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Title:THE DEVELOPMENT OF HIGHBALL - A SUMMARY OF THE DEVELOPMENT TRIALS FROM JANUARY 1943 TO MAY 1944 [Main Title]
Film Number:MTE 3136
Other titles:MINISTRY OF TECHNOLOGY COLLECTION [Allocated Series Title]
Summary: Mute footage with intertitles documenting the development of Highball, a spherical "bouncing bomb" designed by Barnes Wallis, intended for use against enemy shipping during the Second World War.
Description: Reel one: "Early trials with 46 inch diameter experimental solid plywood ball released from Wellington aircraft piloted by Mr Summers. Weight - 1200lbs. Height of release - 100ft. Speed of aircraft - 295mph. Backspin of ball - 500rpm. Approximate range - 1200 yards": A Vickers Wellington piloted by Vickers' chief test pilot, 'Mutt' Summers, makes several passes over the sea at Chesil Beach, Dorset, and releases a succession of early plywood Highball prototypes. In the second run the ball can be seen clearing anti-torpedo netting laid down just above the surface of the water. Having shown full scale possibilities, the development of Highball continues with the use of de Havilland Mosquito aircraft. A series of models of varying shapes and sizes are tested at Reculver in Kent. An early prototype is seen breaking up upon impact on the water, and subsequent prototypes are covered with a steel plate. Early prototypes display a tendency to 'wobble' on release from the aircraft, as demonstrated by a close up shot of a prototype being released from a Mosquito suspended over a pit. The consequence of this unwanted 'wobble' is beautifully illustrated by footage of a Fleet Air Arm Douglas SBD Dauntless releasing a prototype at Reculver, which "bounces" onto the beach, crashes into a number of beach posts, and comes to rest quite close to the camera. In order to test Highball's ability to withstand impact against armoured ships, a number of prototypes are dropped on a concrete apron at Porton Down in Wiltshire. Further trials are conducted at Loch Striven in Scotland, with French Dreadnought the Courbet acting as the target.
Reel two: "Better luck with the next three runs. But the pistols did not function and further modifications were undertaken": Further handling trials are held at Loch Striven and Reculver. Improvements are made to counter the 'wobble' issue, and subsequent runs at Reculver under various conditions show no sign of the problem. Due to poor weather conditions at Loch Striven threatening to bring the trials to a halt, a concrete wall is erected at the Ashley Walk range in the New Forest. A Mosquito makes a number of passes at different angles, proving that Highball could withstand heavy impact. To determine whether the successful results achieved at Ashley Walk could be replicated under operational conditions, further trials are conducted at Loch Striven in February 1944, with Queen Elizabeth class battleship HMS Malaya acting as the target. A number of runs by Mosquitos are made at varying speeds and heights, each resulting in the satisfactory detonation of each prototype Highball. Panning shots of HMS Malaya on the water. More detailed view in slow motion of one of the runs.
Reel three: Further runs at various angles to the fore and aft line. Alternative views of these runs as filmed from HMS Malaya, including some screened at normal speed. A Mosquito carrying two prototypes releases its load in quick succession, the second prototype to be released reaching the target first. Closer views of this run shown in slow motion, as filmed both onboard HMS Malaya and from the edge of the loch. General views of HMS Malaya fitted with the splinter nets and hydrosphere booms used during the trials. Film ends with a series of detailed shots of the varying degrees of damage sustained by HMS Malaya.
Technical Details: Format: 35mm
Number of items/reels/tapes: 3
Footage: 2582 ft; Running time: 29 mins
Notes: Technical: The majority of the footage is shown in slow motion, usually at two to three times slower than normal speed.
Summary: Developed alongside Upkeep, the larger cylindrical bomb used in the famous 'Dambusters raid' Operation Chastise in May 1943, Highball was intended for use against enemy ships such as the Tirpitz, but due to various circumstances the weapon was never actually used in action.