Not many people can talk about what it’s like to build a bouncing bomb. But the team at Lindhurst Innovation Engineering can.
Eight years ago, the Sutton-in-Ashfield company built a replica bouncing bomb.
The bombs were invented by Barnes Wallis and used seventy years ago by the RAF in one of the most ingenious and daring air raids of the Second World War.
The replica is now housed in a museum located in the west tower of Derwent Dam in Derbyshire – in the section dedicated to the 617 “Dam Buster” Squadron and its crews.
A service takes place on May 16th at 10.45am at the museum to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Dam Busters raid, with an unofficial fly past expected by spitfires, tornadoes and other aircraft.
Lindhurst happened to be carrying out work for Severn Trent Water at Derwent Dam in Derbyshire in 2005 when Lindhurst project engineer Les Abbs, now retired, spotted that the existing replica bomb at the museum was made of wood.
“He tapped it, which everyone does, realised it was made of wood and then Lindhurst offered to make a replica bouncing bomb in metal,” recalls Vic Hallam, who runs the museum.
Lindhurst managing director Martin Rigley explains: “The museum had all the old paper technical drawings. We turned the original pencil drawings into electronic drawings using AutoCAD.
“Obviously we were manufacturing the unit – not a complete bomb – so we had to use a bit of poetic licence and we applied a few modern techniques to make it look like the original.
“The museum’s a charity and we were proud to create a replica bouncing bomb and donate it to them. Since we handed it over, it’s been seen by thousands of visitors to the museum.”
An apprentice fabricator and welder at Lindhurst at the time and aged 18, Karim Mahamdi was given the task of producing the bouncing bomb unit, under fabricator George Asbury, also now retired.
Karim recalls: “At the time, I knew about what had happened with the Derwent Dam and the history behind it. As we were putting the replica bomb together I remember thinking ‘when they were building this all those years ago, what was going through their minds?’
“It was quite special to be involved in putting some history back into the country. All in all it wasn’t too bad to build. I can’t remember any challenges that we came across that weren’t sorted.”
Karim, now 26, who lives in Sutton-in-Ashfield, and who is now mechanical project manager at Lindhurst, recalls how the team worked out the bend of the metal, and how the steel plates were rolled into the shape of the bomb.
“We made it in sections and then put it all together,” he adds. “It was certainly a very different project…a one-off.”
Lindhurst specialises in one-off engineering projects and no request is too off-the-wall – from light-weight lifting platforms for the heavy metal group Iron Maiden’s stage shows to large-scale engineering for landmark projects such as London’s Canary Wharf Underground Station and anaerobic digestion technology to generate power from food and farm waste.
The full-scale replica bouncing bomb is one of the most unusual items that the firms has ever made, however.
The exhibit has been very popular with visitors to the museum, which is open Sundays and bank holiday Mondays.
Vic adds: “It’s the one thing that people are photographed standing against. It’s photographed nearly as much as the dam is. It’s treasured and always will be.”
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