Oral history of British science

Raynor, Frank (Part 8 of 18) An Oral History of British Science

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Abingdon

  • Interviewees

    Raynor, Frank, 1922- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: [56:41] Remarks on run up to weapons trial: short period from FR starting at AWRE until leaving for weapons trials; 1952 letter from Penney notifying FR that he would be being sent to Australia; preparation of equipment in run up to embarkation; FR spending time in Australia aboard ships HMS Narvik, health ship HMS Tracker, and test ship HMS Plym; setting up equipment for radiochemical analysis labs, frequent equipment failures due to tropical conditions; packing of equipment; sense of urgency and importance of work. [04:45] Description of HMS Tracker: modified landing ship; basic and cramped cabin shared with Nobby Clarke, Ken Douglas and Bob White. [06:40] Remarks on: being sent to the Montebellos in Australia, via a warm welcome in Freemantle; FR scrounging a lift back from RAF after trial; slow 6-7 week voyage on HMS Tracker, stopping at Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Columbo; mix of interesting and boring on voyage, inability to work except on HMS Campania. [11:20] Remarks on RAF medical officer Geoffrey Denning: flew on planes to sample mushroom clouds; anecdote about Denning and Ken Douglas meeting at Aldermaston later; promoted to Air Chief Marshall; worked in medical lab on voyage. [13:10] Anecdote about naval officers not taking kindly to FR and others asking chief petty officers to show them around HMS Tracker. [14:15] Remarks on relations between navy and AWRE personnel: historian Lorna Arnold telling FR that navy originally wanted scientists to be in uniform; scientists given honorary officer status, causing confusion over saluting and hat wearing; transgressing naval traditions; talk from Captain Cooper at Aldermaston on naval etiquette in preparation; anecdote about FR and colleague building a decoration for mess out of out of dekatron counters and pin-up art; [pause 18:55] naval interest in electronic things; anecdote about FR annoyance at telegram informing him of daughter's birth being passed around wardroom before him. [20:30] Anecdotes about port visits: Gibraltar; dangerous visit to Crater City in Aden with colleagues; Colombo, where Bob White's had spent his previous REME radar experience; FR limited travel before voyage; passport arrangements. [24:35] Remarks on: mixing little with population on voyage; anecdote about avoiding an unfriendly bar in Freemantle; description of crossing the line ceremony aboard ship; anecdote about crossing the equator regularly on later Malden and Christmas Island nuclear tests; reading, seeing a whale, and rough conditions on voyage; [31:29] comparisons between FR experience and conditions for scientists on on Campania. [32:30] Remarks on events in Australia: Freemantle, visiting Perth; sailing to Montebellos aboard HMS Capania; town of Onslow, used as supply base, which FR found like a Wild West town; description of Montebellos, Trimouille and Hermite islands, pearl divers earlier use of Montebellos, shark fishing by naval personnel; [38:45] FR living aboard ship, unlike some scientists who lived on Trimouille ; FR work setting up instrumentation. [40:30] Remarks on working at Montebello: like Aldermaston with difficulties; problems transporting equipment around site; difficulties keeping equipment serviceable; FR avoiding drinking too much cheap alcohol; poor living conditions, bad food on islands; anecdote about FR first tasting steak in his life in Australia; setting up and calibration of monitoring equipment, such as Geiger counters, on HMS Tracker; film badges, health checking, safety concerns, David Lewis rhyme; [47:25] use of equipment to measure effects of radiation and bomb explosion on equipment and substances; urgent pace of work; modification of equipment for tropical conditions; FR feelings in run up to test, apprehension over getting it right.and Chadwick; Ernest Bevin insisting that Britain had an atomic bomb; limited discussion of nuclear politics amongst individuals at FR's level. [42:50]

  • Description

    Interview with technician, Frank Raynor

  • Related transcripts

    Frank Raynor interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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