Manuals for Survival

Two manuals for survival-Protect and survive (HM Government, 1980), 101 Things for the Housewife to Do (Liilie and Horth, circa 1936). Both are manuals of diversionary tactics.

In the mid-sixties, 3 Yorkshire housewives were chosen to take part in an experiment placing them in a simulated nuclear 'refuge room'.This article was published in the Times, March 23 1965 and describes the psychological effects on the women.

From our Northern correspondent

Three women civil defence volunteers who had just spent 48 hours shut up in a typical "refuge room" during a simulated nuclear bombing attack reported here today that they had suffered to a surprising degree from lethargy towards the end of the exercise. All three had taken knitting and sewing with them. They had an ample stock of books and games, yet after the first 24 hours even that basic feminine impulse to make frequent cups of tea deserted them. A full set of James Bond's adventures remained unread, the knitting and sewing almost untouched."We all felt the same-we just wanted to do less and less as time went on," Mrs. Margaret Jones, aged 34, a housewife, said. The three women were surprised that this effect was so marked.

The exercise began last Saturday. It was organized by Mr. A. Cooke,
civil defence officer for the city of York. An analysis of its results may do much to justify the often criticized Civil Defence Handbook No.10 advising the householder on protection against nuclear attack and fallout. The refuge room was built to advice in the handbook. Although the women's experience hardly compares with that of Mlle. Laures, who spent 88 days alone in a cave, the conditions under which they lived were realistic. The women were Mrs. Jones, Miss Winifred Smith, aged 40, and Miss Mildred Veale, aged 40.

They spent six-and-a-half hours in the "core" of the refuge - a 6ft. by 4ft. radiation shelter made of sand in polythene bags, piled on to two ordinary room doors, which were leaning against the wall. They were instructed to spend as much time as possible of the first seven hours sitting in this confined space while the fall-out from an assumed five-megaton bomb, dropped 17 miles away on the outskirts of Leeds was at its highest. They found this highly uncomfortable and suffered from cramp but Mr. Cooke's rough calculation today was that by using this protection they would have escaped with a "more acceptable" radiation dose of only about 120 roentgens in the 48 hours.

The women said they slept badly and lost their appetites and interest in cooking food towards the end. Time eassed quickly for the first afternoon and tben began to drag. Heat and light were cut off about halfway through on the assumption that some power stations would continue to function for a few hours after a nuclear attack. Then they had to use candles and an oil stove. All three also confessed to mild hallucinations - Miss Veale thought the sandbags in the shelter were going to fall on her, Mrs. Jones thought people were watching her, and Miss Smith thought she felt objects rushing across her face.

The silence worried them, and the occasional records that were played over their special radio link with the outside world were highly appreciated. They felt that an old-fashioned handwound gramophone should be added to the list of essential requirements when sheltering from a nuclear attack, and that there was a clear lesson on the importance of maintaining some form of morale-raising broadcasting after an attack.

In spite of all this, they felt they could have stayed in the refuge for anything up to a fortnight. However, Mrs. Jones, who has two young children, was strongly opposed to a further experiment which has been contemplated of shutting up a complete family including children in the refuge. "If this had to be done, it could be done", she said. "But I would definitely oppose carrying it out as an exercise. It would be extremely unfair on the children."

Mr. Cooke said he would take note of her remarks. The room used, about 9ft. by 13ft. was in an outhouse block alongside York Guildhall. It was furnished as a typical living room, with easy chairs, a well-filled bookcase, and prints on the walls. The only air supply came through a crack under the door and other small gaps in the structure. It was legitimate to open the door for short periods because there was a sandbag wall outside.