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My friend David Dearle has kindly provided these photographs of the open-air Astra cinema on the Christmas Island base for the British Nuclear test programme in the late-1950s and early-1960s. The base was staffed by Army, RAF, Navy and Atomic Weapons Research Establishment personnel and code-named Task Force Grapple.
During his National Service, David was a driver attached to the Royal Air Force Motor Transport section. He arrived on Christmas Island in November 1958 and departed back to the UK, for demob, in November 1959. There were no nuclear bombs detonated during that period as testing was suspended.
David says his vivid memory of the Astra Cinema was the showing of Tom & Jerry cartoons to support the main film. When the name of the producer, Fred Quimby, came up on the screen there was a universal chorus of “Good old Fred!”. I am grateful to him for sharing these images (taken from photocopies of photographs).
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