Barnes Wallis – the Engineer Who Understood the Significance of Strategic Victory

When the Second World War broke out, Barnes Neville Wallis, a British aircraft engineer who was developing airships and new rigid aircraft structures for the Vickers Company, was already in his fifties. The First World War with its muddy trenches and prolonged attrition battles was probably fresh in his mind although he did not take an active part in it due to his eyesight and his role as an engineer. Wallis started developing, at the same time, both the concept of a rapid strategic defeat of the enemy and the weapons that will achieve this defeat – mightily heavy earth and concrete penetrating bombs that became known in time as the Earthquake Bombs.

In a document he wrote titled ‘A Note on a Method of Attacking the Axis Powers’, Barnes discussed, amongst other topics, the enemy’s energy infrastructure and said:

“If Strength rests in dispersal, concentration is weakness; and concentration is a marked characteristic of the natural or artificial stores from which supplies of power are derived. Coalfields, Oil Fields and districts suitable for development as hydro-electric catchment areas and underground storage tanks for oil are all highly localised, and are impossible to disperse. If their destruction or paralysis can be accomplished they offer a means of rendering the enemy utterly incapable of continuing to prosecute the war.”

The first bomb Wallis designed weighed around ten tonnes. The British did not have in those days any bomber that could carry such a heavy bomb. Rather than abandon the idea, Wallis started working on the design of a multi-engine heavy bomber that would solve this problem, which he named the Victory Bomber. Whilst at it he also found the time to develop the water bouncing spinning bomb that was used by the Dam Busters squadron to flood German factories in the Ruhr industrial area and paralyse hydro-electric power stations.

Following this military success, Barnes returned to his concrete penetrating massive Earthquake Bombs. The six tonnes ‘Tall Boy’ bomb and the ten tonnes ‘Grand Slam’ bomb were dropped from heavy bombers already in service and inflicted devastating damage upon the Germans, including the destruction of V2 rocket launch sites, submarine concrete pens, railway tunnels dug through mountains, bridges and viaducts. These bombs were even used during the sinking of the German battleship the Tirpitz.

It is highly likely that within Israel’s weapon industries there are a few Wallises who are thinking about the strategic defeat of the enemy and are working on the means to achieve this. Let us hope that Israel’s political leadership and military command would listen to them as the British listened to Barnes Wallis.

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