A short back-story. I was intending to write another item about the Second World War and Caversham. But then the prospect of a new European war loomed ever larger.
Right now, (Feb 2022) you would struggle to avoid reporting of the present Russia invasion of Ukraine. It all has long-standing roots.
And that set me thinking about living in Caversham as a youth. I can remember sitting in Balmore Park looking west and wondering about a nuclear war. Among many other thoughts, we had the belief that the relatively close-by AWRE (Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Aldermaston) was bound to be a target, and Caversham will be instantly obliterated at the same time.
The folly – or wisdom – of youth led my friends and I to the thought that it would be better to be obliterated than survive to face a lingering death. Our only hope, we thought at the time, was that with a bit of luck we’ll see the explosion before it hits us. Our thinking was that it would be an awesome last sight – and Balmore Park would offer a good grandstand seat. Like I said, the folly – or wisdom – of youth.
And now the AWRE has become the AWE (dropping the ‘Research’), and nuclear war is a far less talked about threat. But it must be said that not talking about a threat doesn’t make it go away, and I see American B52s recently arrived at Fairford air base, possibly/presumably in connection with the Russia-Ukraine problem. Who knows …
As well as the AWRE, and still talking of things war, of course Greenham Common is also relatively near to Caversham and was the site of long-running anti-cruise missile demonstrations and more besides. We’d have been worried about them too as youngsters. But in bold contrast to weapons of mass destruction and as a perhaps poetic twist, last week I went to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the “The Base” – at the old Greenham Common site. (It’s on until the end of March 2022.)
As a footnote, I was once told that the middle-of-the-night slow-moving trains you can often hear going through Reading will sometimes be transporting nuclear material around the country. I have no idea if that’s true, but it sort of makes sense.