Communicating the Unthinkable

About

This is a blog where I share documents + artefacts from the Cold War. It focuses on British civil defence and 'domestic propaganda' from 1950-1990, with other bits thrown in from time to time.

It's written and edited by me, Taras Young. I collect this stuff. I try to post something new as often as I can, at least once a month.

To stay up-to-date, follow the blog on Twitter:

@coldwaruk

More info

Categories

1950s · 1960s · 1970s · 1980s · 1990s · Administration · Advertisement · Analysis · Booklet · Central Government · Central Office of Information · Civil Defence · Civil Defence Corps · Cultural responses · Document · Emergency planning · Exhibitions · Home Office · Infrastructure · International · Leaflet · Local Government · Media · Medical · Military · Ministry of Defence · Postcards · Protest · Public Information · Royal Observer Corps · Training and Tools

Recent posts

Introducing Nuclear War in the UK

Some exciting news! If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll already know that I have a book coming out this week. For a long time, I wondered whether anyone was going to create the book I wanted to see: a richly-illustrated, well-written history of British civil defence and our governments’ preparations for nuclear attack – equal parts interesting, horrifying and amusing. Eventually I realised that I was going to have to write it – and, several years of work later, here it finally is.

It’s called Nuclear War in the UK, and it’s a potted history of the booklets, pamphlets, leaflets, posters and other ephemera created by British governments in preparation for nuclear attack. It’s a lovely hardback book – the publishers, Four Corners Books, have a background in creating art books – and it costs just £10.

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Threads – 35 years on

Today marks 35 years since the broadcast of Threads, the BBC’s docu-drama portraying a nuclear attack on Sheffield. Still shocking today, the film is widely held to be among the more realistic depictions of the effects of nuclear war on British life.

Although it has only been shown three times on BBC TV (in 1984, 1985 and 2003), Threads has had an ongoing impact on the British psyche. Last year saw the release of a remastered Blu Ray of the film, so there is no excuse not to have seen this powerful work of nuclear horror.

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Building a nuclear bunker: Hogs Back ROC Post

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If you have even a passing interest in civil defence and preparations for nuclear attack on the UK, you’ll quickly come across ROC posts. These are small, three-person bunkers, built by the government and manned by members of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC).

Known as ‘observers’, the mission of these civilian volunteers was to go to their monitoring post when nuclear attack was imminent, and detect and report the direction and power of any bomb blasts. Readings from several posts could be taken together to triangulate the precise location where a nuclear weapon had hit.

At one time, these tiny bunkers were dotted in a grid pattern across the landscape of the UK: by 1968, more than 1,500 had been constructed. However, many have now been lost – ploughed back into the land by the farmers on whose land they were built. (Others, like those at Portadown and Skelmorlie, have been restored and you can visit them for yourself on open days.)

I was recently lucky enough to come across a series of photos taken of the construction of a long-lost ROC post, the one at Hogs Back, near Guildford in Surrey.

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