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Barnes Neville Wallis was born on September 26th, 1887 in Ripley in Derbyshire. When aged two, his father's work as a doctor took him to London where the family moved to New Cross Road. Both Barnes and his eldest brother John spent many hours in a workshop in their house making whatever they could - including paper toys for their sister Annie.

Wallis was educated at Christ's Hospital in Horsham, West Sussex. Here he built on his talent for Mathematics and Science and by the time he had finished at Christ's, Wallis had determined that he would become an engineer.

His first job was working for Thames Engineering Works - a firm that made ship engines. In 1908, he moved to the John Samuel White's shipyard in the Isle of Wight. In 1913, he joined Vickers - a company that was to become synonymous with airship and aircraft development. However, when World War One broke out, Wallis found himself unemployed as the Admiralty decided not to spend anymore money on airship development. He tried to join the Army but failed the eyesight test. He did pass another medical in a different section of the Army by memorizing the eye test chart - before the actual test! Just at this time, the Admiralty decided to reconvene Vickers airship development team and Wallis was recalled from the Army.

Wallis was very much involved in the development of the R100.
When World War Two broke out, Wallis believed that the quickest way to defeat Nazi Germany was to destroy its industrial base. Without factories, the Nazi war machine could not be supplied. The most important industrial area in Germany was the Ruhr. It was also very heavily defended by anti-aircraft guns and searchlights. A 'normal' bombing raid risked heavy casualties. Wallis developed in his mind a plan for a raid by a small, highly trained team of expert fliers, navigators, bombers etc who could fly so low that radar would not pick them up and hit, with pin-point accuracy, their target. In his mind, those targets should be the dams that held back the mighty waters of the Ruhr. If these dams were breached, the water would destroy anything in its path.

Wallis set himself the task of designing a bomb so special that it would break up the reinforced concrete that made up the Ruhr dams. The bomb needed to be dropped at an exceptionally low height so that it hit a dam, did not explode but sank into the water. At a given depth, a fuse would break and the bomb would explode. The shock waves created by the bomb would be accentuated underwater and, Wallis believed, would be enough to destroy the dam. The first tests of the bomb were done in a large indoors pool with a scaled-down bomb. The experimental indoors tests were a success. 

Following more tests in the Fleet estuary, between Wyke Regis near Weymouth and the famous Chesil Beach, it was decided to continue to develop the ‘bomb’. Following these tests a life-size one was dropped under the greatest of secrecy in the waters off of the beaches of Kent, the first test was a failure (as were those that followed it) and MOD personnel remained sceptical about any success for the 'bouncing bomb'. Wallis believed that the plane, which came in unusually low, was flying too high and asked the crew to fly in even lower for the next test. His gamble, and the crew's piloting skills, worked - the bomb bounced and bounced so, in its imaginary situation, it would have cleared any nets that protected the dams in the Ruhr.

In May 1943, the Dambuster Raid took place. 617 Squadron, commanded by Guy Gibson, VC, attacked the Ruhr Dams using the bomb invented by Barnes Wallis. The actual physical impact of the raid will always be open to debate. The huge psychological impact of the raid, however, can never be doubted. Wallis, however, expressed his view that the raid, having cost eight Lancaster bomber crews out of nineteen, may not have been worth the losses.

Wallis also invented the 'Tallboy' bomb that was used to penetrate the U-boat pens on the west coast of France. He also developed one of the mainstays of Bomber Command - the Wellington bomber, used so often in bombing raids over Nazi Germany.

Wallis continued inventing things after the war. He invented a glassless mirror that did not mist up - and put forward ideas for swing-wing planes. He retired aged 83 and his work for the country was recognised in 1968 when he was knighted. Barnes Wallis was also made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Barnes Neville Wallis died on October 30th, 1979, aged 92. In 1980, in recognition of what he had achieved, a memorial service was held at St. Paul's Cathedral.

Following on from the most successful GB25FC Special Event Station commemorating the end of the Falklands Conflict.

Our next Special Event Station will be operating from the Wyke Regis Training Station for 48hours non stop.

More history:-

Designed by Barnes Wallis, who was to become famous later in the war with his Dambusting bouncing bomb. The Wellington was Vickers' response to the Air Ministry specification B.9/32 request for a twin-engined medium bomber.

Designed to replace the RAF's obsolete Heyford bombers, the prototype Wellington (K4049) first flew in June 1936. With its excellent range/bomb load performance plus, what was then considered a heavy self-defense system, the aircraft almost doubled the performance of the Heyford.

Two months after the prototypes first flight, the Air Ministry placed an order for 180 Production Mk.I's. However, it would be October 1938 before the type entered service with No. 99 Squadron, RAF stationed at Mildenhall.

By the outbreak of war, Bomber Command had only six fully equipped squadron's of Wellington's to begin offensive operations. Nevertheless, fourteen aircraft from these squadron's took part in the first bombing sorties over Germany on September 4, 1939.

The Wellington, or "Wimpy" as it came to be known, was almost completely fabric covered. But under this flimsy outer skin, the aircraft was constructed using Barnes Wallis' unique geodetic design. And it was this design that allowed the aircraft to sustain tremendous amounts of battle damage; and still be capable of flying. Many crews testified to the fact that had the aircraft not been construct in such a manner, they would not have been able to fly the aircraft back to England and would have been forced to bale out only to become prisoners of war.

During the wars first years, that main variant of the Wellington was the Mk.IC, a a total of 2,685 being built. Although, not all of them were destined to serve with Bomber Command.

By mid-1941 Wellington Mk.II's and Mk.III's had also entered service and were soon to be the most prominent RAF medium bomber type. However, even with the newer variants replacing earlier ones. By mid-1942 it was becoming obvious that the Wellington's usefulness as an effect bomber in the European Campaign was reaching its limit. Its role in this theatre of operations finally coming to an end when the last offensive sorties against Hannover on October 8/9, 1943 were carried out.

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Bouncing bomb at the Imperial War Museum

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In January 1943, No. 49 Squadron was moved from its home of nearly five years to the new Scampton satellite at Fiskerton, apparently to allow both Squadrons to expand to three flights and 30 Lancasters each.

On March 15, 1943, a bomb accidentally released from a No. 57 Squadron Lancaster detonated and destroyed this and four visiting No. 50 Squadron aircraft parked nearby. Six days later No. 617 Squadron was formed at Scampton for the task of attacking the Ruhr dams with Barnes Wallis's rotating mine.

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ED912, an Avro Lancaster B Mk III Special of 617 Squadron with the Dams mine in the bomb bay
The raid, carried out on the night of May 16/17, 1943, brought No. 617's leader, the legendary Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the station's third Victoria Cross.
 

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