MoD test of aerial spraying over Norwich

The Penetration of built-up areas by Aerosols at night - Porton Down Public Area Biological Warfare Experiments on Norwich

MoD test of germ warfare aerial spraying over Norwich

This was a Ministry of defence test carried out on the city of Norwich on January 13th, February 10th, March 16th and April 14th 1964.

These are PDF documents which claim to have been declassified in 2000 and describe an experiment by the ministry of defence where the city of Norwich was sprayed by aircraft with a substance known as "Silicon treated FP", which is claimed to be "innocuous in the concentration which were expected to occur on the ground".

These documents outline the nature of the experiment and the involvement of the local police in it.

Background to Porton Down experiments

During May 1963, the War Office Chief Scientist sent a memo to the Secretary of State explaining the type of public area experiments that were being conducted in the UK by Porton Down. As can be seen in the covering letter, the experiments were conducted in a high level of secrecy because "knowledge of them by unauthorised persons could be politically embarrassing."

PDF Download:

Porton Note No 188 18 August 1959 - here

Porton Field Report No 515 13 Nov 1957 - here

Porton Note No 74 Extract 13 November 1957 - here

DOC Porton Field Trial Report No 610 The Penetration Of Built Up areas at night - 1963 experiment - here

CDEE Porton Programme Report 2 64 The Penetration of Built Up Areas By Aerosols At Night PDF file - here

MOD Internal Review re Zinc Cadmium Sulphide FP public area experiments - here

DOC Porton Note No 188 The Long Distance Travel of Particulate C - here

DOC Secretary of State Briefing Memo Public Area CW BW Experiments May 1963 - here

See also Biological Warfare Experiments in Dorset 1963-75

How the spraying was done

This declassified Porton Down film, which is Crown Copyright, shows a Valetta aircraft making a number of passes in front of the camera - all the time spraying the Biological Warfare simulant - Zinc Cadmium sulphide. These experiments shown in this film were conducted during March 1958, and were conducted to determine the characteristics of an aircraft mounted Zinc Cadmium sulphide dispenser. The resulting information was then used in Porton Down's later public area BW experiments, some of which (the Large Area Coverage or LAC) contaminated vast swathes of the UK. A BW simulant is a supposedly harmless substance which mimics the physical properties of a real BW agent, in this case, size (between 1-5 microns). BW simulants are used in BW experiments in which, for safety reasons, a real BW agent could not be used.

A similar procedure was adopted for the 1963/64 Norwich Trials. An aircraft, this time a Devon, sprayed the BW simulant Zinc Cadmium sulphide, at a rate of 2-3 lbs per mile, as it flew along a 62 nm track across Norfolk - at a distance of 24 miles upwind of the city of Norwich. When the massive aerosol cloud reached its target area, Porton Down scientists conducted clandestine sampling of the air at a large number of locations, across the city and surrounding countryside.

Update - May 2008

You might be interested to learn that a few of my past efforts are now available for viewing on the net. First up are the two 23 minute programmes, broadcast by ITV West in late 2004, entitled - Top Secrets Revealed.

Top Secrets Revealed Episode 1

The first episode covers the years 1950-1963, and contains details of formerly classified public area BW experiments such as:

The Westwood Trials - Following the successful BW 'sabotage' attack on the Pentagon, by operatives from the Special Operation Division of Camp Detrick, the scientists from the UK Biological Warfare research facility at Porton Down decided to conduct similar experiments of their own. Unfortunately for them, they were refused permission to use Government buildings in Whitehall, London so, after a lengthy search for a suitable test location, they chose to use the highly classified underground British Museum Art Repository in Westwood Quarry, Wiltshire. During 1950-1951, scientists released large aerosols of an opportunistic pathogen in the British Museum part of the underground quarry - live Serratia marcescens (the same strain of bacteria which was used in the 1950 San Francisco experiments, and which is associated with the fatality of a hospital patient). Unfortunately, these large bacterial aerosols escaped from the BM Repository and entered the adjacent Royal Enfield underground factory. This factory was occupied at the time by over 200 workers! Needless to say, Porton scientists did not warn the factory workers of the risks - neither did they monitor the factory workers health!

The Railway Coach Trials - Yet another series of 'sabotage' experiments. This time the purpose was to investigate the feasibility of sabotage attacks on railway trains as they travelled through a tunnel. During these experiments, Porton scientists contaminated regular trains carrying members of the public as they passed through a tunnel on the Salisbury-Exeter line in the mid-fifties. The trials procedure was for a scientist to hide in a tunnel, equipped with a portable spraying apparatus. Just as the train passed, he operated the spray unit which produced a bacterial aerosol. Trials results proved that the interior of the train carriages became contaminated with the chosen bacteria. The passengers were not informed of their participation!

