Back when a Nuclear War was an ever present threat, the Government built secret survival bunker’s, which most of us didn’t know about. As a teenager I was only aware that when I heard the sirens, I’d only have 4 minutes to wonder if it was real and decide and how to spend the remainder of my life.
Since Glasnost and the cessation of the Communist threat, these bunker’s have been abandoned and TV crews given access.
The impression is that a Nuclear War was survivable and for the present generation it probably doesn’t really impact on them, how frightening it was.
The scenario’s that are presented are of a latter day Hiroshima. I.e. just a very large bomb. Even the post apocalyptic films of the time don’t really capture the full picture.
There were various sizes of bomb, ranging from the 1 kiloton (Hiroshima) up to a 50 Megaton.
Let’s deal with the 50 Megaton first, because that was a more likely scenario.
The problem with this one is that it relied on surprise and avoiding any anti-missile defences which we might have had and which the Russians didn’t know about. That last bit was a joke, as we now know that the Russian military knew more of our secret’s than the Prime Minister of the day.
If this bomb dropped on Birmingham, it would have turned the Midlands to glass and kill all the population of the UK, either through blast, suffocation or radiation damage.
The blast would have flattened every building in England and Wales and burned anything that could burn. The blast would have sufficiently expanded the air that those in bunkers and sheltered by hills would have been sucking on a near vacuum and would have suffocated. If they survived that the counter blast, of returning, oxygen depleted, air, would have seared their lungs.
Anyone in Scotland, Ireland, or Northern France, who survived this would likely suffer from radiation. Let’s just clarify this. It’s usually spoken of as radiation burns, or radiation poisoning but you’re actually being shot through by the equivalent of millions of tiny sub-atomic bullets.
Most of those bullets damage the water molecules in your cells, creating heat, some damage a bit of cell wall, creating heat. Most of the damage just creates heat but some will damage the DNA etc. Usually the cell dies, sometimes it turns cancerous. The same things happen when you get an electric shock, or are X-rayed. But the difference is like the difference between being hit by an air rifle pellet and machine gun fire.
Your flesh is effectively cooked, in parts, internally and externally. You might be lucky enough to last long enough for all your internal organs to heal but there will be scar tissue throughout your body and possibly Cancer. You may survive the cancer but your gonads may be affected, meaning that your off-spring will have mutations. Most mutations self-abort, those which don’t aren’t usually beneficial.
Most likely the radiation will kill you and you’d have to be unlucky to survive it.
Of course, the soil etc., that wasn’t vitrified in the blast, will go up in the atmosphere and rain back down over a wider area for quite some time; so people in nearby countries will get doses of radiation poisoning and there will be random deaths through cancer.
This effect was seen after Chernobyl, when Welsh lamb was off the menu for quite a few years, until the radio-activity on Welsh hills had fallen to levels where the expected death rates were considered acceptable.
Why would Russia do this? Because the rest of Europe would have immediately surrendered to the advancing Russian Army, whilst The USA would have shrugged their shoulder’s and decided there was no profit in going toe-to-toe over a cremated corpse.
It was this scenario combined with consequences from Chernobyl, which woke up politicians to the effects of the Nuclear Winter and a reason for agreeing not to use nuclear weapons. Strange that our politicians insist on keeping hold of such weapons!
The alternative scenario was the multiple warheads, with two options.
Both involved hundred’s of 1kiloton bombs, which would take out key sites e.g. Until recently Burtonwood, near Warrington, was a huge underground store with everything from ration books to tanks and aircraft. There would probably be three missiles intended for that location and three for Warrington town centre, itself. The idea would be to occupy the UK, afterwards, so the first option would be to go mainly for airbursts. The other option, ground blasts, would possibly take out the command bunker’s under each of the Town Halls and the various supply dumps but it would throw up nuclear fall-out, which, depending on the prevailing wind, would contaminate the countryside destroying its value for occupation and posing a risk to invading troops. The scenario, hoped for, by the Government would be the one that they might survive.
In quick reach of the politician’s and the “Important” people were (and maybe still are, for the VIP’s) bunkers better than Saddam Hussein’s, which, if you recall, was capable of surviving anything but a direct hit by a nuclear missile.
They would only have a four minute warning, so essential plebs needed to be aware of them and based in close enough proximity.
By essential plebs, I mean police, medico’s, artisans and breeding stock ( secretaries, perhaps). The police were to be armed and their first job, when it was safe to emerge, would be to round up all able bodied survivor’s for administrative purposes.
Wounded were to be shot, as a necessary expedience.
Radio would establish the highest ranking survivor’s, a new Government would be formed and a chain of command would be established with dictatorial powers (the true origin of the word being applied).
Most of us would be dead, dying or euthanised. The benefits for the survivor’s would be questionable.