Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 15145 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:29 pm Post subject: Winston Churchill - father of the British Atom Bomb
But did he get the money to make it from Hitler's deputy Martin Bormann?
CHURCHILL – BRITAIN’S FIRST NUCLEAR PRIME MINISTER
Thanks to William Penney – ‘the British Oppenheimer’ – Churchill presided over the first detonation of a British nuclear bomb in 1952. He then promoptly commissioned the H-bomb despite terrified by the prospect of thermonuclear warfare.
Winston Churchill's 'bid to nuke Russia' to win Cold War - uncovered in secret FBI files
Britain's war-time leader urged the US to launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union to win the Cold War
He urged Senator Styles Bridges to persuade President Harry Truman to launch a nuclear attack
He believed a pre-emptive strike on Stalin's Russia might be the only way to stop Communism conquering the West
Churchill’s Bomb: a Hidden History of Science, War and Politics, by Graham Farmelo, review
A superb study of Churchill’s little-known interest in atomic weapons claims Churchill as the first British prime minister to foresee the potential of the nuclear age
20:12 15.08.2015(updated 13:29 22.08.2015) Ekaterina Blinova
Was the US deterrence military doctrine aimed against the Soviet Union during the Cold War era really "defensive" and who actually started the nuclear arms race paranoia?
Just weeks after the Second World War was over and Nazi Germany defeated Soviet Russia's allies, the United States and Great Britain hastened to develop military plans aimed at dismantling the USSR and wiping out its cities with a massive nuclear strike.
Interestingly enough, then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had ordered the British Armed Forces' Joint Planning Staff to develop a strategy targeting the USSR months before the end of the Second World War. The first edition of the plan was prepared on May 22, 1945. In accordance with the plan the invasion of Russia-held Europe by the Allied forces was scheduled on July 1, 1945.
Winston Churchill's Operation Unthinkable
Old Russophobia Lies at the Root of Modern Cold War Against Russia
The plan, dubbed Operation Unthinkable, stated that its primary goal was "to impose upon Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire. Even though 'the will' of these two countries may be defined as no more than a square deal for Poland, that does not necessarily limit the military commitment."
The British Armed Forces' Joint Planning Staff underscored that the Allied Forces would win in the event of 1) the occupation of such metropolitan areas of Russia so that the war making capacity of the country would be reduced to a point to which further resistance would become impossible"; 2) "such a decisive defeat of the Russian forces in the field as to render it impossible for the USSR to continue the war."
British generals warned Churchill that the "total war" would be hazardous to the Allied armed forces.
However, after the United States "tested" its nuclear arsenal in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, Churchill and right-wing American policy makers started to persuade the White House to bomb the USSR. A nuclear strike against Soviet Russia, exhausted by the war with Germany, would have led to the defeat of the Kremlin at the same time allowing the Allied Forces to avoid US and British military casualties, Churchill insisted. Needless to say, the former British Prime Minister did not care about the death of tens of thousands of Russian peaceful civilians which were already hit severely by the four-year war nightmare.
"He [Churchill] pointed out that if an atomic bomb could be dropped on the Kremlin, wiping it out, it would be a very easy problem to handle the balance of Russia, which would be without direction," an unclassified note from the FBI archive read.
An atomic cloud billows above Hiroshima city following the explosion of the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare in Hiroshima, in this handout photo taken by the U.S. Army on August 6, 1945, and distributed by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The words written on the photo are from the source
Following in Churchill's Footsteps: Operation Dropshot
Unthinkable as it may seem, Churchill's plan literally won the hearts and minds of US policy makers and military officials. Between 1945 and the USSR's first detonation of a nuclear device in 1949, the Pentagon developed at least nine nuclear war plans targeting Soviet Russia, according to US researchers Dr. Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelrod. In their book "To Win a Nuclear War: the Pentagon's Secret War Plans," based on declassified top secret documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the researchers exposed the US military's strategies to initiate a nuclear war with Russia.
"The names given to these plans graphically portray their offensive purpose: Bushwhacker, Broiler, Sizzle, Shakedown, Offtackle, Dropshot, Trojan, Pincher, and Frolic. The US military knew the offensive nature of the job President Truman had ordered them to prepare for and had named their war plans accordingly," remarked American scholar J.W. Smith ("The World's Wasted Wealth 2").
