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Wartime Broadcasting Service

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Radio Antenna at Kelvedon Hatch

Kelvedon Hatch emergency broadcast tower, which would have transmitted official announcements after a nuclear attack on the UK. English: Radio Antenna at Kelvedon Hatch (M. Kenyon), ~31 May 2007.

The planEdit

The Wartime Broadcasting Service was an emergency service of the BBC intended to broadcast for over about three months after a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom, or if conventional bombing, missiles and/or shelling destroyed peacetime BBC transmitters, but it never was needed to go on air. By the end of the 1950s all then existing BBC TV and radio transmitters had been fitted with both emergency diesel generators and atomic fallout protection.

After reseving the goverment emergency take over order both the BBC and ITV were to suspend normal TV and local radio programs, broadcast the frequencies for the Wartime Broadcasting Service and go off-air an hour later (with television used only to broadcast Protect and Survive public information films, but it would become unavailable after an attack due to the system's high susceptibility to Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) damage, but several parts of the radio network would have probably survived if it was not directly hit. All independent radio stations would also transmit this service under a goverment joint broadcasting order.

The plan was original for a studio in Wood Norton, Worcestershire, to keep at least some of the BBC operational after Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe had bombed out all the major cities. Kelvedon Hatch emergency broadcast tower and the near by Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker in Essex was given this in the early 1950s to the 1980s. The four-minute warning itself was to have been injected from a special underground studio beneath BBC Broadcasting House in central London. It would have been broadcast nationally on all television and radio stations when a coded signal from RAF High Wycombe was given.

The emergency broadcasters would have tried to cope after a nuclear strike by installing 54 low-powered transmitters for standard usage, backed up by the remnants of the old peace time transmitters. They would have keep what remained of the main transmitter network in reserve so as to conserve resources and stop Soviet bombers used them to home in on urban and communication targets.

It was scrapped in 1993, the transmitters were sold off and Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker became a Cold War museum.


Studio and transmitter locationsEdit

Kelvedon Hatch emergency broadcast tower, which would have transmitted official announcements after a nuclear attack on the UK or programming if a conventional attack had destroyed most of the transmitters.

After a massive conventional or any significant atomic attack, there would also have been a limited regional service tailored to local needs located in the various UK war time regional seats of government. Regional controllers were to use these smaller BBC studios to give out local messages to communities and they would have been manned by BBC staff.

The pirate radio station ship Radio Caroline would have probably also volunteered it's services to.

Under the Act 1980 the goverment still has the right to take over TV and radio programming in a national emergency situation.


At this point, one single national programme would have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from Wood Norton that would run for about 100 days. It would have run nationally from early morning to late earning and locally 24/7 from the 1950s to 1980s and only for a few minuets on odd hours in the 1980s.

“instruction, information and encouragement as far as practical by means of guidance, news and diversion to relieve stress and strain”. Public "Diversion" was to be an entertainment package meant to raise public morale that included:

  1. Round The Horne
  2. I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue
  3. Hancock's Half Hour
  4. The Sound of Music
  5. The Afternoon Play
  6. Thirty-Minute Theatre

Official post-attack statementEdit

The following italiced text is the known script of an official statement that would have been broadcast in the 1970s on the Wartime Broadcasting Service in the hours emidiatly after an atomic attack. It was recorded by Peter Donaldson, chief continuity announcer for BBC Radio 4 (the goverment's designated national broadcaster in the event of a national emergency). At this point, a single national programme would have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from Wood Norton.

The BBC Transcript to be used in the wake of a nuclear attack:

"This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.

Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger. If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.

Make sure gas and other fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished. If mains water is available, this can be used for fire-fighting. You should also refill all your containers for drinking water after the fires have been put out, because the mains water supply may not be available for very long.

Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don't waste it.

Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for fourteen days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep.

If you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given, stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out. When the immediate danger has passed the sirens will sound a steady note. The "all clear" message will also be given on this wavelength. If you leave the fall-out room to go to the lavatory or replenish food or water supplies, do not remain outside the room for a minute longer than is necessary.

Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out or you hear the "all clear" on the sirens.

Here are the main points again:

Stay in your own homes, and if you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given stay in your fall-out room, until you are told it is safe to come out. The message that the immediate danger has passed will be given by the sirens and repeated on this wavelength. Make sure that the gas and all fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished.

Water must be rationed, and used only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. It must not be used for flushing lavatories. Ration your food supply: it may have to last for fourteen days or more.

We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours' time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again.

That is the end of this broadcast."

Telephones, telegraphs and fax-machinesEdit

Most non-postal communications prior to a nuclear attack would be have been via the normal usage of the public telephone system or telegraph circuits. Telegraph was eventually largely replaced by fax machines by the 1980s. These systems formed the core of both the civil defence communications as well as the bulk of non-postal public and business communications throughout the Cold War. The goverment also had plans to cut off any remaining public and corporate phones in a post-war crisis.

Also seeEdit

  1. Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker
  2. Emergency Broadcast System



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