Churchill Announces British Atom Bomb
It is conveniently forgotten by contemporary British and American politicians, in public at least, that the Quebec Pact to share nuclear technology which facilitated the building of the atom bomb at Los Alamos was subsequently torn up by our American allies. Britain had provided 50 or more scientists to the Manhattan Project, including the man who later led our own A-Bomb development, Dr William Penney , but the McMahon Act passed by Congress in 1946 disregarded the previous accord, forcing Clement Attlee to institute an independent nuclear weapons programme in Britain.
Winston Churchill on February 26 1952 announced to Parliament and the world that Britain had its own bomb, though the first actual testing of the device only took place in October of that year (on islands off the Northwest coast of Australia). It was still a period of enormous political instability after the ending of WWII , with Stalin’s USSR having in effect annexed Eastern Europe, and no guarantee that further territorial gains were excluded. What effect the British bomb actually had on our history – and what might have happened without it - is far from clear. But whatever the morality of nuclear weapons, it is easy to understand the perceived need for them by British governments both Labour and Conservative in that era.
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