These "first-strike" plans developed by the Pentagon were aimed at destroying the USSR without any damage to the United States.
The 1949 Dropshot plan envisaged that the US would attack Soviet Russia and drop at least 300 nuclear bombs and 20,000 tons of conventional bombs on 200 targets in 100 urban areas, including Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg). In addition, the planners offered to kick off a major land campaign against the USSR to win a "complete victory" over the Soviet Union together with the European allies. According to the plan Washington would start the war on January 1, 1957.
A photo dated September 1945 of the remains of the Prefectural Industry Promotion Building after the bombing of Hiroshima, which was later preserved as a monument. (File)
Nuclear Bombing of Hiroshima, Nagasaki Was Unjustified – US Experts
For a long period of time the only obstacle in the way of the US' massive nuclear offensive was that the Pentagon did not possess enough atomic bombs (by 1948 Washington boasted an arsenal of 50 atomic bombs) as well as planes to carry them in. For instance, in 1948 the US Air Force had only thirty-two B-29 bombers modified to deliver nuclear bombs.
In September 1948 US president Truman approved a National Security Council paper (NSC 30) on "Policy on Atomic Warfare," which stated that the United States must be ready to "utilize promptly and effectively all appropriate means available, including atomic weapons, in the interest of national security and must therefore plan accordingly."
At this time, the US generals desperately needed information about the location of Soviet military and industrial sites. So far, the US launched thousands of photographing overflights to the Soviet territory triggering concerns about a potential Western invasion of the USSR among the Kremlin officials. While the Soviets hastened to beef up their defensive capabilities, the military and political decision makers of the West used their rival's military buildup as justification for building more weapons.
Meanwhile, in order to back its offensive plans Washington dispatched its B-29 bombers to Europe during the first Berlin crisis in 1948. In 1949 the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed, six years before the USSR and its Eastern European allies responded defensively by establishing the Warsaw Pact — the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance.
Just before the USSR tested its first atomic bomb, the US' nuclear arsenal had reached 250 bombs and the Pentagon came to the conclusion that a victory over the Soviet Union was now "possible." Alas, the detonation of the first nuclear bomb by the Soviet Union dealt a heavy blow to US militarists' plans.
"The Soviet atomic bomb test on August 29, 1949 shook Americans who had believed that their atomic monopoly would last much longer, but did not immediately alter the pattern of war planning. The key issue remained just what level of damage would force a Soviet surrender," Professor Donald Angus MacKenzie of the University of Edinburgh remarked in his essay "Nuclear War Planning and Strategies of Nuclear Coercion."
Although Washington's war planners knew that it would take years before the Soviet Union would obtain a significant atomic arsenal, the point was that the Soviet bomb could not be ignored.
Eventually, in 1960 the US' nuclear war plans were formalized in the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP).
At first, the SIOP envisaged a massive simultaneous nuclear strike against the USSR's nuclear forces, military targets, cities, as well as against China and Eastern Europe. It was planned that the US' strategic forces would use almost 3,500 atomic warheads to bomb their targets. According to US generals' estimates, the attack could have resulted in the death of about 285 to 425 million people. Some of the USSR's European allies were meant to be completely "wiped out."
"We're just going to have to wipe it [Albania] out," US General Thomas Power remarked at the 1960 SIOP planning conference, as quoted by MacKenzie.
However, the Kennedy administration introduced significant changes to the plan, insisting that the US military should avoid targeting Soviet cities and had to focus on the rival's nuclear forces alone. In 1962 the SIOP was modified but still it was acknowledged that the nuclear strike could lead to the death of millions of peaceful civilians.
Five days before the celebration of the 71th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s capitulation to the Soviet and allied troops in the WWII, the new NATO Supreme Commander in Europe Curtis Scaparrotti announced that he came to beat the drums of war again. Ignoring the historic facts and legitimate Russian interests in its around, in his first speech after assuming office he condemned alleged “Russian aggressive behavior that challenges international norms” and called the bloc members to “fight tonight if deterrence fails.”
