As we mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, who inspired the allied victory against Nazi fascism, one interesting aspect of his attitude to weapons of war is very interesting, and relevant for the contemporary debate over nuclear weapons.
As wartime leader, Churchill sanctioned and supported the departure of many senior nuclear scientists to the US to work on the secret Manhattan atomic bomb project, initially developed in case the German Nazi regime built their own nuclear WMDs, which , considering Hitler's lack of regard for the sanctity of human life in his murder of millions incarcerated to extermination camps, he may well have used.
But as the second World War drew to a painful close in the middle of 2 1945, it became apparent the US-led atomic bomb project was being continued not to confront Nazi Germany, but Soviet Russia.
In his 2013 magisterial 500 plus page study, Churchill's Bomb: a hidden history of Britain's first nuclear weapons programme, Professor Graham Farmelo records ( at page 407) in December 1953 Churchill had a difference of view on the unique destructive power of nuclear weapons with US resident Eisenhower. the latter saw nuclear weapons developments as "just the latest improvement sin military weapons" but Churchill , after initially agreeing, changed his mind, insisting "the atomic weapon is something entirely new and terrible," just a year or so after Britain carried out its first atomic warhead test in Australia.
In his statement on the first UK atomic bomb test in Australia, Churchill, back in office as Prime Minister, told Parliament of his discovery of the secret nuclear weapons programme the post war Attlee Government had pursued, saying:
“As to the cost, I was astonished that well over 100 million pounds should be dibursed without Parliament being aware of it (Official Report, 23 October 1952 column 1271)
Our 21st century politicians should learn from some of Churchill's wise skepticism over nuclear weapons.