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 · Administration · Advertisement · Analysis · Booklet · Central Government · Central Office of Information · Civil Defence · Civil Defence Corps · Document · Emergency planning · Home Office · International · Leaflet · Local Government · Media · Medical · Military · Ministry of Defence · Postcards · Protest · Public Information · Training and Tools

Recent posts

Displaying posts tagged 'Booklet'

Wrekin and the Bomb

Wrekin and the Bomb booklet cover

The beginning of the 1980s saw the UK government pursue civil defence with a renewed vigour. Local authorities, who were legally responsible for implementing civil defence preparations, were put under increasing pressure to demonstrate that they were prepared for nuclear attack.

Not all were happy to comply, however, and many left-leaning councils chose to fulfil their public information duties by publishing booklets critical of civil defence.

Wrekin and the Bomb, subtitled A look at Civil Defence, was published in the early 1980s by Wrekin Council, setting out their case against nuclear weapons and civil defence. Pictured on the cover is The Wrekin itself, the hill which gives this area of rural Shropshire its name, with a nuclear blast close behind.

The council’s reference to its “legal and moral obligation” refers to the regulations imposed on them from above, which gave central government the power to force councils to make preparations for attack.

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Domestic Nuclear Shelters

Domestic Nuclear Shelters cover

Domestic Nuclear Shelters was the UK government’s attempt to bring nuclear bunkers to the masses. Whether you wanted a deluxe, professionally-installed bunker, or would make do with a hole in the ground with a couple of doors for a roof, this guide had you covered (in more ways than one).

Domestic Nuclear Shelters cover

It was published in 1981, and – as you may have spotted from the ‘nuclear family’ symbol on the cover – was part of the same public information campaign as the ill-fated Protect and Survive.

There were two publications under this name – Domestic Nuclear Shelters, a thin A5 pamphlet, and Domestic Nuclear Shelters: Technical Guidance, a beefier A4 book. The former was intended as the most basic introduction to bunker-building for ordinary householders, while the bigger tome was aimed at tradesmen and engineers (and maybe the more dedicated/paranoid amateur).

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Protect and Survive – Creating the Campaign

This first blog post is on one of my pet topics, the myth and reality surrounding the Protect and Survive public information campaign. I’d welcome any feedback, especially if you spot any inaccuracies or omissions – drop me a line on Twitter.


“The average person, if given the choice of being blasted or frizzled on the one hand, or taking his chance of dying a lingering death from fallout on the other, would opt for the latter course every time…” – Home Office memo, 3rd September 1975


Protect and Survive is best known today as a 1980s pamphlet offering advice – bad advice – on protecting your family and property if nuclear weapons were ever used against the UK. Met with ridicule by a sceptical media, and derided in popular culture, Protect and Survive has been become lodged in the popular imagination as an unusual, unsettling and ultimately ineffectual campaign.

Influenced by the media, and reinforced by every retelling, a myth developed around Protect and Survive which has created a distorted, parallel version of the campaign. It has even led to false memories – people who claim they were frightened out of their wits by the pamphlet’s arrival in their letterbox, even though it was never actually distributed like that; people terrified by the broadcast of the animated films on TV (of which only extracts were ever shown). Of course, the myth built up around Protect and Survive is often quite far removed from the reality.

Despite looming large in early 1980s popular culture, very little has been done to actually examine or deconstruct Protect and Survive. In this series of blog posts, I’m going back to the origins of the campaign to present a better idea of where it came from, how it was developed, why it ‘went nuclear’, and why we remember it the way we do.

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