On This Day: Britain drops its first H-bomb

Julian Gavaghan

May 15: Britain dropped its first Hydrogen bomb on this day in 1957 – becoming the third nation after the U.S. and Soviet Union to develop modern-style nuclear weapons.

The device, which was dropped on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, was capable of razing Birmingham to the ground and killing millions with radioactive fallout.

The thermo-nuclear H-bomb was 50 times more powerful than the first-generation pure fission weapon unleashed on Hiroshima in 1945.

British Pathé footage reveals the tension aboard HMS Narvik, an observation ship 10 miles from the blast, as a Valiant bomber begins its mission.

Then a huge flash of light, described by the reporter as a “man-made sun”, appears in the sky, followed by a mushroom cloud and a heat wave spreading over land.

The test, which was such as success that it prompted the U.S. to share its nuclear secrets, was also a watershed moment for protesters against nuclear weapons.









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The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) formed that year as the Cold War between the West and the Soviet bloc became ever more fraught.

Britain’s H-bomb - developed five years after its first atomic weapon, uses the heat generated by a first-generation fission device to ignite nuclear fusion.

And despite attempts to make the tests as safe as possible, there is evidence that many UK servicemen were contaminated during the 1950s.

Up to 1,000 former soldiers, sailors and airmen this week won a £6.5million compensation bid following a four-year fight with the Government.

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