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‘A MOCK H BOMB ATTACK’

For those of us who grew up and lived through the Cold War Years, when the threat of nuclear holocaust was only too real, there could always be a fear working away in the far recesses of the mind that one day, one day ‘the balloon might go up.’

In September 1958, 150 Civil Defence Controllers, Heads of Sections and Volunteers from Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster, Langport, Wincanton and Yeovil met in the Territorial Army Drill Hall in Southville to study the problems which a nuclear attack could cause.

‘Operation Sextus’ envisaged the explosion of an H-Bomb over a large city and the radio active fallout had severely contaminated the Yeovil area. The exercise divided into six syndicates and showed that although a great deal could be done to lessen the loss of life following a nuclear attack, the need for more volunteers to join the Civil Defence Corps was as great in peace as in war.

Many former National Servicemen will remember going on a couple of weeks’ civil defence course at Chorley in Lancashire just before they were demobbed; for some reason this did not apply to the Regulars.

When I was working in the Town Clerk’s Department of the old Yeovil Borough Council, I was standing in for a colleague who was clerk of the Council’s Civil Defence Committee, and went to Crewkerne with several Town Councillors for a private showing of The War Game . This was a documentary-style film depicting the effects of a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom and which for many years was not released for public showing as it was considered too graphic and not good for public morale. I must admit that it was pretty scary and a nightmare scenario because it could have been all too real if war had broken out. However, the film was finally released and broadcast on BBC 2 in July 1985.

Exercises such as ‘Sextus’ were regularly held in the following thirty or so years of the Cold War, but now the nation’s civil defence services as they were then organised have all but disappeared, and the local command bunker under the Ambulance Station on Reckleford was closed down over 20 years ago.


Jack Sweet
Decmber 2017

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