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UK Cold War Era Nuclear War Plans Revealed 200

NicerGuy writes "The BBC reports that documents from 1975, recently released by the National Archives, detail in part the UK's plan in the event of nuclear strikes during the Cold War. An audio download of the prepared radio broadcast is available. Several other topics are covered." From the article: "Further documents released this week reveal that two pandas in London Zoo sparked fears a diplomatic rift could flare up between Britain and China in the 1970s."
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UK Cold War Era Nuclear War Plans Revealed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 31, 2005 @12:33AM (#14368824)
    "Oh bloody hell, the Yanks have really done us in this time."
  • by user9918277462 ( 834092 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @12:38AM (#14368837) Journal
    Too bad the so-called audio download is only available as WMP/Realplayer embedded content. Where's the direct download link? Isn't BBC one of the few media giants to have embraced open formats, etc?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 31, 2005 @12:42AM (#14368849)
    That in discussions between Prime Minister Harold Wilson and the BBC's chairman they talked about whether there were too many "hippies" in the corporation

    They all moved on to Slashdot.
  • Probably a more accurate version of how the British government's "plans" would be followed after a nuclear exchange.

    It's an awesome move, too! []
    • Yeh, saw this film again a year or so ago - Its not lost any of its power - shocking film.

    • I'll second that. Just don't expect to sleep well for a couple of days afterwards.

      It terrified me.
    • I have both Threads and The Day After. The Day After is pretty good until the actual attack - especially the sequences in the missile LCF etc. However, the attack is unrealistic (if the doctor had been close enough that he heard the explosion when he did, he'd have been vaporized, but he was pretty much uninjured) especially compared to Threads where the nuclear explosions are silent until the blast hits. Threads is so much better made. It is also probably the most depressing film I've ever seen.

      Do you have
      • How did you find the two apart from the technicalities? I'm curious how Threads dealt with the human impact of a war, and what scale was used (for those that don't know, The Day After focused on one small Kansas town).
        • Threads was set in Sheffield, an industrial town of half a million in Yorkshire (at the time Threads was made, Sheffield was a major steel producing city). In the vicinity of Sheffield is the former air force base at Finningley (approximately 15 miles away), and the whole Vale of York area (there's several RAF bases in that part of the country).

          Threads follows two families who live in Sheffield. One family is a well-to-do middle class family, as far as you can gather, the man of the house is a manager or en
  • Poland did that too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MSBob ( 307239 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @12:46AM (#14368866)
    A few weeks ago Poland revealed (to the dismay of Russia) the nuclear war plans from the days of the warsaw pact. The map was a truly scary prospect. Much of Poland would be annihilated in that nuclear war. Here's [] one article covering that story. You can find lots more. One interesting disclosure was the war games map with all the nuclear strike sites marked on it.
    • "One interesting disclosure was the war games map with all the nuclear strike sites marked on it."

      A link to that content would be nice?
    • by xs650 ( 741277 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @02:14AM (#14369119)
      So the Ruskies were going to hit NATO where it cause the most pain. What would anyone except a complete cypher expect of them?

      It's not like NATO was going to shoot it's nukes harmlessly off into some empty desert.

      It was going to be a real nasty fooking war if it happened and very likely the West would have started tossing nukes first because the Warsaw Pact had greatly superior quantities of ground forces.

      During the cold war one of the catchy phrases in the military industrial complex was that NATO forces were going to have a "Target rich environment". That means their asses were going to get run over.
      • It's not like NATO was going to shoot it's nukes...into some empty desert.

        Well, it was going to attack Russia. Close enough, IMHO.
      • The west would have almost immediately used nuclear weapons - the Davy Crockett nuclear mortar was built just for that purpose, to use on the front lines against advancing Soviet forces. The Davy Crockett was the smallest Western nuclear weapon, with a selectable yield from 10 tons to 400 tons (no not kilotons, tons). The weapon weighed around 150 lbs, and was the smallest practical nuclear weapon. Most likely the soldiers using them would be committing suicide - the prompt radioactive effects went far beyo
        • It was actually a recoilless rifle that was used, not a mortar. And the lethal radiation effects extended out to a radius of about a quarter mile, while the weapon had a range of something like one or two miles. They would have been wearing full NBC gear, so whatever did reach them would have been stopped, or at least reduced enough that they could have been treated. It was only deployed from 1961 to 1971, though, so through most of the Cold War, it would have been unavailable for use.

