Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Dutch Series #8 - Bescherming Bevolking

The "Bescherming Bevolking" (Civil Defence) or commonly revered to as "BB" was founded in 1952 to protect the Dutch population in time of war. The organization was set up similarly to the English model (where the civil defence organization had played a major role during WWII .
BB Unit Pannerden
The BB was meant to provide support to the population under special circumstances such as the consequences of war, but also large-scale disasters. In the early 50s war meant conflict with conventional weapons, but from the second half of the 50s it became clear that a new World War would likely see the use of nuclear weapons. The BB had to educate people on how to survive nuclear attacks (believe it or not, as a drafted soldier in the early 80's, I was taught how to respond to nuclear attacks by showering myself with talking powder and lie flat on the ground for 30 seconds - no joke).
Magirus Deutz fire engine of the BB
The core of the BB were professionals, while the larger organization consisted of volunteers (at the height of it's popularity in 1956 there were 160.000 staff!).
 BB Observation Tower Warfhuizen (north eastern Netherlands)
In 1958 the government approved "Emergency Guard Duty", much in the light of nuclear attacks. Towers were set up along the eastern border, manned by guards looking out for Soviet war planes (this is not a joke either). A few of these towers still remain, monuments to the Cold War. These towers were open structures without telephone connections; the guard would have to run down and call the authorities from a nearby farm in case of an oncoming attack).
BB Beret, men, 1956-63
It was all taken very seriously, until the organization's disbandment in 1985.
BB Beret, women, 1956-63

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