Project Highball

Posted 19/10/2017

Nearly 75 years ago, in the midst of the Second World War, the Royal Navy conducted tests of around 200 bouncing Highballs at Loch Striven, Fife.

The Highball, along with the Upkeep bouncing bomb (used in the RAF's 1943 Dambusters raid), was developed by Sir Barnes Wallis to bounce on water.

Developed not for the Dambusters raid, but to target ships, Highballs actually featured in the 1955 The Dam Busters film, as the bombs used to attack the dams were still shrouded in secrecy.

Cut to more recent times, and Dundee University's Dr Iain Murray has spent the last decade trying to work out how to raise the bombs to the water's surface. Finally, working with a team of BSAC divers led by East Cheshire Sub Aqua Club (ECSAC)'s Mark Paisey, Iain has made this a reality.

The team has lifted two of the bombs from the bottom of the loch and out of the water, involving dives at up to 50 metres' depth, use of specialist lifting equipment and even calling on the assistance of the one of the Royal Navy's specialist mine clearance units, the Northern Diving Group, and their workboat the Cato.

The bombs used on the loch weren't live, so explosion thankfully wasn't one of the worries on the team's long list.

After cleaning and part-restoring the two massive bombs (no mean feat), they were displayed at ECSAC's clubhouse, where two packed-out presentations were held. Amongst the turnout was the local MP David Rutley, a stong supporter of the club. The project has also gained extensive coverage from national media.

Money raised from the presentation evenings will be used to fund the restoration of the bombs, one of which has arrived at the Brooklands Museum, Surrey, and the other at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum, Hertfordshire.

Click here for plenty more information on the project.

Photos (L-R):

  1. Some of the team with one of the bombs, Royal Navy divers in the background
  2. The team (inc Royal Navy divers) with both bombs
  3. ECSAC Diving Officer Kevin Phillips at the presentation evening with David Rutley MP, part-restored bomb in the foreground.
  4. Highball presentation evening, ECSAC clubhouse
  5. (L-R) Paul Tyers (ECSAC Chairman), Mark Paisey (BSAC NW Regional Coach), Kevin Phillips, David Rutley MP, with a framed T-shirt and photo presented to them by the Royal Navy Northern Diving Group

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