Barnes Wallis bomb can keep bouncing!

Barnes Wallis

If you ever find yourself in Herne Bay, you may choose to participate in the Herne Bay Culture Trail. This is an opportunity to see all the places of historical and general interest around the town. The fourth stop along the route is the statue of Sir Barnes Wallis.

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis is the son of a doctor, born on the 26th September 1887 in Ripley Derbyshire. First working at a marine engineering firm, Wallis moved to Vickers in 1913. Where he designed various airships including the R100.

17 years later, Wallis transferred to working on aircraft. He was the first person to use the geodesic design in engineering. It has then been in his development of the Wellesley and Wellington bombers. In World War Two in 1939 Wallis designed the bouncing bomb. The nickname was the ‘Bouncy Betties’ and held trials off of Herne Bay shores. You can see the original footage from the testing here.

During World War II Germany hydro-electric dams were targets that needed destroying. Despite multiple attempts, existing bombs had little effect on them, due to nets protecting them from attack via conventional torpedoes. The bouncing bomb spun before it was released. It would ‘skip’ along the water until it came to the damn. Then it would stop spinning and sink to the bottom where it destroyed the base.

The only obstacle they now had to overcome was the perfect point in which to release the bomb to ensure it reached the dam before sinking. After frequent testing, they found a solution in the ‘spotlight altimeter’.  At its most basic, this meant that two spotlights were shone down from the plane. A very dangerous feat as they were bombing at nighttime. They dropped the  bomb when the two spotlights met perfectly.

In commemoration of all of Barnes Wallis’s hard work; a life size bronze statue looks out towards Reculver, where the tests of the “bouncing bomb” took place. The statue was funded by lottery funds. In the few years it has been up, it has become a focal point of the Herne Bay Culture Trail.

Keith Roberts, the branch manager of our Faversham branch, has a seat among many community panels both in and around Herne Bay and Kent and heard about their need for sponsorship in order to keep the statue maintained to its current high standard. He asked one of our Directors Andy. Due to its historical significance, Andy jumped at the chance.

We have been working with the Herne Bay Town Partners, the voluntary group that is in charge of looking after the statue, and Dunster House has donated £1,500 which will pay for the maintenance of the bronze life-size statue of Sir Barnes Wallis, and the planters around it, for the next three years.’

November 10, 2014

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