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March PRONI Document of the Month: "Emergency Bread Exercise"

March PRONI Document of the Month: "Emergency Bread Exercise"
PRONI’s document of the month for March is the Emergency Bread Exercise, PRONI Ref D3118/6/5.

The file ‘Emergency Bread Exercise’ dating from 1953/54 was found within the records of the United Co-operative Baking Society, Belfast. The report, originally marked as ‘Confidential’, gives detailed predictions of the probable scale of destruction following an atomic strike on Belfast. As well as commenting on the grim realities of casualties and evacuation, the record concentrates on another crucial aspect of life for us all: the supply of our daily bread.

PRONI’s Repository team picked the document. Team leader Alan Robertson, “this early fifties emergency planning exercise provides an insight into the expected aftermath of an atomic attack – with
March PRONI Document of the Month: "Emergency Bread Exercise"
ground zero based at the now demolished, Midland Railway Station, York Street. It 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.”

The exercise provides insight on the post-war Belfast bakery industry, including the importance of house to house deliveries. The report details that in response to an attack emergency bread centres would be established and exports strictly prohibited.

Maggie Smith, Director of PRONI said: "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. Now in 2014 the Cold War is a topic within the NI GCSE curriculum and this great document will fascinate students looking at Cold War topics from a local angle.“

To see some high resolution copies of this document, please go to our Document of the Month page.

March is Creativity Month! Click onto creativityni.org to find out what is happening in your area. For PRONI events, see our Talks and Events webpage.

Story by Garth Stewart

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