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Formby's old Nuclear War bunker, a warning from the past

AS the Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens to attack NATO, many now abandoned and often forgotten structures, within the UK, should act as a reminder, that location is everything in surviving a nuclear war. As tensions over Ukraine ramp up and threaten to overspill into a wider conflict, the sinister shadows of the Cold War, that remain in strange places, like on Merseyside's Coastline, in Formby, give hints of the real threat that nuclear weapons pose to us all.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, all eyes have been on places like North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the paranoid doomsday centred on nuclear destruction has until now become more or less just a theme of entertainment for fiction stories and movies. Well, it's never going to happen, right? Worryingly, this question comes even more relevant, after Russia put its nuclear forces on full alert following a directive from Putin.

This Russian President warns the West that he has his finger on a formidable arsenal of weapons at his disposal, including Russia's military's nuclear capability! Putin has previously made no secret of the fact he is willing to use ruthless and indiscriminate military force against those he sees as a threat to his view of Russia. Also, ever since the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, relations between the UK and Moscow have reached new lows... How worried should we be?

With Russia's military struggling to make the headway it had anticipated it would make, we are all starting to question Putin's mental state. As Putin becomes increasingly isolated and runs out of options, the risk that his apparent narcissism poses to the world increases. This situation then calls in to question what we can do to stop him, as Polish MEP, Radek Sikorski has said that we have no idea what:- "Putin will regard as an act of war" by the West, and all options threaten to spill over into a wider conflict. As the world watches, apparently helplessly, the horror of a real life attack on a European sovereign state, that of Ukraine, all the West can apparently do is issue ever-escalating economic sanctions on Russia and the risk of World War 3 becomes even more threatening. Is this menacing on Putin's part just strategy or has he really no regard for the future of the planet? What possible benefits could accrue to Russia and its people in a post apocalyptic world? Have nuclear weapons now stopped us from defending ourselves and gone against the very idea of them being a deterrent to attacks?

Back in the 1960's at the height of nuclear tensions during the Cold War, the world faced the real threat of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and once again this worry of full scale use of nuclear weapons has started to become reality. Back in the 1960's the risk of Nuclear War lead to a list:- 'probable nuclear targets' for Russia being identified by UK defence officials who then drew up a list of 106 locations, earmarked for destruction, by both pre-emptive nuclear strikes and secondary strikes.

This list of UK Towns and Cities was:- Central London, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Teesside, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Stoke-on-Trent, Belfast, Huddersfield, Sunderland, Gillingham, Rochester, Chatham, Maidstone, Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff, Manchester, Southampton, Leeds, Newcastle, Gateshead, Bristol, Sheffield, Swansea, Hull, Catterick, York, Preston, Cambridge, Dover, Reading, Salcombe, Brecon, Kidderminster and Armagh.

Alongside these major population centres were also listed:- 23 RAF bases, 14 USAF bases, 10 radar stations, 8 military command centres, and 13 Royal Navy bases.

This list of UK locations, that the then British Government compiled, lead to the creation of a large, and often still not widely known, network of Britain's Cold War defences. These included many military underground structures, such as top secret nuclear bunkers and the lesser known 1,563 nuclear weapon warning and monitoring posts, dotted throughout the UK, between 1955 and 1991. The threat of MAD concerned an entire generation and these often overlooked throwbacks to the Cold War served as a reminder to the dangers we face from nuclear war, especially when recently it was highlighted by the threat posed to us all by North Korea and the Middle East.

Within Formby, a now crumbling relic from the Cold War can still be located, a former Royal Observer Corp Nuclear Observation and Monitoring Post, that sits, derelict, on Sefton Coastline's Sand Dunes. This post was built in July 1962, overlooking the Liverpool Bay, on what was a former 2nd World War gunning emplacement and Home Guard lookout. We are told that it was manned by around 6 volunteers, in shifts of 3, and would have been used, should Liverpool have been struck by nuclear weapons, to monitor both the nuclear attack and the resulting fall out. If an attack happened, the 3 volunteers inside would have reported out of the underground room 4.5 meter (approx. 15 foot) by 2.4 meter (approx. 8ft), to 1 of the 31 larger Operations Centres (our Centre was near Preston) to update reports on the situation within that area. It was thought that the protection provided by the post's concrete roof and compacted earth was estimated to reduce any external nuclear radiation by around a factor of 1,500:1. But in reality, you would not have lasted very long after. The bunker as it is known locally consisted of a hatch to enter and exit, an air ventilation shaft which protruded above ground, 2 metal pipes, 1 127 mm (5 inch) in diameter and 1 25.4 mm (1 inch) in diameter. These pipes would be used to allow the occupant to operate instruments, whilst giving some protection to contamination from the blast and any radioactive fallout that would follow. Plus, they would only have had enough 'uncontaminated' food and water for just a few weeks! Not only that, but after the bomb or bombs had dropped, 1 of the 3 would have had to have unfortunately gone out to read a Bomb Power Indicator. So, it would not have been a nice job for them. Plus, the location on a Sand Dune, was probably questionable, and the post was later decommissioned, with an improved monitoring site being built a few miles up the coast, at RAF Woodvale, before ultimately it too was closed and later dismantled.

