This was a crucial step in a unified nuclear deterrent against the USSR.
In 1955 the U.S. Navy completed the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine. It was perfectly clear at that moment that any effort to build and maintain a modern Navy would require nuclear-powered ships. During subsequent exercises with the Royal Navy, Nautilus demonstrated the advantages of the nuclear submarine against British...
In 1955 the U.S. Navy completed the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine. It was perfectly clear at that moment that any effort to build and maintain a modern Navy would require nuclear-powered ships. During subsequent exercises with the Royal Navy, Nautilus demonstrated the advantages of the nuclear submarine against British anti-submarine forces, which were now outdated. The Admiralty appreciated the need for nuclear-powered vessels and planned to build all-British nuclear submarines.
Observers saw that much time would be saved if Britain could and would take advantage of U.S. nuclear technology. Admiral Hyman Rickover was in charge of the American naval nuclear power program, and his cooperation would be necessary for the British to have the opportunity to do so. However, he was set against any transfer of American nuclear technology, and indeed prevented Lord Mountbatten, in charge of the British effort, from inspecting the Nautilus in 1955.
However, in 1956, Rickover visited Britain and saw first hand that the British nuclear submarine program would not bear fruit for many years. He withdrew his objections, saying "England has been a real friend and ally of America for generations. We should help them." Officially, the aid was provided in accordance with the 1958 US/ UK Mutual Defense Agreement. The US gave to the British the entire machinery system for an American Skipjack-class submarine.
In June of 1959, the British began construction on the HMS Dreadnought, the first British nuclear submarine, and on Trafalgar Day 1960, Queen Elizabeth launched the vessel. The day was a fitting one: the pride of the British military has always been its Navy. Since the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the British have ruled the seas. No greater example is there than the defeat of the forces of Napoleon by Lord Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
After the launch of the vessel, the British Admiralty wanted to thank Admiral Rickover personally, since without his help the great event, and indeed the entire program, would have not have been possible. In doing so, they gave a gift that was fitting, showing the growth of the Royal Navy, and borrowing from its history.
Ink blotter, 1960, with a plaque declaring, "Original Oak and Copper from HMS Victory, flagship of Lord Nelson, laid down at Chatham in 1759. Presented on behalf of the Board of Admiralty to the Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN, by Admiral Sir Peter Red, KCE, CVO. Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy. 1960." On the other side, engraved in the copper is the USS Skipjack outside New York City, showing the precise type of technological transfer Rickover made possible.
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