A time when nuclear alarm could have sounded for real

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Who’d have thought that I’d find a documentary about Britain during the Cold War so fascinating?

As the nuclear siren sounded over Portsmouth recently during one of its tests, this four-part series has brought home to me how close that alarm could have sounded for real.

Please don’t think I’m getting all heavy and serious on you this week, but this was a real find and anyone who thinks we’ve got it bad today should watch this series and realise how lucky we really are.

Strange Days: Cold War Britain is presented by Dominic Sandbrook. A modern history boffin, his thick, colourful scarf a la Doctor Who keeps out the bitter cold of a British winter and a Soviet eastern freeze.

The story of how the Iron Curtain rose after the Second World War and allies became enemies is so compelling.

The only world leader who knew how dangerous the Soviets were becoming was Winston Churchill.

Winston had seen victory in the war and then the General Election of 1945, a grateful nation thanking him by giving Clement Attlee a landslide victory.

Even more compelling was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Russian President Nikita Khrushchev placed missiles in Cuba, aimed at America in retaliation for the Yanks placing bombs in Turkey aimed at Moscow.

It was a fractious time as the young buck American President John F Kennedy played a nuclear game of poker.

The programme revealed the Americans were prepared to strike on their own, firing missiles at the USSR from the UK.

We, including the PM Harold MacMillan, knew nothing of this. We would have been obliterated.

Powerful stuff, you see. You have to concentrate though.

My wife eating Jelly Babies and rustling wrappers was certainly not helping me to glean more fascinating information.

Luckily, she became bored 20 minutes into the first episode and went upstairs to watch I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.

The last episode is next Tuesday on BBC2. Far better entertainment than EastEnders!