While Gruinard Island became famous, few have heard of the WWII anthrax testing at Penclawdd
During the Second World War, the British government conducted a series of secret experiments at Gruinard Island, Scotland. The aim was to create an experimental biological weapon using anthrax. The result: the island was left contaminated for more than 45 years.¹
Gruinard was eventually decontaminated after bioterrorists stole anthrax-laced earth from the island. When the so-called “Dark Harvest Commandos” made the headlines, more claims came to light. Some said that similar experiments had been carried out at almost the opposite end of Great Britain. The people of Penclawdd were convinced that the army had bombed their tiny village with anthrax.
In 2011, Penclawdd had a population of just over 3600 people.² A small village on the Gower Peninsula just outside Swansea, Penclawdd is best known for its cockle industry. Its history dates back to Roman times, and coal was long mined in the hills above the estuary. In the 1800s, the village — then a small town—was booming with tinplate, copper, and brassworks. The composer Karl Jenkins, of Adiemus fame, is Penclawdd’s most famous native son.
Unsurprisingly, for a village best known for a shellfish dish that fell out of fashion half a century ago, Penclawdd rarely makes the news. So when a Bristol Blenheim dropped a single bomb in the estuary on 29 October 1942, few outside the immediate vicinity paid any attention. In fact even at the time of publishing, there is no mention of anthrax on the Penclawdd Wikipedia page.
The anthrax tests at Gruinard, a remote island in the Scottish Highlands, began in 1942. Codenamed Base X, Gruinard was Ground Zero for testing the bioweapon for later deployment across Germany. Linseed cakes laced with anthrax would be dropped into cattle fields and consumed by the animals. The aim was mass casualties, both through human exposure to the anthrax, and the subsequent food chain shortages after the cows died.
Scientists detonated 22 anthrax bombs on Gruinard, killing an enormous amount of sheep. However some of the results of the experiments proved contradictory. The fault, scientists felt, was the island’s geology. Its boggy surface led to unpredictable results, with some bombs failing to detonate when dropped from aircraft. They needed another testing site.
At about 5p.m. on Wednesday, 28 October 1942, a Bristol Blenheim bomber crossed the Burry estuary at a height of 5000 feet. Over the north Gower salt marshes, the plane dropped a single bomb.³ The local residents didn’t know it, but they’d just become part of the army’s biowarfare experiments.
The bombing run wasn’t out of the ordinary. An artillery range had been set up in the area at the outset of the war and a number of weapons were tested there, including mustard gas.⁴
The target for this bomb was once again sheep. Three pounds of liquid anthrax spores detonated on the sandy ground of the Burry Inlet, upwind of two tethered lines of sixty animals.
Two of the sheep died of anthrax poisoning. Others fell sick but recovered. All the surviving sheep were slaughtered after seven days and their bodies buried at the edge of the estuary marshland. The scientists believed that the incoming and outgoing tide had disinfected the land and no warnings were required. The remainder of the army’s anthrax experiments moved back to Gruinard. The people of Penclawdd were left none the wiser what had happened in their own backyard.
It wasn’t until 1982 that Keith H. Hopkins, secretary of the local Labour Party, went to the media to address local rumours about the bombing. Hopkins had three demands.⁵
- Soil testing on non-tidal land around the estuary
- Evidence of any anthrax-related infections in animals and people in the area
- A public inquiry.
In January 1987, parliament finally confirmed what Penclawdd residents already knew. Their estuary was used for anthrax testing during the war. The records had been designated Top Secret until 1975. In 1987, with the public confirmation the bombing had happened, the records were downgraded to Restricted status. They weren’t made public until 1999.
