He was also charged with understanding the status of the German atomic bomb programme through the military intelligence services and their spy network, including interviewing the physicist Niels Bohr after he fled occupied Denmark. Having identified and understood the significance of the Nazi heavy water plant in Norway, he ensured that efforts were made to disrupt it. He accompanied the Allied invasion force as it entered occupied Europe to confirm the actual level of understanding of German atomic research. He identified Werner Heisenberg and his team of nuclear scientists for investigation and made sure they were brought to Britain where he could interview them and have them secretly recorded.
He was also tasked with documenting the story of Britain's role in developing the atomic bomb to counterbalance the published American account, which was thought at the time to have not properly acknowledged the British work.
After the war, a government department was created under Lord Portal with Perrin as his hands-on deputy. They ran three groups:
However, Perrin reported one of his most difficult experiences as being the person to whom Klaus Fuchs confessed his spying while in Cockcroft's group, in 1950. It was Perrin who was asked to manage the damage caused by that discovery.
Perrin was also becoming frustrated that the civilian energy organisation was held back as a government department, and he left the Ministry for a post in private enterprise in 1951. (It was not run as a commercial enterprise until the run up to privatisation of the AEA Technology group, after his death in 1996.)
He received the OBE and CBE for his atomic work. In 1967 he was knighted for his Wellcome work, as well as his other work and directorships of professional institutions, hospitals, museums, and the Roedean School.
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