Civil Defence

Today we look back to the 1950s and early 1960s. Despite what some of us older folks think, this wasn’t yesterday. It was 50 to 60 years ago so way beyond the memory of an awful lot of people. It is real history.

There seems to be a need for a national sense of crisis in this country. Back then the bogie-man country was the USSR which often had the misnomer of ‘Russia’ attached to it.  This Soviet conglomerate was run under the Communist system and was seen as the antithesis of all things we stood for. It also seemed to be believed that world domination was the aim of the leaders of the USSR. They had powerful nuclear weapons to enable them to achieve their aims.

If we let ourselves worry about it, we lived under a daily threat of near total annihilation by 50 megaton hydrogen bombs.

Our response, should the worst happen? Well, we had men and women with arm bands who were supposed to be able to help any survivors. We have arm bands at Market Lavington Museum.

Civil Defence Corps armband from the 1950s at Market Lavington Museum

Civil Defence Corps armband from the 1950s at Market Lavington Museum

As we see, we had a Civil Defence Corps.

Members – we believe they were volunteers – had many local functions including medical treatment of survivors, finding safe food and shelter and maintaining some kind of communication with headquarters. Other members might have been involved in search and rescue or just demolition and clearance of debris.

It was reckoned that a fifty megaton bomb would totally destroy an area of about 500 square miles and cause severe damage and fatalities over a much wider area. The concern people felt was real and palpable.

Times change.  The Civil Defence Corps was largely ‘stood down’ in 1968.

Our thanks go to Mrs Gale of The Spring who donated these arm bands.

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