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 · 1970s · 1980s · Administration · Advertisement · Analysis · Booklet · Central Government · Central Office of Information · Civil Defence · Document · Emergency planning · Home Office · International · Leaflet · Local Government · Media · Military · Ministry of Defence · Postcards · Protest · Public Information · Training and Tools

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Displaying posts tagged 'Document'

Protest by Post – the Cold War activism of Leeds Postcards

Leeds Postcards logo

Leeds Postcards was founded in 1979, with the intention of using postcards “as a political tool and agent for change”. They quickly became well-known, producing some iconic work with activist groups such as the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW) and CND branches across the country, and artists including Peter Kennard and Steve Bell. They are still publishing postcards today.

Throughout the 1980s, Leeds Postcards published a number of cards satirising the threat of nuclear war, and celebrating the movement against the bomb, which I’m sharing here (with their permission). I’ve quoted the text from the back of the postcards for some context, as well as the artist and date, where known.

Greetings from Nuclear Free Leeds, unknown artist, 1981

Postcard: Greetings from Nuclear Free Leeds

On 30 July 1980 Leeds City Council adopted a resolution from Councillor Michael McGowan which expressed grave concern at the build up of nuclear weapons and agreed to contact other cities about action against the nuclear threat.

On 24 June 1981 Leeds became a Nuclear Free Zone. the City Council promotes peace education and peace exhibitions, and published Leeds and the Bomb to inform the public of the effects of a nuclear strike on Leeds.

Leeds Postcards had a national (or international) outlook; their name came from the fact that they were based in Leeds. This postcard is one of the few that is actually about Leeds.

One of the growing number of ‘Nuclear Free’ local authorities at this time, Leeds City Council was particularly active in publishing booklets and pamphlets such as Leeds and the Bomb, Leeds and Bradford Under a Cloud and Hazards of Nuclear Transport. I’ll cover these in future blog posts.

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Next time, it won’t be so easy to hide

Image of people sheltering during the Blitz, captioned: Next time, it won't be so easy to hide

This ad for nuclear bunkers, which appeared in 1981, pits the popular notion of the Blitz spirit against the grim reality of nuclear attack. In doing so, it makes the earlier bombing of London seem something of a light-hearted game of hide-and-seek.

Ramping up the reader’s fear further, it describes – rather vaguely – the failings of the British civil defence programme, versus the large-scale preparations rumoured in Russia and China. Civil bunker-building efforts in neutral Sweden and Switzerland get a look-in, too, as the pitch questions whether the reader values their personal safety enough to buy a bunker.

The ad was placed by Luwa, a Swiss manufacturer of bunkers and associated ventilation systems. It plays heavily on the company’s expertise, its investment in research and development, and its close association with the Swiss government.

Apart from helping wealthy and paranoid homeowners construct their own shelters, Luwa components could also found in a few local authority bunkers in the UK (such as this one at Godalming) – and were more recently discovered in bunkers built for Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi.

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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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