The National Archive in Kew typically proves a rich treasure trove of 30 year old political material every August. Just as everyone’s off on holiday. How convenient. This week it’s a speech that’s turned up with the passing of the 30 year time lapse. The speech in question is one that was written by civil servants and would have been given in the event of a nuclear war breaking out…by Her Majesty the Queen. The Queen’s speech of 1983.
This Queen’s speech of course would have been a bit different. Given the horror of a nuclear strike we might expect it have been rather short. Quite so.
Despite its deeply troubling subject matter, the speech appears quaintly anachronistic. Positively brimming with a language that’s nearly unrecognisable today:
Our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds. I have never forgotten the sorrow and pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father’s inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939. Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.
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
The archives suggest that this speech was written to add realism to a complex Armageddon scenario planning exercise–Wintex-Cimex 83. An exercise undertaken by civil servants as fears of a nuclear threat grew during 1983.
The language in the speech certainly sounds strained. And we can expect that the speech itself never went anywhere near the Queen herself or her staff. The style, tone and context just doesn’t fit with, for example, the Queen’s speech at Christmas. Still, it remains the August silly season for news.
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