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Gruinard Island in wartime.

British Forces

Gruinard Island in wartime.

H.M. Government

Scientists from the UK chemical and biological weapons establishment at Porton Down on Gruinard Island in the course of experiments leading to the development of the anthrax bomb, 1941-1944. They really needed that protective gear. Declassified records indicate that, as early as 1941, the UK government ordered experiments to determine the vulnerability of the country to anthrax attack; the potential for defence; and the prospects of developing an anthrax response weapon. The nature of the tests conducted suggest, however, that the main objective of this programme was to develop an offensive weapon. Anthrax is a bacterium-based infection, caused by the bacterium "bacillus anthracis". There are many strains of this bacterium; the Porten Down boffins used a particularly virulent version of the thing in their tests. The tests generally involved tethering groups of sheep to posts, and exploding devices in their vicinity that contained anthrax endospores and media to combine with the anthrax material to form aerosols. On explosion, the endospores were diffused over the sheep in aerosol form. The outcome, at least for the sheep, was generallly unfortunate. JR.