New Barnes Wallis Exhibition
17 May 2023
Tuesday, 16th, and Wednesday, 17th May 2023, mark the 80th anniversary of the Dambuster’s Raid on the primary targets in the Ruhr Valley, Germany. Brooklands Museum, Weybridge is commemorating the milestone with the opening of a brand-new permanent exhibition, Inventing the Future: The Innovations of Sir Barnes Wallis, which explores the broader story of Sir Barnes Wallis and his inventions, including geodetic aircraft and the revolutionary Stratosphere Chamber.
Barnes Wallis is famous for his involvement in Operation Chastise and inventing the ‘bouncing bomb,’ but his achievements were so much more remarkable than this. In a career that lasted over 60 years, Barnes contributed significantly to the development of British aviation, from airships to aerospace, predominantly from his base at Brooklands, Weybridge. The exhibition delves into the world of engineering, looks at what it takes to be an innovator, and focuses on the most important people in Barnes’ life.
Barnes Wallis began his career at Brooklands with Vickers in 1913 as an aircraft designer, developing a geodetic airframe structure adopted by the Vickers Wellington. With the outbreak of World War II, Barnes saw a need for strategic bombing. He developed the concept of making a ‘bouncing bomb’ to collapse three of Germany’s major dams, which would cause significant damage to their infrastructure. Barnes tested his concept using golf balls and a catapult on nearby Silvermere Lake.
Following the end of World War II, Wallis was encouraged to apply for an Inventors’ Award for his victory, with the bouncing bomb. He refused, as he saw the prize fund as blood money. However, he was finally persuaded and used the money to set up a scholarship at Christ’s Hospital, the school he attended, for children of RAF personnel who were orphaned during the war. He then turned his attention to finding more ways to give back to the world, starting with the creation of the Stratosphere Chamber.
Beatrice Meecham, Interpretation and Programmes Officer at Brooklands Museum, said:
“Although we are launching the exhibition to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Dambuster’s Raid, the interpretation concentrates on Barnes’ incredible innovations and how he built the Stratosphere Chamber. There’s also a real focus on the people who surrounded Barnes and supported him.
The new exhibition will help young engineers to understand the process of being an engineer, how a small idea can turn into something enormous - and that’s the power of what an engineer can do. Barnes Wallis had different challenges in the 1940s, but he solved problems with the technology available to him at the time. Through the exhibition, we explore how people can solve the problems of our time using inventiveness and the technology today.”
The new permanent exhibition, Inventing the Future: The Innovations of Sir Barnes Wallis, opens to the public on Wednesday 17th May, at Brooklands Museum, Weybridge.