Saturday, 21 April 2007

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis 1887-1979

Barnes Neville Wallis was born the son of a doctor on 26 September 1887 in Ripley, Derbyshire. Wallis worked first at a marine engineering firm and in 1913 he moved to Vickers, where he designed airships, including the R100. In 1930 Wallis transferred to working on aircraft. His achievements included the first use of geodesic design in engineering, which was used in his development of the Wellesley and Wellington bombers. When World War Two began in 1939, Wallis was Assistant Chief Designer at Vickers Aviation section.
In February 1943, Wallis revealed his idea for air attacks on dams in Germany. He had developed a drum-shaped, rotating bomb that would bounce over the water, roll down the dam's wall and explode at its base. The bomb was codenamed 'Upkeep'. Impressed with the concept, the Chief of the Air Staff, ordered Wallis to prepare the bombs for an attack on the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams in the important German industrial region of the Ruhr.
Operation Chastise, the 'Dambusters Raid', was carried out on the night of 16/17 May 1943 by the specially created 617 Squadron of the RAF, led by Guy Gibson. Two of the dams - the Mohne and Eder - were breached, leading to serious flooding in the surrounding area, although industrial production was hardly affected, and 8 of the 19 bombers which took part were lost. The most significant result was the hugely positive effect on Allied morale.
When the decision was taken to concentrate on area bombing, Wallis began looking at the design of aircraft that could drop 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 aeronautical 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.