- Title: OPERATION TOTEM [Main Title]
- Film Number: AWE 24
- Other titles: BRITAIN'S ATOMIC WEAPONS RESEARCH PROGRAMME COLLECTION [Allocated Series Title]
- Summary: Film produced by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Aldermaston, documenting Operation Totem, a series of atomic weapons trials conducted in Australia in 1953.
- Description: Reel one: August 1953. Parliament lifts security on Operation Totem. Scientists and technicians head to Australia, arriving in Sydney, and then travelling on to Woomera. Final security checks. Transportation of supplies. Convoys taking supplies to the men in the desert. Australian troops hard at work making site habitable. The Task Force meets the scientists working on the project. Living accommodation. Construction of camera towers. Laying cables. Mustangs lined up to test blast effects, plus mock up of funnel of a destroyer. Testing of equipment designed to measure the effect of blast on items such as tanks. Mock ups of air raid shelters. Duncan Sandys, Secretary of State for Ministry of Supply, visits the site. Reel two: Aldermaston scientist William Penney arrives. Penney is responsible for the selection of the firing date, and monitors the weather conditions closely. The original date selected in England is aborted due to poor weather conditions, and it is a number of days before Penney is satisfied that the weather is appropriate due to dust storms. Problems with vehicle maintenance are experienced due to the dust. Meteorological experts measure the weather daily in pursuit of an accurate forecast. Eventually a new firing date is chosen. A Canberra from Woomera is scheduled to fly through the radioactive cloud shortly after detonation. Sunrise on D-Day. Film loaded into high speed cine camera. The last members of the weapons team leaves the firing area and returns to the control tower. Countdown to detonation. The weapon is fired. Penney watches the detonation from a distance, and sends the codeword for a successful detonation to England. Reel three: Explosion. Slow motion shots of fireball and subsequent mushroom cloud. Manually operated cameras on the ground tracking the mushroom cloud. Views of explosion as recorded by remote controlled cameras. Observers watching the event. A Canberra flies through the cloud in order to collect samples. Preparations begin for those due to enter the detonation site, referred to as the "dirty area". Protective clothing is issued and respirators fitted. The active area is four miles away from the main camp. Scenes of devastation at the detonation site. A Centurion tank in the detonation area has suffered little damage and is successfully driven away. Prints of the explosion are developed and sent to England for examination. Reel four: Colour shots from different angles of explosion. Preparations for second detonation. Various views of explosion. Dissipation of cloud. Fallout approaching camera tower. Removal of high speed cameras from camera tower. As the cameras were wrapped in polythene bags it is hoped that only minimal cleaning will be required before the cameras are returned to England. Further colour shots of the fireball, the colour affected by the impact of the explosion. The trial ends and the scientists from Aldermaston depart for England.
- Access Conditions: IWM Attribution: © IWM
- Featured Period:
- Production Date: 1953-08
- Production Country: GB
- Production Details: Atomic Weapons Research Establishment Film Unit (Production company)
- Personalities, Units and Organisations:
- Physical Characteristics: Colour format: B&W Sound format: Colour Soundtrack language: Sound
- Technical Details: Format: 35mm Number of items/reels/tapes: 4 Footage: 3481ft; Running time: 39 minutes
- Link to IWM Collections page:
Related IWM Collections Objects:
AWE 23 (OPERATION TOTEM (Short version) [Main Title])