Great Britain 1942 has an A-Bomb-Would They Use It?

Suppose that great Britain had been able to develop an atomic bomb on its own-would it have dropped one on Germany?
And (suppose the elected to destroy Berlin)-would that have ended the war?
I think so-physicists like W. Heisenburg would have realized that the game was up-although a fanatical Nazil like Hitler would probably have wanted to continue. What do you think?

I can’t see any scenario in which they wouldn’t use it. Why wait and give Germany a chance to develop their own bomb?

The only thing I can imagine delaying its use is the degree of certainty of it actually getting to the target. It would be terrible to build a war-ending bomb only to see it shot down on its way to Berlin. At what point were the Allies bombing German cities without significant opposition?

Well, if Hitler managed to survive the attack and emerged from his bunker to see everything leveled for 3 km in every direction, I suspect that would have given even him pause. Not to mention near-complete loss of communications capabilities with his armies.

Also, “fanatical Nazils”, heh. I am so going to use that every chance I get.

It was revealed later, but the non nuclear “perfect storm” that fell on Hamburg did gave pause to the German commanders, Albert Speer mentioned that if other cities had been taken down like that that they war efforts would end sooner.

But Hamburg was the exception, many times aerial attacks missed their targets, or their timing was off, weather was not helping, etc. AFAIK it was not until Dresden that one would see once again such concentration of firepower with perfect conditions and timing again.

I do think that with a bastard like Arthur Harris at the helm that for sure the A-bomb would had fallen in Berlin and other German cities.

In 1942, did Britain have a bomber capable of delivering the device and surviving?

Yes, the British routinely began bombing Germany, and Berlin in particular, during this time. And a plane could certainly survive the blast - and if it didn’t, well, it’s not like British piliots didn’t face massive casualties. An advantage of the A-Bomb, too, was that it would hardly matter where you dropped the thing as long as it fell somewhere within the city.

Sure, if they could pull it off. I doubt it would have occurred to them not to. Besides the other reasons mentioned, back then nuclear weapons didn’t have the taboo aura around them that they have now.

I watched a documentary last night that claimed a study was undertaken during the war, and on average only one in ten RAF bomber crews dropped their bombs within five miles of the target. That seems like a low percentage, but unlike the Americans who preferred precision bombing the Brits preferred carpet bombing.

The Avro Lancaster entered service early in 1942. The maximum bomb load for the normal variants was 14,000 lbs. The B1 Special variant carried the 12,000 lb. Tallboy and 22,000 lb. Grand Slam bombs starting in June 1944 and March 1945 respectively. The Little Boy (Hiroshima) and Fat Man (Nagasaki) atomic bombs weighed 8,900 and 10,200 lbs. respectively. So I’d say that a Lancaster could carry an atomic weapon as early as 1942.

I would expect that the USAAF bombing mostly by day, and the RAF mostly by night, had something to do with relative accuracy as well.

I was going to mention that. Carpet bombing is a good strategy when it’s dark. Between the British bombing at night, and the Americans bombing during the day, the Germans couldn’t catch a breath.

A single bomber flying at night probably wouldn’t even have been intercepted.

Nuking Berlin would not have been quite as easy as that would suggest, though; RAF and RCAF bombers would routinely miss entire CITIES. In the case of a 1942 A-bomb, though, I am sure extra care would have been taken to ensure they hit the center of a big city. And if Berlin was reachable (given the payload) there’s not a doubt in my mind Berlin would have gotten it.

How much access to the raw materials for a nuke did the British have during the war? Does Britain have its own supply of uranium or plutonium, or would it have had to get it from the colonies? Were there serious mining operations in the colonies at this time, and would it have been feasible to transport it overseas in the middle of the war?

And survive?

Plausibly, I’d say. The Lanc had a lower ceiling than the B29 and was rather slower, but Little Boy wasn’t parachute dropped, was it? In that case, if it appears that the plane can’t get away in time, dropping the bomb on a parachute might give it the necessary time to bug out.


From Wiki:

Little Boy was dropped from about 31,000 feet – nearly 10,000 feet higher than the service ceiling of a Lanc. Could a Bomber Command crew have survived? I don’t know. But given their casualty rate, I think it’s a risk that would have been taken if the decision was made to drop The Bomb.

The two biggest uranium producing countries are Canada and Australia so a British supply shouldn’t have been a problem. Transporting uranium to the UK shouldn’t have been any more difficult than transporting other supplies had been.

Sorry, I’ve come to this thread late.

For Germany as a whole it was actually about 3 in 10 not 1 in 10 (this was for the Ruhr only - the most heavily defended target) and this was in mid-1941. The figures came from the Butt report that looked into the effectiveness of British night bombing operation. Whatever the actually numbers it was clear Bomber Command could not hit precision targets at night and it was this realisation that led to the switch to area bombing of cities.

A number of advances - a Pathfinder force, GEE, OBOE, etc - started to come in from 1942 onwards that improved accuracy but these advances were in their infancy and there was no guarantee that all bombers would find their target. On the other hand, precision targets could be found be picked crews - that was where the Pathfinders came in. So by late '42 there would be little doubt that a specialist bomber could find a big target like Berlin, the worry would be that the specific bomber with your precious atomic bomb - presumably one of only a few made - would be shot down trying to reach as far a Berlin. One answer to this would be a much earlier use of Window (chaff) to counteract the radar controlled German night defences. This was not actually used until July 43 (for Hamburg) but it was available long before that, just not used for worry the German’s would use it in bombing Britain. I’m sure this argument would not have prevailed against its use in the first atom bomb raid.

As to the aircraft, a late 42 Lancaster could have been converted to carry a bomb - as the Dam Buster Lancs were converted to carry the bouncing bombs in 1943. The problem was not the weight but the shape of the bomb bay. Regarding getting home, the chances might not have been high but it was not a straight suicide mission so their would have been no shortage of volunteers. (During the Cold War the B52 and Vulcan crews targeting the Soviet Union knew their chances of getting home were slim at best - even if there was a home left to get to.)

Oh, fine! Just pull stuff out of your Butt! :stuck_out_tongue: (Admit it: You know it was coming.)

One of my first books as a child was the Ballantine’s Illustrated History of the Violent Century one on the Lancaster bomber, which is where I learned of Window. I also had a comic book that had a story in it about a pathfinder. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was a Very Important Mission that Must Not Fail. A Mossie pilot’s plane was shot up and he wouldn’t make it home. So he gets on the radio and tells the bombers there’s been a change in plans: Don’t look for the green flares; look for the red one. He was quite emphatic about the change from green to red. Then he dove and crashed onto the target, which the bombers successfully hit. I can’t think of Pathfinders or Window without thinking of the book and comic book.

I thought about mentioning that, but decided to be brief. In addition to the Dam Buster modification, the bomb bays were also modified to carry the Tall Boy and Grand Slam bombs.

Yes, and where necessary the mid-upper and even nose turrets were sometimes deleted to save weight.

Sadly, fun though it would have been to stick the A-bomb in a Mosquito, Little Boy was about twice as heavy as a Mossie could ship, and I don’t see any way round that.