Frank Raynor: Operation Hurricane

Frank Raynor describes Operation Hurricane in 1952, Britain's first atomic test.

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Whereabouts is the – the bomb itself?

In the hold of HMS Plym. It was a wartime frigate, 1200 tonnes, was a relatively small naval warship. I put some instrumentation in, detectors in Plym that would have been transmitted out by high speed telemetry.

Did you actually get to see the – the device itself?

I was very close to the device itself [laughs], there was a small room in which it was anchored, and I put some equipment in that room. Didn’t bother me at all as long as nobody put the pin in on the detonators [laughs]. Well the room itself is effectively a plain steel box, it’s a room in the innards of a ship, with grey painted walls, no distinguishing features, as I say you didn’t have flowers in vases and pictures on the walls [laughs]. It’s the first time I had set eyes on a practical weapon.

What does it actually look like?

Just a sphere with various points connecting cables to it. Simple as that. And as we all know it’s by no means simple but externally to look at things, yes.

Where actually were you on the Hurricane test?

On HMS Tracker, on deck, backs to the point of detonation and we were told after a few seconds, ‘You can turn around and look.’

What do you see?

What did I see? This enormous mushroom cloud that you see in the classical photos just building up. We didn’t turn around in time to see the flash which a) would be unwise for your eyesight [laughs] and b) it would – you were instructed not to do so. So and we were several miles away so – I suppose I didn’t think of it as a unique experience at the time, it’s only when you start to think later, 'oh that was a bit different, that’s a bit unusual, probably won’t see one of those again.'
  • Interviewee Frank Raynor
  • Duration 00:02:27
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 5/30/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/76

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