“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it! (George Santayana-1905). In a 1948 speech to the UK House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said (paraphrased), “those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” And more recently: “History is not there for you to like or dislike. It is there for you to learn from. And if it offends you, even better because then you are less likely to repeat it. It is not yours to erase. It belongs to all of us.” (anon)
For a list of the latest ten additions, updates, amendments and corrections please go to the What’s New drop-down. Also note that a mechanism for contacting Dave is under development and will be posted in the near future.
Please Note: There are many excellent sources of information about civil defence and the Cold War and Canada on the internet (academic papers, cold war and civil defence websites, etc.) and in books and pamphlets. Some of these I reproduce on this site; others I provide links to. Remember this is only my “take” on the subject. There are many other points of view on this subject, some quite controversial!
Living and working in the second half of the 20th Century I witnessed many of the events of the Cold War (and was even a minor player in some of them). How close we came to Armageddon* during that very dangerous 1945 to 1990 period is unlikely to ever be really accurately determined but my own knowledge and experiences suggest we were often precariously teetering on the edge of oblivion. My time in the Canadian Military and later with the Federal Government’s organization responsible for civil defence gave me a closeup view of the potential horrors involved in trying to survive and maybe even recover from an all out nuclear war. For much of the 1980s into the early 1990s I was the federal official charged with the civilian readiness of Canada’s federal and regional emergency government shelters. The purpose of this site is to record for future reference what I know about Canada during the Cold War particularly what was done about civil defence and its associated civil protection programs and arrangements. Very little of what is on this site is analytical; I leave that to the professional historians. I will try to be as objective as possible and I will identify when I am expressing my opinions as opposed to presenting factual information.
The ORGANIZATION of this Site
The overall plan of this site is to flow from the ‘general’ to the ‘specific’; from the broad spectrum of the Cold War (events, threats, counter-threats, etc.) and how Canada was involved, through the panoply of responses by governments, institutions and individuals eventually arriving at some of the specific (dare I say ‘concrete!) plans and arrangements put in place to address the protection of the people.
Cold War -Threats/Responses >>> Civil Defence >>> Continuity of Government >>> Emergency Government Facilities >>> CEGHQ (Diefenbunker) >>> Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum.
A DEDICATION to the Diefenbunker’s volunteers
This website is dedicated to the hundreds of volunteers who have worked very hard over the years since the “Diefenbunker became Canada’s Cold War Museum, to make available to the public information about what the Cold War threat was all about and how Canada dealt with it internally and externally. In the ‘About the Site’ section is a DRAFT list of those volunteer folks that, in my opinion have contributed significantly to the continued existence and on -going development of ‘the bunker’. I have probably missed many but will try to update the list as I am made aware of their work.
Finally be warned….this site can be boring! It is crammed full of information mostly in the form of texts with some scattered pictures, diagrams and links to illustrate and illuminate the various topics included. This is as intended and designed to fill a need for substance over simplicity, triviality and entertainment. Hopefully to some extent it addresses the question “Where’s the beef”?
“I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” – Albert Einstein.
“If the Third World War is fought with nuclear weapons, the fourth will be fought with bows and arrows.” – Lord Louis Mountbatten
Post WWII in the late 1940s an Iron Curtain came crashing down through the heart of European civilisation dividing and separating nations, cultures and even families as had occured only rarely in previous human history. The clash between Communist totalitarianism and Western capitalist democracies, both technologically advanced societies, led to the development and deployment of increasingly deadly weapons of mass destruction, the build up of huge military forces and alliances and a worldwide competition for the hearts and minds of large non-aligned populations.
The threat to humanity was serious, clear, and omnipresent. Canada’s close proximity to the US (the main opponent) of the USSR put us in the crosshairs. We joined NATO and NORAD; they formed the Warsaw Pact and for over four decades the world faced Armagedon. Miraculously the Cold War (possibly only Cold War One) ended in 1989 not with a bang but a whimper.
“The only absolutely certain defence against the hydrogen bomb is to be where it isn’t. And even then there is danger from its radioactive fallout unless you’re far enough away.” – Unknown US FEMA Official
Civil Defence in Canada has been a rather spotty, hit-and-miss process since its very beginning just prior to WWII. What began as the Air Raid Precautions service evolved into a Civil Defence Organization (later Emergency Measures Organization) in the 1950s and early 1960s meanwhile going through many titles and being assigned to a variety of federal departments. Sometimes when public interest was high during various threatening international crises it was reasonably funded, but more often than not funds and interest from co-responsible departments was minimal. In the 1980s Civil Defence arrangements were funded at about 25 cents person contrasting with the Swedish and Swiss allocations of about $20 per person. The plans developed by officials were quite good; their funding and thus implementation not so much so.
