10 March 2004 — The New Dark Age
WMD lies persist for over 50 years
Group Captain Kenneth Hubbard died on 22nd January 2004 current obituaries credit him incorrectly with having dropped the first UK H bomb. The UK never had, and so never dropped the ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Hubbard was the President of the Megaton Club which met annually at the Royal Air Force Club, Piccadilly, London. The club membership was restricted to members of RAF No. 49 Squadron who had participated in Operation Grapple on and around Christmas Island in the Pacific in 1957.
Hubbard had piloted the Valiant B1 Bomber XD818, which dropped the weapon codenamed Green Granite (Small) the 15th May 1957. This plane now rests as a central exhibit in the RAF Museum at Hendon with signs that maintain the popular fiction (repeated by Harold Macmillan in his memoirs) that the UK produced and exploded an ‘H’ bomb.
This was a two stage device utilising a “Red Beard” trigger, a fissile core made from plutonium produced from uranium in British nuclear reactors weighed 10,000 lbs. This device had a yield of some 2-300 kilotons. “Orange Herald” devices powered by “Dick” explosive bombs in the same test series were claimed to yield 2-3 megatons.
The ‘A’ , Atom bomb, or fission bomb, dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, achieved it ‘s explosive power from splitting the hydrogen atom. The ‘H’ bomb produces some 100 times the power of the ‘A’ bomb by fusion of hydrogen atoms. The bomb exploded by the US on November 1st 1952 on the Bikini Atoll had a power of 10.4 Megatons. Castle Bravo was the biggest bomb ever detonated by the US. This lithium-deuteride fuelled bomb exploded 1st March 1954 at Bikini Atoll. It yielded 15 megatons and a 7 kilometre diameter fireball. It was larger than the test crews had been calculated or been expecting. It engulfed its 7,500 foot diagnostic pipe array all the way out to the earth-banked instrument bunker, which barely survived. Test crews and observers were trapped in bunkers well outside the expected limits of the explosion. It rocked task force ships.Marshall Rosenbluth, a U.S. theoretical physicist,was on one of them “I was on a ship that was thirty miles away, and we had this horrible white stuff raining down on us. I got 10 rads [100 chest x-rays] of radiation from it. It was pretty frightening. There was a huge fireball with these turbulent rolls going in and out. The thing was glowing. It looked to me like a diseased brain up in the sky. It spread until the edge of it looked as if it was almost directly overhead. It was a much more awesome sight than a puny little atomic bomb. It was a pretty sobering and shattering experience.” Bravo burnt a huge crater 300m deep and 7,500 m diameter in the atoll rock. The ‘horrible white stuff’ was calcium precipitated from vapourised coral.
The Soviets are said to have invented H-bombs with a yield of 100 megatons – but the design was never tested at full strength. A ‘Tzar Bomb’ version yielding 50 megatons, (Code Ivan) was tested 30th October 1961.
Why did the UK decide to make atomic weapons ?
The day war ended in Europe, the US suspended Lease Lend, thus imposing great hardship in the UK and resulted in even tighter food rationing than in wartime.
Subsequently the US Atomic Energy Act (McMahon Act) of 1946 precluded release of atomic information from the US to the UK, or anyone else. Attlee secretly determined to forge ahead with a UK unilateral atomic bomb and missile program, a bomb which Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevan famously remarked “would have a bloody Union Jack on top of it”.
Starved of funds, with only limited supplies of enriched uranium and plutonium, limited staff and the use of temporary buildings at Aldermaston , using secret and limited funds, without the massive industrial support needed to create such weapons, a true 2 stage fusion device proved to be beyond our capabilities. Eventually it was evident that the “Blue Streak” missile was equally ineffective in delivering the overweight and low yield weapons the Dr Strangelove’s in the MOD wanted to pursue the Cold War.
In 1956 Calder Hall, (transmuted through Seascale into Sellafield),essentially a military plutonium factory (which it still is) was opened as the first nuclear power station by the Queen. It was promoted as a symbol of the “swords into ploughshares” policy, stressing to an ignorant and easily misled public of the manifold benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear power.
The amount of electricity produced was almost entirely consumed by the site and fed little if any electricity to the National Grid – which in those days operated at 50% efficiency fuelled by abundant and low cost coal. The opening and the attendant publicity was merely a stunt. The flickering TV’s showed the Queen on the news, press a button and a huge numerical display counted out the imaginary kilowatts. It was a New Elizabethan moment.
Bomb Tests – Secret and Public
Meanwhile far away in the vast central plains of North Australia secret tests were undertaken of the early atomic weapons resulting from our spatchcock efforts. Conservative Prime Minister Eden maintained the secrecy and funding of the program. He made false assurances of the size and extent of the programs and the weapons to Australian Prime Minister Menzies – this only became apparent in 1984. Of course Eden at the time was involved in even greater deceit and lies over the Egyptian invasion in 1956. Secrecy was maximum “because of fears that the U.S. and Russia, which were developing their own H-bombs, would seek to exclude Britain from the superpower league that was rapidly developing”. Prestige in world society sounds familiar as part of the mind-set of elites in imperial powers. These people were used to measuring prestige in the number of millions held in the shackles of colonialism; that criterion waning they quickly snapped up a new one: A-bomb, H-bomb, as callous to the effects of bombs as to colonialism.
The 1957 Pacific bomb tests, after ten years work, used what were essentially ‘A’ bombs, (albeit of high power) and were effectively, a PR stunt, rushed to beat an impending a Test Ban Treaty which was due to come into force at the end of September 1958 and meant all the tests scheduled to take place up until the end of October were brought forward and completed early. HMS Scarborough a weather ship chased the original Greenpeace ship (a sailing ship) out of the atomic and hydrogen bomb test area. The tests were an attempt to impress the US, the British public (journalists were invited to watch), and also keep our place in the thermonuclear club which the Russians had recently joined.
The US were listening in, of course
The Christmas Island tests confirmed to the observing and observant US, the UK’s inability to produce a true thermonuclear fusion weapon, that could be missile delivered. Generously they offered to amend the McMahon Act, if the UK would scrap their nuclear weapons program. Naturally they would be happy to provide us (i.e. sell) us the technology instead.
In September 1958 the UK became the US’s biggest customer for military weapons and further developed our continuing “special relationship”.
Of course none of this detracts from the bravery and pioneering skills required by the RAF crews to undertake the hurried series of tests – they, like the rest of their countrymen remained hoodwinked for decades.
Edward Teague firstname.lastname@example.org