School of Computing

University of Dundee

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis (1887-1979)

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis (1887-1979)

(© Iain Murray 2009 - last update 13thJuly 2009)

Sir Barnes Wallis was a scientist and engineer, working mostly for Vickers-Armstrongs(Aircraft). He designed the structure of the R.100 airship (but not its ill-fated consort R.101) and the Vickers Wellesley and Wellington bombers (both using geodetic construction), but is most famous for the "bouncing" bomb which was used by specially-formed 617 Squadron of the RAF to destroy the Möhne and Eder dams in Germany's Ruhr district in May 1943. To destroy the dams, a bomb had to be placed right against the wall, but the raid (arguably the first precision bombing raid in history) was an astonishing technical success and a great propaganda victory also, although many aircrew were lost on the raid. Wallis' greatest victory was perhaps not in getting 9,000 lbs. of explosive to skip over water to land precisely on target, but that he convinced the Air Ministry that he could get 9,000 lbs. of explosive to skip over water to land precisely on target! Wallis later went on to design the 6-ton Tallboy and 10-ton Grand Slam earthquake bombs (which were used successfully against many enemy targets in the later years of the war) and after the war developed the practicalities of swing-wing aircraft.

The photo above shows him at his drawing board, with an aerial photo of one of the broken dams on the wall behind him.

"Extend the graph of professional progress in the direction that is indicated when Wallis was twenty-four years old and one places him ten years later as a senior in the drawing-office and twenty years later as a manager. At fifty or thereabouts, he joins the board of a middle-sized engineering firm and at sixty-five he retires with a decent pension, a large bungalow, and a small sailing-boat. For such men there are no biographies." - from Barnes Wallis by J. E. Morpurgo, Longman, 1972 (ISBN 0582 10360 6).

I have now moved all of my other Barnes Wallis information to my new site at www.SirBarnesWallis.com

Wallis' most famous achievement is the Upkeep mine, designed in 1943, 100 years after the most famous achievement of my other personal hero, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

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