Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Belfast was on atomic bomb hitlist

Planners feared tea shortage after nuclear attack

Published 05/05/2008

Nuclear threat: Belfast was target
Nuclear threat: Belfast was target

Secret records have revealed Belfast was on a the list of likely targets for an atomic bomb attack during the 1950s.

The information emerged as documents dating from 1954 to 1956, at the height of the Cold War, were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

However the papers also show that officials at Whitehall were worried about the survival of food supplies – including particular fears about tea shortages – in case of an attack on the UK by both A (atomic) and H (hydrogen) bombs.

"The tea position would be very serious with a loss of 75% of stocks and substantial delays in imports and with no system of rationing it would be wrong to consider that even 1oz per head per week could be ensured.

"No satisfactory solution has yet been found," noted one official.

A Ministry of Food list "for departmental planning purposes only" puts London, Birmingham, Merseyside, Manchester and Clydeside as H-bomb targets. Those listed as A-bomb targets were Tyneside, Teesside, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Derby, Purfleet in Essex, Southampton, Portsmouth, Bristol, Plymouth, Cardiff, Coventry and Belfast. "The present assumption is that each target would receive an H- or A-bomb respectively," it said.

The papers drawn, said: “The advent of thermo-nuclear weapons... has presented us with a new and much more difficult set of food defence problems.”

The objective of planning should be to be “completely ready to maintain supplies of food to the people of these islands, sufficient in volume to keep them in good heart and health from the onset of a thermonuclear attack on this country.”

It adds: “It has become increasingly clear that the severity of the attack which the enemy could launch would produce a catastrophe in the face of which past measures would be fatally deficient.

Arrangements for the stockpiling of food, emergency feeding and equipment and the availability of bread, milk, meat, oils and fats and tea and sugar were listed for discussion.

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