“It is only prudent that we should make plans in peacetime for carrying on government should war come, and prepare the measures which will be necessary under such circumstances in order to supply our people with the necessities of life and to keep the nation together as an economic and political entity.” – Prime Minister Diefenbaker
With that 1958 announcement to the House of Commons of the need for a Continuity of Government Program (along with a few scant details of its configuration and functionality), the Diefenbaker government of the day suddenly began to get more serious about the defence of Canada. The response to the ever-growing possibility of a devastating nuclear attack where the effects would not just involve our neighbour to the south and our military forces but would directly have significant ‘impacts’ on our people, our infrastructure and our political masters was accompanied by notable sense of urgency (and more importantly the dedicated financial and other organisational resources required to expeditiously respond).
“It is therefore recommended that steps should be taken now to develop an emergency government organization comprising a federal emergency headquarters in each province that would include both a federal and a provincial component as well as an army component, and possibly a number of sector headquarters in each province. The various headquarters would be interconnected by an integrated, government communications network so designed as to permit the exercise of either decentralized or centralised control.” -Prime Minister Diefenbaker
While the details of the primary components of the Continuity of Government Program (the actual Emergency Government Facilities for various levels of government) were understandably not initially described in detail and while the selection of appropriate locations for the facilities and the engineering to build them had not yet been sorted out, the international situation and the seriousness of the threat leant an uncharacteristic expediency to federal government decision-making and action-taking. Plans for the system of facilities and the telecommunications to connect/support them were developed and over the next seven years many of them were actually constructed. The result was that the ‘flag-ship’ Central Federal ‘bunker’ at Carp, Ontario was built and equipped within two years – an amazing speed for such a project. The Regional/Provincial bunkers took much longer (five plus years) to construct! In fact they were not all completed as a result of a Trudeau (the 1st!) 1968 cabinet decision.
“The Canadian Army has received approval to construct an Experimental Army Signals Establishment in the area of Carp, Almonte, and Arnprior. This will involve a number of transmitting and receiving facilities and buildings to service them.” – Unknown DND Official
The heavily reinforced concrete underground blast resistant structure that was to become known as the “Diefenbunker” was built in Carp, Ontario between 1959 and 1961. It was designed to house a small (a few hundred) group federal elected and appointed officials and limited support staff for up to 30 days. If they survived (the facility could have been a prime nuclear target), these select few would have attempted to gather as much information about the impact of an attack on Canada, its people, resources, etc., to try and devise plans for “recovery” in the aftermath. The structure itself was remarkably built on time and on budget given the complexity of designing for what were largely unquantified blast parameters. Equipping the building with the necessary telecommunications and other ancillary systems was a bit more complicated and time consuming.
IMAGES – This part of the website displays a selection of images, diagrams, maps and still photos covering (albeit superficially) various aspects of Canada’s Cold war, as a general interest source.
VIDEOS – This part of the website contains references to relevant videos and how to access them. One excellent source of such videos is the Prelinger Archives which is a US site) that contains an eclectic collection of such material. Another is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s archives. Additionally there are other sources of individual videos, the access to which is described particular to its source. Example follows; -Prelinger Archives US 1955 Movie “About Fallout” Attempts to dispel many common myths and fallacies about radioactive fallout. https://archive.org/details/AboutFal1955
A variety of applicable links (most described and commented upon) and some relevant books, pamphlets and articles that I have read or that have been recommended to me is presented here along with my (and others) comments, reviews and criticisms (if warranted).
For example the following link takes you to the Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum located in a former underground federal government nuclear bomb resistant shelter in Carp, Ontario. https://diefenbunker.ca/en
As appropriate, background information too long or complex to be included in the above texts is included in this part of the site. Include will be papers by academics, magazine and newspaper articles, government publications, pamphlets, studies, etc.
This part of the website discusses the history of events leading to the creation of the Diefenbunker as Canada’s most authentic location for a Canadian Cold War museum. It narrates the early and middle years of its evolution towards attempting to fulfill its mandate and some of the highlights on that road. As well it includes a brief summary of some of the salient personalities among the members and volunteers important to the development of the facility and the museum as an important Ottawa institution. Finally it describes some past exhibits and displays, some successful and some not so much so.
This BLOG contains interesting, relevant but peripheral articles about Canada and the Cold War in general, and some other pieces about the Diefenbunker in particular. From time-to-time it may also express my opinions which I will identify as such. Enjoy ! If you have anything ‘blog-suitable’ to submit please use the contact form in the ‘About this Site’ section to do so………Dave