The Vimy was designed to a Royal Air Force (RAF) requirement for a night bomber with inherently long endurance intended to reach targets deep within German territory during World War 1.As it stood, the once-fluid war had grown into a terrible stalemate incorporating geographical chokepoints, strategic use of elevation and all manner of military weaponry (flamethrowers, grenades, artillery, tanks, bombers, etc...) across miles of trench networks and fortifications. So as to force the Germans to allocate resources elsewhere in their war effort, and dismantle their war-making capabilities from within, it became imperative for the Allies to attack Germany directly. As such, aircraft of considerable range were required and, to this, aircraft that would be capable of effective attacks in low light levels where enemy Flak gunners were at an obvious disadvantage. To that end, the Vickers Limited concern developed the "F.B.27", a large twin-engined biplane bomber design specifically to suit the RAF requirement. The RAF liked what it saw and commissioned for three completed prototypes in August of 1917 (four were eventually produced). Construction of the aircraft proceeded at a lightning pace to coincide with the critical war time need and the initial prototype was readied for its first flight by December of that year.
While tested with a pair of Hispano-Suiza 200 horsepower engines, the Vimy design was evaluated with a whole slew of powerplant options, largely due to the readily available and popular engines being required of other in-production designs at the time. Even after testing, the Vimy was cleared to utilized several engine makes once upon entering serial production. The RAF went ahead and placed a 776-strong order for the "F.B.27A Vimy Mk II" though only three of these were available in October of 1918. The war ended in November of 1918 with the signed Armistice and the once-important Vimy requirement was not as critical as initially envisioned. Regardless, the RAF took delivery of their Vimys across 11 total squadrons in the period following the war and full strength was finally achieved in July of 1919. Examples were also shipped to RAF forces in British holdings across the Middle East.
Outwardly, the Vimy was of a conventional design for the period, sporting long-span wings comprised of an upper and lower assembly. The two wings were joined by heavy parallel struts and cabling while the engines were held outboard of the fuselage in suspended nacelles. Each engine powered a four-bladed wooden propeller. The fuselage was typical of World War 1 design and consisted of a slab-sided affair with a curved front end and tapered rear. All positions were open-air in their nature with a forward and rear gunnery cockpit present as well as the cockpit proper itself. The empennage was capped by a complicated wing arrangement integrating an upper and lower horizontal span across a pair of vertical tail fins. The undercarriage was fixed in place with a pair of two-wheeled main legs supporting the bulk of the mass when at rest. The rear was managed through a simple tail skid arrangement while an anti-tipping structure could be affixed to the front under the nose.
Armament consisted of 1 x 7.7mm Lewis machine gun on a trainable mount at the nose cockpit. A second Lewis gun was mounted in a trainable mount at the rear cockpit. All told, the Vimy was cleared to carry upwards of 2,500lbs of ordnance.
Vimy stocked the inventories of No. 7, No. 9, No. 24, No. 45, No. 58, No. 70, No. 99, No. 100, No. 216, No. 500 and No.502 squadrons of the RAF. Its numbers dictated that she become the backbone of the British heavy bomber force for years following the war and some were then utilized in training up-and-coming British bomber crews. It was not until the arrival of the twin-engined Vickers Virginia heavy biplane bomber that the now-outdated Vimy was steadily removed from frontline service. The Virginia emerged in 1924 and served until World War 2 in 1941, 124 examples being produced in all. The last of the Vimys saw a rather unceremonious end to their active tenures, being utilized as targets for the training of ground-based searchlight personnel well into the 1930s. The final Vimy was retired in 1933. A military-minded transport derivative was also produced as the "Vickers Vernon" and purchased by the RAF in number (55). Similarly, the RAF relied on an air ambulance variant as well.
However, it was in the private sector that the Vimy clearly made a name for itself. It was the source of several long-distance records of the time with one achieving a complete non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in June of 1919. The success of the Vimy in the civilian market prompted production of a civilized variant known as the "Vimy Commercial". This form sported a bulbous streamlined fuselage lined with porthole windows while the remainder of the design stayed largely faithful to the original work. Power was served through 2 x Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII series piston engines. First flight of this design occurred on April 13th, 1919.
China purchased approximately 100 Vimys with about 40 ultimately received due to a lack of payment. Modified versions were then used in anger during the 2nd Zhili-Fengtian War of 1924 where they initially gave a good account of themselves in the low-level bombing role. These Vimys managed a non-descript existence until the arrival of the Japanese prior to World War 2. After that they were largely retired from service, the rest being destroyed during the Japanese occupation.
The "Vimy" name came from the "Battle of Vimy Ridge", the April 1917 engagement on French soil between a joint Canadian-British force comprised of five divisions against three divisions of the Imperial German Army (170,000 personnel versus 40,000). The battle resulted in a victory for the Canadian-British force at the cost of some 7,000 souls. The outnumbered Germans suffered 4,000 war dead.
The Vimy served China, France, Spain and the United Kingdom as a civilian passenger hauler.