The following is a booklet issued to members of the Civil Defence Corps and the British emergency services to inform them of the advice that would be given to the general public in times of heightened tension with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. While it outlines the advice the government would give at such a time it was not intended for general public use.
This booklet was kept in use until the mid-1980s when it was replaced with an updated version that had more detail on the effects of nuclear fallout but retained the same basic advice. How effective these measures would have actually been is debatable. The cynical historian would argue that advice such as this had more to do with making the public feel like they could do something to protect themselves should nuclear war break out rather than genuinely useful advice.
In 1980, the UK government conducted an Exercise codenamed Square Leg which looked in to the effects of what they deemed was a realistic nuclear attack on the British mainland. They estimated that the country would sustain an attack with the destructive power in the region of 205 megatons. This would see almost 53% of the UK population – 29 million people – killed in the first few hours with another 19 million people dying in the following days from injuries and radiation.
The trouble with these figures is that Square Leg was heavily criticised as being – if you can believe it – optimistic and conservative. Critics argued that the UK was so densely populated with many strategic and military targets packed closely together that the Soviet Union would have allocated many more weapons to Britain than the government had estimated.
This reinforces the key point of nuclear weapons in that they are so frightening that they prevent a war rather than be a tool for war. We can only hope that the powers-that-be continue to remember that point.
The Royal Air Force Tornado Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), XV(R) Squadron, formally disbanded yesterday in a moving ceremony at RAF Lossiemouth. Led by the Band of the Royal Air Force College, the ceremony was held inside inside a hangar in front of 750 invited guests including families and associates of the squadron.
During the ceremony, Chief of Defence Intelligence Air Marshal Phil Osborn, who himself had served as a Tornado navigator said to the attendees;
I’m honoured and privileged to be here for the disbandment of XV(R) Squadron after its 102 years of loyal service. But today, whilst our feelings obviously include sadness we know that this magnificent event is also a celebration; a celebration of history and tradition, and of service and professionalism in the service of the nation.
XV (or No.15) Squadron has a long and proud history that can be traced back to the First World War. It was formed as a training unit at Farnborough on March 1st 1915 but crossed to France in December 1915 equipped with the BE2c for corps-reconnaissance duties over the Western Front. One unusual task the unit undertook was the dropping of ammunition by parachute to troops on the front line during 1918.
During the Second World War the squadron flew a series of bomber types such as the Fairey Battle, Vickers Wellington and Avro Lancaster. After the war, the squadron became one of the handful of RAF units to fly the Boeing Washington (RAF B-29 Superfortress). On April 1st 1992, the XV (Reserve) identity was transferred to the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit at RAF Honington before the unit moved to RAF Lossiemouth in 1993.
Below is a TV documentary recorded in the late 2000s outlining the squadron’s work in training RAF Tornado GR.4 crews.
Among the British units involved will be members of the Queen’s Dragoon Guards who are scheduled to be stationed in Sierra Leone until December. The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) is supporting the exercise with their own troops as well as providing logistical and security services. As part of the exercise, work will be carried out on refurbishing the RSLAF’s Jungle Warfare School.
British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Guy Warrington said;
I am delighted that the Government of Sierra Leone invited the UK Armed Forces to exercises in Sierra Leone. The United Kingdom is grateful for this opportunity and is looking forward to the experience of training and learning alongside Sierra Leone’s military. This elevates the well established cooperation between our military forces to a new level and embodies our confidence in the defence partnership.
Christened Exercise: Guma Sun after the Guma Valley in Western Sierra Leone where it will take place, the exercise is the first time that the two countries have trained so extensively in jungle warfare together. As well as historic military and cultural links to Sierra Leone, British forces have in recent years been increasing its presence in the country. In 2000, during the late stages of the civil war a group of soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment were ambushed by a militia group and held hostage resulting in a daring SAS operation to rescue them.
British forces and aid workers also assisted in combating the recent Ebola outbreak in the country and continues to provide assistance in helping with the recovery effort.