A busy day, with Sky TV coming round to the house to interview me about the draft speech by The Queen on the eve of 1980s nuclear war, except that it wasn’t.
Here is piece I have written for the Telegraph on the clueless draft speech supposedly by HM The Queen prepared as a dummy run during the 1983 WINTEX NATO exercise to test policy options for conflict with the USSR:
Nato planners had to test whether a conflict with the USSR in Europe would escalate to the level of a nuclear exchange. Could Nato find itself with no other military option than to fire tactical nuclear weapons to try to stop a Soviet attack with overwhelming conventional forces deep into Western Europe? If so, would the Western nuclear powers – the US, the UK and France – be ready to fire such weapons into (say) communist East Germany to defend West Germany? Would our West German allies agree to that? Above all, would total destruction of both sides be the most likely outcome?
I know, ‘cos I was there:
Papers released by the UK National Archives yesterday cast light on a major Nato military/diplomatic exercise, known as Wintex 1983, designed to explore these existential questions. I took part in the early stages of it. We sat in the Foreign Office throughout the night as scenario reports of all shapes and sizes were rushed up to us on trolleys, pushed by messengers, describing the escalating crisis. Our task was to write briefs for the early morning Cabinet sessions where the big decisions would be taken. Colleagues in other Nato capitals were doing the same.
As the exercise proceeded to its conclusion the levels of secrecy soared. Only a few senior people in each capital took part in the final pretend policy discussions. The corridor gossip had it that there had been a score-draw. After a short exchange of tactical weapons in central Europe, the two sides had stepped back from the brink and agreed peace terms.
As for the so-called speech:
The tone of the text was all wrong. It made the Queen sound like a nervous health visitor, not the leader of a defiant nation ready to do what it might take to win: there was too much about the Queen and her feelings, and nothing on what the war was about or why our cause was just.
It included this bizarre passage, with its cringing hint of mutually assured blame for the unfolding conflict: The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns, but the deadly power of abused technology.
No, Your Majesty. The enemy was Soviet communism and the fact that the USSR had decided to use massive force to attack our historic freedoms.
I go on to say how King George VI did his own eve-of-war speech in 1939 marvellously well. Read the rest of my article. Then listen to it via the link here. Remarkable.
Over at PunditWire I analyse in more detail what was wrong with the speech:
The drafter decided to make The Queen sound not like the leader of a defiant tough nation, but rather as a dippy New Age psychotherapist. Family bonds will shield us from Soviet SS-20 nuclear missiles:
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.
Look at this absurd sentence too:
Our thoughts were concentrated on the strong links that bind each generation to the ones that came before and those that will follow
Of course there are ‘strong links’ between different generations. That’s what generations are.
A nuclear war would have been a blessed relief from this sort of drivel.