IT was a different world.

Space shuttle Columbia was on its second mission, the Double Eagle had become the first balloon to cross the Pacific Ocean and the Royal Family had announced that Princess Diana was pregnant with her first child.

Closer to home, where David Bowie and Queen’s hit song Under Pressure was – perhaps appropriately – number one in the charts, the news was more bleak.

It was the height of the Cold War and on November 26, 1981, the Daily Echo carried a report announcing that nuclear bunker plans for Hampshire were underway.

Wing commander Peter Harle, the county’s emergency planning officer, told the paper at the time that eventually mass graves would have to be built to accommodate the 40 per cent of the county’s population that would not survive a nuclear war.

As onlookers paled he added: “We have to contemplate in great depth where we have to bury the dead.

“Burial of the dead is a problem that the officers appointed in the districts and county headquarters will have to think about.”

Daily Echo:

Today it seems scarcely imaginable that such a grim threat could hang over the area for so long.

As part of an exploration into the Solent’s Cold War past the Daily Echo has been granted access to the nuclear bunker that would have housed Hampshire’s leaders if war broke out.

Daily Echo:

The world facing Ian Hoult (pictured above), head of emergency planning and resilience at Hampshire County Council, does not contain the imminent threat of destruction but the underground shelter, designed to withstand a direct hit from a 15-megaton bomb, remains.

Daily Echo:

In a nod to its past the room is now where department heads, rather than county leaders, meet to thrash out solutions to modern-day ‘emergencies’.

Daily Echo:

“It’s now my emergency control centre and it’s not just one room, it’s a network of rooms,” said Mr Hoult.

Daily Echo:

While not dealing with the imminent threat of the atomic bomb public health emergencies are still planned and responded to within its walls.

Mr Hoult said: “It had rooms for storage and food and secure communications machines were there – basically it was where the principal officers of the county council would have waited in the event of a nuclear bomb to maintain a regular site of government.

“My predecessors had to do what’s now called emergency planning. In 1992 the civil defence regulations put an end to that and the government said: ‘we are going to stop planning for war now’.

“What they had planned to do was look after the population and I know they established community groups over the county that equipped them with certain things so that they could look after it.”

Daily Echo:

Despite the sinister circumstances that led to its construction Mr Hoult says he doesn’t often think of its past.

He said: “I have been doing this job for 24 years and it’s no surprise to me.”

Another building in Hampshire that can lay claim to Cold War history is closer to the coast at Lepe Country Park in the New Forest.

Volunteers from the Royal Observer Corps would left their loved ones and lived for a week at a time in the subterranean station to provide information to the rest of the country.

Daily Echo:

Park manager Alison Steele (pictured above emerging from the monitoring post) said: “Two of them would be down there for two to three weeks at a time – it’s quite phenomenal.

“The reality is that if a bomb had been dropped they could have come up to nothing.”