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

Recent posts

We wish you a Christmas

The Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW) was formed in 1980 as an organisation for medical professionals concerned by nuclear weapons. This Christmas card is at once gloomy (wishing you, as it does, ‘A Christmas’) and optimistic, portraying healthcare workers cutting the fuses on both sides of bombs on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

The card was designed by Professor Christopher Cornford, a highly-accomplished artist, writer and active CND member who designed posters and drew for the peace movement.

MCANW merged with the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) in 1992 to form Medical Action for Global Security, or Medact. Today, they focus on health, peace and security, economic justice, the climate and human rights. Medact’s (and MCANW’s) archives are looked after by the Wellcome Collection in London.

Merry Christmas everyone!

SOXMIS and BRIXMIS – ‘legal spying’ on the front lines of the Cold War

Shortly after the Second World War, with the partition of Germany into four Allied zones, the four former allies – Britain, the US, France and the USSR – set up ‘military liaison missions’. These diplomatic organisations were designed to encourage dialogue and understanding between the powers now operating within Germany. In reality, they ended up providing the perfect opportunity to carry out intelligence-gathering missions in plain sight.

The British and Soviet missions, BRIXMIS and SOXMIS, were the first to be established with the Robertson-Malinin Agreement on 16th September 1946. (Officially, BRIXMIS was the British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany, but that’s a bit more of a mouthful.)

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Airdropped leaflet from the Grapple nuclear tests

This is a leaflet produced by the British government in 1957 and intended to be airdropped over the Pacific Ocean. Unlike most airdropped leaflets, this one isn’t propaganda – it’s a very real warning to get out of the area, or risk being nuked.

Operation Grapple was a series of nuclear weapons tests carried out by the UK in the Pacific from 1957 to 1958. The first tests, Grapple 1, 2 and 3, featured Britain’s first ever thermonuclear weapons – what most of us know as hydrogen bombs. Up to this point, Britain had had fission (‘atomic’) bombs, but H-bomb tests by the U.S. and Russia in 1952/53 meant the UK had to be seen to be up-to-speed. Britain had to test its own H-bomb or risk losing its place on the world stage.

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