In late 1962, I was a lowly Corporal in the Royal Engineers at HQ 1 Corps in Bielefeld as part of the British Army of the Rhine with another 7 years still to serve. Among my jobs as a draughtsman was the daily updating of the War Room map. This must have been about 2.5 by 4 metres and showed the whole of Germany with the positions of the Allied and Soviet troops. As we were heavily outnumbered, it was always assumed that we would have to rely on nuclear weapons in the case of war. Then Soviet missiles sites were discovered in Cuba and the Cold War suddenly got hotter. Those twelve days, from 16th until 28rd October, were scary indeed, until President Khrushchev decided to turn the ships bearing the missiles around.
Towards the end of the crisis when I was working on the map, one of the officers came into the room and, almost in passing, asked me if I’d talked to my wife about what was going on. When I said that I hadn’t, his response was chilling, “If I were you, I’d talk to her tonight!”
Well, fast forward 55 years and, although the situation doesn’t yet appear to be as serious, the nature of two of the major players this time around, might just make it so. It is at times like this when I really do think that homo sapiens might just be a failed experiment. At which point I become even more determined to “Keep Calm and Carry On”.