Queen's secret 1983 nuclear war speech revealed
Declassified text invokes family, God and patriotism against 'madness of war'
British officials drafted an emotional rallying cry for Queen Elizabeth as part of an exercise simulating the outbreak of nuclear war, records released Thursday show — though the monarch never uttered the words and likely never saw them.
The text of a dummy speech — prepared as part of a war game exercise in the spring of 1983 to spell out possible Cold War scenarios — was released by Britain's National Archives in a tranche of declassified documents.
Invoking family, God and patriotism in moving tones, it shows the Queen trying to rally the country amid the threat of annihilation from a nuclear-armed Soviet Union.
"We all know that the dangers facing us today are greater by far than at any time in our long history," the text reads. "But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength."
Missiles in Europe and U.K.
The documents, which show the imaginary address from the queen dated as March 4, 1983, underscore the seriousness with which U.K. officials contemplated the nuclear threat.
That same year, U.S. President Ronald Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" and the U.S. deployed cruise missiles to Europe, including in Britain. The text also recalls the strength and struggles of the first two World Wars.
"Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds," the speech reads.
It has the Queen — who last year marked 60 years on the throne — saying she had "never forgotten the sorrow and pride" she felt as she and her sister huddled around the radio listening to her father, George VI, address the nation as World War II broke out.
"Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me," the text says.
Aligning herself with British families throughout the country, she refers to her "beloved son" Andrew, a helicopter pilot, fighting with his Royal Navy unit and stresses that "if families remain united and resolute ... our country's will to survive cannot be broken."
- Explore CBC's digital archives on the Cold War
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In the war game exercise, the Orange bloc forces — representing the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies -- launch a devastating attack on Britain with chemical weapons. The Blue forces, representing NATO, retaliate with a "limited yield" nuclear strike, forcing the Orange bloc to sue for peace.
Full text of the Queen's speech
"When I spoke to you less than three months ago we were all enjoying the warmth and fellowship of a family Christmas.
"Our thoughts were concentrated on the strong links that bind each generation to the ones that came before and those that will follow.
"The horrors of war could not have seemed more remote as my family and I shared our Christmas joy with the growing family of the Commonwealth.
"Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds.
"I have never forgotten the sorrow and the pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father's inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939.
"Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.
"We all know that the dangers facing us today are greater by far than at any time in our long history.
"The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns but the deadly power of abused technology.
"But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.
"My husband and I share with families up and down the land the fear we feel for sons and daughters, husbands and brothers who have left our side to serve their country.
"My beloved son Andrew is at this moment in action with his unit and we pray continually for his safety and for the safety of all servicemen and women at home and overseas.
"It is this close bond of family life that must be our greatest defence against the unknown.
"If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country's will to survive cannot be broken.
"My message to you therefore is simple. Help those who cannot help themselves, give comfort to the lonely and the homeless and let your family become the focus of hope and life to those who need it.
"As we strive together to fight off the new evil let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be.
"God bless you all."