A Brief History
On November 12, 1944, the Royal Air Force (RAF) used its heavy bomber, the Avro Lancaster, to drop Tall Boy bombs on the last German battleship, the Tirpitz. This attack was the 26th Allied attempt in a series of attacks over a 4-year period to sink her like her sister ship, the Bismarck. And with 3 direct hits, over she capsized.
The Tall Boys were giant 12,000-pound bombs designed by the British weapons designer Barnes Wallis. They were so big that only Lancasters could lug them to the target. No U.S. bomber of World War II times was up to the task.
So, what did the British do for an encore? Barnes Wallis designed an ever bigger bomb, the 22,000-pound Grand Slam! As was the case with its big little brother, only Lancasters could transport such a monster bomb.
These bombs were only used in attacks on the most hardened targets, such as submarine pens and rocket construction facilities. Their massive size and payload of explosives meant the bomb would penetrate deep in the ground before exploding, creating a massive, earthquake-like shockwave that could crumble the target, even if it was some distance away.
This effect was called the “Earthquake Effect,” and the two massive bombs (Tall Boy and Grand Slam) were referred to as the “Earthquake Bombs.” Prior to nuclear weapons, they were the most powerful bombs in existence.
The following two videos discuss and show the bomber, the bombs and the horrific damage they can inflict:
Question for students (and subscribers): Why are tallboy bombs significant in history? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Flower, Stephen. Barnes Wallis’ Bombs: Tallboy, Dambuster & Grand Slam (Revealing History). Tempus Pub Ltd, 2004.