THE posh market town of Dorking is best known for its architecture and famous breed of chickens, according to reports. But residents were yesterday facing up to how they had a near miss in one of Britain’s worst nuclear blunders.
New research has revealed that scientists working on the UK’s first atomic weapon almost dropped a test bomb on the Surrey town after it came loose in a plane. Thankfully, it ended up in the Thames estuary — where it still lies to this day.
The mistake is revealed in a documentary about the UK’s race to develop a nuclear bomb. Reg Milne, of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, a Ministry of Defence research facility, said: “On one flight to Orford Ness, Suffolk, a bomb came loose over Dorking.
“It fell off its hook. Luckily the bomb doors were strong enough to hold it and the pilot took the aircraft over the Thames estuary, opened the bomb doors and the bomb fell out.
“The splash nearly drowned a couple of sailors who happened to be nearby. They never found it. It’s still under the Thames somewhere.” The documentary, Britain’s Nuclear Bomb: The Inside Story, is on BBC Four on May 3.
In it, scientists reveal that the weapon was actually a replica that did not include any nuclear material. Britain went on to test its first atomic bomb on islands off Western Australia in 1952.
Here we look at five other UK towns and villages that were almost wiped out.