert near Montreal, Canada in 1930
 
Vickers-Armstrong returned briefly to airship manufacturing between the wars, with the Barnes Wallis designed R.100, which completed a return Atlantic crossing in 1930. The project was later abandoned following the tragedy which befell the Airship R.101.
 
Barnes Wallis himself, became a significant personality within Vickers-Armstrong during the pre-war years, especially with the introduction of the geodetic design concept in the Vickers Wellesley and Vickers Wellington. Wallis was probably better known however, for his significant work on aerial bombs including the ‘Dam Busters Bomb’, as well as the Tallboy and Grand Slam weapons.
 
Both companies were finally combined in 1954, to formally become Vickers-Armstrong (Aircraft) Limited and continued manufacturing aircraft under their own brand names. 
 
The Vickers name finally disappeared in aviation terms due to the enforced merger with The Bristol Aircraft Limited, English Electric and Hunting Aircraft to form the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) in 1960.
 

Genealogy


  Vickers, Sons and Maxim Limited
1911 Vickers Limited (Aviation Department)                                              
1928 Vickers (Aviation) Limited
1928 Vickers-Armstrong Limited
1954 Vickers-Armstrong (Aircraft) Limited
1960 British Aircraft Corporation
1973 British Aerospace
1999 BAE Systems

 

Aircraft


1914 FB 5                                       1929 Canadian Vancouver
1911 R.E.P. Type Monoplane 1927 Canadian Vanessa
1913 E.F.B.1 1932 Canadian Varuna
1915 E.F.B.7 1924 Canadian Vedette
1915 E.F.B.8 1928 Canadian Velos
1915 E.S.1 1928 Canadian Vigil
1916 F.B.11 1927 Canadian Vista
1916 F.B.12 1928 Vellore
1916 F.B.14 1928 Vildebeest
1916 F.B.16 1928 Vincent
1916 F.B.19 1928 Vireo
1917 F.B.24 1929 Vanox
1917 F.B.25 1930 Jockey
1917 Vampire 1930 Type 143 (Bolivian Scout)
1917 Vimy 1930 Type 177
1918 Valentia (flying boat) 1930 Viastra
1919 Viking 1931 Type 161
1920 VIM 1931 Type 163
1921 Vernon 1932 Type 253
1922 Victoria 1933 Type 207 (M.1/30)
1922 Vulcan 1934 Type 264 Valentia (1934 transport)
1923 Vanguard Type 170 1935 Wellesley
1923 Valparaiso 1936 Venom
1923 Viget 1938 Wellington
1923 Vixen 1939 Warwick
1924 Vagabond 1942 Type 432 
1924 Venture 1943 Windsor
1924 Virginia 1946 VC1 Viking
1926 Type 123 1947 Valetta
1926 Type 141 1948 Viscount
1926 Vendace 1949 Varsity
1926 Vespa 1951 Valiant
1926 Wibault Type 121 Scout 1960 Vanguard
1927 131 Valiant 1962
VC10

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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