The Vildebeest was a very large 2-3 seat all-metal biplane, typical of those produced in Britain during the inter-war period.

The prototype first flew in 1928 and the aircraft entered service with the RAF in 1931. The first 12 brand-new Vildebeests arrived in New Zealand in 1935, supplemented with a further 27 ex-RAF aircraft in 1940-41. They served alongside 62 Vickers Vincents (a general purpose variant of the Vildebeest).

During its time with the RNZAF, the Vildebeest was used in a variety of roles including coastal defence, general reconnaissance, aircrew training and target drogue towing. Half the aircraft were written off in accidents, and by mid 1943 the remaining aircraft had begun to outlive their usefulness, and were gradually broken up for scrap.