The BW 'Attacks' on the City of Salisbury - During 1960, an aircraft, flying an arc 40 miles upwind of Porton's nearby city of Salisbury, sprayed large quantities of a cadmium compound - Zinc Cadmium sulphide (ZnCds). This compound was carried by the wind into the city where, because of its small particle size, it was inhaled and digested by the unwitting population. Documents obtained by myself in 2001 revealed that although Porton were aware of the hazardous nature of ZnCds they never subjected it to toxicity tests prior to its release in populated areas. The population were never informed of these experiments - even the MOD commissioned Independent Review of 2000 didn't include the Salisbury experiments in any detail!

Top Secrets Revealed Programme 2

Episode 2 contains the following information:

The Icing Tanker Aircraft - This was a classic piece of dual-use technology. On the surface this especially converted aircraft was just a research vehicle, constructed to facilitate investigations into aircraft icing. But it had another, highly classified role - as the UK's BW spray aircraft. Experiments using this aircraft were conducted in populated areas on numerous occasions during 1967. As before, two types of live bacteria were released - E.coli MRE162, and Bacillus subtilis.

Interview with Professor Brian Spratt FRS - Prof Spratt was commissioned, in 1998, by the UK Ministry of Defence to investigate whether those residents who were exposed to the massive bacterial clouds suffered any adverse health effects. Prof Spratt reveals that while most people would probably have not suffered ill effects, some people, especially those with an underlying disease or an suppressed immune system, might have experienced pneumonia or sepsis. He also revealed that on four separate occasions, Porton scientists knowingly sprayed a contaminated bacterial suspension over a populated area!

As is this were not enough, during the interview Prof Spratt became aware that the MOD have not been as honest with him as he had thought. They had 'forgotten' to inform him of the six 'massive' crosswind line releases of live bacteria, which were conducted in 1968. Even worse, declassified documents revealed that these experiments were not conducted for any research purposes - they were instead carried out purely to show off Porton's dubious abilities to the UK Military!

The 1971 Collaborative UK/US BW Detection Trials -

During November 1971, Lyme Bay and the surrounding countryside again became the host for Porton's BW experiments, but this time there was a difference - Porton had invited two guests to participate in the tests; the US Army and the US Navy! As before, these experiments were highly classified, but in case the general public had discovered their existence, the MOD had prepared a Press Release which stated that no live bacteria were released. The declassification of the official trials report proved this statement to have been untrue - the report states that, on a number of occasions, massive amounts of live bacteria (Bacillus subtilis) were released.

1975 Joint UK/US BW Detection Trials (DICE Trials) - Little is known about this series of BW detection experiments, which were conducted in the Lyme Bay area. It is known that Porton scientists, in collaboration with US Military scientists, conducted 24 separate massive crosswind line releases of bacteria (Inactivated Serratia marcescens - ISM, and live Bacillus subtilis).

Yet again, as the interview shows, the Ministry of Defence appear to have 'forgotten' to inform Prof Spratt about the existence of a series of live bacterial releases in populated areas!

The 2001 Royal Mail Sorting Office Experiments - In response to the 2001 anthrax 'attacks' in the US, BW experiments were conducted at 3 major UK Royal Mail Sorting Offices which involved the release of live Bacillus subtilis.

During November 2006, BBC East broadcast a InsideOut 30 minute special - entitled Clouds of Secrey. This investigated Porton Down's 1960s BW spray 'attacks' on Norfolk (with the city of Norwich as the main target). It also revealed a recently discovered series of sprayings, conducted in the Cardington Bedford area in the early 1960s, which involved the use of Porton Down's clandestine spray vehicle - a specially converted 1 ton Morris van.

Clouds Of Secrecy.

Enabling the UK public to learn more of these past experiments has become even more important following the 1999 MOD statement, which refused to rule out carrying out further larger scale trials in the future.

DERA, the MOD agency then responsible for the CBW facility at Porton Down, stated:

"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".

During June 2006, in reply to a FOIA request, Dstl Porton Down confirmed to me that the 1999 statement was still official Government policy, but that they had not as yet felt the need to conduct large-scale open air tests.

Until the MOD rescind this policy, we will continue to live with the knowledge that, should the MOD deem it necessary, Porton Down will restart their public area spraying programme.

mike kenner