Dock-Leaf Rumex obtusifolious
Dock-Leaf plant photographed at the Ministry of Defence chemical weapons exclusion site at Riseley, Bedfordshire.
Riseley was a Mustard Gas Forward Filling Depot. The site included three 500-ton underground mustard storage pots and facilities for filing weapons. It also had 9,000 smaller tanks, each holding 55 gallons of Y3 mustard under pressure.
After WWII Operation Inkpad involved the disposal of these stockpiles. This involved decanting the drums into burning pits, a process which took some eight months, after which the empty drums were decontaminated in a furnace. Again to hasten the operation a quantity of ‘safe’ stock was dumped at sea.
Long-term residents remembered clouds of black smoke emitting from the woods for months on end just after WWII. On one occasion, when the wind was in a certain direction their net curtains became discoloured and then disintegrated.
The operation was completed by January 1949. Some 18 months later the site was declared clear and placed under care and maintenance, however an inspection in 1954 revealed that the site was so badly contaminated that it would remain Air Ministry property for an indefinite period. In fact it was finally declared safe in 1988, except for 6 fenced off areas that remain in place today. This is where this plant sample was taken from. The site is now used for the breeding of deer with numerous pens and feeding stations in the vicinity