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Shared August 29, 2012
The United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organization (UKWMO) was a British civilian organization operating between 1957 and 1992 to provide the authorities with data about nuclear explosions and forecasts of likely fallout profiles across the country in the event of war.
The UKWMO was established and funded by the Home Office but in the main utilised Royal Observer Corps (ROC) premises and its uniformed personnel as the fieldforce. The only time the combined organisations were on high alert in the Cold War was during Cuban Missile Crisis in October and November 1962. The organisation was wound up and disbanded in November 1992 following a review prompted by the government's Options for Change report.
Its emblem-of-arms was a pair of classic hunting horns crossing each other, pointed upwards, with the enscrolled motto "Sound An Alarm", a title also used for two contemporary public information films. Sparetime members of the UKWMO warning teams were awarded the Civil Defence Medal for fifteen years continuous years service, with a bar for each subsequent twelve years.
The United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation had five main functions in the event of nuclear war. These were: 1) Warning the public of any air attack.
2) Providing confirmation of nuclear strike. 3) Warning the public of the approach of radioactive fall-out. 4) Supplying the civilian and military authorities in the United Kingdom and neighbouring countries in NATO with details of nuclear bursts and with a scientific assessment of the path and intensity of fall-out. 5) Provision of a post-attack meteorological service.
Headquarters UKWMO was located in a converted barracks building in Cowley, Oxfordshire, and was headed by a Director and Deputy Director supported by a small administrative staff. Five professional Sector Controllers and five Assistant Sector controllers were co-located at the five Royal Observer Corps area headquarters.
At each of the twenty five ROC group controls the UKWMO was represented by volunteer and specially trained members. In the event of war the senior UKWMO volunteer present would command the group as Group Controller. Assessing the nuclear burst and fallout information and data provided by the ROC was a team of ten or more Warning Officers led by a Chief Warning Officer.
The members of the warning team were recruited from mainly local secondary school science teachers, or commercial engineers and technicians with a scientific education and background. They trained weekly from printed materials provided by the Home Office scientific branch and through lectures or practical training organised by the Assistant Sector Controller who was the area UKWMO training officer.
The Director UKWMO would be located at the United Kingdom Regional Air Operations Command (UK RAOC) within Strike Command's Operations Centre nuclear bunker at RAF High Wycombe to instigate the four minute warning. The Deputy Director would be located at a standby UK RAOC, described at the time as being "elsewhere in the UK". It's since been revealed as being at Goosnargh, Lancashire, within the UKWMO Western Sector nuclear bunker. Warnings were instantly distributed around the country by the Warning Broadcast System via 250 Carrier Control Points located at major police headquarters and 17,000 WB400 (later WB1400) carrier receivers in armed forces headquarters, hospitals, post offices, ROC posts and private homes in remote rural areas where hand operated sirens replaced the power sirens in the urban towns.
Sparetime warning team members were activated, through a rehearsed Transition To War telephone calling card procedure, by wholetime Royal Observer Corps officers located at the twenty five group headquarters. All ROC telephone lines and the warning broadcast system were protected by the Post Office's Telephone Preference Scheme that kept the lines active when the general public's system would be suspended under wartime regulations.
Both wholetime and sparetime UKWMO personnel undertook specialist residential training at the Emergency Planning College, The Hawkhills, Easingwold, Yorkshire. Several major war simulation exercises were held each year 2 x WARMON (Warning and Monitoring) one day UK exercises and the two day INTEX (International exercise) along with other NATO countries.
Four times a year minor and limited exercises called POSTEX were held on a stop - start basis across three evenings of a week, Monday to Wednesday. Realistic simulation material was provided for realtime simulations of a nuclear attack.
Approximately every four or five years each group was subjected to a "no notice" and in depth assessment similar to an RAF "TACEVAL" or Tactical Evaluation, where a mixed team of UKWMO and ROC full-time staff would appear and evaluate all aspects of the group's planning and operations under realistic wartime conditions over a period of 48 hours.