The BBC Panorama special, dubbed “If The Bomb Drops” was broadcast on March 10, 1980, and was a special report featuring a young Jeremy Paxman. It came at a time of heightened tensions in the so-called Cold War between the Soviet Union, and its respective allies in the Eastern Bloc, and the US and its coalition of NATO-backed countries. The Nuclear Arms Race was heating up and, on December 25th, 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan as part of the Afghan War, in which the US and the United Kingdom backed the opposition.
But, this escalation in conflict between the East and West during a proxy war, sparked real fears a full-scale World War 3 situation was imminent – leading to the release of public information leaflets and films such as the Protect and Survive campaign to inform British citizens on how to cope with a nuclear attack.
Broadcast to millions of Britons in a BBC special investigation, Mr Paxman says in the unearthed footage: “Although the Russian invasion of Afghanistan has heightened tension between East and West, few believe that a nuclear war is imminent.
“But what the Afghan Crisis has made us do is examine what preparations have been made to enable you and me, as opposed to the Government, to survive a nuclear attack.
“Britain’s Civil Defence Corps was disbanded in 1968 and, since then, most people seem to have wanted to avoid the subject altogether.
“They think either there will be no nuclear war, or that no one will survive it, both assumptions are questionable.
“You may find some of this film disturbing, but as long as we remain a likely target for attack, we must think about the unthinkable – if the bomb drops.”
The video then cut to General Sir John Hackett, the former commander-in-chief of NATO’s northern army group, who painted a rather chilling image.
He said: “After a nuclear war, the whole of Europe could become a vast uninhabitable desert.
“No industrial society, nothing that we would recognise would survive.
“In the popular mind, if the results of nuclear war are to be so awesomely destructive, there is nothing to be gained by preparing for survival afterwards.
“For 12 years, Civil Defence equipment has lain in warehouses gathering dust, so to have fresh thoughts about our survival.
“If war came tomorrow, most of us would die, but with better preparations, most of us could survive.”
The documentary went on to claim that up to 70 percent of Britons would have survived a nuclear attack from the USSR, before advising on how to stay alive in the aftermath.
Published at Sun, 26 Apr 2020 16:00:00 +0000