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By Brian Balmer (auth.)

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Extra resources for Britain and Biological Warfare: Expert Advice and Science Policy, 1930–65

Sample text

By the following April, Fildes reported to Hankey that it would be ‘futile’ to simply spray anthrax over German pastures in a random fashion. 48 This was thought to be the most promising line of enquiry and was soon allowed to set the agenda at the fledgling research station. A year into their research, when Fildes was asked by the chairman of the Porton Experiments Committee for 40 Britain and Biological Warfare a list of possible methods for waging biological warfare, he apologized and replied: ‘I am afraid it will consist of only one item.

Contaminated bullets would present a danger to factory workers and, should the organisms actually survive over time, to the soldiers handling them. They dismissed contaminated shrapnel shells for the same reasons. High-explosive shells were thought to be equally dubious by the advisors because the high temperatures involved would destroy bacteria. The subcommittee then turned to consider possible means of distributing toxic material from aeroplanes. Research was already under way at Porton on the physics of sprayed liquids and glass containers dropped from aeroplanes and so the subcommittee recommended that no further research in this area was necessary.

Nevertheless, he trusted the latest intelligence reports which indicated that sabotage was a far greater hazard than any putative resort to aeroplanes. When Banting’s memorandum was finally discussed by the BW Committee, the general consensus was to side with Topley. Hankey confirmed that Banting’s recommendations would entail a change of policy because no offensively oriented research had yet been initiated. 19 And while other members of the committee added their agreement, Laidlaw, who was conducting the only biological warfare related research so far sanctioned, added that ‘further progress could not be made by purely theoretical discussion, but only by experiments’.

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