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'Defense against the unknown': UK releases 1983 nuclear war speech for queen

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LONDON — They could have been the final words ever spoken by Britain’s queen to her nation.

A speech urging Brits to “strive together to fight off the new evil” was drawn up by British government officials for the monarch to deliver in the event of an imminent nuclear war or chemical attack.

The address, written in 1983, was made public for the first time Wednesday as part of a tranche of government documents that had been classified for 30 years.

Britain must “prepare itself to survive against great odds,” says the speech, drawn up by U.K. government officials as part of a training exercise designed to work through potential Cold War scenarios.

It is one of a number of speeches from history that never had to be made - echoing examples such as an address penned by President Nixon’s speechwriter, William Safire, in case the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon ended in tragedy.

President Ronald Reagan listens as he poses for photographers with Queen Elizabeth II at a formal state dinner on March 3, 1983, in San Francisco. The hypothetical nuclear speech would have been broadcast the next day. Ed Reinke / AP file

The U.K.’s "WINTEX-CIMEX 83" simulation, which took place in the spring of 1983, came toward the end of the Cold War as President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher set their sights on victory over the Soviet Union.

Yet the nuclear arms race was in full swing, and the threat of chemical or nuclear attack was perceived as very real.

The exercise was so theoretical that it is not known if the queen had ever seen the speech prior to its disclosure.

“The queen sees lots of government documents all the time,” said a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman Wednesday. “We couldn’t say for certain if she has seen this one.”

Although it was only a simulation, the text of the Queen's address - hypothetically intended to be broadcast at noon on Friday, March 4 1983 - captures with chilling realism just how a nuclear war may have begun.

"Whatever terrors lie in wait for us all, the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength," the queen would have said.

“It is [the] close bond of family life that must be our greatest defense against the unknown. If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country's will to survive cannot be broken.

"As we strive together to fight off the new evil let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be. May God bless you all."

The speech is the latest piece of archive to illustrate the shadow cast over everyday life by the Cold War.

Among the most famous is the 1951 “Duck and Cover” government guidance film prepared by federal officials to deal with the new threat of nuclear attack on the United States.