Back in 1983, the threat of a Third World War was taken so seriously that a speech was written for the Queen to deliver to the nation in the event of nuclear attack.
“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,” she would have said.
Thank goodness she didn't.
The conflict of 1914-1918 had been described as “the war to end all wars” but a nuclear holocaust really could have lived up to the billing and sent the planet – and mankind – into a dark apocalyptic age.
It had nearly happened in 1962 when American President John F Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev took us to the brink over the Cuban missile crisis. They backed off then but 21 years later tensions were once again high as the Cold War got even colder.
Could it have happened 30 years ago? After all, life was going on as normal.
The Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher was re-elected by a landslide majority. Among new Labour MPs were Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Neil Kinnock became Labour leader. The Austin Metro was the best-selling car, £26 million in gold bars was stolen in the Brink’s Mat robbery at Heathrow Airport, the pound coin was introduced and pop culture was rich and vibrant with Culture Club, UB40 and Spandau Ballet among the hitmakers. This was also the year that Cheryl Cole, Amy Winehouse and Robin van Persie were born.
Nothing there to make anyone consider the world was in a state of emergency.
However, nerves were on edge: the Soviet Union shot down a South Korean passenger airliner that flew into Soviet airspace and Brits did not take kindly to the news that American nuclear weapons were to be sited on British bases. Thousands of protesters, including actress Julie Christie, formed a 14-mile human chain of protest along the “nuclear valley” of Berkshire past Greenham Common: it didn't stop the first Cruise missiles arriving there soon after.
The Government expelled three Russians they said were KGB agents and more than a million people took part in a CND rally in London.
Americans were certainly aware of the threat and a major TV drama about a nuclear attack on the US, called The Day After, was broadcast to acclaim (for highlighting the dangers) and criticism (for handing a propaganda coup to the Soviets).
At the time, I didn't notice anything too much amiss. But then, why worry? Kirklees had declared itself a Nuclear Free Zone. Hard luck Manchester, we’re okay.
I knew we weren't taking it seriously because the Kirklees nuclear co-ordinating centre was located at the top of Chapel Hill near the Water Board. Nice offices, all above ground and with big windows. One bomb on Leeds and the bits would have been floating down the River Colne.
On a serious note, this was about the time I was vetted by the Ministry of Defence and given security clearance to visit the ballistic missile early warning station at RAF Fylingdales on the North Yorkshire Moors above Whitby.
At that time, the only visible parts of it were the three giant golf balls that housed the radar that scanned the skies to the east. It was manned by both RAF and US Air Force personnel.
They certainly took the threat seriously.
I was given a tour of the deep underground bunkers and watched a simulated attack from the Soviet Union on the giant screens in the dimly lit and cavernous Doomsday Room. The main desk was manned by an American sergeant. By his hand was a red telephone.
“What's that connected to?” I asked.
“The White House.”
Not Downing Street, then.
I got the impression that if the alarm ever went off to provide the famous four-minute warning, Britain was doomed. But we would have fulfilled our role – as the early warning station for America.
If the worst had happened, I doubt many people would have been around to hear the Queen's speech, in any case. If she