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Barnes Wallis and the Christ's Hospital bursary fund

Mary, the daughter of Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the bouncing bomb, tells the story of how her father created a bursary for the children of RAF personnel killed in service.

This bursary, or scholarship fund, was used to send children to the same school that Wallis went to as a boy: Christ’s Hospital in West Sussex.

From the 133 men who set out on the Dambuster raid of May 16/17, 1943, 56 did not return. 53 of these were killed and three were taken prisoner, though immediately after the raid, they were also presumed dead. This high rate of attrition deeply affected Barnes Wallis, who felt a high degree of responsibility for the loss of life.

"One of the most important outcomes of the dams raid for my father," says Mary Stopes Roe.

"It was the loss of life. He was desolated, absolutely desolated by that. He never got over it."

So when, after the war, Wallis was given £10,000 as an 'Inventors Award', he would not accept it.

Mary says, "My father said: 'I will not touch the money, it is blood money.' He has a little quote from the Bible. The quote is from David: 'Is not this the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives'."

Mary says that:

"Somebody, I don't know who, suggested that he take it and give it to charity. So that's what he did. He put into a bursary, scholarship fund for children of, at the time, RAF serving personnel killed in service, to go to Christ's Hospital – everything paid for – for the duration of their school career. The RAF Benevolent Fund – which is a wonderful charitable institution and I have a great admiration for it – they pitched in I think the same amount of money into this bursary."

A trust was set up to administer the fund called the Christ's Hospital RAF Foundationer's Trust and more than 150 children – known as 'Foundationers' -have benefited from it since it began awarding scholarships in 1951.

Find out more about this and other charitable projects connected with Barnes Wallis.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Pilot Officer Michael Fuller, a navigator and bomb aimer with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action.

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