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GOVERNMENT officials secretly considered bringing in troops to dig graves for the bodies of the dead who were left unburied during the "winter of discontent", it was disclosed today. The idea had to be dropped amid fears of "unseemly scenes" if soldiers clashed with pickets outside cemetery gates, papers released to the National Archives at Kew under the 30-year rule show.

The spectacle of bodies going unburied by striking gravediggers in Liverpool and Tameside, Manchester, came to sum up the industrial anarchy of the winter of 1978/79 which brought Prime Minister and Cardiff South MP James Callaghan's Labour government to its knees.

A paper drawn up for the Government's Civil Contingencies Unit in January 1979 warned that 500 funerals had to be postponed, and that while bodies could be stored for up to six weeks in heat-sealed bags, this was "totally unacceptable for aesthetic reasons". Permitting grieving families to dig their own graves was also considered and ruled out. "Very few people could personally dig a grave because they would have neither the skill nor the strength." In the end, the best the officials could suggest was to let people find their own unofficial burial sites - although the idea was put forward with little enthusiasm.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 30, 2009
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