THE NAVY'S INPUT INTO ATOMIC BOMB TESTING
Ask a person today what they
know about the navy's input into atomic bomb testing, and they will almost
certainly mention nuclear radiation from which men today suffer, nay die from.
That is very sad for many of those men were used as guinea pigs, and whilst just
about everybody had seen pictures of the total devastation in Japan, few really
knew the consequences of fall out. They will also mentioned Christmas Island
where the main British Tests were conducted. Christmas Island, which is 800
miles almost due south of Singapore, is 950 miles NW of Monte Bello, and Monte
Bello is just 50 miles off the Australian mainland, where the navy tested its
The weary days of WW2 and
the privations our nation suffered, were temporarily brushed aside when London
staged the 1951 Festival of Britain on the South Bank. One of the main
features and attraction in London was a large warship called HMS Campania. As
well as being large, she was the Festival Flagship and quite recently she was
shown on television in a Pathe Newsreel Film about the Festival.
This is her and she was an
aircraft transporter not an operational carrier.
Just a few months later she
was off Western Australia near to the Monte Bello Islands as the Flagship of the
British naval atomic bomb testing Task Force. This was very much a naval test because
one of the great fears about the Cold War was that a foreign merchant ship could
enter one of our ports with a nuclear bomb inside the ship, and there detonate
it destroying the port and the city/area it served in one foul swoop. The test bomb
would not be dropped from an aircraft, nor would it be detonated from a gantry
high above the sea surface, but in one of HM Warships, thereby simulating the
foreign ship threat and devastation.
It is always sad to see one
of our ship's destroyed by our own navy experimenting with new weapons and
procedures, and usually we see the poor old ship suffering, breaking up and
slowly slipping away out of sight. On this occasion however, the ship was there
one minute and quite literally pulverised the next and just a cloud of white
dust left. That was the fate of this ship HMS Plym
and here, just to dot the
i's and cross the t's, a broadside-on picture of a River Class frigate with
statistics, namely that of HMS Meon in Grand Harbour Valetta Malta in her war
colours dated 1943.
Please do not be confused by
the pennant numbers because war/post war numbers changed and confused everybody.
For example, my first ship was a Castle Class frigate, 'Tintagel Castle', and by
the time I had joined her she had shifted from K399 to F399: the reverse
procedure was not uncommon! In the 1953 film 'The Cruel Sea' the main ship used
at Portland was HMS Porchester Castle, but Tintagel Castle gets a quick look in
with K399 whilst alongside at Inner Coaling Pier [ICP].
test successful? Probably, we don't know, but the men there in 1952 even of the tender age of
20 years, are now aged 79 and what problems might they have as a result of
In historical naval terms,
enjoy the following file.
In 1956, more tests were
conducted at Monte Bello, but this time, on research and relatively 'small'
bangs rather than on big bangs and the sinking of a ship as was the case in
1951. It involved a Task Force [TF 308] of eight RN ships led by Commodore Hugh
Colenso Martell R.N., flying his Broad Pennant in the Tank Landing Ship 'Narvik'.
It travelled, with the Task Force, to and fro between the Monte Bello Islands
and Christmas Island doing this research.