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Front panel of an AWDREY display unit, showing the twin digital displays and the hardcopy printout

Atomic Weapons Detection Recognition and Estimation of Yield known by the acronym AWDREY was a desk mounted automatic detection instrument, located at most, but not all, of the twenty five Royal Observer Corps (ROC) controls, across the United Kingdom, during the Cold War . The instruments would have detected any nuclear explosions and indicated the estimated size in megatons.

With the display unit mounted in a three foot high steel cabinet the system operated by measuring the level of Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by any nuclear explosion. The instruments were in operation 24/7/365 between 1955 and 1992 and tested daily by wholetime ROC officers.

AWDREY regularly reacted to the EMP from lightning strikes during thunderstorms. [1] Additional AWDREY instruments were also installed at most of the Regional Government Heaquarters (RGHQs) and at UKRAOC at RAF High Wycombe

Contents

Operations

AWDREY was designed, built and maintained by the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and tested for performance and accuracy on real nuclear explosions at the 1957 Kiritimati (or Christmas Island) nuclear bomb test (after being mounted onboard a ship). Although a single AWDREY unit could not differentiate between the EMP from a nuclear explosion and a lightning strike, the units were installed sufficiently far apart that a lightning strike would not simultaneously register on two adjacent AWDREYs

The first two primary responsibilities of the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO), for whom the ROC provided the field force were:

  • Warning the public of any air attack. (see Four-minute warning )
  • Providing confirmation of nuclear strike on the UK.

AWDREY was the principal method by which the UKWMO would achieve its second responsibility. Simultaneous responses on two or more AWDREY units would identify the explosion as a nuclear strike.

ROC post bomb detection instruments (see Bomb Power Indicator ) operated by recording the pressure of the blast wave from any nearby nuclear explosion. Any ultra-high-altitude nuclear explosion, designed to knock out the UK's communications and electronic equipment would not produce a detectable blast wave and the AWDREY system was therefore the only method of identifying these bursts.

Installation

The AWDREY installation consisted of three separate elements, the sensor, the detection unit and the display cabinet. The sensor was mounted on the roof of the building under a polycarbonate protective cover. The detection unit was installed in a special room that was enclosed inside a Faraday cage, in the case of the Royal Observer Corps controls this was the "Radio Room" that already protected the sensitive radio equipment from the effects of EMP.

The display unit (shown in the photograph above) could be mounted anywhere in the building – at ROC controls this was usually on the balcony adjacent to the Triangulation Team. The three elements of the installation were connected by EMP shielded and heavy duty cabling.

During the early phase of operations a spare observer was required to stand next to the display unit and monitor it constantly to identify initial responses. Once a nuclear strike on the UK had been confirmed by the Director UKWMO (or his deputy), readings from AWDREY were ignored during subsequent nuclear bursts within the attack and the readings from ROC posts became the main method of detecting and identifying any subsequent near ground bursts.

Codeword

Royal Observer Corps reports following a reading on AWDREY were prefixed with the codeword "TOCSIN BANG". The message would also include the three letter group identifier, followed by the time and yield reading from the AWDREY printout. Eg "TOCSIN BANG – CAR – 11.06 (hours) – 3 megatons" (with CAR relating to Carlisle control).

References

See also

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Atomic Weapons Detection Recognition and Estimation of Yield known by the acronym AWDREY was a desk-mounted automatic detection instrument, located at most, but not all, of the 25 Royal Observer Corps (ROC) controls, across the United Kingdom, during the Cold War. The instruments would have detected any nuclear explosions and indicated the estimated size in megatons.

With the display unit mounted in a 3-foot -high (0.91 m) steel cabinet, the system operated by measuring the level of Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by any nuclear explosion. The instruments were in operation 24/7/365 between 1955 and 1992 and tested daily by wholetime ROC officers.

AWDREY regularly reacted to the EMP from lightning strikes during thunderstorms. [1] Additional AWDREY instruments were also installed at most of the Regional Government Heaquarters (RGHQs) and at UKRAOC at RAF High Wycombe

Contents

Operations

AWDREY was designed, built and maintained by the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and tested for performance and accuracy on real nuclear explosions at the 1957 Kiritimati (or Christmas Island) nuclear bomb test (after being mounted on board a ship). Although a single AWDREY unit could not differentiate between the EMP from a nuclear explosion and a lightning strike, the units were installed sufficiently far apart that a lightning strike would not simultaneously register on two adjacent AWDREYs.

The first two primary responsibilities of the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO), for whom the ROC provided the field force were:

  • Warning the public of any air attack. (see Four-minute warning )
  • Providing confirmation of nuclear strike on the UK.

AWDREY was the principal method by which the UKWMO would achieve its second responsibility. Simultaneous responses on two or more AWDREY units would identify the explosion as a nuclear strike.

ROC post bomb detection instruments (see Bomb Power Indicator ) operated by recording the pressure of the blast wave from any nearby nuclear explosion. Any ultra-high-altitude nuclear explosion, designed to knock out the UK's communications and electronic equipment would not produce a detectable blast wave, and the AWDREY system was therefore the only method of identifying these bursts.

Installation

The AWDREY installation consisted of three separate elements: the sensor, the detection unit and the display cabinet. The sensor was mounted on the roof of the building under a polycarbonate protective cover. The detection unit was installed in a special room that was enclosed inside a Faraday cage; in the case of the Royal Observer Corps controls, this was the "Radio Room" that already protected the sensitive radio equipment from the effects of EMP.

The display unit (shown in the photograph above) could be mounted anywhere in the building – at ROC controls this was usually on the balcony adjacent to the Triangulation Team. The three elements of the installation were connected by EMP-shielded and heavy duty cabling.

During the early phase of operations, a spare observer was required to stand next to the display unit and monitor it constantly to identify initial responses. Once a nuclear strike on the UK had been confirmed by the Director UKWMO (or his deputy), readings from AWDREY were ignored during subsequent nuclear bursts within the attack, and the readings from ROC posts became the main method of detecting and identifying any subsequent near ground bursts.

Codeword

Royal Observer Corps reports following a reading on AWDREY were prefixed with the codeword "TOCSIN BANG". The message would also include the three letter group identifier, followed by the time and yield reading from the AWDREY printout. Eg "TOCSIN BANG – CAR – 11.06 (hours) – 3 megatons" (with CAR relating to Carlisle control).

References

See also


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