Building 45 is situated on the Rhydhymwyn Valley Gas Works site. This building was used in the initial research into Britian developing the atomic bomb. Codenamed ‘Tube Alloys’. Klaus Fuchs and Rudolf Peierls were the lead scientists involved. The photo shows the doorway that leads into the building. To me this was a seminal moment in its history. Making that step from one weapon of mass destruction to another. the year 1942.
These are a series of contaminated sites within the Rhydhymwyn Valley Gas Works. At one time the most secretive site within British military rule. The sites were dug in the 1990’s to determine the amount of contamination from the production of Pyro and Mustard gas that took place at the site. The testing that was conducted revealed varying amounts of contamination,even the dicovery of a container that had mustard gas in it.. From my look at the test results, they revealed that alot of the contamination was caused by burying alot of the contaminated equipment used in its manufacure. According to those working today at the site, they are best to be left alone
Maintenance Unit No. 81 is situated near Barnard Castle in County Durham. This site stored weapons charged with mustard, phosgene and lewisite on an area of 564 acres of moorland. In total 17,000 tonnes of chemical agent was stored on the site during WWII.
After the Allied retreat from Dunkirk in 1940, chemical weapons were returned from the continent and a remote open site on moorland in the north of England should be found for the establishment of an open air CW reserve depot.
The move of RAF bombs to Bowes Moor began in December 1941
In the first year sheep were let freely graze amongst the munitions. They quickly consumed the tarpaulins covering 65Lbs liquid chemical bombs and then attempted to eat the shell/bombs themselves, puncturing many of the thin cased shells much to their-the sheep and the bombs-ultimate disadvantage. Later on the soldiers erected many miles of sheep proof fencing and gates.
Today there are still parts of the site fenced off from the public due to contamination, yet the sheep still graze the site.
As part of the MoD biological weapons testing programme during the 1960’ and 70’s a series of simulated attacks by Iron Curtain forces on the UK were undertaken by the British military. On the 16th Sept 1966 RAF Hullvington in Wiltshire was sprayed with zinc cadmium sulphate in a wide 10-mile arc from the air, with the highest concentration at the airfield.
Today the site is semi-restricted used by mainly the Army Air Corps and the Royal Air Force for parachute drop training.
Part of the site is occupied by a go-karting company.
In 1942 the MoD carried out a series of experiments to see if anthrax could be used in the war effort. A Wellington bomber dropped a 30-pound bomb containing anthrax onto a hard beach in Penclawdd on the Gower Peninsula in Wales. It burst on contact and released a fine mist that infected the nearby sheep that died soon after.
On the 15th of January 1987 during parliamentary question time, Defence Minister Archie Hamilton confirmed that this experiment was conducted at Penclawdd
In October 1942, after their discovery of the effectiveness of anthrax as a lethal agent in warfare, the British launched “Operation Vegetarian,” in which workers mass-produced five million units of the United Kingdom’s first operational biological weapon, the anthrax-filled cattle cake. The plan was for Allied bombers to drop the anthrax-filled buns into Germany’s cattle grazing pastures where the animals would eat the cakes, contract the disease, and quickly die. However, by the time the operation was ready to be launched in 1944, the invasion of Normandy had already taken place, and the Allies were winning the War by conventional means. The five million buns were eventually burned after the War.
Today the last remains of the military installation lie half buried in the estuary sands
I have been working on this body of work now for some time.Over that time I have felt that although the work was structured, it was becoming a little repeditive, facts after facts. So what I have decided is to focus on 5 sites that best represent the whole chemical and biological weapons (CBW) program. Harpur Hill, Rhydymwyn, Porton Down, Gruinard Island and Norwich. These sites cross the whole project that I have being trying to work out. As I research more into these specific sites, interview veterans and to meet those who were affected directly.
I am also trying to build up a history of these sites, visually. There have been incidents during their histories since CBW were first used to the present day that lead you to the photographs that I have being presenting to you. Visual clues that string together, photographs that are real, archival, recreated, found, bought and acquired. That help you link together the history that is embedded into the landscape.
I will continue to built up a portfolio of the landscape photographs, but from now on it will focus more in depth into these 5 sites
First up is Harpur Hill, Derbyshire.
Immediately after WW11 with so much chemical weapons captured by the Allies from the Germans, the major task of destroying them was started. Called ‘X’ Stations, these centres located around the UK. Burning at a remote site on Harpur Hill commenced with mixing it with bleach and setting it alight. However as the quantity was so large this proved ineffective.
All ordnance was then shipped to the Beaufort Dyke located between Northern Ireland and the Scottish coast and dumped at sea.
Today the Dyke remains the biggest underwater munitions dump in the world. Over the years after severe weather conditions, many pieces of corroded ornance are found washed up on Irish and Scottish coasts.