We recently visited Gdansk and saw their excellent World War 2 museum. Most informative was to see the war from a Polish perspective.
One of the striking rooms was the exhibit about the Nuclear Bomb attack on Hiroshima and Little Boy, the first nuclear bomb.
The facts are shocking
Returning to London we visited the Imperial War Museum. There was a whole display devoted to the bomb and nuclear war.
These last exhibits was made even more striking having seen the documentary on BBC 4 Britain’s Nuclear Bomb
It tells the story of how in 1957, UK military conscripts were taken to Christmas Island. The island is remote and they first had to construct a military camp and airfield. Later on during the period 1957 to 1958 and Operation Grapple apparently 9 nuclear bombs were detonated.
The programme first shows the conscripts enjoying the sea, marine life and sunshine on the island. They then show the preparations for the bomb and the explosion. The film of the explosion is graphic and very sobering.
What is truly shocking is that the conscripts were made to sit out in the open air with their backs to the bomb BUT WITH NO PROTECTIVE CLOTHING.
The officers and scientists however were taken away to a safe place and in contrast were given full protective equipment.
We hear about the direct effects of the explosion and the power and heat of the blast. It was followed by a huge artificial rain storm with all the rain being radioactive and black. There was film of the birds being thrown about even though they were blind, dead, and on fire. The whole area was radioactive yet the protection given to the conscripts was minimal or non existent.
The programme shows the effects on these service men and the difficulties they faced in getting compensation. It was only very late in the day that a relevant Top Secret Military planning document was declassified which stated that in developing a bomb they would need to study and quantify the effect of a nuclear bomb on humans.
This was to be the role of those unfortunate service personnel who during their time as conscripts were sent as test subjects to the Christmas Island test site!!
The second stage of the programme concerned the planning for a nuclear war affecting Britain. This was felt to be highly probable until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
We have visited the Nuclear Bunker in Veryan Cornwall. Until that visit I was not aware how likely the authorities thought that a nuclear war would occur.
I certainly remember seeing one of those special communication speaker systems. They were the means that we would all hear that we had that fateful short warning before the arrival of the bomb
As a public we now assume that nuclear war is not that likely. A moments reflection however shows that with Nuclear weapons in North Korea, concerns about Iran means we should still be alert. The Iraq war was launched on the intelligence that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction. Later found to be incorrect information. (More about Iraq war in a later blog)
This must not let us forget that ultimately all those people whichever race or creed are members of the human race.
The state should not treat its population or its military, conscripts as test materials.
Ultimately Churchill’s quote of ‘Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.’
or Harold MacMillan who misquoted Churchill and said “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.”
These should be remembered by all.
Even those of us a long way from the centres of power should follow these ideals. Remember even for a war mongering politician, getting public opinion behind them is a key step in their ambitions for power.