Wartime ‘bouncing bomb’ added to de Havilland Aircraft Museum collection

PUBLISHED: 11:13 03 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:19 07 August 2017

The Highball bomb in its tank being refilled with a special anti-corrosion solution [Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum ]

The Highball bomb in its tank being refilled with a special anti-corrosion solution [Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum ]

Archant

A wartime ‘bouncing bomb’ has been added to a Hertfordshire aircraft museum’s historic collection of iconic de Havilland aeroplanes.

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum has taken delivery of a rare ‘Highball’ bomb.

Designed by British engineer and inventor Barnes Wallis, the bomb is a spherical version of the Dambusters’ cylindrical bouncing bomb.

It was delivered to the museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, on Sunday, July 23.

The munition was lifted from the depths of a Scottish loch by a scuba diving team, who raised it from a depth of 35 metres (115ft) just four days earlier.

The Highball bomb arrives at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum watched by some visitors [Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum ]The Highball bomb arrives at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum watched by some visitors [Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum ]

Museum curator Alistair Hodgson said: “The Highball was designed to be dropped by the de Havilland Mosquitos and as our museum has three of these aircraft we were more than delighted to be asked if we would like to have it.”

The anti-ship bomb had been at the bottom of the seawater loch for 74 years, after being dropped by an RAF Mosquito in 1943.

Therefore it must be kept in a tank filled with a special solution to reduce the corrosive effect of the salts absorbed from the sea.

“It is in remarkably good condition but it is likely to be two years before we can take it out of the tank and put it on display,” said Mr Hodgson.

A British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) diver spotlights the Highball on the loch bed [Picture: Lindsay Brown, BSAC]A British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) diver spotlights the Highball on the loch bed [Picture: Lindsay Brown, BSAC]

The Highball is a smaller version of the bouncing bomb, codenamed Upkeep, that Barnes Wallis designed for 617 Squadron to use on their air raid on three dams in the German Ruhr valley in 1943.

Live versions of the Highball were never used in anger.

Around 200 non-explosive practice Highballs were dropped by specially modified Mosquitos of 618 Squadron on Loch Striven in Argyll, which was chosen as the bombing range.

The targets used were two retired battleships.

The Highball safely on the deck of the ship [Picture: Henry Paisey, BSAC]The Highball safely on the deck of the ship [Picture: Henry Paisey, BSAC]

The diving team, members of the British Sub-Aqua Club, had spent seven years locating the bombs and deciding how to raise them.

They earmarked two to bring to the surface, which they did with the help of a sonar scanner from Unique System UK, a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) from Sub-Sea Tooling and a Royal Navy ship with a lifting crane.

The second Highball will be donated to the Brooklands Museum in Surrey in October.

Mr Hodgson said: “The story of the Highball and 618 Squadron is not generally well-known and at the de Havilland Museum we will be creating a special display alongside our many other exhibits to tell visitors all about it.”

The Highball being raised by the Royal Navy ship [Picture: Henry Paisey, BSAC]The Highball being raised by the Royal Navy ship [Picture: Henry Paisey, BSAC]

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum is dedicated to the preservation and display of de Havilland aircraft, many of which were built in Hatfield.

Founded by Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, the de Havilland Aircraft Company played an important role in the history of aircraft development in 20th century Britain.

It created many iconic aircraft such as the de Havilland Mosquito – ‘The Wooden Wonder’, the Comet, the world’s first jet airliner, and the Tiger Moth, the ‘backbone’ of the RAF’s training aircraft in World War Two.

• For more information about the volunteer-run museum, visit www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk

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