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Barnes Wallis was born in Ripley a town in the county of Derbyshire. He originally trained as a marine engineer but turned his hand to airship design and then aircraft design in the early 1900's. He worked for Vickers from 1911 until the end of WW2, at which point he moved to the British aircraft corporation.

At the onset of World war 2 Wallis was toying with the idea of the Ruhr dam's problem but his immediate task at hand was to discover why the German 500LB bombs caused so much damage, much more than a bomb of this size should do. His conclusion for this matter was the Germans had made the bombs to penetrate deep into a building before exploding, thus generating a massive shock wave which just ripped buildings apart.

With this idea he set about testing his idea of placing and bomb against a dam wall and at a certain depth exploding, the problem was how to get the bomb in position in the first place. Wallis rang up the Air Ministry to ask them a question, the question was something like "What would the effect be of dropping a spherical bomb from ten thousand feet be?" the reply was "It would bounce like a football with no accuracy at all" "SPLENDID" was the reply from Wallis.

He moved to the Road Research Laboratory to continue his experiments. By now Wallis had sufficient calculations and test results to take to the Ministry, he was given permission to test his bomb on a small disused dam called Nant-Y-Gro, this dam was 9 metres high and 55 metres long the bomb was placed 3 metres below the surface and detonated the test was a success. With this information he set about a series of experiments at home with the help of his children, Mary and Christopher. The task that Sunday was to bounce glass marbles across a surface of water in an old tin bath. He now had the information required to build his bomb and the means of delivery.

After checking the specifications of the Lancaster bomber, Barnes Wallis knew that was the aircraft for the mission. A prototype was tested using a Wellington bomber at Chesil beach on 4th December 1942, this smashed on impact, later trials involved a stronger casing this was a success. Further tests were carried out using a Mosquito and dropping 1,000lb spherical bombs. In January 1943 Barnes Wallis presented his film to Air Marshall Harris who said he "would think it over" but the following day Wallis was instructed to drop the idea, he promptly resigned.

What the Air Ministry did not know was that this papers had been sent to Winston Churchill who upon reading them gave the go ahead. On the 11th April at Reculver beach in Margate the first of the dam type bombs were tested, the first sank after being dropped from to high up, the next smashed on impact damaging the Lancaster as well. After a few improvements the next test was a success on the 28th April.

He determined that the dam type bomb had to be dropped at a speed of 230 mph and a height of 60 ft -- dangerously low. A special squadron of British pilots was gathered by Wing Commander Guy P. Gibson to do the job, the 617 Squadron (also called the Dam Busters and the Dam Raiders). Their targets were the Mohne, Eder, and Sorpe Dams on the Ruhr in Germany. They successfully breached the Mohne and Eder Dams, devastating Germany, but lost fifty-three men in the process.

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis

1887-1979