The prospect of nuclear war may have dissipated somewhat by late 1988, but tensions between the West and Russia remained and the threat of annihilation still loitered at the back of many people's minds.

A harrowing report from the Gazette on November 11 that year revealed contingency plans for most of Ealing's parks to be converted into mass burial grounds in the event of an apocalypse.

Ealing Council had been asked by the London Fire and Defence Authority to come with a plan to handle thousands of corpses, dispose of waste and set up emergency cooking operations and water supplies.

West Middlesex Golf Club, Acton Park, Ealing Common, Horsenden Hill, Perivale Park and Southall municipal sports ground were all earmarked to become community care centres in the event of nuclear attack.

The Home Office instructed all local authorities to ignore religious rites and personal wishes, and instead move quickly to cremate all human remains in mass graves.

The town hall's main concern was that not enough council staff would be left alive who were willing to dispose of heaps of decaying corpses.

Questions were also raised about how worthwhile the exercise would prove given the unpredictable outcome of a strike.

Councillor Janis Grant, chair-woman of Ealing's public protection committee, said: "We would rather put our energy and resources into preparing for peacetime disasters where we could actually do some good."

Research at the time suggested that only one in five people in Ealing would survive a nuclear attack, and nearly all of those would be seriously injured.

The London Nuclear Information Unit studied how the capital coped during the Blitz for an indication of the comparative impact.

The devastating bombing campaign by the Luftwaffe in the Second World War resulted in almost 30,000 dead, and local authorities had to place corpses under shrouds or in papier mache coffins before ferrying them in furniture vans to trench graves deep enough to take five rows of bodies.

But the unit's research pointed to a total death toll of between one million and six million Londoners, making the recovery operation almost certainly impossible.

It looked at the US invasion of Manila in 1945, when mass burials were organised to bury the 39,000 people who lost their lives. US troops found they were unable to cope with the burials for more than a week before being overcome with anorexia, nausea, vomiting, depression and insomnia.

The operation took 80 soldiers eight weeks to bury all the corpses - a fraction of the time it would take to handle the millions killed in a London-wide holocaust.