Highball “bouncing bombs” recovered from Loch Striven

The first Highball breaks the surface

A trustee of the Barnes Wallis Foundation has helped to successfully raise two World War 2 bombs from the bottom of Loch Striven. Dr. Iain Murray, who works as a Computing lecturer at the University of Dundee, has researched the work of Sir Barnes Wallis, who invented the famous “bouncing bomb” which was tested on the loch in 1943-44. His research revealed that over 200 of the bombs were tested on the loch, and that there was thus a good chance that many were still there. As there were none of the Highball bombs in museums, he thus hoped to recover one to place in a museum. Mary Stopes-Roe, Sir Barnes Wallis’s elder daughter, had given her backing to the project.

Highball is a smaller version of the Upkeep bomb used by the RAF’s 617 Squadron to successfully destroy two German dams in May 1943. Highball was for use against enemy battleships, but operated on the same principle – dropping from an aircraft, it would skip along the water in a series of “bounces” like a skipping stone, then sink beneath the hull of the target ship before exploding.

A preliminary dive in the summer of 2010 found a small number of Highballs, and in July 2017 a team of twelve divers from the East Cheshire Sub-Aqua Club (part of BSAC), aided by a team from the Royal Navy’s Northern Diving Group, explored the site the site and successfully recovered two of the bombs. These will be sent to two museums for preservation – Brooklands Museum in Surrey (home to a collection of Barnes Wallis artifacts) and the de Havilland Aircraft Museum in Hertfordshire (de Havilland Mosquito aircraft carried the Highballs).

A sonar survey of the loch was also carried out, and around 100 Highballs have been located, as well as dummy charges dropped by X-craft midget submarines, which also trained in the loch – although within 30 miles of Glasgow, Loch Striven is very isolated, and so made an excellent secret testing site.

Read the story from BBC News in which Dr. Murray describes how Highball would have worked.

Read the story from the Royal Navy website.

Read the story from the British Sub-Aqua Club website.

The first  Highball cleaned up
The first Highball cleaned up