Life & Work

The Life and Work of Barnes Neville Wallis

“I can’t do anything unless I am convinced it is necessary for the good of England and for the good of mankind”

Barnes Wallis : A Genius of Our Time

The name of Barnes Neville Wallis is inevitably linked with inventions which greatly contributed to the Allied victory in World War 2; the Wellington, the bouncing bombs which breached the Mohne and Eder Dams, and the Tallboy and Grand Slam ‘earthquake’ bombs. This may lead the average person to assume that here was a scientist who had made a life study of warlike instruments and the art of destruction.

Nothing could be more wrong. In fact, in 1939, his prime concern was to decide how he, an aircraft designer and engineer, could make a contribution that would hasten the end of World War 2.

Barnes Wallis was at the forefront of aviation progress during virtually the whole of his working life. Before World War 1, he was involved in the designing of rigid airships. Later he was responsible for the R.80, one of the most beautiful of airships ever built, and for the R.100, one of the most successful. He introduced geodesics into aircraft design and developed the swing-wing Swallow with its variable wing sweep.

Barnes Wallis’s life was not only centred around aeronautics and aerial warfare; he participated in the development of radio telescopy and nuclear submarines, he pioneered work in the de-icing of trawlers, and he gave much time and money to educational advancement and to charity. Above all, he was a devoted family man who believed in many of the steadfast Victorian ideals. His articles of faith included a belief in the spiritual and intellectual qualities of the people of this Nation and of the Commonwealth.