4 Rivett to White

Letter MELBOURNE, 5 January 1944


I had a letter from Oliphant the other day which shewed that the tube alloys [1] work was going ahead with amazing vigour in U.S.A. I won't put details into this note, but evidently the possibilities are being taken increasingly seriously.

Oliphant all through has been very keen that Australia should play a part in this work. I discussed the whole matter with Tizard [2] in some detail, but he was inclined to the view that Oliphant was exaggerating things a little and suggested that we hasten slowly.

Since his return, I have heard nothing further from him, but I am expecting a message soon.

Oliphant hinted some time ago that he would like an Australian or two to be associated with the work, and I have just received the following most secret personal telegram from him. It runs:-

'Would you release Burhop [3] for the duration to take part in urgent semi-theoretical work on tube alloys problems with Massey and Condon in Berkeley. [4] On account of his past experience Burhop could advance materially the use of the new weapon. Recent release of Cockcroft [5] and Massey for this work is indication of its impor tance. If you are favourably inclined can arrange for official request from Appleton [6] and the Lord Chancellor [8] who can confirm this problem.'

I have, of course, not spoken to Burhop about this, nor shall I until I hear from you. It seems to me a good opportunity to get one of our fellows into a line of work, and amongst a group of people, which will give him wonderful opportunities for activity; but is Burhop, the right man, and what will happen to the valve laboratory here?

Martin' may regard this as an added argument for his coming down here to take charge, but I feel very certain that you must have somebody to relieve you of laboratory control to some extent in order that you may be able to get out more amongst the Service people. There seems to be no one but Martin for that job.

Altogether the matter is just a little difficult and provides another reason for my disappointment at being unable to get up to Sydney tonight for oral discussion with you.