Cold War History: The nuclear attack on the UK that never happened
In 1982, a secret Home Office exercise tested the UK’s capacity to rebuild after a massive nuclear attack. Files recently released at the National Archives detail one short-lived proposal to recruit psychopaths to help keep order.
More than 300 megatons of nuclear bombs are detonated over Britain, in the space of a 16-hour exchange. Many cities are flattened – millions are dead from the blast, millions more have survived and suffer radiation sickness. In bunkers are 12 regional commissioners with their staff, ready to come out and take charge. How do they do this? How do they restore order and begin to rebuild?
This was what a top-secret Home Office exercise intended to test in 1982, according to documents recently released at the National Archives. Optimistically termed Regenerate, this was a war game covering the first six months after the nuclear exchange of World War Three. It focused on one central region, the five counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire.
Officials imagined what would happen after the bombs had dropped. They knew the most likely targets in the area, and predicted how “rings” of damage would affect the country. At the epicentres of the bombs, there would be “unimaginable” damage, on the outer ring “broken panes” and “debris in the streets”. The scientific advisers estimated 50% of the country would be untouched – though survivors could be affected by radiation fallout.
Read more of the stunning article at the BBC.