Sunday, 17 May 2009

Barnes Wallis (187-1979)

On the night of 16/17 May 1943, one of the most spectacular and daring raids of World War II was carried out. It was named Operation Chastise, later to become better known as the 'Dambusters Raid'. A special RAF unit, 617 Squadron, led by Guy Gibson, took off from England and headed for Germany. Their mission was to destroy three dams in the industrial region of the Ruhr. The operation was the brainchild of one man, an aeronautical engineer by the name of Barnes Wallis (Pictured right).

Barnes Neville Wallis was born the son of a doctor on 26 September 1887, in Ripley, Derbyshire. Wallis began his working career at a marine engineering firm, before moving to Vickers in 1913. Whilst at Vickers Wallis designed airships, including the R100, built by the Airship Guarantee Company, a subsidiary of Vickers Armstrong. In 1930, Wallis began to work on aircraft development particularly Wellesly and Wellington bombers and his work led to the first use of geodesic design in aircraft engineering. At the time of the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Wallis was Assistant Chief Designer at Vickers Aviation section.

During the early years of the war Wallis developed an idea which involved dropping a bouncing bomb that would bounce along the surface of the water, roll down the dam's wall and explode at its base. In 1943 Wallis revealed his idea for air attacks on key German dams using the device and devoted his entire time to perfecting his idea, using large indoor tanks in which to test his theories. Wallis demonstrated his brainchild to the Chief of the Air Staff who was impressed by the concept, and ordered Wallis to prepare the bombs, codenamed 'Upkeep', for an attack on three German dams, the Mohne, the Eder and the Sorpe. The purpose of the attack was to breach the dams which in turn would flood the entire Ruhr industrial region, disrupting factories and damaging the German war effort.

With the decision made,Wallis then turned his attention to the design of a suitable aircraft to drop the heavy bombs. The adapted Avro Lancaster was able to drop two bombs developed by Wallis, the 'Tallboy' designed in 1944 and the 'Grand Slam' from the following year. Both were used against heavily fortified German targets.

After the war, Wallis led astronautical research and development at the British Aircraft Corporation until 1971. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1954 and was knighted in 1968. He died on 20 October 1979.


Today's brainteaser is about using logic to solve what at first sight seems an impossible problem. Can you come up with an explanation?

You are on an island in the middle of a lake. The lake is in a remote part of the country and there has never been a bridge connecting the island to the mainland.
Every day a tractor and wagon gives hay rides around the island. Puzzled as to how the tractor had gotten onto the island, you ask around and find out that the tractor was not transported to the island by boat or by air. Nor was it built on the island.

Explain how the tractor got there!

Wildlife Pictures No.10

Another picture from our series entitled
Wildlife Pictures.
(Click image to enlarge)

Thought For Today

Experience is a comb that nature gives to men when they are bald.
Chinese Proverb

Today's Smile

A 3-year-old boy examined his testicles while taking a bath.
"Mum," he asked, "Are these my brains?"
"Not yet," she replied.


Is this the face of a man or a landscape?