LN514 was the Vickers Wellington built as part of a 1943 record attempt.
- From the Sea to the Land Beyond
- Worker's Week-End
After months of nightly bombing raids by the Luftwaffe, the Ministry of War was keen to show the world - friend and foe - that Britain could dish it out as well as take it. In collaboration with the RAF, the ministry issued a challenge to one of the factories churning out planes for Bomber Command - to build an operational Wellington bomber in record-breaking time, faster than the existing record of 48 hours set in California.
And so, one Saturday morning in 1943, Broughton's workers gave up their weekend to assemble Wellington bomber LN514 from scratch and against the clock. Many were women, or men too young, too old or too infirm to join the armed forces. The aim was to complete it in 30 hours, with a pilot on hand to take it up Sunday afternoon.
Throughout the day, workers swarmed to slot together its body, to assemble the engine, to tightly sew its fabric shell - eight stitches to the inch, or the wind could get it and rip the seams open. By 8.23pm, soon after the night shift arrived, it was time to fit the propellers to the wings. The plane was coming together so fast, workers began laying bets on whether they'd beat their target.
Two hours later, the landing wheels were installed, each one four and a half feet high and weighing 300lbs. By 3.20am, the plane left the production line, and began a round of inspections and engine tests. At 6.15am - 21 hours and 15 minutes since work started - the engines fired up for final tests, and finishing touches were made to the stitching. And at 8.50am, 10 minutes short of the 24-hour mark, it was ready for take-off. Work had progressed so fast the pilot had to be awoken from his slumber for its maiden flight. "I hope to God they haven't missed anything," he muttered.
"They said they'd build a bomber in their spare time in 30 hours. Its wheels lifted from the ground in exactly 24 hours and 48 minutes." That evening, Wellington LN514 was flown to its operational base, ready for duty.
LN514 went on to serve with 19 Operational Training Unit, survived the war and was struck off command on 11 March 1948, quite possibly at the MU on the other side of Hawarden airfield from where she was built.