During the Cold War, Britain lived under the threat of potential nuclear attack. East Riding Archives holds documents relating to preparations for potential nuclear war. There are also documents relating to nuclear disarmament.
The Civil Defence Corps
Civilian volunteer organisations, such as Air Raid Precautions and Women's Voluntary Services had a major role in managing emergencies during the Second World War. When the international situation became unstable again in the late 1940s, the Civil Defence Corps (CDC) was set up to take local control in emergencies. The CDC could respond to any kind of emergency, but the focus was on nuclear attack. Training of the civilian volunteers, which by the 1950s numbered around 300,000, followed patterns established in wartime but was updated to include the hazards of nuclear warfare.
East Riding Archives holds documents relating to Hull Civil Defence including photographs of Operation Exodus, a simulated exercise which was carried out on 28 May 1961. In the exercise, volunteers along with emergency services and Civil Defence Corps personnel evacuate the city of Hull after a nuclear attack using bus convoys and ferries. Some of the images feature on our Flickr page, which you can browse here.
Image: Civil Defence Corps badge.
Image: Operation Exodus, East Riding Archives CD-103.
View more images on the East Riding Archives Flikr page.
East Riding Archives also holds a quantity of Government published manuals from the 1950s and 60s advising Civil Defence, emergency services and local government on preparing for and responding to nuclear attack. The manuals also provide guidance on how to advise the public.
Image: The Hydrogen Bomb (1957), East Riding Archives CCHU-6-3-7-20, Manual of Civil Defence Nuclear Weapons (1956), CCHU-6-3-7-1 and Home Defence and the Farmer, (1958) CCHU-6-3-7-21
In what was a controversial decision, the Civil Defence Corps was disbanded in 1968 and responsibility for coordinating emergencies fell to local authorities. East Riding Archives holds video tapes, leaflets and photographic slides relating to Humberside County Council Emergency Planning from the 1970s and 80s. The videos are closed for conservation purposes but some of the slides have been digitised.
Some of the Emergency Planning holding is material circulated by Government to local authorities to help them monitor the effects of a nuclear war. One video explains how to use a Plessey Dose Rate Meter to measure radiation, East Riding Archives CCHU-6-3-9-16. The Nuclear Weapon Effects Computer No3 is a yellow plastic disc designed to calculate casualties after a nuclear attack.
Three of the Emergency Planning videos held in East Riding Archives, including a video with information on using the Plessey Dose Rate Meter, East Riding Archives CCHU-6-3-9
A Plessey Dose Rate Meter is on display in the exhibition, kindly loaned by York Cold War Bunker, English Heritage. See side view on Chapter 4: Nuclear Monitoring
Nuclear Weapon Effects Computer No3, East Riding Archives CCHU-6-3-7-29. Make sure to view Chapter 4: Nuclear Monitoring for photos of the computer rooms.
Some Emergency Planning material is unique to East Riding Archives. Slides and videos of an exercise named the Falfox Experiment show families preparing for and living though simulated nuclear attacks on Scunthorpe and Wawne, the village near Beverley where the Emergency Planning headquarters were sited, East Riding Archives CCHU-6-3-10-17. In the exercise, the families carry out activities from the Government's Protect and Survive public information campaign, including buying two weeks' worth of food and using doors to make bomb shelters.
Footage of the Falfox Experiments was used extensively in an episode of the BBC's 1980 Panorama programme If The Bomb Drops, a copy of which is held in Archives (CCHU-6-3-9-1).
Women's Royal Voluntary Service
The Women's Royal Voluntary Service was founded in the Second World War and is today known as the Royal Voluntary Service. In 1988, in an event to mark 50 years of the organisation, local WRVS members took part in an exercise practising how to cook outdoors after a nuclear blast following guides such as the Emergency Cooking: Women's Voluntary Service for Civil Defence pamphlet, East Riding Archives CCHU-6-3-7-23 The exercise highlights the unrealistic advice that was given to local authorities, the public and volunteer groups about the realities of potential nuclear attack but also reflects the British 'have a go' attitude.
East Riding Archives holds material relating to the anti-nuclear movement including posters for rallies, newsletters and notices of debates. The initial objective of the anti-nuclear movement was nuclear disarmament (getting rid of nuclear weapons) but that was later expanded to include nuclear power, with disasters such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl pushing the issue into the public domain.
Image: Copies of the Campaign for Nuclear Armament magazine Action for Peace, East Riding Archives Y/327/174
Uncover more with East Riding Archives
Interested in digging deeper into the East Riding Archives? Visit the website to find out how to access and search archived collections, research information and more.EastRidingArchives.co.uk