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Nuclear Strike Targets in Scotland

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Russian targets in Scotland
Russian targets in Scotland
Source and date unknown

The following list of Cold War Targets was published in a Glasgow newspaper sometime in the 1970s. We only have this piece of the page, the actual date and paper are unknown.

If anyone seriously thinks Faslane or Coulport puts them at risk, consider that the reality is that EVERY government office in the land was (is?) a nominated strike. Should a nuclear strike occur, you could pretty much wave goodbye to mainland Britain, let alone Scotland.

Auchendennan refers to the location of a fuel depot near the better known Glenmallan jetty, used to transfer munitions from the nearby Glen Douglas Munitions Depot.

Decades later, many of these seem obscure. Even at the time, some would have been considered obscure. However, in 2000, the invasion of Iraq was supposedly based on current, definitive intelligence, so it's worth comparing the difficulty with which local Soviet agents could obtain and transmit target information to their masters in the days of the Cold War, compared to the relative ease with which similar information can be transferred today.

Probable nuclear targets in the United Kingdom

Scotland's Secret Bunker had a reference to these targets, as per the quote from a blog entry we were alerted to:

A few newspapers, over the decades, have alluded to the idea that the UK government quietly identified potential bombing targets, drawing up evacuation plans and other preventative measures in the process. But, in 1972, the Cabinet Office approved a list titled “Probable nuclear targets in the United Kingdom” noting over 100 targets across the British Isles.

The majority of these sites were stationed in rural England, place such as Lincolnshire and Norfolk, but 15 sites were located north of the border. Unsurprisingly, the naval bases RNAD Coulport, Holy Loch, Faslane, as well as the base at Rosyth, topped the list alongside Glasgow and Edinburgh; but no other Scottish cities featured on the list.

RAF Lossiemouth got a mention, together with former RAF bases Kinloss in Moray, Machrihanish on the tip of Kintyre and another of Fife’s previous military assets, Leuchars.

London was obviously viewed as the key target, with officials expecting up to 4 five megaton bombs to strike the city. Places like Glasgow and Edinburgh, highlighted for their population sizes and governmental significance, were expected to endure two blasts of similar magnitude; which were 333 times more powerful than Hiroshima. A 1953 report also revealed that up to 80,000 people could have died if one bomb struck Glasgow, but this is seen as a very conservative figure and is very optimistic of Glasgow’s famous tenements providing enough protection to civilians. In fact, it is said that the tenements could’ve produced additional problems in hindering the rescue effort, despite offering better protection from Gamma Rays than housing in places like Birmingham and Manchester, as they would just as easily collapse and help spread fires caused by the blast’s flash.

Radar stations in Buchan and Saxa Vord, Shetland, also featured on the list, while only 1 naval communication centre and 1 military commander centre, in Thurso and Pitreavie respectively, found themselves in Scotland. Most commander centres were focused around London, whereas the East coast was littered with radar stations.

- Bomb Targets in Scotland[1]

Soviet mapping

The Soviets had highly detailed maps of Britain, sometimes more detailed than that of Ordnance Survey, and sometimes stolen from Ordnance Survey, who are reputed to have considered suing for copyright infringement.

Reference Documentation

Note the date on this list, 1967, which predates the list referred to in the Secret Bunker blog entry (1972) by some 5 years.

Probable Nuclear Targets

From de-classified documentation relating to targeting:

Annex A to COS 1929/2/11/67

Probable Nuclear Targets in the United Kingdom: Assumptions for Planning:

Para 1 (c) on "Bases for Allied Nuclear Strike Forces": Gareloch, Holy Loch, Rosyth.

Para 2 on "Major cites", 20 UK cities listed. (Top of the list is Glasgow).

Nuclear Targets in the UK

From Struggle for Survival. Governing Britain after the Bomb, by Steve Fox

5. Nuclear Targets in the UK
The following list of 81 probable targets for nuclear attack was prepared by the Joint Intelligence Committee for the Machinery of Government in War Sub-Committee of the Home Defence Committee in 1967.

Most targets were expected to be attacked by both missiles and aircraft, usually with 4 x 500-kiloton airburst weapons. London was expected to be targeted with 10 weapons totalling 9 megatons.

Control centres
  • Government (central) - London, Cheltenham.
  • Government (regional) - The 12 former RSG sites were considered as possible targets.
  • Military - Northwood, Plymouth, Pitreavie, Fort Southwick, High Wycombe, Ruislip, Bawtry.
Bomber bases
  • Scampton, Wittering, Waddington, Honiton, Cottesmore, Marham, Coningsby, St Mawgan, Lossiemouth, Machrihanish, Leeming, Gaydon, Finningley, Valley, Bedford, Brawdy, Yeovilton, Lynham, Wyton, Pershore, Boscombe Down, Kinloss, Manston, Ballykelly, Filton, Leconfield, Alconbury, Bentwaters, Woodbridge, Wethersfield, Lakenheath, Upper Heyford.
Seaborne Nuclear Strike Bases
Major Cities
  • Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff, Manchester, Southampton, Leeds, Newcastle, Bristol, Sheffield, Swansea, Hull, Middlesborough, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Stoke-on-Trent, Belfast, Edinburgh, Nottingham
Air Defence
  • Control centres – Bentley Priory, West Drayton.
  • Fighter bases - Coltishall, Leuchars, Wattisham, Binbrook.
  • Surface-to-air missile sites – Woodhall Spa, North Coates, West Raynham.
  • Radar sites – Fylingdales, Boulmer, Patrington, Bawdsey, Neatishead, Buchan, Saxa Vord, Staxton Wold, Feltwell.

Conventional attack targets

From the same source as the above listing:

3. Conventional air attacks
This is a list of military targets “attacked” during a 2½ day period in the conventional war phase of Exercise Hard Rock.

AbingdonClydeLakenheathSt Mawgan
AlconburyColchesterLeemingSaxa Vord
BeaconsfieldCromarty FirthLoch EweSealand
Bawdsey  LossiemouthStafford
BawtryDonnington (COD)LynehamStanmore Park
BensonDoverStaxton Wold
Bentley PrioryFairfordMachrihanish
BentwatersFarnboroughMarham Turnhouse
Bishops CourtFinningleyMountwiseUpper Heyford
Boscomber DownForth
BracknellNorth CoatesWattisham
BramptonGatwickNortholtWest Drayton
BrawdyNorthwoodWest Raynham
Brize NortonHendonNewburyWilton
BuchanHigh WycombeWittering
Burton WoodHoly LochOdihamWoodbridge
Catterick Pitreavrie (sic)
ChilmarkPortsmouth Dockyard
ChivenorLirkliston (sic)Rosyth Naval Base


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