Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History
RAAF Vickers Wellesley Mk.I

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Vickers Wellesley 
South Australia
Photo Les Rasmus 
via David Rasmus


Vickers Wellesley Image Gallery

  The Royal Air Force Long Range Development Unit (LRDU) was formed on 18 January 1938 with the intention of making a Long Distance Record flight attempt either to Singapore or Australia.

The aircraft type selected for these flights was the Vickers Wellesley which was the first aircraft to be constructed entirely on the geodetic principle developed by B.N. Wallis. Vickers chief designer Rex Pierson co-operated with the Wallis in coming up with the winner of the Air Ministry Spec G4/31 for a general purpose torpedo bomber.

After an ill fated trial on 24 February 1938 by Flt Lt Gardner (an RAAF trained Australian from Newcastle, NSW) and his crew who went missing after twelve hours in Vickers Wellesley K7734. This was Gardners first experience in the Wellesley and the wreckage was later located on 22 March 1938 near Karmo island, to the north of Stravanger, Norway.

A further attempt was mounted on 05 November 1938, and for this more succesful trip, three Wellesley's departed from Ismalia, Egypt.

The crews and aircraft involved were:

L2638: Squadron Leader Richard Kellett (16177), Flight Lieutenant R. Jethis, Pilot Officer Maurice Larwood Gaine (36120).

L2639: Flight Lieutenant Henry Algernon Vickers Hogan (26181), Flying Officer Rowland Gascoigne Musson, Sergeant Thomas David Dixon.

L2680: Flight Lieutenant Andrew Nicholson Combe (26258), Flight Lieutenant Bryon Kenyon Burnett (36010), Sergeant Hector Bertram Gray.

Also, it appears that L2681 crewed by Flight Lieutenant Patrick Hunter Dunn 34018), Flight LieutenantArthur Thomas Drake Sanders, and Sergeant Bernard Norman Phillips flew from Cranwell to Ismalia, but did not undertake the flight to Australia.

Hogan and crew in L2639 had to land at Kupang, Timor (500 mils short of Darwin) to refuel but the other two aircraft continued on and arrived at Darwin at 4am GST on 7th November 1938, having cover 7,350 miles in just over 48 hours. The record was ratified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (recorded as 7157.7 Miles). The record stood until beaten by a B-29 on November 20, 1945 on a flight from Guam to Washington.

On 13 November 1928, the three Wellesleys left Darwin for a round Australia tour and were escorted by four RAAF Avro Ansons (A4-23, A4-28, A4-30 & A4-45) under command of the then Flt Lt Patrick George Heffernan.

L2638 lost power on take off from Richmond, NSW on 16 December 1938 flown by Flt Lt Richard Templeton Gething (05240) RAF who had replaced Sqn Ldr Kellet due to illness and force landed 2 miles from Windsor. the aircraft was dismantled for shippping back to England while the remaining two aircraft continued the tour.

L2639 also suffered a an oil line fracture and force landed 130 Miles NE of Derby in Western Australia . Owing to the difficulty in recovering this aircraft, it was sold in situ by tender by the Air Ministry to Mr H. Falconer of Broome, who had the airraft salvaged during September and October 1939. In August 1940, Falconer sold the Airframe to the RAAF who used it as an Instructional Airframe at the Engineering School, Melbourne.

L2680 went on to Pearce, and was subsequently shiped to Port Said, Egypt aboard the SS Jervis Bay.

RAF Serial Type Aircraft History
L2639 Mk.I RAF Long Range Developement Unit,
05/11/1938 Departed Isamlia, Egypt (along with L2638 & L2680) crewed by Flight-Lieutenant H. A. Hogan, Flight-Officer R. G. Musson, and Sergeant Dixon on Longe Range Record Flight to Australia,
Diverted to Keopang, Netherlands East Indies to refuel,
13/11/1938 Departed Darwin to commence a round Australia tour,
16/12/1938 Oil line fractured in flight and force landed 130 Miles NE of Derby, WA.
Aircraft was left in situ and the crew guided to Munja Station by the rescue party from that station,
Aircraft sold by tender on behalf of the (UK) Air Ministry to Mr H. Falconer of Broome,
Salvage Parties organised by Falconer recover the aircraft during September and October 1939.,
Airframe sold to the RAAF in August 1940,
Used as an Instructional Airframe at the Engineering School, Melbourne located at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

Final fate unknown, presumed scrapped.

Vickers Wellesley L2639 leading, 
with L2681 on its right L2680 to left Vickers Wellesley 
L2639 Leading Wellesleys at Darwin
7 November 1938 Vickers Wellesley 
Photo via Mike Mirkovic From left to right, L2680, L2639 and L2638 of the LRDU at Brisbane, at the completion ol their record-breaking flight from Egypt to Australia in November 1938 Vickers Wellesley 
L2638, L2639 and L2638 Vickers Wellesley 
L2638, L2639 and L2638 
BrisbaneVickers Wellesley
L2680, L2639 and L2638
Trio Take offWellesley L2639 Crash Report Wellesley L2639, 
forced landing near Munja Station, W.A.,
16th December 1938, 
via Mike Mirkovic. Wellesley L2639, 
forced landing near Munja Station, W.A.,
16th December 1938, 
via Mike Mirkovic. Wellesley L2639, 
forced landing near Munja Station, W.A.,
16th December 1938, 
 (note station personnel) 
via Mike Mirkovic. Inspection of a Wellesley bomber engine by fitters
November 1940 Wellesley L2639 
Training aid 
Photo via BATRAC group Wellesley L2639 
Training aid 
Photo via BATRAC group


Vickers Wellesley showing Geodetic structure


This page is managed and updated by Brendan Cowan.

Sources: "British Military Aircraft Serials 1911-1979" Bruce Robinson, "Flypast A Record of Aviation in Australia" Neville Parnell & Trevor Broughton, The Canberra Times (Saturday 5 November 1938), ,

Emails: Message Board Discussion , Martin Edwards, Mike Mirkovic,

Updated 06 April 2016

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