Gruinard Island Biological Warfare Testing

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The United Kingdom received intelligence in the 1930s, that several nations were involved in biological warfare-related activity. Continued intelligence concluded that these nations may have already acquired this capability.

In 1942, the War Cabinet sanctioned biological weapon field testing amid fears of the possibility of a biological or chemical weapons attack against Britain by the Nazis and possibly the Japanese. Anthrax was chosen because it is one of the best known agents of biological warfare and the most feared. The goal was to examine the vulnerability of Britain against a German biological attack during World War II. Also the viability of reciprocating attacks against Germany. Concerns, because of the nature of anthrax, determined that such an attack would cause widespread and long-lasting contamination by anthrax spores. In order to conduct the testing and limit contamination, they acquired the Scottish Gruinard Island. Gruinard was remote and uninhabited and deemed suitable for the testing purposes. It is 1.2 miles long and .68 miles from the mainland located between Gairloch and Ullapool.



A secret group known as the Biology Department Porton was established in the Chemical Defense Experimental Station at Porton Down. Gruinard Island became known as X-base. R.L. Vollum, Professor of Bacteriology at Oxford University, provided a highly virulent strain of anthrax called “Vollum 14578”, named after himself, for testing purposes. Scientists placed eighty sheep on the island.

First year trials used a 30 pound bomb and the second year with a 4 pound bomb. The smaller bomb was designed to form part of a cluster bomb contai...

... middle of paper ... He said his team encountered buried anthrax spores that have survived hundreds of years. He told a newspaper, “I would not go walking on Gruinard Island. If anthrax is still active at Soutra, there is no reason to suppose it has not survived on more recent sites. It is a very resilient and deadly bacterium.”

Works Cited

United States National Research Council (2005). Reopening Public Facilities After a Biological Attack: A Decision-Making Framework. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. p. 196

Dr. Graham S. Pearson (October 1990) “Gruinard Island Returns to Civil Use” The ASA Newsletter.

Applied Science and Analysis, Inc. Retrieved January 12, 2008

BBC News “Britain's Anthrax Island” July 25, 2001

BBC News “Living with Anthrax Island” November 8, 2001

WND “The Secret History of Anthrax” H.P. Albarelli Jr., November 6, 2001
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