What Will I Do with 952,000 Dead in Scotland?; Grisly Headache in Planning for Aftermath of Nuclear Holocaust
Byline: IAN DOW
FEARS of nuclear Armageddon left planners struggling with the grim question of how to cope with a predicted death toll of up to one million Scots.
Experts calculated that as many as 2000 people a day would die in Midlothian alone if Scotland was hit by an all-out nuclear strike, secret Government papers reveal today.
But while officials had no problem assessing the scale of the holocaust, they could not decide on the best way to dispose of all the bodies.
Scottish Office files, made public today for the first time in 30 years, include blueprints of makeshift mortuary body racks and photographs of emergency coffins .
And a Ministry of Health memo in 1950 admitted: "It is not considered likely that the bodies of persons killed in mass destruction attacks, whether with atomic bombs or HE (high explosive) could be dealt with by ordinary methods."
Officials concluded that cremation would use too much fuel, and sinking the bodies at sea in the hulks of ships would involve too much handling.
But one solution appeared to be mass burial pits dug with the aid of the unemployed.
The keeping of official records on the subject was prompted when civil servants researched an answer to a parliamentary question in 1961, when John Maclay was the Scottish Secretary. An MP inquired who was the "designated burial officer" for the West of Scotland.
The interest in the nuclear question reflected fears in the 1960s of the Cold War with the Soviet Union turning into a nuclear inferno.
The world edged to the abyss of nuclear destruction in 1962 as the US squared up to the Soviet Union over its plans to install nuclear missiles on Cuban soil.
American President Kennedy blockaded Cuba and demanded that the USSR remove its deadly arsenal.
The world breathed a huge sigh of relief when USSR President Kruschev backed down.
It was against this background that the Scottish Office asked local councils to consider how they could cope.
Scotland, with vital communication centres, the nuclear submarine base of the Clyde, a naval base at Rosyth, strategic radar sites and RAF airfields was sure to be high on the Warsaw Pact target list for nuclear hits.
A 1964 study concluded: "The number of deaths resulting from a heavy nuclear attack with with ground burst bombs, mainly in the central belt of Scotland, would be so great that normal interment would not be a practical proposition."
In the worst-hit areas, the dead would either be incinerated or buried under rubble.
In the west of the country it was estimated there would be 522,000 casualties in such areas, 60,000 in the east and 63,000 in the north.
There would be no attempt to recover corpses from nearest the centre of the blast point because the bodies would most likely have been completely destroyed and the area heavily irradiated. …