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Nuclear war came so close in 1983

It is frighteningly revealing that, as in the previous Whitehall scenario conducted two years earlier, the war game predicts that NATO would use nuclear weapons first

the Queen never got to make that awe-inspiring and terrible address to her people. Instead, it disappeared into the files, to become a chilling curiosity of our recent history – and also a constant reminder of what could happen.

BigRead: what if nuclear war had happened in Europe in 1983 by: Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail August 02, 2013   AS the sun rises over London, it reveals a city scarred and bloodied beyond recognition. It is March 1983, and for days Soviet bombs have rained down on Britain’s capital.

Thousands of houses lie shattered and abandoned. Broken bodies litter the streets. The air hangs heavy with dread.

Downing Street has been obliterated and Buckingham Palace stands smouldering. The Queen, who broadcast so movingly to the nation a few days ago, has not been seen for days.

Despite calls for her to be evacuated to Balmoral, she refused to leave the capital, insisting that like her father George VI during World War II, she would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of London.

QUEEN’S SPEECH: The speech she never had to deliver

But even as Britain burns, a much bigger horror is unfolding far away to the east.

Above the cities of the Soviet Union’s Eastern European satellites, nuclear mushroom clouds are rising. Faced with defeat on the battlefield, the West has fallen back on its last hope: a nuclear attack on the Communist Empire itself.

It sounds like something from a science fiction film. But this terrifying scenario comes from newly-declassified government documents, released earlier this week by the UK’s National Archives agency under the country’s Thirty Year Rule.

The exercise, conducted by Whitehall planners in March 1983 and codenamed Wintex-Cimex 83, was a war game like no other. For it envisaged the greatest nightmare of them all: a nuclear war between East and West.

Yesterday’s release of the Wintex-Cimex files is a chilling reminder of the awful threat that for almost half a century hung over life in Britain.

By 1983, the Cold War had been a reality for four decades. Most people simply took it for granted, and anyone born after 1945 had become used to life in the shadow of the bomb.

Yet as the top secret files remind us, nuclear war seemed more likely in 1983 than at almost any other moment in our post-war history. Tellingly, the Whitehall scenario opens with the advent of a new hard-line Soviet leader, which provokes escalating tension between East and West.

In reality, this is exactly what happened…………..

The dark shadow of the bomb hangs over the National Archives’ newly-released documents. One file, for example, reflects the Government’s fury at the British Medical Association, which had predicted that if war broke out, 33 million people would die in a nuclear strike on Britain……

Chillingly, the PM also had to write sealed instructions which would have been opened by Britain’s nuclear submarine commanders if the country itself were destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.

The most frightening documents, though, are the details of the Wintex-Cimex war game, which explored in painstaking detail what would happen if the worst happened and World War III broke out……

The Queen says: “Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds.

“The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns, but the deadly power of abused technology.”……

Yet the reality is that if world war had broken out in 1983, no amount of soaring rhetoric could have saved Britain from devastation. Even if the Communists had limited themselves to conventional and chemical weapons – as the Whitehall war game imagines – millions of people would almost certainly have been killed.

It is frighteningly revealing that, as in the previous Whitehall scenario conducted two years earlier, the war game predicts that NATO would use nuclear weapons first………….

the West refused to rule out using nuclear weapons first. Indeed, Whitehall’s unused briefing for a new Prime Minister after the 1983 election reminded him that NATO did not subscribe to the doctrine of “no first use of nuclear weapons”, known by the fitting acronym NOFUN.

Of course it is tempting to dismiss all this as idle fantasy. We know now that World War III never happened. Far from millions of British people being annihilated in a nuclear exchange, the Cold War ended peacefully just six years later with the collapse of the Soviet empire.

But as the example of World War I reminds us, it is all too easy for an uneasy peace to tip over into war.

Only months after the Wintex-Cimex war game, in November 1983, NATO mounted a ten-day exercise called Able Archer, which the Russians mistook as a genuine build-up to war.

In response, Moscow put its nuclear forces on high alert, and for a mercifully brief moment, the world came closer to Armageddon than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis………..

the Queen never got to make that awe-inspiring and terrible address to her people. Instead, it disappeared into the files, to become a chilling curiosity of our recent history – and also a constant reminder of what could happen.

 

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/world-news/bigread-what-if-nuclear-war-had-happened-in-europe-in-1983/story-fndir2ev-1226690408726#ixzz2axDWuBWO

August 3, 2013 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, history, weapons and war

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