On this day in 1957 the aircraft carrier HMS Warrior was due to leave Portsmouth for the British nuclear weapon tests at Christmas Island in the Pacific, but was unable to do so because of gales.
She left the next day to act as flagship of the naval squadron taking part in the tests with 130 soldiers on board. Many of the men who took part in the tests were conscripts.
An able seaman on board Warrior, Nicholas Wilson, wrote in his diary:
‘We were all seated and all dressed correctly for anti-flash on the flight deck. Amusing but uncalled-for jokes were cracked about failure.
‘It was not until five seconds before the burst that I was concerned; then I became serious.
‘Fire! At the same time I felt my back warming up and experienced the flash, though I had my hands over my face and dark goggles on.
‘Five seconds after the flash we turned round and faced the flash, but it was still bright so I replaced them. There in the sky was a brightly glowing seething ball of fire. The whole sight was most beautiful and I was completely filled with emotions’ – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.