|THE DAMBUSTERS  (617 Squadron)|
LOCATION: Home >> Operation Chastise >> Developing Upkeep
Upkeep, the codename for Wallis' revolutionary weapon, more familiarly known as 'the bouncing bomb', was probably one of the strangest and brilliant weapons of World War II.
The concept of a bouncing bomb was not invented by Wallis himself. Naval gunners in the 16th and 17th centuries discovered they could increase the range of their cannons by 'bouncing' them off the water like a stone in a pond. There were also reports from pilots early in the war who said that even if they dropped their bombs short of enemy shipping under attack, they would sometimes skip on over the water and still hit the target under the right conditions. Knowing that he had to get the bombs to detonate right next to the dam wall, Wallis began to experiment with the concept of a bouncing bomb as means of doing so.
He was told to construct and test six half size prototype Upkeep weapons. On December 4th 1942, using a Wellington bomber piloted by Vickers' chief test pilot Mutt Summers, Wallis dropped his first test bomb just off Chesil beach in Dorset. After hitting the water, the bomb was torn apart into tiny pieces. All following tests were just as disappointing. The problem was that the casing which gave the weapon its spherical shape continued to break apart despite attempts to strengthen it. Although the casing broke, the bomb did bounce just as Wallis had suggested. He believed that given time he could solve the problems with the casing and deliver a fully working prototype of Upkeep.
Wallis wrote a paper called 'Attacks on Dams' which contained his progress on Upkeep and suggested suitable targets. He submitted the report to senior figures in both the military and Government. The response was far from what Wallis was expecting! The Ministry of Aircraft Production felt it could not cope with the manufacture of Upkeep along with the production of aircraft which at the time was its number one priority. Furthermore, head of Bomber Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris described Wallis' idea as "Tripe of the wildest description". He commented that the revolving mine would tear itself from the bomb bay and destroy the aircraft carrying it. He also said "The war will be over before it works - and it never will". Harris did not want to loose any of his precious Lancaster bombers on a "wild goose chase" that stood little chance of success. He knew from previous attacks just how venerable his bombers were.