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Invaluable Veterans

For historical staff photographs , please click the button below

 Working under the Official Secrets Act - the perceptions of Orford Ness Veterans*

Many of those working on Orford Ness were in their thirties when AWRE ceased its activity in 1971. Thus, most Veterans (Vets) - those people who had worked on, or for, Orford Ness, were in their mid to late 70’s when, during the period 2013 - 2017, some 60 of them were located and interviewed by a National Trust volunteer ranger.

 

These interviews highlighted just how much valuable ‘hands on’ trials information these Vets possessed, and IRGON felt that greater effort should be applied as soon as possible to obtain more answers to military research as the number of these Vets remaining was rapidly reducing.

 

Their evidence provided new information about weapons trials about which little or nothing was known. Consequently our research is initially concentrated on the Cold War period.

 

Of the 60 Orford Ness Veterans who had been located and interviewed, only 44 were audio recorded. All people employed by Government agencies, such as RAE and AWRE, were required to achieve security clearance before their employment and to then work under the Official Secrets Act. 

 

Because of their concerns, some of the 60 Veterans simply refused to be interviewed, while others declined to be recorded, but did allow verbatim notes to be taken of their comments. Even after 50 years, the existence of the Official Secrets Act and a team, or project based, ’need-to-know' practice has made information gathering about the military trials on Orford Ness more difficult.

Approval was given by the National Trust to Professor William Walters, of Carleton University, Ottawa, to use these audio recordings as part of his academic work into State and ‘Everyday Secrecy’. 

* ‘Veterans': those who worked on, or for, the military testing of the UK’s weapons on Orford Ness.

For more information see  Useful Links , Everyday  Secrecy

** ©  National Trust

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Do you recognise these Orford Ness Veterans?

IRGON would love to hear from anyone who recognises the people in these photographs who were employed on Orford Ness by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) and involved in the running of various ‘Bomb Ballistics’ trials. RAE, having been responsible for much of Orford Ness bomb ballistics activity since 1946, left in 1959, when the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE), took over the larger part of Orford Ness and its research station activities.

 

At this handover all RAE staff were made redundant, with some moving to RAE Farnborough, and some staying on Orford Ness as part of the AWRE’s Bomb Ballistics team.

 

Photographs with the kind permission of Janet Harrison and Susan Lee-Tanner.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Photographs - click image to enlarge view - for full size please contact IRGON

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

Photograph courtesy of Janet Harrison

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

Photograph courtesy of Janet Harrison

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

Photograph courtesy of Janet Harrison

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

Photograph courtesy of Janet Harrison

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

Photograph courtesy of Janet Harrison

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

Photograph courtesy of Janet Harrison

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

Photograph courtesy of Janet Harrison

Frank Tanner operating Kine-Theodolite camera

Frank Tanner operating Kine-Theodolite camera

Photograph courtesy of Susan Lee-Tanner

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

RAE Bomb Ballistics staff 1956

Photograph courtesy of Janet Harrison

Bomb Ballistics

 

The purpose of ‘Bomb Ballistics’ trials was to improve the accuracy of unguided weapons as they descended and determining the effects on their accuracy of a wide range of meteorological conditions.

 

The people in the photographs were part of the team that managed the bomb drops that helped improve the weapon’s aerodynamics, and the data gathered also formed the basis of 'Bomb Ballistics tables’. These tables gathered information about the weapon’s ‘behaviour’ during many unguided descents, and were used by ‘Bomb Aimers’ - or ‘Bombardiers’ - to help them accurately drop their bombs, or to provide the data required by various electro/mechanical ‘bombsights’.

 

Tasks undertaken by these staff included (a) Bombing range control, (b) operating Kine-Theodolites (cameras that recorded a weapon’s descent) and (c) handling and analysing the filmed record from several cameras after each drop.

 

A fuller background of the Orford Ness Bomb Ballistic trials can be found by clicking here