Kenneth Hubbard on 15 May 1957, was the pilot of the Valiant jet bomber that dropped Britain’s first H-bomb off Malden Island in the South Pacific during the Christmas Island test series, code-named “Operation Grapple”.
Hubbard’s task, with his crew, was to drop an H-bomb from the plane, flying at Mach 0.76, height 45,000ft. The bomb, code-named “Short Granite”, exploded at 8,000ft at a precise point 1.5 miles off Malden Island. A time delay and predetermined flight plan took the Valiant 9.15 nautical miles away from the site of the bomb burst. The explosion output was somewhat less than the designed capability.
Contingency plans were put in place should the bomb-release mechanism fail, as the aircraft would not be able to return to the main base at Christmas Island because of the risk to 3,000 personnel.
Below are the co-pilots of the 4 Valiant bombers which flew to Christmas Island, with Flying Officer Robert L Beeson wearing an A.F.0210. watch strap.
The IWM caption reads :
Four Valiant bombers of No 49 Squadron (Wing Commander K G Hubbard OBE DFC) Royal Air Force Bomber Command, based at RAF Wittering, Northants, left in March (1957) for Christmas Island in the Pacific to take part in Britain’s nuclear tests later in the year. The Valiants have been treated with anti-thermal radiation (anti-flash) paint and the cockpit windows have been fitted with shields to protect the crews from glare. The co-pilots of the four valiants (left to right): Flight Lieutenant D W Briggs, DFC (of Lealholme, Whitby, Yorkshire); Flying Officer Michael A Pringl (of Irthlingborough, Northants); Flight Lieutenant R Howard (of Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire) and Flying Officer Robert L Beeson (of Porbrook, near Portsmouth)