Divers drop into de Havilland Aircraft Museum to see historic bouncing bomb they recovered from lake

Volunteers Martin Bull and John Hutton with Kevin Phillips (left) at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

Volunteers Martin Bull and John Hutton with Kevin Phillips (left) at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. - Credit: Garry Lakin

A team of intrepid divers who recovered two “lost” World War Two practice bombs from the bottom of a lake visited the Hertfordshire museum where one of them is now on display.

Members of the East Cheshire branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) saw at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum the 'bouncing bomb' they had recovered from the depths of a Scottish loch.

In 2017, the divers carried out a remarkable recovery operation to retrieve the perfectly preserved inert Highball bomb which had lain on the bed of Loch Striven for more than 70 years. 

John Hatton explains the bomb preservation work, with the Highball bomb in front of the Mosquito B Mk35.

John Hatton explains the bomb preservation work, with the Highball bomb in front of the Mosquito B Mk35. - Credit: Garry Lakin

The RAF had used the loch as a bombing range in the 1940s to test Barnes Wallis' Highball bomb.

“The museum has done a wonderful job of preserving the bomb and stopping it corroding,” said Kevin Phillips, who had been diving officer for the 11-strong team of scuba divers.

"It doesn’t look like the bomb we got out of the loch. It is looking remarkably pristine now."

Martin Bull (left) and Kevin Phillips at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum

Martin Bull (left) and Kevin Phillips at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum - Credit: Garry Lakin

The dive team members were welcomed by the London Colney museum's chairman, Alan Brackley, and presentations on the preservation work and the bomb were given by Martin Bull and Bob Glasby, both museum volunteers.

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In an audio-visual presentation, Mr Phillips explained how they had mounted the recovery operation and the side-scan radar technology that was used to pinpoint the bombs at a depth of some 120 feet.

To drop the bomb, the RAF had decided to form a specialist squadron equipped with de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers to be trained in using the weapon against enemy warships.

Mr Phillips added: “The museum has three Mosquitos on display, so it was really the logical place for the bomb.”

Martin Bull shows the result of the preservation work on the Highball at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum

Martin Bull shows the result of the preservation work on the Highball at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum - Credit: Garry Lakin

The spherical bomb has flattened sides and is one of more than 200 inert Highballs that were dropped in the loch where the Royal Navy had moored two old cruisers as targets.

But the sub aqua club does not have any plans to try to retrieve any more, said Mr Phillips.

The bomb donated to the museum at Salisbury Hall has a large dent which, said Mr Phillips, showed that it had indeed hit its target.

The scuba club team at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum

The scuba club team at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum - Credit: Garry Lakin

Visitors can now see the Highball placed next to a Mosquito B Mk35 bomber, alongside a replica bomb held in an example of the bomb release gear which had been fitted inside one of the RAF Mosquitos.

The Highball at the de Havilland museum is one of two the sub aqua club recovered from Loch Striven with the help of a Royal Navy lifting ship.

The other has been donated to the Brooklands Museum in Surrey, where it completes examples of the bombs designed by Barnes Wallis.

Martin Bull explains the Highball to the dive team at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum

Martin Bull explains the Highball to the dive team at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum - Credit: Garry Lakin

Wallis also designed the 'Upkeep' bouncing bomb dropped by the 'Dambusters' 617 Squadron on dams in Germany in 1943.

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum is just off Junction 22 of the M25 and details are on its website at www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk


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