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Barnes Wallis

Peter Rix

3 Nov 2011

A trustee of the Sir Barnes Wallis Trust, Peter Rix gave us a superb talk about, and showed us two films narrated by, one of Britain’s greatest mechanical engineers Sir Barnes Wallis.

 A man of great intellect and high calibre he is known widely for his involvement in the development of the “Bouncing Bomb” that was used to destroy the large German reservoirs in the Ruhr valley on 16/17th May 1943. But he was more than that. During his long engineering career he designed the R100 Airship, the Wellington bomber, a swing wing high speed aircraft called the Swallow and a giant Radio Telescope.

 A Victorian, born in 1887 in Ripley Derbyshire, he was educated at Christ’s Hospital before becoming an apprentice in a shipyard where he trained as an engineer and draughtsman. He then joined Vickers at Barrow in Furness where he proposed a scheme for a passenger service by airship to India and Australia . Vickers accepted his proposal and work on the R100 Airship began at Howden in East Yorkshire . Here with Nevil Shute, the author, as one of his colleagues he successfully produced an airship that eventually flew to Canada and America in July 1930.

When work was ceased on airships in 1930 Wallis was moved to Vickers aircraft division at  

 Weybridge in Surrey . At Weybridge he developed the Wellesley bomber followed by the Wellington , the most numerous British bomber of the second world war. Both these aircraft used Wallis’s development of geodetic construction.

As a means of stopping the war with Germany Wallis proposed cutting their supply lines of raw materials. Because it takes 150 tons of water to help to produce one ton of steel it was decided to hit the reservoirs that fed the Ruhr . From this decision came the development of the “Bouncing Bomb” which was used to destroy the Mohne and Eder Dams.

Because of this success Wallis was asked to design further bombs. The result was the Tallboy a 12,000 lb bomb that was used to sink the Tirpitz and destroy the V1 and V2 rocket launching pads and save London from even more damage.

After the war Barnes Wallis worked on the development of variable geometry aircraft and a radio telescope. He was knighted in 1968 and died at the age of 92 in 1979.

 This fine presentation was concluded after a short question time and Peter Rix was thanked by our aviation buff Mike Hutchinson.  

At our next meeting at 10-00am on Thursday 17th November 2011 at Otley Methodist Church

Doug Hill will tell us about “The Olympic Games”.


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