Bouncing bombs raised 75 years on.
Byline: Mike Lockley News Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
ASTAFFORDSHIRE scuba diver has taken part in a daring mission to raise two historic Dam Busters bouncing bombs from a Scottish loch.
Phil Grigg, an open water instructor from Cannock, was part of a crack team from the British Sub-Aqua Club who recovered the perfectly preserved 'Highball' bombs.
Around 200 Highballs have lain at the bottom of Loch Striven, in Argyll, for almost 75 years since they were tested by the Navy for use against enemy ships in the Second World War.
The dive team was led by Mark Paisey of East Cheshire Sub-Aqua Club and included BSAC members from Macclesfield, Dundee, Tyneside and Richmond-upon-Thames.
Each diver played a vital role in the mission which involved a series of exploratory dives at depths of up to 50 metres to identify which Highballs were suitable for recovery, and then secure them for lifting. Royal Navy divers attached specialist lifting equipment to the heavy metal spheres, which were then winched out of the water by members of the Royal Navy's Northern Diving Group onto their workboat, the Cato.
The divers were assisted by an underwater scanner to gather sonar images, and an underwater robot to assist with filming.
The aim is to donate the Highballs to two museums so they can be put on display to the public, in time for next year's 75th anniversary of the Dambusters raid.
The project has received backing from Mary Stopes-Roe, daughter of late British engineer Sir Barnes Wallis, who invented Britain's bouncing bombs.
"It's a fantastic project," said Mary, from Moseley. "It would be a fitting tribute to my father to have the Highballs in a museum."
Project leader Mark Paisey, BSAC's North West regional coach, said: "We've exceeded our expectations. This is the culmination of a very long collaborative project and it was unbelievable to see the first one come out of the water.
"It was covered in mud and marine crustaceans but when we cleaned it off it was perfectly preserved, down to the nuts and bolts. No-one has seen one of these for the best part of 75 years so it was emotional to see it close up."
Phil, 37, a BSAC Direct member and Open Water Instructor from Cannock captured underwater footage of the Highballs on a previous dive at Lock Striven back in 2010. "We struggled to locate the Highballs initially but when we did finally work out where they were laying, we found a few of them," he said. "I always hoped I'd go back one day."
The Highballs were the anti-ship version of the cylindrical Upkeep bouncing bombs used by the RAF in the Dambusters raid in May 1943, both having been designed by Sir Barnes Wallis to bounce over water. It is actually archive footage of the Highballs being tested at Loch Striven that features in classic 1955 movie 'The Dam Busters' - because footage of the actual bomb used by the RAF was still top secret at the time.
<B Project leader Mark Paisey with BSAC diver Phil Grigg, right, from Cannock
<B A Highball bouncing bomb after it was raised from the bottom of Loch Striven, below Pictures: Henry Paisey and Lindsay Brown