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Bob75C
17-08-2007, 05:59
Any of you guys out there remember Grapple X and Grapple Y ?

Remember the teleprinters flying off the tables during the Grapple X explosion, and the roof being blown off the JOC?

How we had to take off the doors and remove the windows before Grapple Y, and cut down the inside walls to let the blast pass through?

Remember the blast waves coming through, and the blinded birds flying into trees?

Remember "Captain Flit" and the crop spraying of the tent lines to keep the bugs down?

Got some good pics and good memories, but lost touch with most of the chaps. So come on and let me know where you all are.

Cheers, Bob C

pueblos
17-08-2007, 08:31
Well there is a bit of British history that must have been amazing to take part in...

Hope you find who you are looking for... all the best... P:PDT_Xtremez_30:

Chuffybum
17-08-2007, 08:39
Any of you guys out there remember Grapple X and Grapple Y ?

Remember the teleprinters flying off the tables during the Grapple X explosion, and the roof being blown off the JOC?

How we had to take off the doors and remove the windows before Grapple Y, and cut down the inside walls to let the blast pass through?

Remember the blast waves coming through, and the blinded birds flying into trees?

Remember "Captain Flit" and the crop spraying of the tent lines to keep the bugs down?

Got some good pics and good memories, but lost touch with most of the chaps. So come on and let me know where you all are.

Cheers, Bob C

WOW! Now THAT's an interesting thread!! It must have been amazing to take part and I hope that you are keeping well. Very best of luck in your search, hope you find a few old comrades. Best wishes.

Warwick Hunt
17-08-2007, 09:01
Bob,

I'm fascinated already. This sounds like an amazing story. Please can you elaborate on your story/ies further? I'm sure others will be hooked too.

Tin basher
17-08-2007, 11:10
Not sure how much detail there will be of old comrades but this link should provide some gen (If it works) on what grapple was all about for those with an interest.

www.atomicforum.org/uk/grapplex.html


Also worth checking the Wiki entries

And this one if it works

www.awe.co.uk/main_site/about_awe/history/timeline/1957/index.html

Yossarian
17-08-2007, 11:49
Amazing stuff when you think about it.....

"Now gents, there will be a massive nuclear explosion just a few miles thataway. Here is your white boiler suit.... remember to put your hands over your eyes and you'll be fine."

:S

enginesuck
17-08-2007, 11:49
Just finished reading the atomic times a book by an american Gi based in the pacific during the american tests. very interesting stuff I would love to hear more from the brits perspective, can anyone recommend any books on the subject???

pie sandwich
17-08-2007, 11:58
I was talking to a ex-raf stacker in the pub back in feb, he was posted there duing the tests, he was saying that as they turned away from the blast they had their eyes closed and hands over them, and he said for about 15sec he could see straight through his hands a bit like an x-ray even thought he had them pressed hard against his face with his eyes shut.

MAINJAFAD
17-08-2007, 12:21
Just finished reading the atomic times a book by an american Gi based in the pacific during the american tests. very interesting stuff I would love to hear more from the brits perspective, can anyone recommend any books on the subject???

There is a good book about the Grapple tests written by the CO of 49 Sqn, who dropped the first British H-bomb from the Valiant now at Cosford. 'Operation Grapple - Testing Britain's First H-Bomb' by Group Captain Kenneth Hubbard and Michael Simmons, published by Ian Allan in 1985. A good web site that covers the histroy of all nuke tests (including the UK ones) can be found here (http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/index.html). The SPAMS aslo used Xmas Island for nuke tests in 1961-63

Lamptramp
17-08-2007, 12:32
I served with an RAF Chippie who was station on Christmas Island.

His entire 2 year tour was occupied making folding stools for the troops to sit on to watch the "Big Bangs". .... Oh! and bits and bobs for the Zobs Mess, naturally.

laboratoryqueen
17-08-2007, 15:48
I'm interested in hearing more about what it was like there, not just for me but for my kids interest too. My Dad was on Xmas island for the drops '57/58 and even though I know some of his stories (he was the SRN) and I do have a few photos taken whilst there, I would like to know more, especially as he's no longer with us.

There was a program done several years ago about Xmas island, "children of the bomb" if I remember rightly, where several of the guys were interviewed about the time there, my dad included.

theladf
17-08-2007, 17:51
I was talking to a ex-raf stacker in the pub back in feb, he was posted there duing the tests, he was saying that as they turned away from the blast they had their eyes closed and hands over them, and he said for about 15sec he could see straight through his hands a bit like an x-ray even thought he had them pressed hard against his face with his eyes shut.

