Rare Second World War bomber unveiled after decade of conservation

An exceptionally rare bomber from the Second World War is back on public display after undergoing more than ten years of conservation work.

The Vickers Wellington bomber, one of only two remaining in existence, is the centrepiece of the Bomber Command exhibition at the RAF Museum Midlands, which opened in May.

Famous for its fuselage structure, designed by the inventor Barnes Wallis, the Wellington was widely used as a night bomber by the Royal Air Force in the early years of the Second World War.

By 1942, Wellingtons were the most numerous aircraft in Bomber Command. But later in the war they were slowly replaced by more capable four-engine bombers such as the Halifax and Lancaster.

The Vickers Wellington bomber pictured earlier this year, during installation at the RAF Museum Midlands. The aircraft has undergone more than ten years of conservation work. Image: RAF Museum Midlands

Wellingtons continued to operate with Bomber Command, however, primarily as a training aircraft, and served in North Africa, Italy, and the Far East.

The museum’s example was constructed in 1944 and served with No.1 Air Navigational Training School between 1949 and 1953.

Although it did not see service during the war, the Wellington is one of only two of its kind to survive to this day – and the only one complete with its fabric outer skin.

It was replacing this skin – made of fragile Irish linen – that was the work of conservators at the RAF’s specialist centre in the Midlands for more than a decade. Corrosion to the aircraft’s overall structure was treated, too.

A team of technicians, apprentices, and volunteers all took part in the extensive restoration project. During the process, the Wellington was regularly visited by the late Mary Stopes-Roe, daughter of Barnes Wallis.

According to the RAF Museum website, the new Bomber Command exhibition will ‘enable visitors to explore and engage with stories of the crew, technology and raids that were crucial to Allied victory’.