Nuclear war: UK’s terrifying ‘Protect and Survive’ manual in event of catastrophic attack

Nuclear war: UK government advise to stay INDOORS in 70's

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The prospect of a full-blown nuclear war is closer than it has been since the Cold War, when the US and Soviet Russia had missiles pointed at each other, ready to unleash Hell on Earth. As Ukraine enters its sixteenth day of conflict with Russia, President Vladimir Putin appears increasingly desperate in his attempts to capture the country. It is thought that the Russian leader believed he would swiftly take his neighbour state without much resistance, similar to his 2014 invasion of the Crimean peninsula.

But, as Ukrainian citizens from all walks of life took up arms to defend their cities and country, the West also stepped up and began supplying President Volodymyr Zelensky — a former comedian — with military equipment to fend off the sizable Russian army.

The world is no stranger to the prospect of nuclear war: during the Cold War, the West and Soviet Russia spent decades playing ‘who-will-blink-first’, regularly performing acts of military superiority and strongman rhetoric in the face of the other.

So convinced was Europe during the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties that nuclear war could soon become a reality, that many governments began advising their citizens about what to do in the event of an attack.

Between 1974 and 1980 the British Government rolled out a public information campaign known as ‘Protect and Survive’, seeking to advise people on how to protect themselves during a nuclear war.

It took the form of pamphlets, advertisements, radio broadcasts, and informational films.

While the series had originally been intended for distribution only in the event of a national emergency, intense public interest led to an amended pamphlet being distributed in 1980.

They were classified as ‘Top Secret’ and were only intended for transmission if a nuclear attack was likely within 72 hours.

But they were soon leaked to CND and the BBC, who broadcast excerpts from them in a Panorama documentary, shortly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

They received wide-scale ridicule, but simultaneously revealed the dark undertones for the sort of state the world was in.

In one of the videos, part of the 20 short public information films, the narrator warned of nuclear fallout from the missiles: “Fallout is dust that is sucked up from the ground by the explosion.

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“Fallout can kill and since it can be carried for great distances by the wind, it can settle anywhere – so no place in the United Kingdom is safe.

“The risk is as great in the countryside as in the towns, nobody can tell where the safest place will be.”

The film then detailed the Government’s advice on surviving post-attack: “You are just as safe in your own home as anywhere else.

“In fact, you are far better off in your home because it is the place you know and are known.


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“So stay where you are – if you leave, your local authority may take it over for homeless families.

“And if you move, the authorities in the new place will not help you with food, accommodation or other essentials.”

The guide was released just after US President Ronald Reagan’s election victory.

It brought the world the closest it had been to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, as Reagan pushed an “evil empire” narrative about the Soviets, which they reacted badly to.

In response, the Kremlin installed SS-30 missiles in eastern Europe, leading to the US successfully persuading European countries, including the UK, to host its Pershing 2 ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles.

The guide was thus seen as a legitimate case for protection, teaching families how to create a fallout room and, within that, an inner refuge.

Stockpiling food was key, as people were told to stay in their new bunkers for at least two weeks.

Britons were urged to store three-and-a-half gallons of water each, keeping it in the bath or basins, and they were advised not to be at home when a nuclear bomb struck, and to “lie flat in a ditch and cover exposed skin”.

A death in a fallout room was also discussed: families were told to “place the body in another room and cover it as securely as possible [and] attach an identification.”

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