This commonplace declaration fairly correlates with the military and media strategy the Western ruling class adopted decades ago. Even putting aside the well-grounded argument that the very appearance of Hitler as the Fuhrer of the Third Reich in humiliated post-WWI Germany was a carefully planned and carried out operation of the US military intelligence to set it against Soviet Union, the full collection of the available facts evidences that the nucleus of Nazism was thoroughly fostered deep inside the Western ideological centers all time long since its formal defeat in May 1945.
There is no paradox here: striving for global dominance was (and still is) the idee fixe of many elitist groups in the history of mankind, and in such retrospective the phenomenon of German Nazism should be considered as a mere tool in hands of its instigators to reach this objective. Despite some tactical difficulties (e.g. in March 1939 Hitler suddenly launched his own game, but was brought back into obedience by May 1941), the general development of the global conflict in the middle of XXth century was admissible for the elites. At least the Bretton Woods Conference held in July 1944, next month after the Allies landed in France to counterbalance Soviet offensive in the East (which by that time would inevitably lead to unilateral defeat of Nazis by the USSR), fixed the key rules securing the financial monopoly of the Federal Reserve dollar. (According to the Bretton Woods Final Act, all international currencies’ rates were tied to a basket of 96% of the Federal Reserve dollar and 4% of British pound and acquired a golden value only via this rate – the Federal Reserve Note was therefore equaled to the gold as a universal measure of value).
The key challenge the authors of Bretton Woods were facing since the beginning of the talks was the sovereign attitude of the Soviet delegation. They had to lure the Soviet Union to enter this draconian system by any mean. As Stalin and his envoys did not show any visible intention to be tempted by the carrot, the Wall Street had to take the stick. The idea was to reach a separate truce with Wehrmacht on the Western and Southern theaters to reinforce German Eastern fronts (quite notably, the documents related to Operation Sunrise in March 1945 are still not declassified by the United States, so this Wiki article has no more than an introductory value).
Due to the timely counter-operation by the Soviet intelligence and following harsh diplomatic exchange, the truce talks in Lucerne, Switzerland, were suspended, but clandestine Nazi-American contacts proceeded. As a matter of fact, since end of March 1945, without any formal truce, the German troops started massively surrendering to Anglo-American forces and the latter rapidly advanced way to Berlin to meet the Soviets on Elbe on April 25, 1945. Unsurprisingly, the notorious Odessa (Organization of former SS members) network was activated at the same time allowing 30 thousand (!) Nazi war criminals to escape Europe via “windows” in Anglo-American occupation zone. Most of them were later legalized in the United States and loyally served to the new masters…
Once the “German factor” disappeared, the “Allies” hurried to secretly elaborate a new war plan to militarily defeat Soviet Union, exhausted by the 4-years-long dramatic campaign. The Operation Unthinkable dossier was declassified in 1998. According to it, on July 1, 1945 the “Allies” planned to commit a strike on the Soviet forces in Europe and key industrial areas within the territory of the USSR. The objective was to “impose upon Russia the will of the United States and British Empire”. So in the summer of 1945 the Wall Street planned the same Barbarossa 2.0 aggression against Russia which their frantic creature Hitler launched 4 years before.
“Operation Unthinkable: ‘Russia: Threat to Western Civilization,’” British War Cabinet, Joint Planning Staff [Draft and Final Reports: 22 May, 8 June, and 11 July 1945], Public Record Office, CAB 120/691/109040 / 002
The reason why the plan was never put in practice is that the Western military experts evaluated “the balance of forces” in Europe insufficient for effective rapid defeat of the Soviets. The United States already exclusively possessed the A-bomb, and hoped that this threat would impress Stalin to ratify Bretton Woods.
The Potsdam episode however proved the opposite so the United States decided to make this threat more vivid. The collateral 200 thousand Japanese casualities did not mean a lot for president Truman in his Big Game for the hegemony of the Federal Reserve.
The full scope of the consecutive Cold Combat (after Stalin definitely rejected ratification of Bretton Woods Agreements in December 1945) is beyond the scale and ambition of this article.
The fact however is that the grandiose and on-going media operation to equal Stalin and Hitler and to review and distort the basic truths of the modern history in minds of the “educated” people worldwide is just a single dimension of the global elitist’ agenda to suppress the leading reluctant power standing on its way to unbounded dominion over the world.
