Nuclear wipeout as Kirkcaldy left exposed

Boom - there goes Kirkcaldy ...
Boom - there goes Kirkcaldy ...

Was Kirkcaldy singled out to face certain annihilation in the event of a nuclear attack, as declassified government documents suggest?

According to Home Office papers, released last week, Kirkcaldy was the only UK borough not to provide nuclear shelter for residents - despite Rosyth dockyards being an obvious target during the Cold War.

In the 1961 report, written at a time when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war as the Cuban Missile Crisis loomed, government scientists drew up a plan to minimise casualties in the event of a Soviet attack on Britain.

The report recommended that people living in bungalows or prefabricated houses which offered little protection in the event of an atomic blast should seek refuge in communal buildings - but it seems Kirkcaldy had none.

“It will be seen that in all the county boroughs (except Kirkcaldy) and urban districts there would be little difficulty in accommodating the people whose dwellings had a mininmal PF (protective factor) of ten or less in communal refuges with a PF of 150 or more,” stated the report, which was marked “Secret”.

However, according to Professor Gerard DeGroot, chair of the Department of Modern History at St Andrews University, the real question is not why Kirkcaldy residents would be ‘left to die horribly’ as suggested but rather why it was the only borough to understand protection was practically non-existent.

“In truth, every citizen in the UK ‘would have been left to die horribly’, not just those in Kirkcaldy,” he explained.

“Other cities might have had shelter plans, but the city managers in those cities would have realised that they were pointless.

“After the development of the hydrogen bomb, the British government (and indeed the American) essentially gave up on the idea of protecting citizens from nuclear attack. It was not just a case of building shelters to withstand the blast, it was also the challenge of protecting them from radioactive fallout in the long weeks after the attack.”

He added: “If you’ve been to the Secret Bunker, you’ll have got a grasp of just how difficult those problems were. And that huge and expensive bunker had a capacity for only 300.”

Councillor Willie Clarke, who has served almost 42 years as an elected councillor in Fife, remembered discussions which touched on Kirkcaldy choosing not to invest in a shelter - but he was unaware of it being the sole region in the UK not to have one.

He said: “There was no protection and a lot of people at the time took it that, if there was an attack nearby, it would be a fait accompli in any case.

“If a strike happened they would be obliterated one way or another.”