IN PREPARATION for Operation ‘Chastise’, the famous Dams raid of May 1943, specially adapted Lancasters of 617 Squadron dropped a number of Barnes Wallis’ ‘bouncing bombs’ off Reculver in Kent during practice runs. Now, 75 years on, one of these trial bombs has been uncovered at low tide on a Kent beach.
James Crouch was with his young son looking for crabs when he made the remarkable discovery in Minnis Bay in early August. He immediately recognised it and reported the find to Herne Bay Coastguard, who took overall charge and ensured public safety by having the explosive status of the device checked out. Fortunately, the bombs dropped in these training runs were inert, having been filled with concrete.
Officially, the ‘bouncing bomb’ was a mine – its designation was Vickers Type 464 and it carried the codename ‘Upkeep’. During the war, and for many years afterwards, the details of these weapons were kept highly secret, and this example was only left where it was because it was effectively ‘lost’. However, in recent years several of these devices have been recovered from Reculver. Well-known film footage and photographs show the weapons being dropped at Reculver in 1943 – the imagery providing a tangible link to this latest discovery.
At time of Britain at War going to press, no decision had been taken regarding the bouncing bomb’s recovery or where it might subsequently be placed. However, it is expected that the four-tonne weapon will be preserved in a national museum or displayed locally.