What if… Britain was under nuclear attack

October 3rd, 2008 - 2:18 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 3 (IANS) “This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons.”Had it ever been broadcast, it would have been the most dramatic announcement in radio history.

That’s how BBC had planned to announce a nuclear attack on Britain. The script - finalised in discussion with the government between 1973-75, during the Cold War - has just been released by the National Archives.

The BBC would have announced after the initial warning: “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 to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes”.

It would have asked the people not to stir out of their homes because of radiation fears. “Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out or you hear the ‘all clear’ on the sirens”.

The BBC would have issued instructions on how to conserve water and food. “Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don’t waste it. Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for 14 days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep”.

BBC News recalls that while scripting the announcement it was also discussed who in the BBC would actually voice the announcement.

In a letter from June 1974, Harold Greenwood from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications wrote to the BBC: “During the Second World War, we came to recognise the voices of Stuart Hibberd, Alvar Lidell and other main news readers. I would expect that in the period of crisis preceding an attack a similar association of particular voices with the authoritative ‘voice of the BBC’ would develop”.

Greenwood was worried that people might not trust an unfamiliar voice making such an announcement. “Indeed, if an unfamiliar voice repeats the same announcement hour after hour for 12 hours, listeners may begin to suspect that they are listening to a machine set to switch on every hour… and that perhaps after all the BBC has been obliterated.”

The Telegraph has said: “News that the British civilization was facing its greatest ever threat” was to be announced “short on theatrics, with little to offer but a stiff upper lip”. It was referring to the fact that the BBC release does not give any details of the nuclear attack and does not refer to any nuclear shelters where people could go.

The Independent has pointed out that the government of the day was apparently more concerned with who would make the announcement than the announcement itself. “…Whitehall was obsessed as much with the voice that would be used to announce Armageddon as it was with protecting what was left of the British population,” the newspaper has said.

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