Panton Frank

Publié le par Roger Cousin

Panton Frank Francis Harry "Frank" Panton (25 May 1923 – 8 April 2013) was a British military scientist, bomb disposal expert and amateur archaeologist who played a key role in the development of the Chevaline nuclear weapons system during the Cold War. He served as the Assistant Chief Nuclear Science Advisor (ACSAN) to the British government, and was also heavily involved in military intelligence work. Later, as the chairman of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, he oversaw the discovery and preservation of numerous important archaeological artefacts in Kent. Panton was born in Lincoln and educated at the Lincoln City School. During the Second World War, he joined the Royal Engineers, serving as a reconnaissance officer in the No. 1 Bomb Disposal Company. In 1948, he was appointed MBE in recognition of his mine clearance and bomb disposal work.

After being demobilized, he went to study chemistry at the University of Nottingham. He became the vice-president of the National Union of Students, and visited the Soviet Union as a guest of state. In the early 1950s, Panton was recruited by British military intelligence and was posted to Berlin, where he attempted to uncover Soviet nuclear secrets. From 1958 to 1959, he worked as an intelligence liaison at the British embassy in Washington DC. He also served as a technical advisor at nuclear disarmament talks in Geneva, before returning to Washington in 1963 as the British defence attaché. In 1967, Panton left Washington to become the Assistant Chief Nuclear Science Advisor (ACSAN) at the Ministry of Defence.

In 1969, as ACSAN, Panton oversaw the commencement of the Chevaline project – an effort to increase the ability of British Polaris nuclear missiles to penetrate Soviet missile defences. A key feature of Chevaline was its use of multiple decoy warheads to overwhelm enemy missile-tracking radars, thus guaranteeing that some warheads would reach their targets. Panton was instrumental in obtaining political and financial support for the project. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Panton was in charge of several advanced military research and development organisations, including the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE) at Fort Halstead, Sevenoaks. Among his projects during this period was the upgrading of the Wheelbarrow bomb disposal robot for use by British soldiers in Northern Ireland.  Panton retired from the Ministry of Defence in 1984, but remained a prominent technical consultant to the British government until 1999.

Panton moved to Kent in the 1980s, and became the chairman of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Before his retirement from the Trust in 2000, he oversaw the discovery and preservation of several important artefacts, including a Bronze Age boat which was unearthed in Dover in 1992, and the remnants of an Anglo-Saxon church which were found beneath Canterbury Cathedral in 1994. He also contributed prolifically to the journal of the Kent Archaeological Society, Archaeologia Cantiana.

Publié dans Espions

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