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!

Looking for more?

My book, Nuclear War in the UK (Four Corners Books, 2019) is packed with images of British public information campaigns, restricted documents, propaganda and protest spanning the length of the Cold War.

It also tells the story of how successive UK governments tried to explain the threat of nuclear attack to the public. It costs just £10 – find out more here.

Don’t forget you can also follow me on Twitter@coldwaruk – to get extra bits and pieces, as well as being the first to know when I post something new here on the blog.

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.)

The French and US militaries also set up their own military liaison missions, known as La Mission Militaire Française de Liaison – MMFL (or FMLM in English) – and USMLM. However, BRIXMIS was bigger than both, and the exploits of BRIXMIS and SOXMIS played out as one of the more curious stories of Cold War diplomacy.

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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.

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Welcome

Hello! I’m Taras and I research and collect Cold War documents.

This is my blog, which loosely focuses on British civil defence and ‘domestic propaganda’ from around 1950-1990.

Why?

As a teenager snooping around my grandparents’ attic, I found a dusty copy of an early 1950s Civil Defence booklet called ‘Atomic Warfare’. This piqued my interest, and led – a few years later – to my first purchase: a copy of the infamous ‘Protect and Survive’ booklet.

Later still, as a postgraduate studying communication and public affairs, I based my Master’s dissertation on the items in my burgeoning collection of public information documents. Like this blog, it was titled ‘Communicating the Unthinkable’, and it looked at how the British government chose to communicate large-scale threats to the public.

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