In August, we welcomed a visitor from the past.
Professor John Allen, whose work played an important role in the research carried out whilst the Ness was used for weapons testing during the Cold War, made a return visit.
Jonathan Aylen, of the University of Manchester, is an expert on the design and development of Britain’s early atomic weapons and joined him for the visit to learn more about this part of the history of Orford Ness and shares some of his thoughts from the day.
“It is well known that Orford Ness is an internationally important site for its bird life, plants and distinctive shingle ridges.
Much less familiar is the fact that Orford Ness was a Cold War research site – in its time, one of the most secret development facilities in the world.
From the late 1940’s onwards, Orford Ness was used by the Royal Aircraft Establishment for testing the ballistics of Britain’s first post-war atomic bomb, called Blue Danube.
Trial bomb casings filled with concrete were repeatedly dropped over the site and their trajectory observed using special cameras and theodolites and early electronic monitoring.
The ballistics of Blue Danube were a key issue since early wind tunnel tests at Farnborough showed the bomb was reluctant to leave the aircraft once released, preferring instead to continue flying in the aircraft bomb bay. This would have had unfortunate consequences for the crew if the time delay fuse kicked in!
John Allen was the young man in charge of making sure Blue Danube fell to the ground successfully. He went on to become an eminent aeronautical engineer, working on Blue Steel, the Harrier and the Hawk trainer among many other projects.
Now Professor John Allen, he visited visited Orford Ness in August as a guest of the National Trust and reminisced about the importance of the site in the development of Britain’s first nuclear deterrence. I joined him for the visit, where we also met David Warren, who is a volunteer with the National Trust developing an oral archive of those who, like him, worked on ‘the Island’.
Orford Ness is a globally significant Cold War Research and Development site and perhaps the only one associated with atomic weapons worldwide open to the public.”
So we can continue to expand our knowledge of Orford Ness, if you, any family members or someone you know worked on Orford Ness in any capacity, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us on 01394 450900.