Retired Particle Physicist & author of Churchill's Bomb, Graham Farmelo joins us to discuss the British origins of atomic weapons with Winston Churchill writing about the nuclear age in the 1930s also German Otto Frisch and Dane Rudolf Peierls producing the first ever design in 1940 for an atom bomb design at Nuffield, University of Birmingham. Later in the war the technology was transferred to the US under the August 1943 Quebec Agreement. After the war in the late 1940s and early 1950s Churchill got together with Sir John Cockroft, Christopher Hinton and William Penney to develop the British atom bomb. They used Tube Alloys as a cover and were based at Fort Halstead near Sevenoaks, Kent under the North Downs. But where did Churchill and Tube Alloys get the £200m (£7bn in 2016 money) to build the bomb from because it didn't come from Parliament? The Manhattan Project was also built from a mystery 'black budget' in the United States.
Winston Churchill was a nuclear visionary, repeatedly warning before World War II that the nuclear age was imminent. Early in WWII, physicists in Britain showed that the Bomb could almost certainly be built. Prime Minister Churchill paid only fitful interest in the speculative weapon and the initiative soon passed to the US, which had the vast resources needed to realise the venture. British scientists played only a minor role in it. Churchill dismissed warnings from the Danish physicist Niels Bohr that Anglo-American nuclear policy would lead to an arms race. After the war, the US government declined to honour a personal agreement between Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill to share their countries’ nuclear research. After Churchill returned to power in 1951, during the Cold War, he became the first British leader to have nuclear weapons, and also commissioned the H-bomb. Appalled by the prospect of thermonuclear war, he ended his political career as pioneer of détente.
Eight themes of Churchill's Bomb
1. ‘A SCIENTIST WHO MISSED HIS VOCATION’
Churchill was interested in basic science – in 1926, he was captivated by atomic physics and chaired a talk seven years later on the epoch-making nuclear discoveries made at Ernest Rutherford’s Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge.
Frederick Lindemann (left) with physicist Erwin Schrödinger (right) in Oxford, 1933
‘All the qualities … of the scientist are manifest in him. The readiness to face realities, even though they contradict a favourite hypothesis; the recognition that theories are made to ﬁt facts, not facts to ﬁt the theories; the interest in phenomena and the desire to explore them, and above all the underlying conviction that the world is not just a jumble of events but that there must be some higher unity.’
Lindemann talking about Winston Churchill, 15 March 1933
2. NUCLEAR VISIONARY
As a journalist in the 1920s and 1930s, Churchill wrote several widely-read articles speculating on the possibility of nuclear weapons and the prospect of nuclear power.
Churchill’s article Fifty Years Hence published in The Strand Magazine, December 1931
‘There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonﬁre alight … The scientists are looking for this.’ Churchill on nuclear energy (1931)’
Churchill on nuclear energy (1931)
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 15145 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Mon May 08, 2017 11:31 pm Post subject:
Britain's Nuclear Bomb: The Inside Story
04th May 2017 - BBC4
In 1957, Britain exploded its first megaton hydrogen bomb - codenamed Operation Grapple X. It was the culmination of an extraordinary scientific project, which against almost insuperable odds turned Britain into a nuclear superpower. This is the inside story of how Britain got 'the bomb'.
The BBC has been granted unprecedented access to the top-secret nuclear research facility at Aldermaston. The programme features interviews with veterans and scientists who took part in the atomic bomb programme, some speaking for the first time, and newly released footage of the British atomic bomb tests.
Britain's Nuclear Bomb: The Inside Story BBC Documentary 2017
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 15145 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Thu May 11, 2017 12:23 pm Post subject:
I did a quick review of this....
No mention of links between nuclear energy/power
No mention of physical disability (radiation sickness) of Phylles' daughter who appears in the film
No mention of Fort Halstead, near Churchill's home, the other 'Tube Alloys' site
No mention that maybe spy Klaus Fuchs stopped a nuclear war by sharing details with the Russians since Churchill wanted to nuke Moscow
No mention of senior metallurgist at 'Tube Alloys' the notorious future railway axeman Dr Richard Beeching who was chosen to wield the axe knew how to keep his mouth shut
No mention of the mystery millions that appeared from nowhere to build the post war bomb
No mention of the use of Nazi Uranium oxide in the Manhattan project bombs - ie Hiroshima and Nagasaki
all in all very weak - just a chance for Britain's bomb makers to tell us what to think in their sanitised view of history before they die
Three books go into these more recent reveations but clearly the BBC didn't read any of them
The redundant Pyro Building P6 at the Ministry of Supply Works, Valley was used in 1942-1945 to house test equipment in an attempt to establish the feasibility of producing the isotope U-235 on an industrial scale. It was estimated in 1942 that it would take 10-15Kgs of U235 to make a bomb which would explode with a force of 1,800 tons of TNT.
