With Kim Jong-un and North Korea testing missiles over Japan and US President Donald Trump refusing to back down, the threat of a nuclear war seems more likely now than it has in some time.
So, if that were to happen, would we know about it? Would we still be able to turn on the TV and see the news?
Apparently we would. Indy100 reports during the Cold War the BBC ‘drew up extensive plans to continue broadcasting’ in the event of a nuclear strike.
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The so-called War Book was a detailed document laying out exactly what the BBC would do should a ‘nuclear exchange’ take place.
According to the article, the BBC has 11 protected bunkers across the UK which are referred to in the book as ‘Deferred Facilities’ and staff would be relocated among them.
These bunkers would reportedly house government staff and ministers as well as five BBC staff, mainly from ‘local radio stations’, who would be running the news studio from inside.
The BBC’s main headquarters would have been based at the Engineering Training Department at Wood Norton in Worcestershire, according to the document 90 staff would be moved there.
Engineers, editors, announcers and religious broadcasters would be stationed there and most of the output would be ‘controlled by the government’.
Apparently, old tapes of British comedies, including The Goon Show, Just a Minute and Round the Horne would be on standby to keep listener’s spirits up. If that’s possible under such circumstances. If there were any left.
Breaking news was documented as being priority with the responsibility of that falling to the BBC broadcasters, who sadly would have been forced to leave their partners at home.
Bob Doran, a radio news editor in the 1980s recalled a ‘bleak conversation during a Cold War training drill’.
My clearest memory is of a discussion about whether people with spouses could bring them along.
The other thing I remember clearly is coming away in deep gloom and a feeling of certainty that nuclear war was going to happen very soon.
According to Indy100, there was no clear indication of how long broadcasters would have been expected to stay at the bunkers for, but they were ‘advised to bring along clothes, soap, towels that would last for 30 days’.
‘Voice of Doom’ Peter Donaldson, the former Radio 4 newsreader recorded the war announcement:
This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons.
Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known.
We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.
Now I sincerely hope we never have to hear that message, as we never did before.
According to Indy100, the detailed manner of the document showed how serious the prospect of a nuclear war was at the time.
The Wartime Broadcasting Service was eventually decommissioned back in 1992 and there has been no public word on whether the BBC has – or is intending on – another similar plan of action.