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Hope Dawned In Mid 1941

N.Z.P.A.—Copyright.—Rec. 1 p.m. LONDON, August 6. "Some account is now required of the part which this country has played in the remarkable scientific advances which have come to fruition," said the Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, in a statement referring to President Truman's announcement on the atomic bomb. He added that Mr. Churchill, before the change of Government, prepared the following statement:— "By 1939 it became widely recognised among scientists of many nations that the release of energy by atomic fission was a possibility. The problems which remained to be solved before the possibility could be turned into a practical achievement were, hofwever, manifold and immense. Few scientists would then have ventured to predict that atomic bombs could be ready for use in 1945. Nevertheless the potentialities of the project were so great that the British Government thought it right that research should be carried on despite many competing claims on scientific manpower. "Research at this stage was carried out mainly at the universities of Oxford, 'Cambridge, London, Liverpool and Birmingham. The responsibility for co-ordinating the work and pressing it forward lay with the Ministry of Aircraft Production, advised by a committee of leading scientists, headed by Sir George Thomson, Professor of Physics at the Imperial College of Science.

"There was simultaneously, under the general arrangements for pooling scientific information, a full interchange of ideas between scientists carrying out this work in Britain and America. Such progress was made that by the summer of 1941 Sir George Thomson's committee was able to report that there was a reasonable chance that the atomic bomb could be produced before the end of the war. Lord» Cherwell, scientific adviser to the Prime Minister, whose duty it was to keep me informed of all technical developments, reported in August, 1941, that substantial progress had been made. The general responsibility for scientific research then lay with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir John Anderson.

"Having in mind the effect of ordinary high explosives which we had recently experienced, I referred the matter in August, 1941, to the Chiefs of Staffs Committee in the following minute: Although personally I am quite content with the existing explosives I feel that we must not stand in the path of improvement, and I, therefore, think that action should be taken in the sense proposed by Lord Cherwell.' Special Division Established "The Chiefs of Staff recommended immediate action with maximum priority. It was then decided to establish a special division to direct the work. Imperial Chemical Industries released its director, Mr. W. A. Akers, to take charge of the directorate, which we for purposes of secrecy called the Directorate of Tube Alloys. I asked Sir John Anderson to continue to supervise the work for which he had special qualifications. There was established under his chairmanship a consultative committee composed of Lord Cherwell, Lord Brabazon,* a former Minister of Aircraft Production, the president of the Royal Society, and the secretary of the Department of Scientific Industrial Research.

"Mr. Akers headed a technical committee composed of Sir James Chadwick, Professor of Physics at the University of Liverpool, and Professor Peierls, Professor of Applied Mathematics at University of Birmingham, and Dr. Halban Simon. They were later joined by Sir Charles Darwin and Professor Cockroft Oliphant. President Roosevelt, in October, 1941, wrote in a letter suggesting that any extended efforts in this important matter might usefully be co-ordinated or even jointly conducted. All British and American efforts were accordingly joined, and a number of British scientists pro-' ceeded to America.

"Apart from these contacts com- j plete secrecy guarded all these I activities, and not a single person j was informed whose work was not indispensable to progress. Bv the \ summer of 1942 this expanded programme confirmed the promising! forecasts, and the time came when a decision must be made whether to proceed with - construction in large scale production plants. Britain Fully Extended "Britain was fully extended in war production. We could not afford such grave. interference with the current munitions programme. We were within easy range of German bombers and could not ignore the risk from sea and air raiders, but the United States, where parallel or similar progress was made, was free from these dangers. The decision was therefore taken to build fullscale production plants in America. "The main practical effort and virtually the whole of its prodigious cost now fell on the United States authorities, assisted by a number of j British scientists. Discussion between Mr. Roosevelt and myself regulated the relationship of the British and ! American contributions, and thr j Combined Policy Committee was I established.

"The Canadian Government, whose contribution'was most valuable, provided indispensable raw material and also the necessary facilities for the work on one section of the project carried on in Canada by the three Governments. The smoothness with which the arrangements in 1943 were carried into effect is a happy augury for future relatione, and reflects great credit on all concerned, particularly Sir James Chadwick, who served as tecnical adviser to the British members on the Policy Committee and on the generous spirit with which the whole American organisation welcomed our men.

"By God's mercy British and American science outpaced all German efforts. These were on a considerable scale, but far behind. The possession of these powers by the Germans might at any time have altered the result of the war, and profound anxiety was felt by those who were informed. Every effort was made by our Intelligence Ser■vice and Air Force to locate in Germany anything resembling plants which were being created in America.

"In the winter of 1942-43 most gallant attacks were made on Norway on two occasions by small parties of British commandos and Norwegian forces, at very heavy cost of life, upon stores of what is. called 'heavy water'—an element in one of the possible processes. The second of these attacks was completely successful. "The whole burden of execution, including the establishing of plants for many technical processes connected with"" it in the practical sphere, constitute one of the great triumphs of American, or indeed human, genius. Moreover, the decision to make these enormous expenditures upon a project which, however hopefully established by British and American research, remained nevertheless a heart shaking risk, stands to the everlasting honour of Mr. Roosevelt and his advisers. Gave Warning to Japanese "It is now for Japan to realise, in the glare of the first atomic bomb which has smitten her, what the consequences will be of indefinite continuance of this terrible means of maintaining the rule of law in the world. "This revelation of the secrets of Nature, long mercifully withheld from man, should arouse most solemn reflections in the minds and consciences of every human being capable of comprehension. We must indeed pray that these awful agencies will be made to conduce to peace among the nations and, instead of wreaking measureless havoc upon the entire globe, they may become a perennial fountain of world prosperity."

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Bibliographic details

BRITAIN'S SHARE IN GREAT DISCOVERY, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 185, 7 August 1945

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BRITAIN'S SHARE IN GREAT DISCOVERY Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 185, 7 August 1945

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