Military advice on burying the dead after nuclear attack
In August 1979, the Ministry of Defence published the “Joint Service Manual of Home Defence”. This document, classified as Restricted, provided instructions to the UK armed forces on the defence of the UK in the event of a war, with a strong focus on nuclear attack.
Part of the military aid it was envisaged they would provide to the civil authorities was assisting with the burial of the dead. The manual insists scrupulous records should be kept, and even provides a form to complete for each corpse.
The dead were to be treated with respect, and – curiously – the guidance was to bury them with a view to recovering the bodies later:
The only acknowledgement that burying bodies after a nuclear strike might pose some practical issues comes later:
My book, Nuclear War in the UK (Four Corners Books, 2019) is packed with images of British public information campaigns, restricted documents, propaganda and protest spanning the length of the Cold War.
It also tells the story of how successive UK governments tried to explain the threat of nuclear attack to the public. It costs just £10 – find out more here.
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