Atomic bombs rely on nuclear fission involving isotopes of Uranium 235 and plutonium 239 as they have relatively larger nuclei (protons and neutrons), which are easy to split thus creating enormous energy.
This science has had a baleful impact on the world since Ernest Rutherford first discovered the nucleus of the atom in 1911.
Fear of nuclear conflict resulted in Today’s 1958 first London-Aldermaston anti-nuclear march, which set off in the cold and rain, after a meeting in Trafalgar Square.
Attended by 12,000 it was the first of many Easter marches attended not solely, by the bearded, duffel-coated, beat generation and socialist politicians.
The demonstration had been organized by Direct Action Committee (DAC), to which Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), attached itself.
Conspicuous on the march were the CND banners sporting what was later to become one of the best known of symbols, designed by the Twickenham, commercial artist, Gerald Holtom, based on semaphore.
Further marches took place in 1959, 1961 and 1962. The following year anarchists invaded and spoilt the ‘party’.
The Campaign came after the US had detonated its first Hydrogen Bomb in 1954, when Labour’s Fenner Brockway called a meeting in a Commons Committee Room with George Thomas (later Speaker), Tony Greenwood, Donald Soper, Canon Collins, Tony Benn and Lord Beveridge among others.(1)
The ‘Cold War’ induced a paranoia regarding the Soviets, with Macmillan being the first Prime Minister to have his thermonuclear finger on the trigger.
The earliest British Hydrogen Bombs, the Yellow Sun Mark 11’s were fitted to V- Bombers from 1961 onwards, after successful testing under Operation Grapple on Christmas Island four years previously.(2)
In Britain’s drive for an independent nuclear missile, the de Havilland Company were given the task of developing the Blue Streak Missile and Rolls-Royce, the rocket.
However cost, political opposition and the prospect of using US technology caused issues. The missile Blue Steel was cancelled in February 1960, as the fixed silos were vulnerable and there was a possibility of causing anxiety for those nearby.
It would be Navy Polaris submarines which would take over our nuclear deterrent after the cancellation of the Mk2 missiles, when after 1982, Trident became the delivery system.(3)
The politics still continue in 2016 with the Labour Party and devolved Scottish politicians having concerns over nuclear weapons.
(1) Beveridge said: ‘My wife has said in view of my status and position I should be Chairman’. Thomas it appears wasn’t interested in Beveridge’s views, whose wife told him to withdraw which he did alongside Collins. The Methodist Soper was eventually elected.
(2) On May 15th 1957.
(3) Our first Atomic Test took place 3.10.1951 and the Blue Danube Plutonium Bomb was tested in October 1952 in the Monte Bello islands. The first-H bomb detonation took place on 15.5.57.
Fenner Brockway, J.B.Priestley and Bertrand Russell were amongst the founders of CND on 27.1.1958.
In a New Statesman Article in the previous November Priestley had advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament by Britain.
Ref: bbc.co.uk/news-bbc/World’s Best Protest Symbol/Pic of Semaphore.