N2980 is the only surviving Brooklands-built Wellington. During a training flight on the 31st December 1940 she developed engine trouble and ditched into Loch Ness. All the crew escaped, but the rear gunner was killed when his parachute failed to deploy.
Developed from the Wellesley, the Wellington prototype first flew at Brooklands in 1936. Its fabric-covered geodetic structure was able to absorb heavy damage, and it was the only British bomber to be used throughout World War Two, serving with Bomber, Coastal, Transport and Training Commands. Altogether 11,461 Wellingtons were produced, 2,515 of these at Brooklands.
First flown on 16th November 1939, by Vickers’ Chief Test Pilot ‘Mutt’ Summers, N2980 was first issued to 149 Squadron at RAF Mildenhall and allocated the squadron code letter ‘R’ for ‘Robert’. It took part in the infamous Heligoland Bight raid on the 18th December 1939, during which over half of the twenty-two Wellingtons involved were shot down by German fighters. N2980 later served with 37 Squadron at RAF Feltwell, taking part in fourteen operations including day and night raids.
In 1976 the Wellington was located by a team of American Loch Ness Monster hunters and was successfully salvaged on 21st September 1985 by the Loch Ness Wellington Association assisted by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Despite nearly forty-five years underwater, the aeroplane was remarkably well preserved. The taillights still worked when connected to a modern battery and many of the crew’s personal effects remained in the fuselage.
Delivered to Brooklands Museum by British Aerospace on 27th September 1985, N2980 is now one of only two surviving Wellingtons but is the only one to see action as a bomber in operational service.