YEOVIL HISTORY FILES Part 9: Operation Sextus – mock H-Bomb fallout on Yeovil
A MEETING was held in Yeovil back in September 1958 where civic leaders and volunteers gathered to study the problems which a nuclear attack could cause.
Back in those days of the Cold War Years the threat of nuclear holocaust was only too real with relationships with the Soviet Union on a knife edge.
Around 150 civil defence controllers, heads of section and volunteers from Yeovil, Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster, Langport and Wincanton met in the Territorial Army Drill Hall in Southville, Yeovil, to look at the prospect of a nuclear bomb being dropped.
Operation Sextus envisaged the explosion of an H-Bomb over a large city and the radioactive fallout would have severely contaminated the Yeovil area.
The exercise divided into six syndicates and showed that although a great deal could be done to lessen the loss of life following a nuclear attack, the need for more volunteers to join the Civil Defence Corps was as a great in peace as it was in war.
Local historian Jack Sweet recalled: “When I was working in the town clerk’s department of the old Yeovil Borough Council, I was standing in for a colleague who was clerk of the council’s Civil Defence Committee and went to Crewkerne in 1966 with several town councillors for a private showing of The War Game.
“This was a documentary-style film depicting the effects of a nuclear attack on the UK and which for many years was not released for public showing as it was considered too graphic and not good for public morale.
“I must admit that it was pretty scary and a nightmare scenario because it could have been all too real if war had broken out. However, the film was finally released and broadcast on BBC 2 in July 1985.”
Exercises such as Operation Sextus were regularly held in the following 30 or so years of the Cold War, but now the nation’s civil defence services as they were then organised have all but disappeared, and the local command bunker under the Ambulance Station on Reckleford, Yeovil, was closed down more than 25 years ago.
NOTE: Many thanks to local historian Jack Sweet for this story.
PHOTO – TOP: Operation Sextus looked at how the Yeovil area would survive a nuclear attack and The War Game docu-drama was first made in 1966, but was not broadcast on the BBC until 1985.
More LOCAL NEWS is available in the April edition of the monthly independent Yeovil Press community newspaper - available in various outles including the Tesco Extra store in Yeovil, Morrisons store in Yeovil and the No5 Cafe on the Lynx Trading Estate in Yeovil.