The place in Cornwall that was designated as a nuclear target of the Cold War
A top secret list pointed to a location in Cornwall as a likely target of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.
Disturbing documents, which only became public a few years ago, revealed that 106 locations across the UK were “Probable nuclear targets” in the early 1970s.
One of them was RAF St Mawgan, near Newquay and Watergate Bay. Experts have braced themselves in case the station is hit by a three-megaton bomb – the equivalent of three million tons of TNT. We revisit the scary story.
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At a time when Britain feared a Soviet invasion, RAF St Mawgan was very active. Decades earlier, in 1933, the station opened as a civilian airfield, but was later requisitioned during World War II.
Evidence of its vital role in the 20th century can still be found at the station, where the remains of its glorious military history have now been turned into ghost buildings.
The shelters, once used to protect aircraft from enemy bombs, are now empty in place or have been turned over to the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Center. You can read more about the abandoned buildings of RAF St Mawgan here.
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Documents from the National Archives revealed in 2014 that a list of the places most susceptible to nuclear attack had been approved by intelligence services, military commanders and the Cabinet Office of Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath.
The Cabinet Office-approved list of “UK Likely Nuclear Targets” was handed to Defense Chiefs marked “top secret” by Air Commodore Brian Stanbridge in May 1972.
It included 38 cities, 37 British and American air bases, 25 control, communication and radar installations and six naval sites.
Preparations have been made for London to be devastated by two to four bombs of up to five megatons each exploding over the city.
Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham are each reportedly awaiting one or two “bursts” of up to five megatons – 333 times more powerful than the US 15-kiloton nuclear bomb that razed the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945, killing 140,000 people. people.
In comparison, St Mawgan must have been hit by a three megaton bomb.
Other top-secret notes from 1971 indicated that the target list had been compiled for military planning purposes and to assist in “contingency planning, particularly in the area of home defense”.
According to former nuclear weapons design engineer Brian Burnell, who discovered the documents, the real goal wasn’t to defend civilian targets.
Military planners wanted to try to ensure that UK-based nuclear bombers survive to launch a counterattack against the Soviet Union, he said at the time of the discovery.
He added that Whitehall planners were confused about Soviet military intentions.
“I am baffled by the omission of targets such as power plants or other major infrastructure,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry said at the time: “These are historical documents and, like many other documents released each year by the National Archives, have little or no relevance at this time.”
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