Awaiting European election results, Lucy and I popped over for a look at the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker, now open to the public. For 20 years up to 1992 it was a regional government centre; a hidey hole from which a commissioner and 600 Civil Servants would have run a great chunk of Britain after the Bomb went off. Authentic Public Information films from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s play as you go round.
Stentorian government announcers explain how to protect and survive with bin liners, 35 milk bottles of water each, a sand tray and a central core or refuge under the kitchen table. They all assume one bomb somewhere with two weeks to recover, and we can only wonder at how we’d have died, the lot of us, if these devices had gone off in any number. They’re also rather coy about what you do when the fallout from your own nukes blows back across the channel and kills you anyway.
Yet for much of my lifetime that was the plan — hold the Russians on Lüneborg Heath for up to a fortnight, then go nuclear.
Some of us well remember the Cuban missile crisis — thinking war could happen, with some childish notion it would be a bit like the blitz. These films make it plain it would be like nothing of the sort.
A small amount of imagination makes it obvious this whole nuclear survival thing was and is a bunch of crap. Even with a backyard the size of Siberia (or Alaska) it's a complete hiding to nowhere.
When I was a nipper in 1962 a teacher told me there would probably be a third world war by 1970, as there had been one every 25 years of that century so far. That’s what she had experienced, anyway. The European Union may not have acheved straight bananas, but it has broken a sequnce of bloody European wars which ran for 300 years like sick clockwork, (1700+/ 1750+/ 1790+/ 1848/ 1870/ 1914/ 1939). NATO has provided a defence umbrella, but positively speaking, the EU has built a continent where a war between its historic nations is now, for the first time in 300 years, unthinkable. Its processees could doubtless be reformed in sensible ways, but the central achievement is that for the first time in 300 years, two generations, mine and my children’s, didn’t have to march off to a major war.
I’m less than impressed by anyone who is prepared to risk dismantling Europe, or reducing it to a mere trading arrangement.
The great failure of the League of Nations in the 1930’s was its inability to construct union at a deep enough level to prevent war between nation states in 1939.
It broke under stress precisely because it could develop no substantial common institutions.
To be a Little Englander you have to be too stupid, ignorant or unimaginative to understand the most basic fact of our contemporary history. In a world of globalised superpowers, Victorian nation states are ultimately roadkill; and if anyone were to let off a nuke the other side of the channel, we’d be killed by the fallout anyway within hours. Why wouldn’t we want to play a positive role in the mechanism for preventing that ever happening?