Porton Down Germ Warfare Experiments Around Dorset in the Late 60s-early 70s

The Goblin Universe was a short-lived, small press version of the Fortean Times that briefly appeared in the 1990s. That decade was a brief golden age of the small magazine, when thanks to desktop publishing software if became cheap and easy for ordinary people to publish their own magazines on whatever interested them. Quite a number were produced by amateur writers’ groups, as well as sexual minorities like gays and transpeople. They had their own little magazine, Aeon – The Magazine of Transkind. And there were all manner of mags devoted to the occult, the strange and the weird. The Goblin Universe was one of these latter magazines, produced by Jon Downes and some of the same people responsible for the cryptozoological magazine, Animals and Men.

I found this brief piece below about the release of germs around the Dorset area, as well as London and the Southeast, by aircraft and ships as part of Porton Down bacteriological warfare research in issue five of the magazine. Part of it runs

Germ Warfare Experiments in the West Country

With friends like these…

Parts of London and the South East were used as test sites for germ warfare between 1964 and 1977, according to an admission by British defence secretary Michael Portillo. He stated, though, that there was no risk to public health. On 3 Feb 97 the Dorset Evening Echo carried a follow-up

“An urgent inquiry is being demanded into revelations that tens of thousands of people in south and west Dorset were exposed to germs during secret biological warfare tests. The government admitted that scientists released radioactive, chemical and biological agents into the air in a series of secret trials over 14 years…”

The report continues, “Microbiologists claim that some of the materials released are capable of causing a wide range of illnesses, including septicaemia and pneumonia…”

And we thought the Russians were the enemy at that time…

No-one actually seems to know what was released over the area, but if the materials were so harmless then why the continuing veil of secrecy about what was done and why? A later report, dated 28 Feb, covers ‘unexplained ailments’, cancer clusters and deformities suffered by various people, and says

“A ship sprayed clouds of cells and spores which mobile sampling stations … then attempted to collect and monitor.”

The rest of the article is a piece from Mark North, their cartoonist, speculating whether the fuel tank his father remembered falling off an RAF onto a smallholder’s field near the main Dorchester road may have been part of these experiments due to the speed with which the police and the MOD reacted. They were soon there to recover the tank, which they claimed were full of measuring instruments. The magazine also said that it was investigating rumours that similar experiments were being carried out in the Willand/Halberton area of East Devon, although the MOD was being suspiciously silent about the whole affair.

That said, I think it’s clear that it was the Russians who were behind the Skripal poisoning, despite my early doubts that this was so. However, it clear that there are still very good reasons not to trust the government when it comes to secret experiments like these.

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5 Responses to “Porton Down Germ Warfare Experiments Around Dorset in the Late 60s-early 70s”

  1. trev Says:

    That’s truly shocking and absolutely unacceptable. It’s outrageous!

    • beastrabban Says:

      Absolutely. Unfortunately, I don’t doubt that the MOD and British government claimed that it was all going to be harmless as these organisations never take responsibility unless they are absolutely forced to.

  2. Brian Burden Says:

    Reputedly the American military released viruses and bacteria on subway stations. Experiments with LSD and other hallucogens on unwitting military personnel led to suicides, deliberate and otherwise. For an insight into the mindset of the people behind these activities, study the character of Dr Percival in Graham Greene’s The Human Factor.

    • beastrabban Says:

      There’s a lot of material on the various drug experiments on American servicemen. It was all done to create brainwashed assassins and spies who would work for the spy agencies without consciously doing so. I think the main book about that is The Hunt for the Manchurian Candidate, after the thriller of the same name.
      Thanks for the tip about Graham Greene’s The Human Factor. That’s not one of his I’ve heard of. I do remember ‘The Stolen Bacillus’, however. I can remember hearing that read on the Beeb’s Spinechillers, which was a sort of spooky Jackanory.

  3. Brian Burden Says:

    Other relevant reading: H.G.Wells, The Stolen Baccillus.

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