The collection

18th June 1999 at 01:00
Week 23 "R" for RobertBrooklands Museum, Weybridge

Museum and gallery staff put their favourite artefacts on display

While searching for the Loch Ness Monster in the 1970s, American scientists discovered something quite different. Submerged under 70 metres of water was a Vickers Wellington Bomber, which earned it the nickname the Loch Ness Wellington.

Money was raised to salvage the Wellington, and the plane was recovered from the Loch in September 1985, having lain there undisturbed for almost 45 years.

But how did it get to its watery grave? The Wellington was one of more than 11,000 produced during the War, and some 2,000 of these were at Brooklands, birthplace of British motorsport and aviation. It made its first flight from Brooklands aerodrome in 1939, and flew in 14 bombing raids over Germany. It was then transferred to training duties at Lossiemouth in Scotland, where it was given the codename "R" for Robert.

During a training flight it ran into blizzard conditions and one of the engines cut out. There were eight members of crew on board, and the pilot ordered them all to bail out. Five landed safely but the rear gunner was killed when his parachute failed to open. The pilot and co-pilot, still at the controls, saw Loch Ness approaching and ditched the plane in the water. They both then escaped by dinghy as the bomber sank.

As it had been built at Brooklands, it was appropriate it should return to what has now become the Brooklands Museum. The Wellington has been carefully restored, using as much of the original structure as possible.

"R" for Robert is a unique exhibit as it is the only known survivor of the Brooklands-built Wellingtons. It's not the only gripping tale on permanent display at Brooklands Museum, but it is one of the most unusual.

The museum also houses a motoring village from the 1920s, historic cars and motorcycles and 30 aircraft, covering the entire history of aviation. School visits can be tailored to suit curriculum requirements.

Saira Holmes is museums education development officer for SurreyMuseums Consultative Committee. Brooklands Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 0QN. Tel: 01932 857381

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