Framework of a Barnes Wallis airship under construction, c 1920s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph from the Barnes Wallis Collection. In 1913 Neville Barnes Wallis (1887-1979) was commisioned by Vickers to design airships, including the R100, the largest airship in the world when completed in 1929. His design for the R100 used geodetic construction, making it strong yet light for its size. The disastrous crash of the R101 in northern France in 1930 brought an end to the era of British airships. Barnes Wallis went on to produce aircraft designs which combined the same qualities of lightnes and strength, epitomised by his 'Wellesley' and 'Wellington' bombers. After the succes of his famous bouncing bomb designed for the 'Dambusters' raid in 1943, Barnes Wallis went on to design heavy, penetration bombs, the 'Tallboy' and 'Grand Slam'.