My old man was national service, spent a year on christmas and has virtually word for word stated the same. He also recounted the Canberra pilot who had to fly into the cloud to do air sampling, he was sealed in with no chance of ejection if anything went wrong (not that I would recommend ejecting into an atomic blast). He also remembers a visit by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, when true to form the bull**** hit and they were painting coral green to resemble grass!!!!!

pie sandwich
17-08-2007, 18:04
Because the guy had turned his back to the flash he has had lots of problems with his spine, not so much now half of it is a metal rod. He told me when he had it fitted they went in through his stomach so two days later he did'nt want to bother the nurse when he needed a wee so he got out of bed and took himself off to the loo, mid wee he sneezed and burst most of his stitches and out come his guts, he pulled the emergency cord for the nurse who passed out when she saw him standing there with his guts in his hands, he said I seem to have a slight accident.

Needless to say I bought him a few beers that night.

theladf
17-08-2007, 18:25
My old man recalls it was so hot that they were only allowed to have their shirts off for a brief period each day, if you got sunburn it was classed as self inflicted injury, so when after 2hrs in the sun he got extreme sunburn he could not go to the medics or a fizzer would be forthcoming. He described the skin on his back as a moving mass of blisters which looked like a bunch of grapes. his shirt started to stick as they gradually burst and the only way to remove his shirt was to do so in a shower.

laboratoryqueen
17-08-2007, 18:56
My dad said almost the same thing about the witness of the blasts, backs to the blasts and hands over faces, and wearing shorts and flip flaps most of the time. He said there was a big problem with dicky tummies and having the sh1ts, but whether that was in part to the sickness most suffered after the blasts, or the dodgy cooking.


He said as well that so many of the guys got "Dear John" letters while there, as all the scare stories and information about radiation sickness ect was being reported at home

Two photos of my dad on Xmas Island.

http://img67.imageshack.us/img67/2185/dadtp2.jpg

http://img405.imageshack.us/img405/8707/dad2pq9.jpg

Bob75C
22-08-2007, 04:16
It was hot there as I recall. The standard dress where I was working at the JOC was KD shorts, bush hat, and sandals or flip flops. Most carried a small pack, slung over the sholder on a webbing strap like a satchel. In there we carried mug, irons, tin of cigarettes (usually Senior Service or Woodbines), and anything else we thought might be needed during the day. There was nothing to do there, so to avoid boredom the powers that be had us working 12 hour shifts to keep us occupied.

Don't have a lot of time this evening but will post some longer info on life there in a day or so.

Cheers, Bob

roverboy
22-08-2007, 08:23
Amazing stuff when you think about it.....

"Now gents, there will be a massive nuclear explosion just a few miles thataway. Here is your white boiler suit.... remember to put your hands over your eyes and you'll be fine."

:S

I can just imagine being "volunteered" for something like that these days and hearing the protests:

"Does this fall into line with Health and Safety?"

"Oh that's right, just because I've been on leave I get stiffed to do it"

"As long as it happens before shift change, that's not a problem"

Bob75C
23-08-2007, 04:50
I'm afraid that this may seem a bit long, but this is my short version for those folks who want an idea of of what it was like.

Christmas Island (Kiritimati) is in the Line Islands archipelago, about 1200 miles south of Honolulu and in the middle of nowhere. The flight in the RAF Hastings from Hickam Field on Oahu was uneventful. Apart from the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the only things to look at were the small white clouds marching in rows like soldiers before the trade winds.

My first impression on flying in to Christmas Island was how beautiful it looked from the air. Swaying palm tress, emerald lagoons, brilliant white beach, and the most intense deep blue sky. However, as we landed and taxied in, we saw scores of land crabs lined up on each side of the runway and a rather dilapidated looking group of tents and huts that constituted the airfield. When the door opened and the torrid heat hit us, we began to realize that this might not be the tropical paradise it first appeared to be. After we had deplaned and been reunited with our kit bags, we were read out our tent assignments and herded to the appropriate 3-tonner for the trip to the tent lines.

