From Tin Wash Tubs and Marbles to the Greatest Raid of the Second World War ; HISTORY: DAUGHTER OF BOUNCING BOMB INVENTOR TELLSOF FAMILY GAMES BEFORE DAM BUSTERS ATTACK

By Hallam, Katy | Birmingham Evening Mail (England), May 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

From Tin Wash Tubs and Marbles to the Greatest Raid of the Second World War ; HISTORY: DAUGHTER OF BOUNCING BOMB INVENTOR TELLSOF FAMILY GAMES BEFORE DAM BUSTERS ATTACK


Hallam, Katy, Birmingham Evening Mail (England)


Daughter Mary Stopes-Roe.

HE was the brilliant engineer immortalised by the legendary Dam Busters raids of the Second World War.

But to Mary Stopes-Roe, bouncing bomb inventor Sir Barnes Wallis was just her loving dad who revelled in the fun of raising his young family.

Now 86 and living in Moseley, her eyes twinkled as she recalled playing a game involving a catapult, marbles and an old wash tub.

Little did Mary, the second eldest of four children, know that the simple pursuit was helping to shape the bombing raids which secured her father's place in history.

"I saw a side that was fun," she said.

"We used to play a game with a catapult, marbles and the old oval tin wash tub and stand that is in the garden still.

"We had to count the number of bounces and he would adjust the distance with the catapult. It was just a game to us."

That "game" led to a bombing campaign which successfully breached the Mohne and Eder dams, in Germany's industrial heartland of the Ruhr 70 years ago today.

The raids, involving 19 Lancaster bombers of the RAF's 617 Squadron, became the stuff of legend, inspiring the 1955 Dam Busters film.

Arguments have raged ever since over the true effectiveness of the campaign, with the damage caused by the bombs, which skimmed across the water, repaired by the Nazis in a matter of months.

But for Wallace, the raids provided the answer to the question he had asked himself since the start of the conflict - "What can I do to shorten the war?" The engineer knew Allied bombing raids were hampered by a lack of accuracy so wanted to weaken Germany by hitting standing targets.

The dams were ideal as they could not be moved and the resultant flooding would cause huge problems for mines and steelworks vital to Germany's war effort.

But the brave fighter crews paid a high price for their heroism, flying at 250mph at just 60ft above ground level in a bid to ensure the bombs could be dropped with maximum accuracy.

A total of 53 of the 133 airmen who took part were killed, with just 11 of the aircraft making it back.

Mary said her father felt "desolate" over the human cost.

"They were his boys," she said.

Born in Derbyshire, Wallis left school at 16 - to the dismay of his parents and teachers.

Among the most able boys at Christ's Hospital School in Sussex, he knew from an early age he wanted to focus on practical issues.

"He wanted to get his hands dirty," Mary said. "So he took up an apprenticeship at Thames Engineering working with ships and the rest, as they say, is history."

Although his name will be forever linked with the Dam Busters raids, Wallis, who died in 1979 aged 92, had many more marvellous inventions.

Among them was a plane as big as an ocean liner, nuclear submarines and pioneering work in the deicing of trawlers.

"He was quite authoritative and required good manners and behaviour and proper time-keeping," Mary said. …

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