          The final deployed
      • "That means their asses were going to get run over."

        It was expected to be about 3 to 1, but the equipment and training of the west was not so bad and in many areas superior and remember too that most of the Western forces were and still are volunteers.

        There are quite a few wars or battles where a numerically superior foe has been decimated by one that is inferior in numbers...

        However, a Third World War would have certainly been different from any other, indeed even if conventional I am certai
        • What is overlooked is that the 3 to 1 ratio was overall. An atttack would have been massed in a few areas with a far higher numerical advantage. Also, the Soviets had a far more than 3:1 advantage in artillery. Everything in their path would have been shreaded before they got there. That's why the West needed tactical nukes.

          Somone else mentioned the Davy Crocket, which is a tube launched very short ranged rocket, not a mortar. One is on display in the Ft. Benning, GA museum mounted on a jeep.
  • by Phariom ( 941580 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @12:55AM (#14368900)
    "Other Cabinet papers showed Harold Wilson was warned in 1975 that Britain's economy faced 'possible wholesale domestic liquidation.'"

    ...possible wholesale domestic vaporization?

    Furthermore, my friends and I play a lot of pen-and-paper role-playing games set in Europe (Call of Cthulhu mainly) and they always accuse me of a "lack of realism" in the manner in which my characters behave. My response to said friends? "They're British. They boil their meat. They drink warm beer. I don't have to explain their unusual behavior; just play the damn game."

    I can now add: "They'd let their entire population be atomized in order to wipe out the 'hippie menace.'"

    • by AngusH ( 611073 ) <Angus@malcolmhardie. c o m> on Saturday December 31, 2005 @01:51AM (#14369062)
      Liquidation probably refers to the unfortunate state that the British economy had reached in the 1970s.

      In addition to facing a nuclear threat (vaporization) there was a serious possibility that the country might collapse economically (liquidation).

      Eventually the government got support from the IMF.

      Of course the Soviet Union might have taken advantage of the situation if an economic collapse did happen in which case you might have had both sequentially.

      Lots of different government papers got released at the same time, so it tends to get reported together.
  • by the real darkskye ( 723822 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @01:03AM (#14368919) Homepage
    ... if they provided an unedited and uncommented version of the broadcast.
    As a UK resident it would be nice to know the kind of broadcast I'd be hearing the moment all other mediums went down. I have no idea if we even have an emergency broadcast channel or radio station.
    Aside from always watching the big 4.7 (Channel five only counts as .7) analogue TV channels there is no way to get a major news flash. when 11/9 happened I only knew about it because I happened to be watching BBC1 at the time (well this would be true had I also not been on IRC at the time, but the average daytime TV viewer in the UK isn't always on-line), had I been watching any of the other digital channels I had at the time, I'd not have seen anything.

    I won't get in to the whole "We have plans to make sure we can run the country, even if the rest of the country is dead, injured or suffering from radiation poisoning" thing, that's for another rant.
    • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @02:17AM (#14369127)
      And now for something completely different.
    • I think they are counting on most people having a radio or TV on at the time of such an announcement. I don't think the TV would just instantly go off - there'd be an announcement for an hour or two, then it would be switched off.

      I think if a similar plan existed today, they would keep TV channels running. More people have working/decent TVs now than radios. Many that do have radios they use often are either mains powered, or DAB anyway. The internet would have to play some role too in telling people what w
    • The film 'Threads' features some of the public information films and broadcasts that would have been broadcast prior to nuclear war. They are made all the more chilling because of the odd music played at the start and end of the broadcasts (Threads used the actual films - not a speculative mock up).

