Ripley-born ‘bouncing bomb’ inventor played vital role

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This week The Ripley & Heanor News joins the country in commemorating the 70th anniversary of the celebrated Dambusters raid, one of the most daring operations carried out by the RAF during World War II.

The inventor of the ‘bouncing bomb’, which was crucial to the success of the raid, was Sir Barnes Neville Wallis - born in Ripley in 1887 and certainly one of the town’s most famous son.

On the evening of May 16, 1943, after just two months of preparation, 133 hand-picked airmen in 19 specially adapted Lancaster Bombers set out on a raid with the aim of breaching three dams in the Ruhr Valley and thereby slowing down the production of arms by Nazi Germany.

Of the 19 crews which had set out on the raid, eight did not return. In total, 53 men were killed and three ended up as prisoners of war.

This week Ripley Mayor, Steven Daley, paid tribute to Barnes Wallis. He said: “In the summer his daughter Mary and I planted a tree at the Barnes Wallis Memorial Park to commemorate 125 years since his birth. I found out he was a man of peace rather than war. He invented the bouncing bomb because his country called upon him. But it was the least favourite of his inventions because it caused death. There was a heck of a lot more to him than bomb designs. The majority of people will remember him for the Dambusters raid.

“But if it hadn’t been for himself and others we could all be speaking German now.”

The Dambusters raid was just one of many thousands carried out by RAF Bomber Command during WWII. Of the 125,000 men who served in Bomber Command, a total of 55,573 lost their lives.

The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund remains committed to ensuring that their remarkable bravery and sacrifice will always be remembered and has pledged to raise £1.5 million to preserve the RAF Memorial for future generations.

This month they are publishing a series of 53 blogs to mark the anniversary, each one dedicated to one of the 53 men who died. Visit: www.rafbf.org.