Grapple Z - Squadron Orders. Why were they not followed?

In an extract of the Grapple Squadron Orders dated 30th July 1958, the general instructions were issued and make interesting reading. These orders when combined with the provision of radioactive equipment, prove that it was impossible to protect the servicemen with the provisions that were issued.

The general instructions state:

"It is not intended that ships should be exposed to the effects of the bursts, but precautions must be taken so that, in the event of any mishap, damage of casualties can be prevented"

Commanding Officers were also instructed to ensure that:

"The full outfit of Protective clothing and Respirators is to be on board. Respirators of all officers and men are to be inspected and tested"

On the subject of protective clothing:

"For the purposes of the operation the following types of protective clothing are to be used:-

(a) Anti-Flash Clothing. To be worn by all exposed personnel within 50 miles of Ground Zero witnessing a megaton explosion:-

No.8 Dress in good repair, with sleeves rolled down, shirt buttoned to the neck, and trousers tucked into socks.

Boots or shoes with socks.

Full anti-flash gear.

NOTE: Officers may wear overalls in lieu of No.8's. This dress is not required for personnel witnessing kiloton explosions.

(b) Light Protective Clothing. To be worn by monitoring parties, decontamination parties, machinery space watch-keepers and by any other personnel necessarily exposed to dry contamination:-

Underwear, or service overalls, and socks.

A.W.R.E gaberdine overall suit or hood.

Plastic gloves.


Rubber Boots.

(c) Wet Protective Clothing. To be worn by monitors and decontamination parties exposed to wet contamination:-

Underwear, or service overalls, and socks.

Plastic foul weather smock and hood

Either -

Foul weather trousers

Light oilskin

Or -

Anti-gas hood

Plastic gloves, or gloves A/G, or rubber gloves.

Rubber boots.


Precautions for Witnessing Bursts.

The document explains the precautions for the burst:

"(a) The possible hazards in witnessing an atomic or nuclear test from a distance result from the effect of flash and blast. By far the most serious hazard is to the eye of a witness who actually observes the initial flash. This flash can cause temporary or permanent injury to the eye out to the maximum range at which is can be directly observed. It is therefore essential that all personnel exposed at the moment of the burst should be facing away from Ground Zero.

(b) Depending on the weapon yield and the range of the observer there may be a risk of flash burn or blast. These risks are covered when necessary by the wearing of anti-flash clothing, and by securing ships for sea.

(c) H.M Ships. As many personnel as practicable should witness tests suitable precautions being taken to protect them from hazard. Precautions are necessary as follows:

(i) All witnesses must be facing away from Ground Zero with eyes closed from immediately before the burst until H+15 seconds.

(ii) For megaton tests, all exposed personnel within 50 miles of Ground Zero must be wearing protective clothing. The wearing of protective clothing is unnecessary outside 50 miles of megaton tests and for any float personnel witnessing kiloton tests.

(d) R.F.A.s who are within the Declared Danger Area. Due to the limited communications available in R.F.A.s, it is not practicable to permit any personnel to be exposed at the moment of burst. Arrangements are to be made for all personnel to be between decks, and away from scuttles which face towards Ground Zero. Immediately after burst i.e. at H+15 seconds, this restriction and personnel may view the after effects in absolute safety."

This disregard for safety at 15 seconds after the burst is again documented in the countdown procedure:

Service Personnel were ordered to stand 15 seconds after the initial blast and to face the blast, waiting for the blast wave to hit them!

In a document dated 26th July 1958, entitled "Operation Grapple Z - Provision of Protective Equipment and Radiac instruments to H.M Ships and R.F.A's" the issue of protective clothing is fully documented.

Other items such as dosimeters, batteries and instruction pamphlets are listed in detail to be issued:

"A.W.R.E Protective Suits - 40% of complement

A.W.R.E Plastic Gloves - 60% of complement

Surgical Gauze masks - 100% of complement

Boots, Rubber, Half-Wellington - 10% of complement"

If it was documented that the personnel on ships needed to wear protective clothing within a 50 mile radius, why did only 40% of the complement on the ship receive the suits?


These general instructions clearly defined the need for protective clothing for personnel within 50 miles of a megaton blast. Thousands of servicemen did not receive the protective clothing within this radius and were exposed. Ordering personnel to turn and face the heat blast and the after effects of the explosion after 15 seconds exposed them to any after effects and fallout from the explosion.

Water sampling to be undertaken to establish the contamination within the sea from the explosion exposed the ships to contamination which would stay on board in pumps, containers and within the infrastructure of the ship for months, risking inhalation at any time.

Whilst the servicemen did not look directly into the blast, they were exposed to fallout and radiation from the explosion. Who decided that it was safe to face the blast after only 15 seconds? Where is the evidence that this is safe?

How many servicemen were within 50 miles of ground zero? How many were wearing the required protection as detailed in the instructions? The MoD deny any records of the exact number of servicemen and their positions on the island exist.

How is it possible to protect the servicemen when only 40% of the ships complement were issued with protective suits?

Why were the R.F.A's told that it was safe after 15 seconds after the explosion when they were never issued with any protective clothing!

What damage did the blast wave do to personnel and what were they exposed to from the fallout? From these instructions, it seems as you are perfectly safe after 15 seconds of a Nuclear explosion!

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