Menu Donate Request our help

"He made it absolutely perfect in the end, that's the sort of man he was"

Johnny Johnson, the last remaining bomb aimer from the Dambuster raid gives his thoughts on the man behind the invention of the bouncing bomb, Barnes Wallis.

"I'd like to say first what a wonderful man I thought he was," Johnny says. "His history included the airship construction and the Wellington bomber [that he] started."

A modified Lancaster bomber with an Upkeep bomb. Photograph used by permission of the Imperial War Museums.

Despite his many innovative designs, though, it was to be the so-called bouncing bomb that guaranteed Wallis’s long-lasting fame.

"His development of the bouncing bomb," said Johnny, "caused him so many headaches it just wasn't true. But he persevered and he got there in the end. He made it absolutely perfect in the end."

Barnes Wallis, an engineer born in Derbyshire, was the designer of the pioneering bouncing bomb that was at the centre of the Dambusters raid.

Using a drop technique that emulated ricochet methods long used by the Navy, Wallis created a bomb tailor-made for the daring mission to breach the German dams of the Ruhr. But there were many technical difficulties in implementing the idea that Wallis and other designers and engineers worked hard to overcome. 

His overall contribution to the RAF and the country’s war effort were hugely significant, and included his design of the Wellington bomber, which was used frequently during the beginning of the Second World War.

According to Johnny Johnson, perfectionism was part of Wallis's inherent make up.

"That's the sort of man he was, if he went into something he went into it with all his heart and he made sure that he at least made the best effort he could to make sure that it came off."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant John Marriott, a flight engineer with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on May 17, 1943, age 23.

Visit the Dambusters homepage

0800 169 2942

Sign up to receive the RAFBF e-newsletter