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Any fool can invent something

Mary Stopes Roe, the daughter of the inventor of the bouncing bomb, Barnes Wallis, tells of her father’s views on how an invention is meaningless without the people prepared to put it into action.

"I do remember him saying, perhaps not entirely seriously, but he said it all the same, 'Oh, any fool can invent something, it's the person who has to carry it out', and of course there’s a lot in that. Any fool can invent something. Well, it wouldn't work would it, but you can invent it all the same."

Wallis's recognition and appreciation of the need to implement ideas came from his years of experience in marine and then air engineering.

Wallis's invention of the bouncing bomb showed the importance of a skilled workforce needed to implement an invention. While Wallis spent long and arduous months developing the bouncing bomb, there were a variety of problems that had to be considered and solved along the way that were out of his hands.

For example, the aircraft used for the mission, the Lancaster, had to be redesigned to hold the new, larger bomb, which required Roy Chadwick and his team at Avro to adapt twenty-one aircraft in just a few weeks.

Also, for the bomb-aimers to drop the bomb at exactly the right height above water, engineers at Farnborough airbase had to develop and install the spotlight guiding system onto aircrafts. Without these two examples alone the bouncing bomb could not have been used in the raid. And then, of course, there were the pilots.

Mary Stopes Roe said that Wallis never forgot that it was a whole collection of people who put his idea into motion.

"He wouldn’t ever have, as it were, put it down to his own expertise. I think that is not usually remembered sufficiently."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant William Long, an air gunner with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on May 17, 1943, age 19.

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