An Abundance of Riches: Item No.4 Civil Defence Handbook

Beyond Coal: the SWCC and Its Concealed Seams

 “SWCC” stands for the South Wales Coalfield Collection. This internationally significant collection is housed at two locations: the Richard Burtons Archives and the South Wales Miners’ Library. The Archive holdings include written documents, manuscripts and photographs. The Miners’ Library is custodian of printed material (books and pamphlets), posters, Lodge banners, oral history recordings and a variety of press cuttings.

The SWCC has its origins in two major research projects conducted by the departments of History and Economic History at Swansea University. Between 1971 and 1982 researchers went out into mining and former mining communities to gather and preserve the written, visual and oral histories of the industrial communities of South Wales. With the ever increasing threat from the contraction of the mining industry, this material was in great peril: much of it was on the verge of being lost. Since then, the collection and preservation process has continued, and has welcomed donations from unions, educational institutions, media companies and individuals, to mention but a few. The SWCC is now one of the largest, most notable and unique archives in the United Kingdom.

This series of articles is aimed at highlighting non-coal or coal mining related printed materials within the SWCC, and to demonstrate the diversity and research value of these holdings. Individual items of particular interest will be showcased, evidencing the wider scope and contents of the SWCC, investigating its profuse and unprecedented nature and focusing upon its importance to a greater understanding and respect for the history, culture, society and politics of the South Wales coalfield.

Item No.4

Advising the Householder on Protection Against Nuclear Attack. Civil Defence Handbook No.10, 1963

Location: The South Wales Miners’ Library, SWCC pamphlets D Francis Box 1

OCT Civil Defence Handbook

“This is a training publication for the civil defence, the police and fire services. Its aim is to indicate to members of these services the sort of advice which would be given in a period of alert…If you live in a bungalow or a single storey prefabricated house…these dwellings give little protection…Do not look at the flash…Outdoors. Take cover against the heat-flash by flinging yourself down instantly, wherever you are.”

Published in 1963 by H.M.S.O, Handbook No.10 was never intended for consumption by the general public: further instructions for the populace were to be transmitted by radio and by the emergency services.

Interesting and enlightening chapters include: “Basic Facts”; “Protective Measures”, “Emergency Equipment and Supplies” and “Life Under Fall-Out Conditions”. In the section “What happens when the H-bomb explodes”, the text explains in a matter-of-fact manner the three major facets of this type of explosion: the initial heat blast; the actual blast and the fall-out. The style of this chapter is one of descriptive narrative, setting the scene for the later practical advice on how to prepare for a nuclear attack and how to survive. The instructions, as a whole, present the reader with the distinct impression that it would be quite possible to survive a nuclear strike, depending upon the distance from the detonation.

Blast. Blast would follow the heat waves like a hurricane. Buildings would be destroyed or severely damaged for several miles from the explosion, and there would be lighter damage for many miles beyond.”

Choosing a Fall-out Room. The penetration of the harmful radiations from fall-out is reduced by heavy and dense materials such as brick walls, concrete or hard-packed earth. You should try to get as much of this sort of material between yourself and the fall-out as possible. A cellar or basement gives most protection…”

Equipping a Fall-out Room. Prepare your fall-out room for a stay of at least a week.”

Food. Build up an emergency reserve of tinned or other non-perishable food needing little or no further preparation to last the whole household, and possibly one or two extra people, for at least fourteen days…”

Water. Water is more essential to life than food. After an attack the water supply from the mains may fail or it may become contaminated with fall-out. Fill the bath and all available containers with clean water…Keep at least three days’ supply of drinking water.”

The apparent naïveté presented within the narrative discourse is indicative of sub-textual meanings beyond that of a rather simplistic and unrealistic rendering in order to placate and assuage a potential uprising of fear amongst the general population. In this context, the whole tone of the pamphlet can be seen as having a clear correlation with the domestic propaganda of World War Two. The “keep calm and carry on” doctrine galvanised the beleaguered British populace, lifting the profile of the daily struggle on the Home Front to bolster preparedness, civic responsibility and co-operation to aid ultimate survival, both individual and national. Handbook No.10 most definitely follows this ethos. Also, from an historical perspective, this item also highlights one of the essential dichotomies of the Cold War era: the public must be forewarned and instructed on what to do in the event of a nuclear strike, to reduce casualties, but the actuality of nuclear proliferation was seen as the ultimate defence against such an event ever occurring.



Joanne E Einion-Waller, the South Wales Miners’ Library