I was assigned to J lines, because I would be working in the Joint Operations Center, and was to share a tent with Ken Gillard, a National Service airman. The airfield was down by the North East Point, and the JOC tent lines where up towards Cape Manning at the far end of Main Camp

Ken was already in residence, and had been making some essential modifications to our abode. In order to get headroom the tent poles were extended and wooden packing crates were broken up to provide wood for the sidewalls. These crates were also used to make tent furniture and bed stands, which lifted your camp bed about two feet off the floor and out of the reach of land crabs and rats. The crabs were the worst, because they would burrow under the sand and come up in the middle of the tent, whereas the rats were shy and didn’t appear very often. The land crabs were everywhere, and eventually one became used to having them around. The different units on the Island had got into the habit of painting their unit badge on the shell any crab found in their area, the idea being to see how many you could claim, and most of the crabs were running around with various RAF and Army unit insignia painted on their shells. Unfortunately, there also developed a rather nasty habit of smashing with a rock any crab found in your area that was painted with another unit’s badge. This practice caused a stink back in the U.K. when it got into the papers, and was officially frowned upon.

The other common sight was the Frigate birds. These were adopted as the Task Force Grapple insignia, and appeared on the Task Force badge. They were huge birds with 6 or 7 foot wing spans, and they could cruise around for hours sailing on the sea breeze.

Naturally, the washing and toilet facilities were primitive. Long metal troughs, held at each end by wooden trestles, were used for washing and laundry. The water supply was seawater, which was pumped through metal pipes. The daytime temperature was usually close to 100 degrees, and because the pipes were above ground the water became very hot in the middle of the day. Consequently we did our washing and shaving early in the morning or late at night. The only real luxury was when it rained. The rain brought everyone out of the tents to stand naked and soap up for a relatively cool shower. Quite a sight!

The toilets were Elsan chemical toilets with a chimney on the back of the can to let the fumes out. There was no privacy. They were lined up in rows of ten and surrounded by a Hessian wall on wooden stakes. The flies were horrendous, and as you sat there the land crabs would go after your toes. No one stayed there longer than was absolutely necessary. The Elsans were emptied every day by a converted bowser, the “Honey Wagon”, that sucked up the poop and eventually dumped it into the sea on the other side of the island. The urinals were equally primitive. A metal trough held by wooden trestles, and sloping to the left to drain into a pit.

Each person was issued with a 5 gallon jerry can which was used to store fresh drinking water. The water bowser came around each day, and Ken and I took turns to line up and get our ration. The island was a coral atoll with very little fresh water, and the Army was operating a seawater desalination plant to keep the supply running. With no refrigerators or coolers the water got very warm, and to make it palatable for drinking we mixed a variety of lemonade and fruit drink powders in it.

What with the heat, the poor sanitation, and the not-to-good water, everyone at sometime or other got was colloquially termed the “screamers”, “Screaming ****s”, or just simply the “the ****s”. These were manifested as stomach cramps and continual diarrhea. There was nothing you could do but stay in striking distance of a toilet and wait for it to pass off in two or three days. If someone was not a work, the statement “he has the screamers” explained it all. The Doctors just told us to stick it out, “that too will pass” they said. If they gave you a pill to stop it you got constipated and they had to give you another pill to start it again. It became a never-ending cycle, so they just said “sweat it out lad”.

In order to keep us occupies, and to avoid the problems that boredom brings, most of us were working two shifts a day, seven days a week. The little time off we did get was spent fishing, swimming, or walking around the island. There was nothing else there and nothing else to do. The fishing was for sharks, and these were taken to the cooks who would produce shark steaks for dinner. If you happened to be off duty during the day then it was advisable to keep a sharp lookout for “Captain Flit”, named after the famous fly spray. He flew an Auster aircraft fitted with crop spraying equipment, and every afternoon he sprayed the tent lines from about 50 feet to keep the flies and bugs down. If you saw him coming it was prudent to get under cover fast because the stuff stuck like oil and smelt awful if you were caught in it. He would buzz the tent lines a couple of times before spraying to let everyone know he was there.

The NAAFI opened only in the evenings and was a popular spot to hang out with a beer – usually Tennants lager from warm cans. The NAAFI was a wooden hut on the edge of the beach, with a few chairs and tables out in the sand. The place was packed every night, with various units and squadrons having their own drinking parties. For the RAF there was an alternative spot when some enterprising chap opened up an RAFA club. This was in a tent but had rattan easy chairs, cushions and rugs. Amazing. There were some interesting drinks served in their, such as the Grapple Sling. God only knows what went into that.

