The BBC’s detailed plans for nuclear war

By Dan Drollette Jr | July 26, 2016

If you were in the shoes of a nation’s premier official news outlet, what would you do in case of nuclear attack?

That was the question facing the British Broadcasting Corporation during the Cold War. So, the top brass decided to plan ahead and draw up an official "BBC War Book" that dealt with every contingency in advance, and spelled out the appropriate pre-programmed, canned response from a series of scenarios—sort of an FAQ. The solutions run the gamut from the mechanics of how the news organization would continue to broadcast (from a series of underground bunkers) to how BBC news anchors should keep up morale: "To keep the public amused during Armageddon, a collection of cassette tapes of old radio programmes including the Goon Show" and other comedy sketches would be played, says an article in BBC Magazine.

But while it easy now to mock the “Duck and Cover” style mentality in the recently declassified document—which had been moldering away in the BBC's own archives—the War Book contains chilling moments as well.

The BBC had pre-recorded an announcement that begins: “This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known…”


Publication Name: BBC Magazine
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