Today in History... Britain announces its atomic bomb

During his premiership, Winston Churchill had held discussions with scientist Neils Bohr and other eminent minds on the possible need to use nuclear weapons as a future war deterrent. On this day in 1953, Britain revealed that it had a produced a nuclear armament.

Seven years prior to Churchill's announcement, the terrible capabilities of nuclear weaponry had already been fully realised - twice, each time detonated by the United States in 1945.

A post-war model of the 'Little Boy' bomb

On August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb codenamed 'Little Boy' was dropped on Hiroshima by the B-29 flying Superfortress Enola Gay - named after the pilot's mother.

Just three days after the Enola Gay's mission, the 'Fat Man' bomb was detonated at an altitude of about 1,800 ft over Nagasaki by the US bomber Bockscar.

With a diameter of 160mm, the Ball
race is of a similar size to a gun

Behind the offensives was a $23bn (in today's money) top secret weapons program known as the Manhattan Project.

The project was led by the United States with the aid of Canada and the United Kingdom.

It was perhaps the greatest secret project of the 20th century, whose roots lay in fears since the 1930s that Nazi Germany was investigating a nuclear weapons program of its own.

To commemorate their work in producing three successful nuclear explosions in 1945, many souvenirs were taken by - or presented to - the 13,000 consultants and scientists who worked on the project.

Earlier this year, one of these souvenirs has emerged on the collectors' market: a 160mm diameter Ball race from the construction of the 'Little Boy' bomb, priced £15,000.

A signed photo of the Bockscar airmen who dropped the second nuclear
weapon over Nagasaki on August 8, 1945

As a reminder of one of the darker and more controversial events from human history, the Bockscar bomber is now on permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.

Meanwhile, a signed photograph of the whole Bockscar crew signed by aircraft commander Captain Frederick C Bock and his fellow airmen is available to collectors, priced £950 ($1,570).



More from This Week in History...

February 25, 1964: Muhammad Ali becomes World Champ for the first time

February 24, 1981: Charlies & Diana's engagement is announced

February 23, 1965: Stan Laurel dies, aged 74

February 22, 1987: Andy Warhol dies

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