We had an open-air cinema too, run by the Army. The seats were planks of wood laid across concrete filled oil drums, and were not too comfortable. Everyone brought a ground sheet or something else to fold up and sit on. It was always packed, no matter what the film was, and the projector was mounted on a wooden platform with a rattan roof at the rear. Everyone was drinking beer, carried in side packs, and if the film broke or slipped the poor projectionist got bombarded with beer cans. It didn’t matter if it rained either, the crowd just sat there watching the film through a wall of water.

Working your way back to the tent after an evening at the NAAFI or cinema was an adventure too. There were no street lights, and on a moonless night it was literally pitch black. Consequently everyone carried a flashlight at night to avoid tent guy ropes, tent pegs, rocks, and nocturnal land crabs. We only wore flip-flops, and it was no fun opening up a big toe after stubbing it on a metal tent peg. Injuries took a long time to heal there. I cut my hand on some coral, and despite getting treatment from the sick bay it took weeks to heal up.

The JOC site where I was working was a group of wooden buildings with no walls above three feet high and no doors. This was to allow the blast from H-bombs to pass through the building without causing damage. This modification was done after the Grapple X explosion of 1957, when the blast lifted the roof off the building and blew teleprinters and radios off their benches. There was only one radio operator on duty during a test drop, to send out the detonation code word, and he sat inside a steel cage that looked like a shark cage to protect him from falling debris in the building. The rest us had to sit on the ground outside in our anti-flash suits, with our backs to the explosion. Although we had our backs to the explosion, wore dark glasses, and had our hands over our eyes, I nevertheless could see the bones in my fingers when the flash came. That Grapple Y bomb was a 3 Megaton weapon.

The bombs were dropped from Vickers Valiant bombers. We were not told how far away they were, but it looked pretty close to me. A Canberra bomber flew through the cloud to take samples, and then headed straight out for Australia on its way back to the U.K. where the samples would be analyzed. After the initial flash we counted to ten and turned around. Because of the high humidity we could see the blast wave coming through the air as a grey line of condensed water vapor, bending the palm trees and knocking birds out of the sky. The fireball was a terrifying sight; black and red and yellow, twisting and turning on itself as it climbed up in the sky. The mushroom cloud that developed hung around for hours, although slowly losing its original shape. Not much could be done about the wild life, and many birds and crabs were running around blind for days, crashing into trees and walls. The fireball was terrible to watch, and had such a psychological impact that the mess was very quiet for days afterwards as people thought their own thoughts.

In the months between tests there was not much to do. My job as a GWF corporal technician was to keep the JOC short wave radio site operational and maintain communications with the UK, Hickam, Australia, and various Royal Navy ships. These were mainly Marconi SSB and FSK teletype circuits and CW Morse circuits. Uniforms were rather informal: shorts, sandals, and a bush hat to keep off the Sun. We all carried a military small pack, slung over the shoulder with a webbing strap, in which we carried everything needed during the day such as mug, knife, fork, spoon, cigarettes, lighter, water bottle, and anything else considered essential.

Cheers Bob C

Realist78
23-08-2007, 10:41
Fascinating stuff Bob C, get the book written!

Bill Bones
23-08-2007, 12:34
Agreed. Fascinating. Utterly fascinating. No wonder Dr Oppenheimer's optimism failed the first hurdle.

rogerslimprs
24-08-2007, 00:47
Hi there Bob,.

Great stuff. Reminds me of my old days. A little before my time by a couple of years. Ihave copied your piece on the experience there and passed it to the RAF Hospital Ely Association for their interest and in the hope that somebody from the group may have been with you. We have members going back to 1949.

I agree, get the book written, it sounds like a great read.

laboratoryqueen
24-08-2007, 01:06
found this on youtube


KcbYcwwqRrg

pie sandwich
24-08-2007, 01:38
This is what J. Robert Oppenheimer said after the Trinity test part of the Manhattan project

"We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says,

'Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that one way or another."

I think that puts very well the way in which people thought having witnessed such an event.

Realist78
24-08-2007, 01:40
Mmm, the mention of "the 3 great powers", how far we have gone down the slope!:raf:

Edzar
24-08-2007, 02:20
Bob that was a fascinating story and brought back a few memories of recent detachments to various dumps in the worold like GW1 and Op Provide Comfort in Turkey right after....it's great home again and being able to crap without flies buzzing yer hoop!!!

Lab Queen thanks for that vid clip....seen it before but as you get older you sort of realise and wonder why on earth our politicians went down that road, and glad they did now or we may not have been where we are today without that deterrent.
What worries me is what lays ahead with the lack of interest in and depletion of the UK's Armed Forces today.....