As per a traditional ’30-year release rule’, the British National Archives have revealed an item which could serve as a fuel for thought regarding a shocking ‘what if’ scenario around the world.
Aside from her customary annual Christmas Address, Queen Elizabeth II is expected to make broadcasted speeches in times of national importance or emergency, and in a script written by Whitehall officials during 1983, it was anticipated that one of those times could have been the outbreak nuclear war. The papers dated in 1983 suggest a hypothetical broadcast during a war-gaming simulation of potential Cold War scenarios.
Due to only being a proposed speech for such an occurrence (which anyone with the slightest of modern history knowledge will be able to tell you did not pass), the script was never recorded. Under the scenario (in which ‘Orange bloc forces’ attacked the UK with a chemical weapon, to which ‘Blue NATO forces’ retaliated with a ‘limited-yield nuclear strike’, and forcing Orange to begin initiation of a peace process), the broadcast would have occurred on Friday 4 March 1983 – an address seeking to prepare the Commonwealth for World War III.
The script begins: “The horrors of war could not have seemed more remote as my family and I shared our Christmas joy with the growing family of the Commonwealth. 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. I have never forgotten the sorrow and the pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father’s [George VI's] inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939 [at the start of the World War II]. Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me. But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all, the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.”
It continues to say: “My husband and I share with families up and down the land the fear we feel for sons and daughters, husbands and brothers who have left our side to serve their country. My beloved son Andrew is at this moment in action with his unit and we pray continually for his safety and for the safety of all servicemen and women at home and overseas. It is this close bond of family life that must be our greatest defence against the unknown. If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country’s will to survive cannot be broken. As we strive together to fight off the new evil, let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be. God Bless you all.”
Fortunately never required in real-life, the concept will very much serve as a reminder of the fear the world (or at least those residing in combatant countries) had of the potential outbreak of war. Although slightly less headline-worthy, some nonetheless controversial items of 1983 British government history in 1983 included then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher proposing that the Army moved coal around the country ‘in the event of a miners’ strike’, a considered motion to ‘deliberately flood’ the counties of Essex and Kent in order to protect a then-vulnerable London, and a ‘senior government official’ requesting that Thatcher found ‘a fertile female panda’ to bring back to London Zoo ahead of a 1982 visit to China.
Items of history in this manner will soon be coming thicker and faster for a while, as the National Archives will release two batches of files (each representing a year’s worth of data) per year until 2022 in order to implement a new ’20-year-release’ process, starting with 1984’s files this December. With the Cold War likely to be a key topic of interest again, will anything else that has been hidden for 3 decades be as groundbreaking as hypothetical items from 1983?