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.

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@coldwaruk

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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 · International · Leaflet · Local Government · Media · Medical · Military · Ministry of Defence · Postcards · Protest · Public Information · Training and Tools

Recent posts

Displaying posts tagged '1980s'

Probable phases leading into war (1970s)

This unusual diagram shows the shape that Wiltshire County Council believed the descent into nuclear war would take. Officials prepared the confidential document in the late 1970s to help train ‘community advisers’ – volunteers ready to help in time of crisis leading to a potential nuclear attack.

Probable phases leading into war

The chart is a reminder how quickly things could have escalated from ‘the ups and downs of everyday life’, through a bad international situation, concern among the public and in parliament, the breakdown of order as the public started to panic, and finally the attack itself.

War books

Wiltshire War Emergency Guide Book

It comes right at the end of Wiltshire County Council’s ‘War Emergency Guide Book’. Mostly compiled between 1966 and 1979, this was a chunky folder which contained action plans for the county before, during and after nuclear attack. Covering everything from feeding the homeless and ‘re-establishment of an orderly society’, to disposal of the dead and summary justice, it would have been distributed to a strictly limited audience of council officials, emergency planners, civil defence volunteers and emergency services.

By the early 1980s, such ‘war books’ were a created by local authorities under obligation from central government. While many left-wing councils saw it as an opportunity to protest what they saw as pointless and harmful civil defence measures, some right-leaning councils took on the task with considerable zeal. Wiltshire County Council fell squarely into the latter category.

The psychological impact of nuclear attack

An upset woman with a stylised approaching nuclear weapon

We often consider the physical impacts of nuclear attack – widespread destruction, dangerous fallout, nuclear winter – but what about the psychological impact? In my latest article for the Wellcome Collection, I look into how the bomb would affect people’s minds.

You might predict – correctly – that, for the majority of people, it would be a very negative experience. However, there was one group who 1980s Home Office researchers suggested might actually excel in the post-attack society. To find out who, read the article now over on the Wellcome Collection site.

Next on CITV… the Four-Minute Warning?

Pop quiz: What connects beloved children’s shows Woof!, Bernard’s Watch and Tarka the Otter with nuclear war?

Woof!

Well, it turns out that these classic pieces of kids’ entertainment share a director with The Hole in the Ground, a 1962 film created for the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO).

Commissioned to showcase UKWMO’s quick response to a nuclear strike on Britain – indeed, they were the organisation tasked with issuing the Four-Minute Warning. The film was directed by David Cobham, who went on to create many happier memories through his work on cherished children’s films and TV shows through the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

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