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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Barnes Wallis and the Bouncing Bomb

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis in 1942. The National Portrait Galleery, London
In May 1943 one of the most daring actions of World War Two took place. The allies (that's us) wanted to destroy the dams on the Ruhr which supplied hydo-electric power to the highly industrialised Ruhr Valley in Germany.
Direct drops onto dams were difficult and they were protected by torpedo nets in the river. The dams were superbly constructed and only very accurately placed depth charges would have any chance of success. What to do?
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Barnes Wallis was a British inventor of aircraft and military weapons who conceived the idea of a 'bouncing bomb' which would skim across the water surface thus avoiding the nets.
On the night of 16th May RAF 617 squadron, led by the heroic figure of Guy Gibson launched the highly risky night-time raids. The mission had to be flown at exceptionally low-level, meaning that, from the outset, it was thought that only half of the aircraft would return.
The Eder Dam on 17th May 1943
It was an audacious mission and, although two of the three target dams were seriously breached, which flooded the Ruhr Vally and disrupted German military production for a while, the raid was on balance probably not worthwhile except in terms of morale.
From that time on 617 Squadron became known as 'The Dam Busters'.


John said...

Hi bazza, very interesting stuff. I have heard of Barnes Wallis, a very clever man and all the `Dambusting`, have seen the film no-end of times!

bazza said...

Hi John. I fancied doing something a bit different this time. It won't appeal to all but it's a very interesting story.

David said...

Dear bazza,
Interesting piece of history. And, of course, I've seen the film a number of times. "Duh duh duh duh duh, duh duh duh duh duh"- that's my attempt at emulating the theme tune in print. Hope I succeeded. Maybe not!
All the best, bazza,

THE SNEE said...

Hi Bazza,
This post is an excellent reminder(not that I really needed a reminder) of why I enjoy visiting To Discover Ice. I get a bit of crazy cool history and a new movie suggestion. Is the movie any good?

Kelly said...

This was a very interesting post. I searched Google Images for a picture of Wallis' Bouncing Bomb and it had a lot of them. Then I went here for more info and history...

I like history tidbits like this. They're important to remember and bring up. So many are will to forget the past or not look into it for answers or inspiration.

bazza said...

David: Yes, I can hear that great theme tune now! (The Dam Busters March by Eric Coates).

The Snee: You need to understand that, for us Brits, the Dam Busters is like the Alamo - it is firmly entrenched in our history of national heroes. The film, therefore, is great! (Think of John Wayne as Davy Crocket). But you are right; it is 'crazy cool history' whereby a madcap mission has become a cult historical event.

Kelly: It is intersting. I read lots about it before posting but I ruthlessly edited it down. As you have demonstated, anyone wanting to know more can easily find it. Wing Commander Guy Gibson was made of the stuff of heroes. Thank you for your comment.

Rob said...

You cover quite a range of subjects Bazza!

The courage of the airmen...the ingenuity of Barnes Wallis!

bazza said...

Hello Rob, it's always a great pleasure for me when you visit. I hope your new project is going well; I miss your blog.
As I have said before, I write to please myself but I am delighted when others enjoy the posts too.
I did not mention in this post that only half of the aircrew returned alive.

Kate said...

Very interesting indeed! I hadn't heard of Wallis. Thanks for sharing! Hope Sonny is doing well along with you and your family!

Bluejun said...

But my question is -- did they rehearse the bouncing bombs on Shingle Street in Suffolk? I go there on holiday and everyone says that's what flattened the pub.

bazza said...

Kate: I'm pleased that you found it interesting because it's a bit of a 'lads' topic! Sonny is enjoying his weekend with us where he has been 'at home' to lots of visitors. Back to Great Ormond Street tomorrow morning. Thanks for your concern Kate.

Meg: I love Woodbridge and the rugged east coast. A quick bit of reserach has told me that 'weapons testing' certainly did take place there from 1940 onwards, so.....the pub could have been destroyed that way!