The Wallis's ~ The Complete Story

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Barnes Neville Wallis was b 26 Sept 1887 in Ripple, Derbys he was the younger son to Dr Charles & Edith Wallis. John his brother was born a year before. Charles was a practising doctor at Ripple. In 1891 he found a new practice in New cross Rd. London, where the family then moved. In 1893 their daughter Anne was born. At New Cross.

Charles & Edith had money worries from the start, for this new practice had only just started and was in a better class area than Ripple. New Cross was at this time a well to do suburb of London and the family soon found everything was a that little more expensive than Ripple. They needed to keep up a good appearance to attract the well-to-do business patients they wanted to join the practice

Clearly the family were living beyond their means even so they managed to get their son John into Christ’s Hospital, public school in 1899 The was at that time in Newgate Street, London. The following year Charles was successful in finding a governor; Colonel Newcombe who was willing to nominate Barnes to join his brother at the school. He would enter as a “scrub” and so he entered in 1900.

Barnes could only stay at the school for 4 years though Brother John managed six. For Christ’s hospital had a rule and there was no compromise. “Any boy not destined for university must leave the school before he was seventeen”. In 1904 Barnes reached his seventeenth birthday and though his father, Charles argued and insisted that Barnes be prepare for the London Matriculation he received a flat “NO”. Barnes had to leave the school and sit the exam outside within 2 months of leaving. Unfortunately he failed to get his London Matriculation.

His father Charles Wallis contacted many companies and made the rounds of many prospective engineering companies which might prove suitable for Barnes to train with to give him a position and opportunity for his future. They finally settled for an apprenticeship with John Samuel White’s at their shipbuilding yard at Cowes, Isle of Wight. Where he took up indentures. On completion of his apprenticeship he was appointed on the staff for ocean going ship trials with high-speed destroyers. He also started a course for an engineering qualification, the AMICE. But in Aug 1911 his mother Edith died. This upset Barnes greatly for he was always very close. It would seem this was to become a turning point in his life.

While he had been working in the drawing office of John Samuel White’s Barnes had befriended H.B.Pratt who was working alongside him at the next drawing board, they became good friends a friendship which was to last for many years.

Early in 1913 the German government placed orders for 10 new Zeppelins, this news startled the Admiralty and Winston Churchill and they requested that Vickers should quote a price for a British Airship to be designed and built-in Britain Pratt was summoned back to Vickers as “Chief Draughtsman – Airships” and he took with him as chief assistant Barnes Wallis. A design office was set up in Victoria Street, London. On Sept 1st 1913..

Barnes began a 6-day working week starting at six o’clock working till seven most days never breaking for lunch. The men even worked Sundays but normally stopped at four on those days!! The craft they were building was to be the R80. From the start their was trouble for the whole set up was crazy , Vickers Main works being in Barrow resented designs being made in London and put their best efforts to prove that the system was unworkable! The division between design and building was



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