Britain’s bunkers offer little chance of survival after a nuclear attack | Letters

David Saunders and Mark Newbury write that, with no bunker provision for civilians, most of us won’t have access – and those who do should not expect to live long

The owner of the Kelvedon Hatch bunker suggests that those selected for his shelter might survive for 10 to 20 years in it while avoiding nuclear fallout (‘When you hear the four-minute warning’ … Whatever happened to Britain’s nuclear bunkers?, 24 November). This is, sadly, an unrealistic expectation if one simply looks at the likely impact on infrastructure of even a limited nuclear attack on the UK, based on exercises and analysis conducted during the cold war.

It was accepted 50 years ago that nobody above ground is likely to be left fit or alive to generate power or supply clean water. Food cannot be grown in a radioactive environment and, in the period preceding any outbreak of war, there will be diminished food stocks due to panic buying or rationing.

The scenarios modelled by civil defence analysts even during the 1980s Pershing and cruise missile deployment suggested that survival in Britain’s local government bunkers would be short lived. There was never any provision in the UK for sheltering the civilian population in the event of a nuclear conflict and Britain’s civil defence posture was abandoned as a posture after the 1960s.

While in neutral Sweden and Switzerland housebuilding rules made provision to protect the civil population, in Britain the idea of being able to survive to the same extent as in, say, the blitz in the second world war is merely a pious hope.
David Saunders

• Nice to know that, according to the civil defence historian Nathan Hazlehurst, “Key members of central government, the military and royal family will have access to bunkers, along with those staff needed to run the country post-attack.” The rest of us will (I assume) have to make do with an updated version of the much-derided Protect and Survive booklet.
Mark Newbury
Low Mill, North Yorkshire

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Britain’s military must learn from its mistakes
Letters: Britain’s armed forces are dodging responsibility for failings in Afghanistan and Iraq, argues Prof Paul Dixon. RC Pennington fears military history is doomed to repeat itself. Plus letters from Margaret Phelps, Diana Francis and Jim Golcher


24, Aug, 2021 @4:56 PM

Article image
Nuclear weapons service makes waves | Letters
Letters: Readers share their views on Trident and Steve Bell’s ‘profound’ cartoon


06, May, 2019 @4:55 PM

Article image
Military secrets of our nuclear power plants | Letters
Letters: Disturbing links between Britain’s nuclear power stations and the military are highlighted by Dr David Lowry


27, Dec, 2017 @6:04 PM

Article image
A rational approach to Britain’s nuclear weapons | Letters
Letters: Surely the lesson to be learned here is that senior military commanders should be prohibited from appearing on TV chatshows


09, Nov, 2015 @7:51 PM

Article image
Is Britain’s nuclear arsenal fit for purpose?
This week’s revelation that a missile from a British submarine malfunctioned last year during a test flight off the coast of Florida has raised concerns about our ageing Trident missile system. Is it safe?

Ewen MacAskill

27, Jan, 2017 @5:15 PM

Article image
Boris Johnson should withdraw this reckless nuclear weapons plan | Letter
Letter: Musicians for Peace and Disarmament chair Tony Lamb and patrons including Peggy Seeger, Ralph McTell and Sir Mark Elder call for a reversal of the proposal to raise the cap on Britain’s nuclear warheads


23, Mar, 2021 @12:55 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on nuclear warfare: dialogue or destruction | Editorial
Editorial: Britain’s national security adviser has thoughtful words about contacts with Russia and China. His bosses need to listen


28, Jul, 2022 @5:30 PM

Article image
Trident misfire spotlights the danger of fat fingers on nuclear buttons | Letters
Letters: With 15,000 nuclear warheads in the world, most held by the US and Russia, and many on hair-trigger alert, it is remarkable that none has yet resulted in an actual detonation


24, Jan, 2017 @7:41 PM

Article image
UK must take lead role in de-escalating threat of nuclear war | Letters
Letters: Fourteen medical doctors and scientists call on the British government to join the international treaty demanding the ban of nuclear weapons


31, Aug, 2017 @6:33 PM

Article image
We must ramp up protest if we are to avoid nuclear war | Letters
Letters: More than 120 nations are preparing to sign the UN nuclear prohibition treaty. Britain must join them, argues Kate Hudson of CND. Plus letters from Dr Rebecca Johnson, Frank Jackson, Rae Street and Peter Fowler


08, Sep, 2017 @5:26 PM