Menu Donate Request our help

That's what fathers do

Mary, daughter of Barnes Wallis, inventor of the bouncing bomb, explains how she never really felt pressured to keep Wallis' work a secret.

"While we all knew that these were things that were important, he never said, 'Oh, you mustn't tell that to anybody,' because then of course we’d have been wanting to tell it to our best friend," Mary says.

"He never said that, ever. So I never had the feeling that if I were to discuss it, it would be a real criminal offence, so I never bothered really."

During this time in early 1943, the plans that Mary’s father was painstaking over were, in fact, the beginnings of the bouncing bomb. The monumental importance of this work as well as its intended use was, of course, completely unbeknownst to Mary and her siblings until much later on.

Wallis never let on to his children the true significance of his work. The first that Mary and her siblings knew of anything to do with the Dambusters raid was after hearing it reported in the news.

"It's just what he did. People did do that sort of thing didn't they? That’s what fathers do. And yet I suppose we were in a funny sort of way, aware that we mustn’t shout about these things."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant Wilfred Ibbotson, an air gunner with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on May 17, 1943, age 29.

Visit the Dambusters homepage

0800 169 2942

Sign up to receive the RAFBF e-newsletter