I was born into an era when fear and relief played equal roles in the minds of many. Fourteen years of wartime rationing had only ended a few years before and the memories of that bloody conflict were still fresh in the minds, hearts and bodies of every adult, many of whom had also lived through the Great War. Few families were intact or wholly unscathed and the scars of those years would, in many subtle ways, affect my newborn generation.

The ‘war to end all wars’ had been rapidly followed by World War II. The Vietnamese conflict was at its height, the Cold War showed no sign of abating and there was no sign at all of peace bought at a cost of millions of lives. My own father was posted on active service with the Royal Engineers just after I was born. Even for the average family enjoying the new-found freedoms of the sixties, war and its horrors were an ever present shadow.

My grandfather, who had fought in Burma, owned a cine camera and projector. Where, or how, he had acquired it, I do not know, but amongst the very earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons, home movies and silent films was another, showing live footage of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

That film too was silent…and partly in colour. As the clouds billowed, creating fantastical shapes in the air, he would tell of the horrors that surreal beauty was unleashing on the ground. Back then, we knew only what had been publicly released…and that was little enough. We were too close to the war and the decisions taken to end it…too close to disaster for those in power to want to share the whole truth, perhaps… but he was both artist and scientist and could deduce much from what was known. The truth about the vaporising of life at the epicentre of the blast where the temperature was as hot as the surface of the sun, the horrific burns, melted eyes and radiation sickness that decimated and destroyed so many hundreds of thousands of lives…that would take years to become widely known.

Only shadows, painted by radiation, remain of many of those vaporised at Nagasaki.

But enough was known to horrify and sow the fear of nuclear war in every heart and mind. We all knew there were secret bunkers built to protect the chosen few. We knew of the watching stations designed to give the ‘four-minute warning’ most of us would probably never hear. There were still sirens, regularly tested, and instructions on what to do during a nuclear attack. And parents made their own plans for if and when the worst should happen, knowing the makeshift shelters behind sandbags and doors would do little good.

It was in the kitchen of the modern maisonette where we lived that my mother first told me what would happen. I can see the scene as clearly now as I could then. I could describe every detail, from the reinforced glass walls, threaded with steel wire, to the pile of scones  cooling from the oven and the blackberry jam we had made together earlier that day. I can almost smell them.

“I would kill you first, then myself,” she said.

I would have been about nine years old, she in her mid twenties. Even though I understood her reasoning and the desire to protect that prompted her words, it was a shocking thing to hear and a shocking thing for a  young mother to have to contemplate.

I care little for the minutiae of party politics and posturing. I keep abreast of the news and, like the rest of the world, watch in horror at the political wrangling that threatens to use human lives as pawns. It matters not at all  who pulls the trigger if you are in the line of fire.

It beggars belief that this threat continues, that humanity’s leaders and governments continue to invest more and more money in bigger, deadlier weapons as a preventative measure against anyone actually launching them. We already have more than enough to obliterate the total land mass of the planet.

I have no answers. Perhaps there are none that include peace without that delicate balance of power versus responsibility. Unilateral disarmament is a dream that may never be realised… someone will always seek the upper hand, while ever there is power and position to be won, no matter how transient.

All I know is that I do not want any human being to suffer the horrors of nuclear war… or our children or grandchildren to be faced with the choice my mother feared. Or for our generation to go down in some silent and unrecorded history as the one that finally destroyed our home.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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89 Responses to Self-destruct

  1. Mr. Militant Negro says:

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fandango says:

    Sobering thoughts.


  3. goroyboy says:

    Sigh so much to take in, I can only imagine the overwhelming feeling for a nine year old. Well done Sue


  4. Ritu says:

    It’s a horrifying thought Sue….


  5. Well said – yes, sobering


  6. jenanita01 says:

    The threat grows larger every single day, and our fear grows with it. I wonder how many of us realise just how near we are to disaster?


  7. I can’t imagine what you had gone at that young age. I watched the news of what happened in some countries. I’m horrified of what could happen to us.


  8. Eliza Waters says:

    Well put, Sue. It certainly does beggar belief that this threat continues. Pure Idiocracy, it is.


