THEY were the secret British weapons designed to skip along the surface of the water like a stone which became immortalised through the legend of the Dam Busters.

And now one of scientist Sir Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bombs has finally been returned to dry land 70 years after it sank in a loch.

Royal Navy clearance divers from the Northern Diving Group at Faslane recovered the Second World War bomb from the bottom of Loch Striven.

The Highball bomb, one of two being raised in the operation, broke the surface of the Argyll loch for the first time since it was tested before the Dam Busters raid in 1943.

The bomb, designed to sink ships rather than blow up dams, was found by divers from the British Sub-Aqua Club’s North- West Region branch.

The search was prompted by Dr Iain Murray, author of Bouncing-Bomb Man, who has spent the last decade trying to find a way of raising the bombs from the loch, which lies off the Firth of Clyde about 30 miles west of Glasgow.

After attaching specialist lifting equipment to the heavy metal Highball, the divers winched it out of the water on to their workboat.

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After being secured it was moved to shore ready for transport in a wet tank containing a saltwater solution to prevent it from corroding.

“Northern Diving Group are delighted to assist in this fascinating initiative,” said Lieutenant Commander Tony Hampshire, commanding officer of the diving group.

“We welcome the opportunity to provide our mine-lifting and recovery expertise to preserve this piece of history.”

Dr Murray said: “To be here at Loch Striven to see the Highball finally being pulled out of the water has been fantastic. It’s been a long-term ambition of mine, knowing they were here, to have them recovered for people to be able to see them. The bouncing bomb is probably the most legendary weapon in the British military arsenal and this particular example of the Highball is the only one we don’t have on display to the public so we’re filling that final gap.”

It is hoped the second bomb will be lifted today.

The idea of the bouncing bomb was first described by Wallis in 1942 and was originally planned for use by the Fleet Air Arm. However, the project was split into two strands – codenamed Highball and Upkeep – with one weapon designed for use against ships and the other, heavier, Upkeep bombs for targeting dams.

The unique design of the bombs meant they could skip over the surface of the water, avoiding anti-torpedo nets and defences, to hit their targets.