The “Tallboy” in question was finally discovered in September 2019 during work to deepen the channel to improve access to the Polish port of Szczecin.
The heavyweight weapon was designed by British engineer Barnes Wallis, who was also responsible for the “bouncing bomb” used by the RAF in the raid against the dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley during World War Two. The “Tallboy” was a deep-penetration weapon with a streamlined shape to ensure near-supersonic speed at the point of impact. After the success of the “Tallboy,” Wallis enlarged the design still further, to produce the colossal 22,000-pound “Grand Slam,” also designed for deep penetration.
The “Tallboy” was first used by Lancasters of No 617 Squadron, the “Dambusters,” on the night of June 8/9, 1944, against the Saumur railway tunnel in Normandy, France, a critical route for transporting German reinforcements toward where the Allies had conducted the D-Day landings just days earlier. The weapon also saw notable use against hardened German U-boat pens and at least one example was used to strike Hitler’s mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, Germany. Other major operations involving the weapon included the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz, anchored in a Norwegian fjord. By the end of the war, a total of 854 “Tallboys” had been dropped.
Polish authorities claim that the example found near Swinoujscie was the largest unexploded World War Two bomb ever found in Poland, and this seems likely. The RAF employed the biggest freefall bombs in the Western European theater of operations and the only one to exceed the weight of the “Tallboy” was the “Grand Slam.” There’s no record of that weapon having been used on targets in what is now Poland.
As one of the most bombed countries during World War Two, it’s not surprising that Poland still plays host to unexploded munitions, although a “Tallboy” bomb is a genuine rarity. Bearing in mind it’s destructive power, we should be thankful that the Polish Navy took all the right precautions to ensure that, when things didn’t go quite as planned, no injuries occurred as a result.
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