  9. Mary Smith says:

    I’m the same generation, Sue. I didn’t have that conversation with my mother but I do remember asking my father what we should do if we heard the four minute warning. I can’t remember what he told me; the expression on his face was telling me something else too scary to contemplate. I heard someone on the radio the other day being asked why North Korea was so determined to develop nuclear arms and the answer was, ‘Same reason as other countries who already have them – security and prestige.’ It’s terrifying to think our fate is in the hands of people with over-large, easily bruised egos.
    On a slight detour, I think Theresa May should be made to go and live in the Yemen for a couple of weeks and see the results of selling arms to Saudi.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      I doubt if any of our generation escaped that fear, Mary. I had a long conversation with Nick about nuclear warfare today. Athough we taught him about the consequences of war, the holocaust, and the Bomb, he has only recently become aware of the true enormity of the devastation caused by such weapons in human terms. It makes me wonder how many others of his generation and yonger are fully aware… and whether it is better to grow in relative ignorance or knowledge.

      Believe me, there are a good many politicians I would like to see personally living with the consequences of their actions and policies…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. fransiweinstein says:

    Beautifully said Sue. As if the normal everyday party politics and posturing weren’t enough, added to that is the fact that the fate of the world is now in the hands of two dangerously insane, power hungry maniacs.


  11. Pingback: Self-destruct | Not Tomatoes

  12. Reblogged this on Joyce's Treasures of Encouragments and commented:
    No one wins in WAR!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I remember learning about Nuclear, Biological and Chemical warfare some time ago. It is utterly terrifying and has stayed with me ever since.


  14. No one wins in any War. Lives loss and homes destroyed. So sad in 2017, we still can’t find a way to get along with each other. To agree to disagree. To Pray more. Thanks Sue!!


  15. Jennie says:

    Wow! I tried to think, “”What would I have felt had my mother said the same thing to me?” Like yours, she was a practical woman. Loving, yet no-nonsense. I think that would have shocked me to the core. Your excellent post is thought provoking.


  16. What upsets me the most, Sue, is that all of this is a choice. And it may not be easy, but we as a world can choose differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Your words remind me of the feeling all of us had during the so called “cold war”. In the eighties hope was enormously rising that this threats of nuclear war never will happen again. And now… One could say “Oh, this guy over there in North Corea and that guy over here in the USA are only two dumb boys.” But there have always been the dumb boys that brought most of the suffering and bloodshed to humanity…


  18. Ali Isaac says:

    It’s too horrible to contemplate. I will never understand how the powers that be don’t/ won’t learn from the lessons of history.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Widdershins says:

    My generation is the one that came to adulthood during the ‘cold war’. Our nightmares were of global nuclear annihilation. Many of us were quite surprised, and delighted, that we were still alive at the turn of the century.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I grew up in the age of “duck and cover drills” where hiding under our desks was supposed to keep us from dying from nuclear bomb. Even as a little kid, I thought that was incredibly stupid. All these years later, we don’t seem to have advanced much from where we started when I was a child. I keep expecting common sense to overcome politics. It never does.

    I don’t worry about the big war. No one will survive it anyway. But — it was supposed to be better than this. Different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I watched one of the public information films the other day on how to build a fallout shelter by leaning a door against a wall…

      But then, we are taught even less these days.

      I agree…different would have been nice.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. dgkaye says:

    Amen Sue. A powerful piece from you. It’s all about power and foolish little boys antagonizing one another at the expense of human life. Such a sorry state of things right now. I pray the generals will be the decision makers, rather than ‘the orange one’. 😦


  22. Extraordinary piece. We live in chilling times. I remember doing “duck and cover” drills in school, and not really understanding what the danger was (I was in 1st grade). As my understanding grew, I became horrified and terrified. You have captured that feeling so well. I’m reblogging this. Thank you for writing it.


  23. Pingback: Self-destruct (reblogging) | ArmsaKimbo Blog

  24. During the Cuban missile crisis, we had those duck and cover drills, which gave us little comfort, but I never addressed it all with my family. I can’t imagine the conversation you had with your mom…how terrifying for you. Now, decades later, as you say, the madness persists. Nagasaki and Hiroshima need to be revisited, that history can not be repeated. sigh…


  25. simonjkyte says:

    The Cold War was actually a much safer time than now.


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