Cabinet Secretaries’ notebooks – plain speaking on Civil Defence

In the Cabinet Secretaries’ notebook series released in 2010 by the National Archives, there are some interesting and cryptic comments about Civil Defence, made on 21st December  1960.

In CAB 195/19 there are some very revealing comments about official thoughts regarding Civil Defence and its effectiveness:

“S.LI” (John Selwyn-Lloyd) Says:

If we were strictly logical, we shd. conclude that none of this is worth while.  But believe it is politically impossible to scrap C.D.

This is a very interesting comment as it seems to admit at least some in government already believed there was little point in Civil Defence and this was also long before the disbandment of the CD Corps in 1968. This admission is completely at odds with the fact that the CD Corps was also just about at its highest headcount as an organisation.

An additional comment reveals that mass evacuation may never been a realistic policy:

“H.B.” (Henry Brooke):

Evacuation.  No Govt. wd. ever order planned evacuation – for it wd. start 100% rush from big cities.  On that basis, our problem is one of presentn.  The 12 m. plan is un-workable.  At 6 m. plan is possible (tho’ I believe nonsensical : because vulnerable cities wd. be proclaimed non evacuable and because area of devastn. wd. be larger than evacuation area).  On balance recommend opening discn. with l.a.’s on basis of 6 m. – w’out commitment to the plan.

Even long before Peter Watkins suggested in The War Game that evacuation might fail, many years before this government officials in this document already seemed to have no illusions about the limits of an evacuation policy. As early as 1964 in official government films the general “stay put” policy had already been made explicit.

Climatic Consequences of Nuclear Conflict – Alan Robock

Dr. Alan Robock has been one of the leading authorities on Nuclear Winter theory for many years. He maintains an excellent web site on this subject here:

He and Brain Toon (one of the original authors of the TTAPS study*) prepared a new review of Nuclear Winter for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists here (PDF) which demonstrates the danger of Nuclear Winter is still present, that the science behind the theory still stands up and that threshold of triggering climatic change from using nuclear weapons is still extremely low.

*Title: Nuclear winter: global consequences of multiple nuclear explosions, Author(s):T.P. Ackerman , J.B. Pollack , Carl Sagan , O.B. Toon and R.P. Turco, Source:Science. 222 (Dec. 23, 1983): p1283.