For Cold War Brits, the Day After was a Tea-Time Nightmare

A wry old anti-nuclear slogan used to say “One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.”

If you’re British, and the nuclear bomb manages to ruin your afternoon tea, well, then you’ve really got a problem.

Or so one might conclude from the release last week of declassified Cold War-era documents that found British officials worrying about what a nuclear war would do to food supplies.

The BBC quoted one document from 1955 as saying the government must be “completely ready to maintain supplies of food to the people of these islands, sufficient in volume to keep them in good heart and health from the onset of a thermonuclear attack on this country.”

But, the document stated, the kind of rationing that existed in World War II would be “fatally deficient” in keeping the British people fed in the case of a nuclear war.

And the devastation of national tea supplies would just add insult to injury.

“The tea position would be very serious with a loss of 75 percent of stocks and substantial delays in imports and with no system of rationing it would be wrong to consider that even one ounce per head per week could be ensured,” said one government report from some time between 1954 and 1956.

–Will Crain/


“Nuclear threat sparked tea worry”
BBC News, May 4, 2008

“Teatime terror: Brits’ big nuclear worry revealed”
Agence France-Presse, May 5, 2008

“Documents: Nuclear threat triggers tea worry in UK”
Xinhuanet (China), May 5, 2008

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