BENEATH a roiling mushroom cloud, tens of thousands of Swindon people either lie dead or have vanished in a puff of superheated carbon dust.

Another hundred thousand or so have little to look forward to apart from dying of their wounds, joining a work party or finding out whether radiation poisoning really does turn one into a mutant.

Such was one of the less than cheery scenarios presented to Wiltshire County Council on June 24, 1985, in a document called Possible Effects on Thamesdown of a Nuclear Attack.

Now housed in the excellent Swindon Collection at the central library and available for public inspection, the report was prepared by a campaigning organisation called Scientists Against Nuclear Arms (SANA).

In Moscow, reforming Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had been in office for a little over three months, but the Berlin Wall would stand for another four years or so and the Cold War was still very much warm verging on toasty.

The previous year had seen the screening in Britain of Threads, a now-infamous docu-drama showing the destruction of Sheffield in a nuclear holocaust.

Written by Barry Hines of ‘Kes’ fame, it traumatised just about all who saw it, thanks to images including that of an incinerated cat, a mutilated milkman, radiation-induced vomiting and, perhaps most notoriously, a shopper losing control of a certain bodily function on seeing a mushroom cloud.

The SANA report outlines three scenarios involving death and injury tolls of 16,000, 41,000 and 85,000, depending on the fire pattern chosen by the Soviets.

Swindon may not have been of Cold War military significance, but it happened to be near RAF Lyneham, the US base at RAF Fairford, the still-usable runways of the old RAF Wroughton and a rumoured wartime seat of government at Corsham which we now know to have been an entire underground town.

Also, with Swindon a possible site for mobile cruise missile launchers dispersed from Greenham Common in Berkshire, there was a pretty good chance that the Soviets would launch a massive airburst over the town just in case.

In the worst scenario SANA estimated that in addition to 85,000 people being incinerated, shredded, mangled and otherwise incapacitated, another 29,000 could expect to have their homes subject to “reduced radiation protection”. This can probably be translated as: “Smashed to bits.”

Still, even in those Cold War days the entrepreneurial spirit of Swindon shone through.

Some years earlier, on Monday, August 25, 1980, the Adver reported the setting up of a company called Farrarlay to sell domestic nuclear shelters at £10,000 apiece.

Brothers Peter and Richard Lay, of Okus Road, joined forces with former nuclear power worker Vince Farrar to devise underground shelters they said would withstand not only a nuclear strike but also months of radioactivity.

Mr Farrar said: “With more and more countries trying to get a nuclear bomb, and with the deteriorating situation in the world, a nuclear war has to be on the cards.”

With the Soviets having lately invaded Afghanistan, prompting sabre-rattling all round, his pessimism was understandable, but the shelters never did get to be tested in operating conditions and all three young men went on to have successful business careers.

The following year, Adver reporter Shirley Mathias interviewed a 59-year-old Wroughton grandmother called Esme Roberts, who was campaigning for families to lay in supplies of canned goods, drinking water and other necessities in readiness for the apocalypse.

Esme called for a series of short TV programmes, perhaps presented by Terry Wogan, telling people what simple steps they could take to protect their families.

What she couldn’t have known was that her idea partly matched secret official policy. As missiles rained on Britain, it was planned that the BBC’s most reassuring voices would guide us through the proceedings from a special bunker.

The Adver achives also include a copy of The Householder’s Guide to Survival in Nuclear War, issued in March of 1980 by the County of Avon Emergency Planning Team.

It includes such handy hints as whitewashing windows to keep the nuclear flash out.

Beneath the title, some Adver scribe of the past has scrawled: “Face it kid you’re gonna kick the bucket.”