U-235 had never before been produced on an industrial scale and if this could be achieved we may be able to produce two atomic bombs per month in two years time. Building P6 was the test unit for a team of scientists of the highest order located in Oxford University's Clarendon Labs, Birmingham University, ICI at Billingham, Liverpool University and Metropolitan Vickers at Trafford Park, Manchester, ICI Widnes and Runcorn and the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge.
Fission is discovered in Berlin.
In the 1930s scientists strived to discover the structure of the atom. Some Europeans who sought to achieve this were Enrico Fermi in Rome, the Joliot-Curies in Paris, James Rutherford at the Cavendish, Niels Bohr in Denmark and two groups located in Berlin. When James Chadwick discovered the neutrally charged neutron in 1932 it was identified as the ideal projectile for nuclear reactions as there was no Coulomb barrier to its neutral charge and it approximated to the mass of the proton. One of the Berlin groups was led by Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann and Lise Meitner and they were located at The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry at Dahlem. The Institute of Chemistry opened in 1912, as one of the first two Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes in Dahlem. It had three self-contained departments. Its founding director, Ernst Beckmann, headed the Inorganic and Physical Chemistry Department, with Richard Willstätter heading the Organic Department. In 1915, Willstätter became the first scientist from the Kaiser Wilhelm Society to receive a Nobel Prize, awarded for his clarification of the structure of chlorophyll. The third department, for radioactivity, was headed by Otto Hahn und Lise Meitner. It was subdivided into sections for chemistry and physics. On July 14th 1938 Lisa Meitner, who was an Austrian of Jewish extraction, fled Berlin via Holland and took up a newly created post at the Nobel Institute for Physics in Stockholm, Sweden. She had worked at KWI since 1912, mainly with Otto Hahn and from 1929 with analytical chemist Fritz Strassmann.
The experiments were continued by Hahn and Strassmann. The story of Hahn's discovery began in 1938 with a report by Irène Joliot-Curie that bombarding uranium with neutrons had resulted in the production of a radionuclide of thorium, which they later speculated was a transuranium element similar to lanthanum. The astounded Hahn told Irène's husband, Frédéric, that such a thing was nonsense and that he would perform an experiment to prove as much. On 17th December 1938 in the process of duplicating her work, Hahn and co-worker Fritz Strassmann discovered that, among other things, three isotopes of barium had been produced. This was incredible because the mass of barium is about half that of uranium. No known reaction could explain such a huge change in mass. Hahn, realising that as a chemist he was treading in the domain of physics, did not offer an explanation but instead, on 19th September 1938, he sent a letter to Lisa Meitner describing his findings and asking "Perhaps you can suggest some fantastic explanation”.
On Holiday in Sweden
Lise Meitner was spending the New Year Holiday with her nephew Otto Robert Frisch, who was a noted physicist, in Kungalv on a walking holiday. They discussed the letter from Hahn and came to the conclusion that the nucleus of the Uranium atom had split into two pieces (later found to be Barium and Krypton). They described their conclusions in a paper which was received by Nature magazine on 16th January 1939. They calculated that this fission generated a huge 200MeV of kinetic energy and should be observable in an ionisation chamber. When Frisch returned to Copenhagen on January 13th, 1939 he performed the experiment in an ionisation chamber in Niels Bohr’s laboratory and generated 70 MeV per fragment. He discussed the findings with an American biochemist William A Arnold who was working with George de Hervesey and asked him what term biologists used to describe the process of cell division. He was told binary fission and he used the term nuclear fission or fission in his description of his experiment.
