A friend of mine has recently stumbled across an interesting map of Manchester drawn up by Soviet generals in 1974 during the Cold War. It shows possible invasion routes, strategic bridges, crossings and potential targets and was intended for distribution to front line commanders. In the event that relations between the UK and USSR deteriorated further then these would have been the best routes to go and do some T-72 battle tank spotting as the Russian military thundered past.
Dr Chris Perkins, senior geographer at Manchester University, believes the 1974 map reveals how the Soviet Union planned to invade Manchester. He says,“The Soviet military who compiled the maps used aerial sources such as spy planes and satellite imagery to supplement information from UK Ordnance Survey maps and publicly available road atlases and trade directories. But there’s so much extra information, it would be fair to assume that they were able to gather a considerable amount of intelligence on the ground. No doubt NATO were doing similar things in Russian cities.”
Researched fewer than 40 years ago, the map used road widths and load-bearing statistics to plot advance routes for tanks, ruling out older, crooked lanes where armour might be trapped by urban guerilla warfare. The Soviet planners also used a colour code for local objectives: industrial sites in black, administrative buildings in purple and military installations in green.
The map was discovered in the early 1990’s after the collapse of the Communist system. Military map-makers used the opportunity to capitalise on a new western market. It is believed that the Ministry of Defence sent vehicles over there to pick up as much as they could.