Friday, 25 May 2012

Herne Bay, Barnes Wallis, and the 'Bouncing Bomb'

By the time you read this blog entry, my father-in-law's bungalow in Herne Bay will have been sold ... and we will not need to go back again unless we want to. As a result I decided to make a special effort to take some photographs of a statue that stands at the eastern end of the seafront ... a statue of Barnes Wallis.

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, CBE, FRS, RDI, FRAeS was born on 26th September 1887 in Ripey, Derbyshire. He was educated at Christ's Hospital in Horsham, and when he left school at the age of seventeen he started work as an apprentice engineer at Thames Engineering Works at Blackheath, South East London. He then transferred his apprenticeship to J. Samuel White's, a shipbuilders based in Cowes, Isle of Wight. Although he originally trained as a marine engineer and achieved a degree in engineering at the University of London, he moved to Vickers just before World War I so that he could work on airship and aircraft design.

He first came to prominence during the building of the R100 airship, and his geodetic framework designs for aircraft fuselages and wings were used in the building of the Vickers Wellesley and Wellington bombers. However it was his design for the 'bouncing bomb' that was used by the RAF in Operation Chastise (the famous 'Dambuster' raids) to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley that he was probably most well-known for.

So why is there a statue of Barnes Wallis in Herne Bay?

The answer is quite simple ... it is just along the coast from Reculver, where the trials of the 'bouncing bomb' took place.


  1. Hi Bob!

    Good posting! I understand that the boys at NASA are studying his geo-designs for the next generation of Shuttles.

  2. Martin,

    He was a very insightful engineer, with lots of ideas that were never brought to fruition (e.g. hypersonic aircraft flying at very high altitudes, submarine tankers that could avoid bad weather whilst also being cheaper to run).

    His concept of geodetic framework - which is strong and light - would be ideal for something like a space-plane.

    All the best,