A brief summary of functions and chain of command for post strike civilian government.
It was thought that following a nuclear attack on the U.K., Central Government control would be impossible to maintain. Until this could be restored a Regional Commissioner sited in each of the Home Defence Regions would take full control. The map shows the division of the UK into Home Defence Regions. Advisers from Government departments and other Civil Servants would support the controller.
The original plan had the Regional Controller housed in a single protected bunker within each Home Defence Region. During the cold war period policy changed a number of times. The initial single centre was increased to two centres per region, although some regions actually operated for some or all of the Cold War with only one functioning centre.
The terminology for the Regional Government centres changed too. The original Regional Seat of Government (RSG) or (RSoG) became Sub Regional Centres (SRC) when the number increased to two per region. After another policy change these were renamed to Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ). There were a number of location changes along the way too. It is beyond the scope of this web site to examine the policy changes, as we are concerned with electronic communications rather than politics. Other sources on the web can provide this detail for you.
The Regional Headquarters were the top tier in the government communication channels extending down to Local Authority (Local Council) Emergency Centres. Due to the highly secretive nature of the Central Government War HQ (CGWHQ) at Corsham, it did not appear in the Emergency Communication Network (ECN) directory, so it is not known whether it was linked in or not. Some documentation in the National Archives shows private circuits to Regional Headquarters at a time when they were known as RSG, which is before the ECN. It is not clear if these circuits really existed or were just proposals to be connected during the transition to war. As both the CGWHQ and Regional Headquarters were connected to the GPO E.M.S.S., throughout the period, communication between the two would be possible via that network.
Local Government Wartime Functions
Local councils were tasked with looking after casualties, burying the dead, fire fighting, housing the homeless, providing food supplies, law and order. The control centres would be staffed with people from within the council and service providing organisations. They also had a peacetime role to co-ordinate these things during a local emergency such as flooding.
Within each county area, main and standby emergency control centres were set up. Many centres were located in protected accommodation but others were in normal office buildings. Council employees were trained in Civil Defence at the Easingwold training centre in Yorkshire.
Borough, City and District Councils
The numbers and position within the county reflected its local government structure. Some centres were located in protected accommodation but others were in normal offices that would need sandbagging during the buildup to war. At local level things were very politically motivated. Some councils were fully committed to government plans for post nuclear attack survival and others did little to comply.
Parish Council were required to make emergency plans but very few had anything substantial in place. The emergency control centre would often be wherever the HANDEL carrier receiver was located. Village halls and Public house cellars were pressed into use.
During peacetime emergencies military forces are often called upon to assist local authorities. Following a nuclear attack it was expected the military would assist the local authorities in their role of maintaining law and order, transportation and clearing debris.
Communications for Civilian Government
Each RGHQ had landline and radio links to the adjacent RGHQs, County Main and Standby Control rooms, UKWMO Group headquarters and Armed Forces Headquarters (AFHQ). These links provided both telephone and telegraph connections between the nodes.
For Voice: Initially manually operated telephone switchboards were used before they were replaced during the nineteen eighties with a fully automatic Emergency Communications Network (ECN) allowing direct dialling between any extension in any of the regional and local authority control centres around the UK. Bunkers also had lines into the public telephone network and the GPO Emergency Manual Switchboard System (EMSS).
For Telegraph: The original manually operated telegraph torn tape message centres were upgraded during the nineteen eighties with computerised message switches, known as MSX. These allowed typed messages to be automatically sent to one or more recipients anywhere within the countrywide network.
Each RGHQ contained a BBC studio with a land line link to a BBC transmitter site to broadcast public information and limited entertainment to the local population.
A HANDEL receiver for the reception of Attack and Fallout Warnings. The RGHQ was only a recipient of the message but was unable to broadcast a message itself.
Prior to the nineteen eighties upgrade there was little in way of emergency communications at County Council and District Council level. The Local Authority Emergency Centres (LAEC) had manual switchboards with a number of priority telephone lines that would not be cut off if the general public telephone service was suspended. A link between the main and standby control and a private telephone circuit to the RGHQ.
In 1979 in Northamptonshire as an example, the main and standby centres were linked by a private circuit for speech and teleprinter. There was provision for a radio backup to this landline although this didn't appear to be working. There were 5 public exchange lines at each centre but no other connections. Only the main centre was connected to the RGHQ.
During the eighties all the council emergency communications were upgraded, with the introduction of the ECN for telephony and the addition of computerised MSX for typed messages. This upgrade gave all controls the ability to send and receive speech as well as telegraph messages anywhere, at a local or regional level.
Each centre had a HANDEL receiver to receive the public attack and fallout warnings.
In the eighties, for the first time, the Radio Amateur Emergency Network (RAYNET), a voluntary organisation that provided radio communications using amateur radio frequencies, had a presence in most county controls. There usually was a fixed station radio operating on the county council private mobile radio channel too.
During the late eighties, LAEC often had military MOULD aerials fitted to their roof, with cabling to the protected area. They were not provided with radios, so we have to assume these would be fitted if the need arose.
RGHQ Communications in the Military UHF Band
To allow RGHQ to communicate with military aircraft and helicopters engaged in search and rescue operations, a rack mounted, mains operated version of the radio fitted to all front line RAF planes in the sixties were installed a RGHQs. This radio was connected to a UHF Biconical Monopole antenna, like this one photographed at Hack Green museum, which was mounted on the main lattice communications mast.
At Bawburgh RGHQ and Drakelow RGHQ, the aerial was mounted on a wooden pole. These were a common sight at RAF and Navy land based communications sites as well as ships masts. It is designated as 'Aerial Outfit AJE' code 5985-99-519-7609
On the radio rack, the ARC52 transceiver unit is mounted at the top of the rack next to the mains power supply. The cockpit control panel is mounted on a plate at the bottom of the rack.
The specification of the transceiver is given as: The AN/ARC 52 transmitter/receiver is manufactured under licence from the Collins Radio Co, USA. tuning to 1750 channels with 100KHz spacing in the UHF range 225 - 399.9 MHz. This was the complete NATO UHF Band at the time.
Provision is made on the control panel for 18 preset channels and also full tuning across the working range by the use of four knobs to select the frequency. The transmitter provides an average of 18 Watts output giving 200 miles of ground to air range. This wireless operated in single frequency simplex mode, with the receiver section listening on the same frequency as the transmitter.