Worryingly, it is not known if the list of probable targets has changed since the Cold War. Interestingly, a quick thinking real estate broker in the UK has identified the sites furthest from potential blast zones, based on the Cold War statistics, sadly none are within the Liverpool City Region. Also, the Cold War predictions drawn up in secret about the extent of a Russian nuclear strike on the UK are now well out of date due to most of the world's 12,700 nuclear warheads are now far more powerful. Most are over 3,000 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, so realistically, any list would be irrelevant, should the unthinkable happen.

The conflict might however result in some good, if we are lucky, and provide the world with a new chance to put an end to so-called Nuclear Deterrents, with the ideas of an aftermath of nuclear war being drummed home to us all once again. Yet, it has also shown us all just how important they are as a deterrent to stop any attacks on a nation. Just how far can Putin go with his nuclear brinkmanship is anyone's guess? Worse still, he still realistically has far worse weapons that are non-nuclear at his disposal, which he has yet to call upon, that are just as dangerous, if not potentially more so, as they are more likely to be used. He has already suggested Ukraine has possession of chemical weapons. Is this to mask his considerations of such use?

On 17 February 2022 the UK updated its .Gov.UK Guidance Page:- "The UK's nuclear deterrent: what you need to know" that gives you some very interesting information. So, what are your thoughts about Nuclear Weapons? Increasingly, these weapons prove to be the modern equivalent of Pandora's Box. Are they truly a necessary evil we have to live with, just in case, relying on MAD to keep us safe, or has this latest conflict shown that there are now far too big a threat to us all? It was not so long ago that we considered scrapping the UK's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent. Also, if we do decide to get rid of nuclear arms, how would we do that, with the likes of North Karea  developing them? Please do let us know your thoughts by emailing us
to:- News24@SouthportReporter.Com.

On the positive side, the solidarity of majority of nations throughout the world against Putin and his regime, and their restraint, despite his provocations allow time for interventions which hopefully may lead to some resolution. The kindness of millions, especially those in Poland and other neighbouring countries has been an inspiration. So are those brave protesters within Russia itself, who keep humanity alive, despite great dangers to themselves.

Also, it a heart warming to see the generosity of people wanting to help those affected by the war, like those in Formby's Elim Church who are showing the world that there are more good people in it than those who are evil. If you would also like to support the Relief Aid for families affected by the conflict in Ukraine can do so by these charities and organisations:-
LINK UNICEF LINK British Ukrainian Aid
LINK UN Refugees LINK Christian Aid UK
LINK Red Cross LINK - International Aid Trust
LINK Oxfam LINK Help Rescue UK

Lets show the world compassion by also sending items to either LiverpoolCatholic.Org.UK or to the International Aid Trust Trust. Both groups are currently asking for:- Foil survival blankets, toys, nappies, sanitary products, crayons, towels, sleeping bags, First Aid kits, metal cups, thermal clothing, hair brushes, shampoos, toothbrushes, children's clothes, bandages and food.

Black Holes, Quasars and other Weird things...
Illustration with thanks to NASA/JPL-Caltech

SPACE is full of amazing objects, from the very small to the very largest, densest and most puzzling... On Thursday, 17 March 2022, Southport Astronomical Society will host a talk by Bob Mount. The talk will explore some of the most energetic and baffling of these in his presentation:- "Neutron stars, Pulsars, Black Holes and Quasars." If you want to find out more, the talk begins at 7.30 pm, at Scarisbrick Bowling Club, 1a Falkland Road, Southport, PR8 6LG. Refreshments are available at the bar. New members are always welcome, and if you want to join membership is ₤15 for a year (or ₤7.50 for under 16's.) For more information visit the Southport Astronomical Society website:- SouthportAstro.Org or follow them on both Twitter and Facebook. Also, if you are interested to get a head start, check out this NASA webpage.

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