The psychological impact of nuclear attack

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.

Scrapped fallout shelter scene from Protect and Survive

Even public information films have deleted scenes.

Following on from my last post about the Domestic Nuclear Shelters pamphlet, it’s interesting to note that there was a scene planned for the Protect and Survive films about making an outdoor fallout shelter. However, the scene was scrapped at the storyboard stage.

The unfilmed segment would have shown the construction of a makeshift nuclear bunker for your family. It was set to appear after the door-frame ‘inner core’ instructions in the Refuges episode.

Continue reading this article…Scrapped fallout shelter scene from Protect and Survive

Domestic Nuclear Shelters

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).

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).

Continue reading this article…Domestic Nuclear Shelters

A Nuclear Free Europe?

The line between public information and propaganda can be quite thin, but this little leaflet is pretty solidly in the latter camp.

Published in 1982 by the Ministry of Defence’s Public Relations division, ‘A Nuclear Free Europe?’ set out their view that the call for a Europe free from nuclear weapons was unrealistic.

The cover shows an unidentified cold, grey mountain range – a hint at the reason ‘why it wouldn’t work’ – the subtitle of the leaflet.

The design of the leaflet itself, which opens up from the centre, has quite an impact. It would be reasonable to expect, on opening the cover, to find several detailed arguments inside.

Instead, you’re presented with just one point.

The Ural mountain range, which forms a north-south belt across Russia, traditionally marks the eastern boundary of Europe. Even if the USSR had moved its nuclear weapons to a position technically outside of Europe, most of Europe – including Britain – would still be within range of nuclear attack.

Continue reading this article…A Nuclear Free Europe?

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.

Continue reading this article…Protect and Survive – Creating the Campaign