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ON THIS DAY

14 May 1955: Communist states sign Warsaw Pact. The Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies have signed a security pact in the Polish capital, Warsaw, after a three-day conference. Announcements in Warsaw and Moscow said the Soviet Prime Minister, Marshal Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bulganin, and leaders of seven other countries approved the draft of a new mutual aid agreement called the Warsaw Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance. It is designed, among other things, to ensure close integration of military, economic and cultural policy between eight Communist nations. Signatories to the treaty – the USSR, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania – have agreed to unify their forces under one command although at this stage it is not known who will take this post. Yugoslavia, the only European Communist state not included in the pact, was expelled in 1948 from Cominform, the Communist information agency for refusing to acknowledge Soviet supremacy. The treaty, signed at the Warsaw Palace, comes in the wake of news that West Germany has been accepted by western nations into Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) following talks earlier this month in Paris. (Source: BBC)

16 May 1943: Germans crush Jewish uprising. All resistance in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw has ended after 28 days of fighting. In his operational report, the local SS commander, Brigadier Juergen Stroop, said the uprising began on 19 April when SS, police and Wehrmacht units using tanks and other armoured vehicles entered the ghetto to take Jews to the railway station for transportation to concentration camps. They were repelled by Jews using homemade explosives, rifles, small arms and “in one case a light machine-gun”. He said his troops were involved in pitched battles day and night with groups of about 20 or 30 Jews – both men and women. “On April 23 Himmler issued his order to complete the combing out of the Warsaw ghetto with the greatest severity and relentless tenacity. I therefore decided to destroy the entire Jewish residential area by setting every block on fire.” The last battle ended with the destruction of the Great Synagogue today. (Source: BBC)

15 May 1957: Britain drops its first H-bomb. Britain has exploded its first hydrogen bomb as part of a series of tests in the Pacific, the Ministry of Supply has announced. Details of the bomb, described only as a “nuclear device”, are sketchy. The term “device” indicates that it was an experimental explosive rather than a fully developed weapon. It was almost certainly part of the thermo-nuclear weapons programme which was started in December 1954 to develop the megaton hydrogen bomb, which is as powerful as one million tons of TNT. The test was carried out at high altitude over the largely uninhabited Christmas Island to minimise nuclear fall-out. This is the most important range of tests carried out by Britain, developed with limited resources and in a remarkably short space of time. Scientists have taken two years to develop the tests compared with their American counterparts who took seven years before exploding their first device. The bomb was dropped by a four-engined jet, Valiant of No 49 Squadron RAF Bomber Command, normally based at RAF Wittering, Northants. The Minister of Supply, Aubrey Jones, was informed of the Pacific nuclear trials by Air Vice-Marshal WE Oulton, commander of the task force and WRJ Cook, scientific director of the program. Scientists are evaluating the results of the testing and will make a further statement in the next few days. (Source: BBC)

17 May 1943: RAF raid smashes German dams. An audacious RAF bombing raid into the industrial heartland of Germany last night has wrecked three dams serving the Ruhr valley. The attack disrupted water and electricity supplies in a key area for the manufacture of Germany’s war munitions. The Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, called the raid “a trenchant blow

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