Now if the Akka is one of the most dived shipwrecks in the Clyde, my second “wreck” (for want of a better word) is probably one of the least dived in the area, and lay pretty much forgotten for nearly 70 years.
An original Highball bomb.
That was until 12 divers from East Cheshire Sub-Aqua Club, along with a team of Royal Navy divers and Dr Ian Murray, successfully explored the site and even recovered two of the approximately 200 artefacts that make up this site.
I refer to Barnes Wallis’s Highballs, in Loch Striven. You can certainly be forgiven for never having heard of Mr Wallis’s circular objects, but I know most people know about their larger siblings, the famous “bouncing bombs” used by 617, the RAF Dambusters squadron.
The Highballs worked on similar principles to the bouncing bombs, but were designed not to destroy dams but the mighty German battleship the Tirpitz, dubbed by Winston Churchill “the Beast”.
From her Norwegian fjord base the Tirpitz posed a huge danger to the Arctic convoys on their way to Russia and had to be dealt with. Ultimately the Highballs were never used against the behemoth, but nearly 200 dummy bombs still lie at the bottom of Loch Striven.
They were deployed against the French WW1 battleship the Courbet which, for testing purposes, was moored in the loch to play the part of the Tirpitz.
Highball bombs in Loch Striven.
Dropping down the shotline, we were met not by the spherical lumps we had come to see but by a somewhat bowed “sheet” of metal roughly 8m long – definitely not a Highball.
In fact this sheet was a throwback to other trials that took place in Loch Striven. It was the side-charge from one of the midget submarines, or X-craft, that had also been designed for use against the Tirpitz – the difference being that they were actually used.
Heading away from the side-charge, we came across our first cluster of Highballs. They might lack the visual impact of a wreck such as the Akka, but they do make you consider their history – it’s amazing to think that they were once at the forefront of military technology.
Both the Akka and the Highballs are diveable from marinas not all that far from Glasgow, but for my third favourite site we have to go a little further north to Dunstaffnage marina, just north of Oban.
Again a boat is required but this isn’t an issue, especially when you have experienced skipper and diver Shane Wasik of Dive Oban & Argyll at the helm.