A team of surveyors from Aspect recently returned from Loch Striven following a successful project where several WW2 bouncing bombs, named Highball, and other wartime relics were found and recovered from the Argyll loch.
‘Highball’ bouncing bombs were designed by the Navy as a dummy anti-ship weapon. They were usually filled with concrete, or occasionally wood, sawdust, and glue, and were designed to “bounce” over a stretch of water, before sinking. They were used throughout WW2 as a practice exercise, with Loch Striven, a highly restricted, narrow sea inlet about 8 miles long, specifically chosen for training operations on midget submarines as well as the Highball program.
In May 1943, tests were carried out against a target ship – the dreadnought Courbet – a former French battleship, which was moored specifically for the tests in Loch Striven.
Almost 75 years on, the ‘Highballs’ used for the tests are still located on the seabed of Loch Striven: It was originally planned that the bouncing bombs used during the tests would be retrieved from Loch Striven immediately after the trials, but, due to the depth of the sea, this was not achievable. As a result, they were unable to be retrieved, until now.
The project received widespread coverage in the national press: www.bbc.co.uk/news
Aspect Surveys’ workboat Vigilance was mobilised to the Argyll site, to assist with the search for, and retrieval of, these bouncing bombs. A deep tow Klein 4900 side-scan sonar was used [supplied by Seamap (UK) Ltd] operating from a deck winch [supplied by GSE Rentals Ltd], searching in 60m plus water depths, to find objects located on the seabed.
This information was then used by the diving team, BSAC and The Royal Navy, who were able to retrieve a number of the many highballs located by the survey team. The bouncing bombs recovered from the site will now undergo conservation, with one to be donated to the Royal Navy, and others displayed at aviation museums in Britain.
It is believed that more than 200 of the bouncing bombs were tested at the Loch Striven site throughout the war, with the majority of them still located on the seabed, as shown in the below image gathered by Aspect’s survey team during the survey.