Terry's 2018 May Trip

March 20 2018

The first day to book some of the English Heritage, members only events. Perhaps I can go to the one entitled Dr Strangelove.
RAF Barnham, Suffolk Fri 18 May 14:00 hrs.

I phoned on the day at about 10:30 and yes there is one ticket left but only one.

Looking at the map, it is a long way so it will have to be a three day trip

May 16 2018

To To Bletchley Park home of the Codebreakers

May 17 2018

To IWM Duxford

May 18 2018

To RAF Barnham Dr Strangelove, the British H bomb, what could this be about?

There were about 30 of us, the visit lasted about three hours on a lovely sunny May day

RAF Barnham is a Royal Air Force Station in Suffolk, some 2 miles south of Thetford and northwest of Barnham Village, positioned on Thetford Heath. The original Barnham Camp had links to chemical warfare storage during the Second World War and was originally constructed as a bomb dump.

Far away from anywhere https://plus.codes/9F429PM9+R9

During the mid 1950s a specialist storage area was constructed at Barnham to house Britain's first production nuclear free fall bomb, BLUE DANUBE. The National Archives have the RAF documents that describe the 'Specialist Storage Site' as forming in June 1954 as part of No. 94 Maintenance Sub Unit at RAF Barnham.

The "Blue Danube" H Bomb

Click on an image to view full size

Blue Danube was very large weapon, 7.3m (24ft) in length and weighing 4636 kg (10,000 lbs). For storage it was broken down into three main sections, the nose, the central section containing a 1.5m (5ft) diameter sphere of explosives, weighing nearly 2.5 tons, and the tail section. For safety reasons the plutonium fissile cores were kept separately. The site's pentagonal structure consists of three giant stores for storing the bombs and four plantations of small sheds in which fissile cores were stored. To assemble the bomb the core would be picked up on a hand trolley and taken to a central assembly building to be matched with its body. Whenever a fission trigger was moved, a klaxon would sound, and everyone on the site would have to freeze motionless.

Let me try to explain what I learned there.

Inside the central section of each bomb is a ball of plutonium weighing about 20 Kg and inside that is a trigger, known as the urchin, made of polonium. (Polonium and beryllium were the key ingredients of the 'urchin' detonator at the center of the bomb's spherical plutonium pit.The urchin ignited the nuclear chain reaction at the moment of prompt criticality to ensure the bomb did not fizzle.)

But polonium has a half-life of only 138 days. Therefore you need a place to store your bombs and maintain them when the polonium has lost its punch.

Working on this site was highly danergous, the high explosives parts were stored in the three areas mentioned above, these were behind large earth banks.

The fissile cores were stored in their own building or hutch, well apart from each other
each had a safe in the floor that housed the core about a metre underground. There were 57 of these hutches.

A Hutch and the "Safe" inside

Security was very high, five watch towers, dogs and armed guards

Front gate - Tower - No Man's Land

The storage of nuclear weapons probably ceased at RAF Barnham in spring 1963. In 1965 the nuclear weapon storage part of Barnham Camp was put up for sale by the Ministry and was purchased by a local businessman who started a mushroom farm in the buildings. Subsequently the site has become the Gorse Industrial Estate although still owned by the same person. Much of the original infrastructure is being restored and many of the conifers which had sprung up since the site was active have been cleared thereby restoring much of the area to its original appearance. The site is now a Scheduled Monument with Grade II listed buildings and has links to English Heritage as a unique memorial to the history of Barnham Camp and the Cold War.

Further reading, from which I have obtained some of the information above.






This page was updated
Terry Rawkins
on 20 May 2018