By Rob Morgan
The newsletter of the Ordnance Society often provides gems of information of use to the wargamer. The July 2015 issue, No.111, is an excellent example. Earlier in 2015 a group of OS members visited the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermarston, and the Newsletter contained a brief report by OS Board Graham Whittington, on the largely historical nuclear and atomic warfare hardware on display at the site. A few US readers may remember the name as it was a D-Day air base for the USAAF. Aldermarston, incidentally, is a site rarely opened even to specialist groups, and much of the “feedback” on the visit is fascinating; not only distant remembered bombs like “Blue Danube” and “Blue Steel “, but one or two great rarities. Including “Blue Peacock,” a nuclear weapon I’d never heard of!
Twentieth-century wargamers listen carefully: By the late 1950’s with the clear possibility of a major armoured thrust by Warsaw Pact forces across the German plains, a new weapon was conceived, “Blue Peacock.” It had its origins clearly in the subtle, lethal devices of “Winston’s ToyShop” in WWII, but essentially this was a large nuclear land mine!
It was skid-mounted, and designed to look like an oil tank, in order not to arouse suspicion; it could be installed under bridges, at strategic points, river crossings, in key areas, airfields etc. It had a seven-ton double steel casing containing a plutonium core surrounded by high explosives, in all a 10-kiloton yield. It was planned to bury or submerge, or otherwise hide, at least 10 of these landmines around critical areas across Germany in the event of an enemy attack looming.
The mines would be set to detonate after eight days (note the timescale) by simple mechanical means, or alternatively could be remotely detonated by British engineers. Once armed, an anti-tamper device would detonate the bombs within 10 seconds if disturbed or damaged! The mines were intended to cause massive devastation and leave large areas contaminated to prevent Soviet occupation. Two prototypes were constructed and clearly still exist, but “Blue Peacock” was never tested, though 10 were ordered. For undisclosed reasons, the West German government objected to the almost certain destruction of more than a third of its territory, and the bombs (allegedly) were never deployed.
The “Blue Peacock” device provides a fascinating and inescapable move-limiter for the earlier NATO-WARPAC period campaigns, obviously; and more “what if’s” than you can shake a stick at. All sorts of problems, errors and catastrophes could occur. It suggests acceptance of NATO land forces’ retreat early on, and the loss of swathes of territory of course and,
- Who in NATO would know where the mines were?
- Would there be decoy mines?
- What if a counter attack held and the mined area was retaken?
- Or the initial attack failed to reach the ticking mines?
- Could the mechanical method be stopped?
- Would Berlin be mined?
- A chain reaction possible?
- Or what if a bridge with a mine below was bombed while still in NATO hands? An interesting add-on to a Cold War campaign, eh? Throw the dice!