Nuclear Fission Is Reported
Between Hahn-Strassmaan announcing their findings in Naturwissenschaft on 21st December 1938 and Meitner-Frisch writing their conclusions in Nature nuclear fission became common knowledge in the scientific community. Niels Bohr publicly announced the discovery of fission at a physics conference in the George Washington University in Washington DC on 26th January 1939. Frisch had confided in his mentor after he had confirmed his calculations in Bohr's own laboratories. The room emptied quickly as the scientists rushed out to find the equipment to repeat Frisch's experiment. The news of the discovery of nuclear fission echoed around the world. Perhaps transmutation WAS possible?
The problems with Fission
On February 5, 1939 Niels Bohr gained a crucial insight into the principles of fission - that U-235 and U-238 must have different fission properties, that U-238 could be fissioned by fast neutrons but not slow ones, and that U-235 accounted for observed slow fission in uranium. At this point there were too many uncertainties about fission to see clearly whether or how self-sustaining chain reactions could arise. Key uncertainties were: The number of neutrons emitted per fission, and the cross-sections for fission and absorption at different energies for the uranium isotopes.
The Frisch-Peierls Memorandum
In March 1940 Robert Otto Frisch was working at Birmingham University with Rudolf Peierls. Robert was staying in the Frisch house, along with Rudolf’s wife Genia and their children. They were both enemy aliens and had to report to the local Police Station on a daily basis. The apocryphal story has them being kept waiting by the police while they whiled away the time by calculating how much Uranium 235 would be needed to achieve a critical mass (the amount needed for a large explosion). They wrote their calculations on a cigarette packet and used their Slip Sticks (slide rules). They were amazed to find that their calculations indicated a mass of 1 kilogram. This result, if true, indicated that an atomic bomb was feasible if sufficient amounts of the isotope U-235 could be separated from U-238. They spoke to their Department Head, Mark Oliphant and began drafting a report on their findings this became known as the Frisch-Peierls Memorandum. This Memorandum was forwarded to Henry Tizard and caused the formation of the Maud Committee.
The Maud Committee
The Maud Committee was assembled to determine what steps we should take to hastily manufacture atomic bombs. In the light of the Frisch-Peierls Memorandum it seemed that such a device was possible for use in the present war and it was also thought that the Germans probably were intending to make such a device and were possibly more advanced than ourselves in such an enterprise. The Maud Committee consisted of four present or future Nobel Laureates and two Hughes Medal winners. In general terms The Maud Report could be summarised as follows. At that time it was identified that the fastest way to achieve an atomic bomb would be by utilising the uranium isotope U-235. This had never been produced on an industrial scale and there could be no bomb without this refined isotope. The recommended way to separate it would be by the gaseous diffusion process and the world authority was Franz Simon a pioneer of cold temperature physics. If experimentation showed that U-235 could be produced on an industrial scale factories could be built to produce enough to manufacture three bombs per month in two years time. The cost would be £95 million (this was when a Spitfire cost £8,000). 
The Gaseous Diffusion Process
There were a number of methods to separate U-235 from U-238 but the one favoured by the Maud Committee was the gaseous diffusion process to be provided by Franz Simon and his Clarendon team. The basic principle was to put a gaseous form of Uranium (Uranium Hexafluoride or Hex) in a heated chamber and force it against a very fine meshed membrane. The output would be slightly enriched at the top of the membrane with U-235 which has a lower atomic weight than U-238. This slightly enriched output would then be used as the input to the next of hundreds ......
Tube Alloys is Formed
It was identified in the Maud Report that it was theoretically feasible to make an atomic bomb. There was also the probability that the Germans were ahead of us in the knowledge necessary to build one. The major question was would it be a weapon useable in the current conflict?
In 1941 we were on our own and almost broke financially and the prospect of the enormous cost and loss of industrial production which could be used in more pressing areas was the Judgement of Solomon. It was decided to form an enterprise which was code-named Tube Alloys, This would be tasked with establishing if it was feasible to produce fissile material on an industrial scale at a price which made it a useable weapon in the current war.
There was an over-riding priority which was the U-boat war in the Atlantic. The Germans were sinking more shipping than we were building (400,000 tons in one month) and it was probable that we would starve if we could not find a method to defeat the U-boat. We believed the way to defeat them would be by the perfection of centimetric radar and all of our most talented scientists were being used to make this effective and they could not be spared.
