Britain tests first Nuclear Bomb
The 2nd of October 1952 AD
At midnight GMT on October 2 1952 (8:00 October 3 in Australia), in a lagoon in the uninhabited Monte Bello Islands off Australia’s North West Coast, Britain detonated a 25 kiloton plutonium implosion device (with fuel from Sellafield and Canada). A crater 300m in diameter was left in the sea bed. Britain had become the third country in the exclusive nuclear power club, whose only other members until that moment had been the USA and USSR.
The event, code named Operation Hurricane, had been seven years in the making, since Clement Attlee in 1945 set up a cabinet committee to explore how we could develop our own A-bomb. Arguably the development was significantly longer, some 50 British scientists having worked on the Manhattan Project, and even before that on Tube Alloys, the strange name given to Britain’s own WWII project before resources were pooled in America - Dr William Penney who headed the post-war British scientific effort had worked in Los Alamos.
Somewhat unusually, because of a British preoccupation with the danger of a ship-delivered bomb, instead of being air-dropped the Monte Bello weapon was detonated a few metres beneath the waterline of a disused frigate, HMS Plym.
The explosion was a demonstration of British will not just to potential enemies such as the USSR, but also to the USA, which had refused to share the spoils of our joint nuclear enterprise gained during WWII. It was in effect an act of independence and defiance.
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