Ambiguity and Deterrence: British Nuclear Strategy, 1945-1964

By John Baylis | Go to book overview

6
Thermonuclea Thermonuclear Weapons and British
Strategy 1954-1955

What ought we to do? Which way shall we turn to save our
lives and the future of the world? It does not matter so
much to old people; they are going soon anyway, but I
find it poignant to look at youth in all its activity and
ardour and, most of all, to watch little children playing
their merry games, and wonder what would lie before
them if God wearied of mankind
(Winston Churchill, 1 Mar. 1955)

DURING Churchill's last year in office the decision was made to produce thermonuclear weapons and further attempts were made to put more emphasis on nuclear weapons in British and alliance strategy. In many ways this reflected the Prime Minister's well-known belief in the utility of nuclear weapons as a deterrent to war. What is less understood is the questioning which increasingly occurred in Churchill's mind about the dangers of atomic and thermonuclear weapons for the future of mankind. His doctor, Lord Moran, gives details in his diaries about the Prime Minister's black moods and his deep anxiety about the possibility of war with the Russians. Shortly before his speech to the House of Commons quoted above, Moran reports, the Prime Minister's mind was 'full of foreboding, his mood dark and sombre'.1 He believed that the entire foundation of human affairs had been revolutionized by the hydrogen bomb. The following extract from the Moran diaries reveals his state of anxiety at this time:

This nagging pain is always in his head, robbing him of all peace of mind. I come upon him brooding so that he does not seem to know I am there . . .

____________________
1
Lord Moran, Churchill: Taken from Diaries of Lord Moran: The Struggle for Survival 1940-1965 ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1966), 673.

-178-

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