Ironically the German and central European scientists who were not cleared to work on radar could work on the atomic bomb and Tube Alloys employed them to fulfil such a role. The Tube Alloys project was launched with the highest level of priority and secrecy probably with the feeling that our expatriate Germans were not of the same calibre as Eisenberg and Hahn.
The Tube Alloys Project
The Tube Alloys project was spread over a number of locations some of which were Oxford University's Clarendon Labs, Birmingham University, ICI at Billingham, Liverpool University and Metropolitan Vickers at Trafford Park, Manchester. In the early days James Chadwick was involved before he went to the USA to be the leader of the British Contingent on the Manhattan Project. The head of this project was Wallace Akers and his CEO was Michael Perrin. The Head of the technical section was Rudolf Peierls and his deputy was Klaus Fuchs. Chadwick ran a department at Liverpool University which housed Europe’s first cyclotron which was partially financed by his Nobel Prize money for the discovery of the neutron. In the early stages of Tube Alloys Frisch calculated cross-sections and Josef Rotblat and John Holt also worked there. The Clarendon housed Franz Simon and his cold temperature physics team who had done the original theoretical work on the gaseous diffusion process. Birmingham University had Rudolf Peierls working for Mark Oliphant and ICI at Billingham and Widnes were involved in the initial work on the production of Hex, ingots of uranium and heavy water.
There were eventually 70/80 scientists of various grades involved but the hub was the Clarendon. It was decided to build four prototype gaseous diffusion machines and the contract was awarded to Metropolitan Vickers at Trafford Park in Manchester at a cost of £150,000. This contract required the building of a single cell unit, a double cell unit and two ten cell units. Each of the cells in the first stage units could weigh up to three tons. It was intended to run the two ten cell units in series making a twenty cell unit weighing about 60 tons. The combined efforts of the project were to test the theory in the units when completed by Metro-Vick.
The physical size of the units and their great weight precluded the use of any buildings in the Clarendon. There were also no units of sufficient size on the Trafford Park Industrial Estate or particularly height where a 20-24 feet clearance was needed. ICI suggested that the redundant Pyro Building P6 at Rhydymwyn may fit the bill. A number of other sites were inspected before the virtues of P6 prevailed. Although constructed to manufacture Pyro mustard gas it was never fitted out with the manufacturing machinery. It was large enough, had all of the required services readily available, was accessible by all the research and manufacturing sites, and was located in a secure, guarded enclosure.
Wallace Akers the leader of the Tube Alloys project telegrammed from the USA and instructed that all preparations should be made to make P6 ready for installation of the gaseous diffusion units. During 1941 a great deal of work was carried out on the building to make it ready. This included an enhanced power supply, the filling of air channels, the installations of a new air conditioning system from Andrews, changing the internal lay-out to provide, offices, laboratories and outside storage for hex.
During this period, except for the Commonwealth, we were on our own and we now know that we were the only party making progress with the practical possibility of refining enough fissile material to make an atomic bomb. .....
Work Starts at Rhydymwyn
The internal layout of P6 was changed to reflect the needs of Tube Alloys. This included the insertion of partition walls, the building of physics and chemistry workshops, a glassblowers laboratory, the building of a 24 ft lift, the fitting of new air conditioning, the sealing of half of the building as a secure unit, the construction of external storage and the provision of a safe to store any Hex in. Access to the building was to be limited to one guarded entrance and all of the staff were to be strictly segregated from the other site workers. Two hostels were fitted out at Maes Alyn and Bryn Bellen for the use of the 70/80 scientists, many of whom would be transient. A pool of 10 young female laboratory assistants was recruited from a national base for testing some of the equipment. It appears there was a great deal of testing if the glass spheres blown on site were maintaining their vacuum. When the gaseous diffusion cells were delivered they were installed as one two stage unit and one twenty stage unit configured from two ten stage units in series. It is believed that the single stage unit was installed at the Clarendon. The initial run-up period of the units was dogged with bad engineering practices by Metro-Vick and delays caused by the need to locate rare materials and parts. This may also have been the result of skilled craftsmen being called up or a lack of appreciation of the fine tolerances necessary in such machines. ICI at this time were working on the production of Hex and in the short term fluors were used to test the prototype diffusion process. The major problem was the membrane technology but this was eventually resolved by the use of sintered nickel. During this period the experiments taking place in a redundant poison gas factory in a tiny village in north Wales was at the cutting edge of one of the most important developments in the whole of history. It must have seemed to the scientists to be like Camelot. The British Government were providing unlimited funds to conduct pure research in the most glamorous field of physics.
