Peter Hennessy giving a public lecture at LSE

Michael Rumsey gave another well-received talk in his series of presentations on Wiltshire churches at our November meeting.

The day of our annual dinner in January coincided with a very heavy fall of snow which lasted all day. Public transport and taxis were not running and as a result there were many cancellations. Those hardy souls who managed to get to the venue very much enjoyed the company of fellow members, but the consensus was that those who had stayed at home had probably been fortunate.

Peter Hennessy giving a public lecture at LSE

Peter Hennessy giving a public lecture at LSE

Peter Lord Hennessy, a very successful journalist, an historian of government and now in the House of Lords as Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield, gave us a magnificent start to our anniversary year. He opened our eyes to some of the thought processes at play in the British government during the Cold War. Although history can be a dry subject, he brought it to life in some of the detail; in the event of a third world war the plans included Royal Warrants to be signed by the Queen to establish Regional Commissioners, with a cabinet minister in charge. But they did not know, even the Queen did not know, which bunker they were destined for. In fact, the Queen was due to be onboard the Royal Yacht, in the Kyle of Lochalsh, off the west coast of Scotland. The unimaginable had to be imagined; a 1955 study looked at the effects of detonation of ten 10 tonne hydrogen bombs. The findings were most chilling and beyond imagination. In 1962, long before the age of the mobile phone, he told that the AA provided radios which alerted ministers of the need to phone back to base in an emergency. There followed a debate as to whether ministers would have the four pennies needed to use the public phone!

Jane Browning 

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