(Image: Google Earth; former site of the Aberdeen Civil Defence Control Centre)
“I dread to think of when / The wind blows…”
David Bowie’s haunting 1980s song of a world destroyed by nuclear war and ravaged by a poisonous, radioactive wind is the very definition of spine-chilling. But for those of us who grew up after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the idea of a Britain destroyed in a brilliant burst of nuclear fire can seem stranger than any science fiction.
Yet at the old Aberdeen Civil Defence Control Centre, it begins to feel eerily plausible. This is where government workers marked time, year after year, for decades, waiting for World War Three. (The location at 1 Queen’s Gardens has now been repurposed for other uses.)
To read about these times is to enter a world of paranoia and cold, rational calculations that are almost painful to contemplate. Reasoning that a nuclear attack on London could wipe out the entire civil service, the various Cold War governments delegated authority out to local councils and regions around the country.
That way, if an H-Bomb turned the South East into a dystopian wasteland, other parts of the nation would survive, and could effectively self-govern until central authority was re-established. Key to this were the Civil Defence Corps, a 30,000-strong army of volunteers dedicated to rebuilding a ravished United Kingdom after a strike.
Up and down the country, shelters and command centres like the one you see here were established. Aberdeen was no exception. Deep in a basement, Corps personnel waited for the siren that would signal Scotland’s time had come.
Thankfully, that day never came. The Corps was shut down in 1968, and the bunker kept on ice until the end of the Cold War. Once the Berlin Wall had fallen, the abandoned Aberdeen Civil Defence Control Centre was decommissioned, leaving only these haunting photographs to remind us of that tense, almost surreal time.