Published Tuesday, 04 March 2014
An atomic attack would have caused an increase in demand for bread. (© Getty)
Among the emergency measures included the placing of a Mobile Bakery Unit in Castlewellan, Co Down, which could move to other locations should the need arise.
A defence research study dating from 1953/54, and featured by the Public Records Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI), imagines an attack on the now demolished, Midland Railway Station on the York Road in the north of the city and the subsequent nuclear fall-out.
It speculated that all of Belfast along with parts of Co Antrim and Co Down would be affected.
Marked as confidential, the Emergency Bread Exercise estimated around 360,000 people could be caught in the inner zone of the blast "after the evacuation of priority classes".
Found among the Co-operative Baking Society's documents it highlights how the supply of our daily bread will be one of the main concerns in the aftermath of the devastating attack.
The study predicted that 11 bakeries and seven mills around Belfast would be either destroyed or so extensively damaged production would be lost.
Because of a rise in demand - it was expected to double in the first 36 hours - bakers would be requested to increase stocks of flour, yeast and salt.
Demand was also expected to increase in Londonderry.
This illustrates the disturbingly naive attitude to the impact of such a devastating attack, and the optimism prevalent at this early stage of the 'Cold War'.
Alan Robertson, PRONI
An emergency yeast distribution scheme would be put in place with the Regional Bread Officer working with the Emergency Yeast Officer.
Both would be appointed following the scheme's activation.
A Mobile Bakery Unit, staffed with a trained crew and based in Castlewellan but able to move to key locations, would be deployed to cope with the expected demand.
Distribution controls would also be put in place limiting the size of a loaf and the price, however, there were to be no restrictions on wholesale or retail delivery and, crucially, there would be no rationing imposed.
Alan Robertson from PRONI said: "The exercise provides insight on the post-war bakery industry, including the importance of house to house deliveries.
"The report details that in response to an atomic attack emergency bread centres would be established with a mobile bakery unit situated in Castlewellan and exports strictly prohibited."
PRONI director, Maggie Smith added: "In 1953 people were planning for survival in the event of an atomic attack.
"The Northern Ireland Emergency Bread Exercise demonstrates forward planning and creativity and is one of many unusual documents held in PRONI."
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