Movies-icon-48UK Government Secretly Sprayed its Own Citizens with Bacteria


"During 2004, two UK television documentaries were produced which investigated the past activities of the UK Government's Biological Warfare facility at Porton Down, Wiltshire. The programmes revealed that scientists from Porton Down had used the UK as a vast outdoor laboratory during the Cold War. From 1950 to 1975, Porton scientists had clandestinely sprayed massive amounts of live bacteria (Serratia marcescens, E. coli MRE162 and Bacillus subtilis) and several tons of chemical compounds (such as Zinc Cadmium sulphide) over large parts of the UK. The first programme shows how Royal Enfield workers in an underground factory at Westwood Quarry were repeatedly exposed to an opportunistic pathogen in the early 1950s; how members of the public travelling on a regular railway train on the Salisbury-Exeter line were sprayed with live bacteria by Porton scientists while travelling through a tunnel; how the city of Salisbury was 'attacked' during August of 1960 with large amounts of a cadmium compound; and how Porton scientists conducted the large, and now infamous, series of experiments known as the Lyme Bay Trials. The latter experiments exposed millions of UK residents to massive aerosols of live bacteria (E.coli and Bacillus subtilis) during the years 1963-1975. The huge bacterial clouds were sprayed from an Admiralty ship - ETV ICEWHALE - and were carried onshore by the wind and sampled by Porton scientists up to 50 miles inland. Athough this research was meant to be of a defensive nature, the official Porton film of these experiments stated: "Whilst these trials were designed for specific research purposes, they demonstrated, in a striking way, the feasibility of small-scale biological warfare. An appreciable dose of viable bacteria was achieved over an area greater than 1,000 square miles, by the release of only 120 gallons of suspension." *


Part 1


Part 2


As I explained in an interview with Dr. Tim Ball, when I was growing up on the South Coast of England in the 1970s, I used to suffer from frequent chest infections. Of course, I can't be sure there's any connection between my childhood bronchitis and the Ministry of Defence deliberately spraying bacteria towards the coast, but the words of Professor Brian Spratt FRS (commissioned by the Government to inquire into the Lyme Bay Trials) certainly give pause for thought:

If infections did occur in any highly susceptible individuals, they would have probably been infections of the chest or blood, which would have occurred within days of the release of bacteria.

It is, however, surprising that suspensions with this level of contamination with uncharacterised bacteria were sprayed across populated areas, as there was a possible risk that the contaminating bacteria had a significant ability to cause disease in humans, even though they apparently caused no toxicity in the safety tests in mice.**

Neither is it reassuring to learn that the MOD has refused to rule out doing this kind of thing again:

"In the event of a military question arising which could only be answered by conducting open air trials in areas which may involve the general public, Ministers have made it clear that they cannot rule out the need to conduct larger scale trials in the future to try to ensure the protection of the UK from attacks by peoples of states using biological or chemical weapons."***


* Text from the write-up by experimentsrs on YouTube.

** Information from "The Dorset Biological Warfare Experiments 1963-75" at

*** See 1999 MOD statement hosted at (external image file)

Hear also our interview with Mike Kenner, open-government campaigner and researcher: Part 1, Part 2




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