Cuban missile crisis: 'Vulcan was ultimate deterrent'

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Media captionLincolnshire's role in the Cuban Missile Crisis was uncovered by historians

RAF Vulcans based in Lincolnshire were the "ultimate deterrent" in defusing the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, a veteran has said.

Peter West, who was an electronics officer at RAF Coningsby, said "in terms of bombers - we would have been first there".

On Tuesday 16 October that year, the US and the USSR came close to war when the missiles were stationed in Cuba.

Speaking 50 years later, Mr West said the Vulcans helped prevent nuclear war.

"We were very much involved - but we honestly didn't believe we would go because we were the deterrent and we believed in the deterrent," Mr West said.

He said that at one point, crews at RAF Coningsby were at a stage of five minutes readiness, with engines running.

'Dead anyway'

Crews even slept by the side of their aircraft in caravans, ready to scramble, he said.

Mr West said: "It was close, but we knew the Soviets were monitoring us - they would have heard us getting to that state of readiness and reported it to the Kremlin."

He said claims by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) at the time "that we wanted a war", were wrong.

"Nobody in their right mind wanted that, God forbid, Lincolnshire would have taken a hammering," he said.

"If we had gone, the chances are we would have been dead anyway, and even if we had got back safely there would be nothing to come back to.

"We were confident that the deterrent, the threat to the Soviet Union, that if they tried anything - we would be able to hit them hard."

The crisis was subsequently resolved when the USSR agreed to remove the missiles in return for the withdrawal of US nuclear missiles from Turkey.

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire has organised a series of events to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis.

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