Each time I have driven in and out of Overwater Marina I have passed “The Secret Bunker”. Sally and Trevor came to collect me and all my accumulated gear but we had time to finally explore the Bunker. It felt like an interesting continuation of visiting Bletchley, the 2nd World War code breaking centre. The Secret Bunker is all about what came next, the Cold War, the background of my childhood. The Bunker is dense with information, but not well curated. I have been very impressed with the curation of places such as Bletchley, Blenheim, and a few years ago, the Cabinet War Room and Hampton Court. As a child I and my siblings were dragged around from boring museum to boring museum. Specimens in a display case completely out of context with their everyday use. Then I went to exhibits at the Museum of Ethnology near Piccadilly in the early 70’s and everything changed. There was a Bedouin village and a street representing a market in north Africa somewhere, contrasting the different lifestyles. So amazing. So the bar is set pretty high these days. And I am sorry to say that the Bunker did not make the grade. Maybe it is privately owned, or underfunded by the ministry of defence, but it needs an infusion of Lottery money to transform it. I think it has an important part to play today.
I learned about ICBM’s (inter continental ballistic missiles) in high shool when I was 12 or 13. We did not practice nuclear bomb drills the way that my cousins did in Canada, basically hide under your desks, but it was always hanging over my, and I imagine many others, head. We never spoke about it. It was too awful and scary. The Bunker was all about detecting a nuclear attack should it be happening, and giving the public warning. 4 minutes warning. What were we supposed to do? To my mind, back then, no one would survive, and given what would happen to the planet, who would want to. But there were companies willing to sell you a fall out shelter.
My question would be, what happened if you were on holiday when the attack happened? Four minutes is not long enough even to get home from work. So there was all this elaborate planning to let the public know of the impending attack, and there were provisions for the people who were monitoring the attack to be safe underground, and there were systems to measure the fallout, but realistically, what was the benefit to the people who were just about to be vapourised?
My parents certainly never built a fallout shelter, and it was not discussed at home. We just lived with the tension of worrying that it might happen.
I think the Secret Bunker has a big role to play in education about a world under threat of nuclear war as we seem to be heading back in that direction at this moment in time. And how helpless we really are should it happen. How I would have loved to have been a curator.