The Quebec Agreement
In August 1943 Great Britain, the USA and Canada signed the Quebec Agreement which committed the future development of an atomic bomb to take place in North America out of the range of German bombs and closer to the greater resources available there. This resulted in the British contingent of 23 scientists (mainly of foreign birth and education) travelling to North America to help with the Manhattan Project. There were two types of atomic bombs possible, one by the use of Plutonium and the other by Uranium and both were being developed in North America. There were also four methods of separating fissile material from Uranium and all four were being developed in the USA. The British had concentrated on the gaseous diffusion method to develop a Uranium bomb.
There was a massive effort in the USA to build a gaseous diffusion plant, this was located at Oak Ridge, Tennessee in a bespoke building called K-25 which covered about 100 acres.
In December 1943 Peierls and Fuchs travelled to the New York and went to a meeting with Groves and the Manhattan Project leaders on the gaseous diffusion project. They were in difficulty with the initial design and welcomed their input which was not acted upon.
Fuchs and Peierls worked as consultants for the Kellex Corporation at Columbia University designing the K-25 plant at Oak Ridge. In January Peierls left to go to Los Alamos to run the Theoretical Section and lead the British contingent. Fuchs stayed at Kellex until the Spring when he went to Los Alamos to lead the section working on the lens system for the Plutonium Bomb and he is credited with the design of the initiator for that device.
None of the British contingent were ever allowed to visit any fissile material production plants or made aware of which productions methods were finally decide upon.
Tube Alloys at Rhydymwyn 1943-1945
When Fuchs and Peierls left for the USA Harold Schull Arms and Nicholas Kurti took over at Rhydymwyn. Work continued on the gaseous diffusion process but at a slower pace as the momentum in the project had swung to North America. The test equipment was all collected and moved to Harwell and Didcot in 1945 and P6 became a general storage facility. At the end of the war despite agreements including a modus vivendi between Roosevelt and Churchill that neither side would use atomic weapons without mutual permission the USA attempted to frustrate our attempts to develop our own device device by excluding us from the processes used in the separation of fissile material. They further obstructed our access to uranium and suggested we may not qualify for the sorely needed Marshall Aid if we had sufficient resources to build an Atomic Bomb.
In the post war world we believed that we must have the Atomic Bomb to be able to sit at the top table and we were still considered ourselves to be a major power, if a somewhat parlous one. There was no problem in designing it, anyone could do that as the process of fission was public knowledge and we knew that both the Uranium and Plutonium devices worked as they had been demonstrated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The problem was the immense amounts of money, people, industrial resources and materials necessary to produce weapons grade material. The situation in the UK was that we were broke, our industry was battered and the returning troops were seeking a better life under a Socialist government. Although we had scientists who had been involved in the design of the US devices many of them stayed in the USA or did not want to continue in that field. There was also the fact that knowledge in the Manhattan Project was compartmentalised so it was difficult to put together a full picture, although Klaus Fuchs seemed to have a remarkably wide knowledge.
The simplest device to make was a uranium bomb but even if we aimed for a plutonium device we would still need a system for uranium enrichment to feed the reactor to breed the plutonium.
In 1946, in secret committee, Clement Attlee chaired a meeting which pledged the UK to making an atomic bomb as soon as possible. The key element in this would be the construction of a gaseous diffusion enrichment plant at Capenhurst in Cheshire. The cost would be £100 million and it would utilise 5% of the nation’s electricity production.
Capenhurst produced the fuel for the reactor at Calder Hall which produced most of the plutonium (the rest came from Canada) for the bomb detonated aboard HMS Plym at Monte Bello on 3rd October 1952.
This was a staggering achievement, as the bomb was built by civil servants on shoe-string, in a country struggling to survive the second world war, in thirty years. It was perhaps the last great achievement of this country and it could not have been done without the wartime efforts of a few young men and a handful of young girls at Rhydymwyn.
 Wikipedia - Maud Committee
 Atomic Archive - Maud _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
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