Bouncing bombs, 2010 style

Great excitement in Mackenzie, British Columbia, Canada which is nearly 600 miles from Vancouver and an even longer distance from anywhere else. This small township lies on the southern end of Williston Lake, a huge man-made lake, the seventh largest reservoir in the world.
The lake is more than 150 miles in length – plenty of space in which an aircraft can practice flying low over water. And that is what one Canadian pilot working has been doing over the last few weeks.
That’s because a film crew has been in town. They have been working for the British company Windfall Films, which is making a new documentary about the Dams Raid. (A while back, the same company made an earlier film about the raid.) You might think that not a lot more can be said about this (a recent BBC documentary promising new information produced little) but it seems that no one has ever tried making a cylindrical bomb, rotating it backwards and dropping it from an aircraft flying at 240mph from a height of 60 feet. Until now.
There are now only two airworthy Lancasters left in the world. However, there are quite a few more of their 1940s contemporary, the Douglas DC3, which has proved so durable that they are still actively used by a number of small airlines. One of these is Buffalo Air, an outfit which flies out of Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories, a thousand miles north east of Mackenzie. This company’s staff are well used to the demands of filming as they star in a reality TV show, Ice Pilots. So Windfall chose them for the attempt to recreate the dambusting bomb, and had a dummy bomb and release mechanism built.
A number of test flights were undertaken, with  the pilot reporting that he had no problem getting the plane down to 6o feet above the lake, although he wouldn’t have wanted to try it at night.

The bomb was spun up before take off, reaching a speed of about 2000 rpm. By the time the aircraft had taken off and reached the lake it was still spinning. Everything then went swimmingly – the bomb was dropped, it bounced three or four times, ran up to the parapet wall which it struck just above the waterline and then rolled down the wall. No word yet when Windfall expect to show the film. We will keep you informed!

6 thoughts on “Bouncing bombs, 2010 style

  1. richard hickmott October 17, 2010 / 8:06 am

    It’s amazing what one can do with an empty oil drum…LOL.
    Regards the remaining flying Lancs. One is based in Canada and the other in Lincolnshire, England. It’s a part of the BBMF (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight), the Lanc in question was named “Mickey the Moocher”, along with a Hawker Hurricane and the only airworthy ‘genuine’ BoB MKII Spitfire – I believe it entered service in September 1940 .

    Anyway, back on topic, hope all went well with the drop; it’s perilous, even in daylight and without guns firing back in your face. I just hope that worked out the critical 7 degree angle – this was Wallis’s problem with the full size dropping of “Upkeep” off Broadstairs, Kent – which equates to about 40′ above the water.

    Thank you for the pictures.

    Yours, Richard.

  2. Stephen Cooke October 17, 2010 / 11:39 pm

    Following the ‘documentary’ link in thr blog entry above took me in a roundabout fashion to the PBS website (I was looking for an iPlayer type link for the programme). It had an article I’d not seen before (no new info…) and a rather cheesey bomb tha dam game:

    The documentary looks to be called ‘Bombing the Nazi Dams’ – keep an eye out.

  3. Rick Grant October 18, 2010 / 1:45 am

    I can’t be entirely sure because the picture is so small but the aircraft looks like a DC-4 and certainly is not a DC-3.

    Doesn’t matter though, it’s the story that counts and I’d sure like to see the documentary when it is done.

    Rick Grant

    • Brian September 25, 2011 / 1:50 am

      Quite right – a DC3 does not have FOUR engines and anyway would not have the necessary ground clearance for the bomb cradle.

      Brian UK

  4. Gordon Seiter November 11, 2011 / 6:26 pm

    Just saw the show. I’m curious what will happen to the scale dam they built to blow up. Any chance Mackenzie will protect it as a tourist attraction?
    A little placard, “In May of 2010, scientists from Cambridge University attempted to rediscover the lost classified science behind the successful 1943 bounceing bomb attack on the Meire river dams in Nazi Germany. Details of the original night time bombing raid were classified Top Secret for years after the war until finally being lost perminantly.
    By recreating the attack using 1940’s era aircraft it was hoped unanswered questions about just exactly how the raid was carried out could once and for all be answered, and exposed.”

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