Friday, September 01, 2006

Cold War

I was born in 1960, so my growing up years were the 70's and 80's. I grew up with glam rock, new romantics and the cold war!

It seems weird now that the 'cold' war basically meant 'nuclear holocaust'. Should Russia (and let us not forget) America, enter THAT code and press THAT button, we had about 7 minutes to live.

In that 7 minutes, we were supposed to run around a designated room, block and blank out all the windows, gather together all the tinned food from the cupboards, batteries, torch, radio, blankets and buckets and sit tight. If by some miracle, your house wasn't reduced to ashes, we then had to sit tight for at least 10 days keeping our ears glued to the radio until we were told it was safe to leave the building. After that , you were on your own. I remember those docudrama's that depicted the outcome of a 1 megaton bomb airbursting over St Pauls and realised that really the best thing to do was to just stand in the street and get it over and done with. Once, a friends ex husband told me the best thing to do in the event of 'the 7 minute warning' would be to run to Plaistow underground station. The problem with that, is that Plaistow underground station isn't underground at all!!! Anyway, this was all brought home to me on a visit to 'Hack Green secret bunker'

I must admit, it was out of the way on some small back roads, but it was close to some houses and farms and after pulling in through the gate, couldn't for the life of me see how they could have kept it a secret. Sharon though, assures me that it was. She couldn't remember what the locals thought it was, but nuclear bunker wasn't it!

Walking around the exhibits was quite eerie, this was a threat I grew up with, but to Christine it was just lots of electronic equipment. Some rooms you went into had radio messages playing, you listened to people talking over the radio reporting 'hits' with one bloke stating that 'confidence was high' Well stuck in his little bunker safe from radioactive harm, I'm sure his was!
I suppose being there brought it home to me that having atom bombs dropped on you wasn't something that could happen to 'other' people, but that it was a threat that our government took very seriously indeed.

Still from a telecoms point of view (I work in telecoms) it was a bit of nostalgia and amazement. There was the dolls eye switchboard that used to frighten the life out of me when my Dad used to take me in to see the telephonists that worked at his company. I must have heard them call it a dolls eye and when a call came in something like half a bingo ball would clunk down and I used to think it was a real eye. Then there was the 1A lamp, and then we came across the Mitel sx2000 operator consoles which I used to operate during my employ with Rank Xerox! I looked at all that kit and wondered at how technology had taken a giant leap forward!

There is also a display of the aftermath at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not nice to think that the docudrama's on T.V were based on the size bomb dropped on those towns, when in actual fact, the bombs we have now are a 1000 times more powerful.

It got me and Christine talking, and I was telling her about the women at Greenham Common. She then asked me why Japan got nuked and apart from telling her they bombed pearl habour, I couldn't tell her why our servicemen were out there or how they came to be involved. Shame on me, but I was taught about Henry the 8th in my history lessons.

It is a very sobering place to visit. The visitors weren't running around cracking jokes and talking loudly. It was akin to being at a funeral. I then had this thought. When I first started walking around, I was thinking 'Oh it was alright for them' (The staff) 'Safely tucked away in their bunker' But it wouldn't have been really would it? They would have been physically safe while, in the event of a nuclear strike, would have been down there trying to hold what they knew together. Parents, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, children, aunts and uncles had, in all probability, been blown into oblivion. Looking at that bunker, I think we have all been lucky and only hope that we stay that way.


Knowleypowley said...


Thanks for such an evocative post.

I too was a child of that era and can remember the feeling of worry and fear, once I became aware of what was happening in the world.

This was bought home to me a couple of years ago, when I was chatting to mum, who told me the cuban missile crisis had caused her great worry (especially with two small kids).

Thank goodness we all saw sense and didn't blow ourselves to bits!!

Sharon J said...

What an interesting post that was. Very thought provoking. I'll definitely have to pop in next time I'm out that way.

kp: "...Thank goodness we all saw sense and didn't blow ourselves to bits!!..."

It isn't as if it can't still happen, though, is it? Obviously the threat isn't as great anymore, but I wonder what Hitler would have done had he had today's weapons as his disposition. Doesn't bare thinking about!!

Carol said...

We mustn't assume that Hitler was a one off. Look at Saddam Hussain and what he would have done had he a nuclear device at his disposal. Look at Iran.

I too used to live in fear of being atomised as a teenager.

Sharon J said...

That was exactly the point I was trying to make. We didn't blow ourselves up back then, but it can still happen. And probably will.

Carol said...

Fingers crossed, not in my or mine lifetimes