      In the early 1980s, the government also issued Protect and Survive: the leaflets and some of the public information broadcasts are here: []
  • by H0NGK0NGPH00EY ( 210370 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @01:04AM (#14368922) Homepage
    Here's a little self-plug for something somewhat related that I scanned. A "Civil Defense Manual []" for Seattle from 1951. Check it out, there's some unintentionally amusing stuff in there.
  • by Stan Vassilev ( 939229 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @01:42AM (#14369040)
    What's the big deal? Duck and cover & you're set.
    • I've been to the Nuclear Sadness Spots in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in Japan (where they used paper doors) people literally would have half their body destroyed - the part protected by the paper would survive, the rest would be killed by the gamma radiation. Perhaps shielding your body with newspaper isn't totally useless advice - obviously it would be useless for a ground zero, but for the outskirts, sure.
  • At least the PM was thinking:

    The prime minister's plan to protect local breweries by nationalising them as part of an initiative to show he was sensitive to small problems that caused people concern, called "little things that mean a lot".
    • With all the major cities are decimated and most of the populated gone, all you have left are small towns scattered about with only the local communities to lean on for support. As such, past times such as music, festivities and beer is the ONLY thing to keep you sane.

      Seriously, we are talking about having to rebuild modern civilization from virtually the ground up on a global scale. Or, what's left of it anyways...
      • Dude, seriously. RTFA again. Privatizing beer companies was unrelated to the nuclear emergency plans. Two unrelated items in the middle of a bunch of unrelated items.

        Besides, I'd want hard liquor at that point.
  • by ashitaka ( 27544 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @01:55AM (#14369071) Homepage
    America gave us "The Day After" which came off as an Irwin Allen disaster flick.

    Britain gave us "Threads []" which scared you shitless.

    Also "When the Wind Blows []" should be mentioned.
  • Note that the pandas and the plans for possible nuclear war are two separate topics, both of which came to light from what amounts to declassified cabinet papers.

    The article is about some of the interesting tidbits from this archival release which are by and large unrelated to eachother.
  • Strange that it was not in the original post..but look at one of the items in the secrect docs: "How British diplomats secretly floated the idea that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein - seen then as a figure to be courted - could be brought to the UK for a back operation."
  • Ahh, Sweet Armageddon.

    Raise your hand if you still have pinto beans and 2L coke bottles filled with tap water and 1 tsp bleach in your basement from 1999.

    I thought so...
  • I've been looking for the documents under the FOI part of the site, and can't find them.. has anyone else?
    • I don't think they will be available until January 1st as that is when they are officially released under the 30 year rule.
      I believe that the national archives puts together a list of highlights of what is going to be available and this is what the BBC is reporting on.

  • Meanwhile Australia's down there like, "WTF mate?"
    Russia's like, "AAAAHHHH, MOTHERLAND!"
    Then, England's like... "'bout that time, ey chaps?"
    "... Righto."
  • by chaffed ( 672859 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @02:54AM (#14369216) Homepage
    A panda walks into a bar. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

    "Why? Why are you behaving in this strange, un-panda-like fashion?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda walks towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

    "I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up."

    The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

    "Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

    From Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  • antique war plans (Score:5, Interesting)

    by technoCon ( 18339 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @04:20AM (#14369449) Homepage Journal
    I had a huge laugh tonight after I read about the US Army's plans to invade CANADA! Seems that back in the 1930s we made plans just in case we went to war with Britain. And back then the Canucks had a plan to invade the US. Let's see, where's the link...

    Raiding The Icebox []

    I figure the Canadians will never forgive US for neglecting to conquer them.

    Years back, I went to Tijuana and looked around and thought, "this place needs adult supervision." And a few years after that, I went to Sault Ste. Marie and saw the perfectly manicured lawns, clean streets, and perfect order. And I thought, "this place has a bit too much adult supervision."
  • by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @07:05AM (#14369761)
    As I recall, the oficcial plans for Nuclear ware were, "Have a nice cup of tea, and then put a brown paper bag over your head!"

    It won't help, but nor will anything else.

  • The War Game made in 1966 by the BBC shows what would have happened and have been done in the event of a soviet nuclear attack, although it was banned from TV for being too graphic. [] You can probably get it on bit torrent somewhere if you want to watch it.
  • by Ed Almos ( 584864 ) on Saturday December 31, 2005 @07:33AM (#14369809)
    To give you some idea of the mindset of these people the following instructions were actually included in the plans.

    "In the event of a nuclear strike on the City of London transport links will almost certainly be disrupted and many commuters will be unable to get home. Tea and biscuits will therefore be served on tressle tables in Hyde Park to those requiring refreshment"

    Now I know why my Grandfather dug a bunker in the back yard.

    Ed Almos

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant