09/30/2011. Westland was one of the British manufacturers which, in August 1923, received a copy of Air Ministry Specification 26/23, calling for a two-seat long-range day bomber for the RAF. It was considered to be important by Westland, representing the company's first post-war opportunity to design and tender for a new military aircraft, a field of manufacture in which they were anxious to become established.
The resulting design, which had to be based around a single 650 hp Rolls-Royce Condor III twelve-cylinder liquid-cooled V-engine, was of sufficient interest for three prototypes to be contracted. This, however, represented only a first minor victory, for designs which the Air Ministry received from the Bristol, Handley Page, and Hawker companies were also selected for prototype construction and subsequent competitive evaluation. These resulted respectively in the Bristol Berkeley, Handley Page H.P.28 Handcross, and Hawker Horsley.
The Westland Yeovil, as the company named their contender, was a large two-bay biplane with ailerons on upper wing only and a narrow-chord lower wing, the conventional tail-plane was braced. Two open cockpits in close proximity seated the pilot forward and gunner/observer aft. Armament consisted of one forward-firing synchronized Vickers machinegun, one Lewis gun on Scarff ring mounting in aft cockpit, and up to 520 lb (236 kg) bombs. It had a non-retractable tailskid landing gear with main wheels carried on shock-absorber struts, with N-type struts beneath the fuselage to mount and brace the axle frame. The fuel tanks were mounted on the top surface of upper wing, one each side of centre-section.
The prototypes differed, the first two (serialed J7508 and J7509) being of composite metal/wood construction and having the designation Yeovil Mk.I. The third prototype, designated Yeovil Mk.II and serialed J7510, was basically of metal construction, and differed also by having a Leitner-Watts metal propeller. It had a different fin and rudder profile, simplified landing gear mounting/support struts, and modified fairings for the wing-mounted fuel.
Special features included the introduction of a lightweight gas starter engine which had been developed by the Bristol company's Aero-Engine Department, and intended to simplify the starting of the Condor engine, which at that moment in time was the most powerful being produced in Britain. The Condor turned via reduction gearing a two-blade propeller that was 14 ft 6 in (4.42 m) in diameter, and from which it can be judged that this was quite an impressive aircraft. Equipment included radio, and an oxygen system.
Flown for the first time by Captain Frank Courtney in June 1925, J7508 (site files) performed satisfactorily. The Yeovil was not, however, selected for production, for although it was able to meet the Air Ministry's specification the Hawker Horsley was considered more suitable and ordered into production. Westland had gained nothing but experience, and was compelled to wait for a new opportunity to win a military production contract for an aircraft of its own design.