For Their Eyes Only

I’m battling with a post about auctions at the moment, but sense is eluding me.  So while I sort myself out, why don’t you take a look at this pair of posters.  Although they’re not very cheery.

Protect and Survive residential street before bomb

Residential street after bomb damage 1958 civil defence poster

The images were sent to me by Mark T, who found them in an old hospital over twenty years ago and has hung onto them ever since.  He actually has the full set of eight – here’s another happy image (borrowed from this website which has a thoroughly comprehensive exposition of the Protect and Survive programme of that era).

civil defence bomb damage poster 1958

I’d never seen these posters before, although when I search for them, they are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, which tells me that they date from 1958.

But quite apart from the shock value, they interest me for two reasons.  One is that you can’t look for something if it’s not there.  What else are we missing that we do not know is there?  I suppose means that one day I should just put the keyword ‘poster’ into the IWM collection and see what turns up.  If I’m gone for a long time, you’ll know why.

The other point, though, is that not all posters have the same audience.  What is fascinating about this set is that unlike most posters they were definitely not meant to be seen by everyone.  At a time when government advice for what to do in a nuclear attack was to put two doors against a wall and batten them with luggage, these posters are telling the unvarnished truth about what would actually happen if a bomb did fall.  Look at this poster.

city centre nuclear bomb damage civil defence poster 1958

A door isn’t going to be much use there, is it?

It’s no surprise really then that these were found in a hospital.  These are the people who would have needed to know the scale of the damage and how many people would be injured; quite possibly this was where the Civil Defence Planning Meetings were held.  But very few would have seen the posters at all, because only a very select few were meant to know how bad it was going to be.

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