Apart from work carried out within the then chemical defence experimental station, Porton Down, a device containing anthrax was tested on the beach at Penclawdd, South Wales, in 1942. Investigations subsequent to this trial revealed no evidence of any residual contamination.⁶
—Archie Hamilton, M.P., House of Commons, 29 January 1987
At the time of the experiments, scientists believed that the tide had “effectively decontaminated”⁷ the entire area. The locals were not convinced. Mass cockle die-offs in the estuary in 2009 again reignited the debate about whether or not the area was contaminated with anthrax. Llanelli MP Nia Griffith again demanded answers from the Ministry of Defence, which repeated the same assurances. “There was no residual contamination of the site as it was washed by the incoming tide.”⁸
To decontaminate Gruinard Island in 1986, the government used a solution of seawater and formaldehyde. However seawater alone isn’t necessarily an effective decontaminant. Studies suggest that anthrax spores can survive “from 2 to 18 years in pond water and 20 months in seawater or distilled water.”⁹ Some studies report anthrax spores remaining viable for over two years in salt water.¹⁰
The U.S. National Response Team (NRT) deems B. anthracis a “probable” water threat.¹¹
Could it have survived in the Burry estuary for 80 years? In 1982, Hopkins publicly requested evidence of checks “made on medical and veterinary records over the years for signs of anthrax infections, however mild.”¹² To date, that request remains unfulfilled. It seems probable no checks were ever made. And that makes an anthrax contamination a lingering possibility across the marshlands of Penclawdd.
Einstein’s Attitudes on Different Races
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Magazine, S. (2017, March 3). How Albert Einstein used his fame to denounce American racism. Smithsonian.com. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-celebrity-scientist-albert-einstein-used-fame-denounce-american-racism-180962356/
Popova, M. (2017, June 7). Albert Einstein’s little-known correspondence with W.E.B. Du Bois about equality and racial justice. The Marginalian. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/01/06/albert-einstein-w-e-b-du-bois-racism/
Roos, D. (2018, June 14). Albert Einstein’s travel diaries reveal racist comments. History.com. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.history.com/news/albertin-einstein-racist-xenophobic-views-travel-journal
Sarner, R. (2020, June 15). The little-known einstein: An ardent defender of black americans against racism. The Canadian Friends of Hebrew University. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.cfhu.org/news/the-little-known-einstein-an-ardent-defender-of-black-americans-against-racism/
Berlin, I., Arendt, H., Einstein, A., Lazarus, E., Potter, A., Smulewitz, S., Rosenberg, L., Rubinstein, M., Chambers, C., Rogers, W. A., Hine, L., Meyrowitz, D., Gilrod, L., Lola, Leon, I., Vand, H., Gadol, M. S., Harkavy, A., Schwartz, J., … Razovsky, C. (2004, September 9). From Haven to home: 350 years of Jewish life in America a century of immigration, 1820–1924. Library of Congress. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/haventohome/haven-century.html
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BBC. (2018, June 14). Einstein’s travel diaries reveal racist stereotypes. BBC News. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44472277
Macintyre, D. (2012, March 20). Even einstein couldn’t think of a peace plan. The Independent. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/even-einstein-couldn-t-think-of-a-peace-plan-7578187.html
Flood , A. (2018, June 12). Einstein’s travel diaries reveal ‘shocking’ xenophobia. The Guardian. Retrieved January 23, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/12/einsteins-travel-diaries-reveal-shocking-xenophobia
Where Does the Name Wailing Wall Come From?
The nearly 2,000-year-old Wailing Wall, also known as Western Wall, or the “Kotel” for the Jews), is made up of huge blocks of stones up to 100 tons, built without binders. The space in front of the Wall, where houses used to stand not so long ago, functions as an open-air synagogue.
Between the first Israeli-Arab war in 1948 and the Six-Day War in 1967, the area was under Jordanian occupation, and the Jewish people had no access to the Wall.
During the “Six-Day War”, i.e. the third Israeli-Arab War in 1967, Israel occupied the Old City from Jordan and demolished the neighboring Arab residential area. They created a space in front of the Western Wall where the Jewish people could pray undisturbed.
Jewish men in black hats, long black coats, or simply wearing a kippah (Jewish head covering), and women are praying at an ancient wall with a screen separating them from each other.
Some Jewish men murmur prayers and bend rhythmically. It is a sign that they immerse themselves in the prayer with their entire bodies, hearts, and minds, enhancing their closeness to God, as required by the Torah.
There are shelves with countless copies of the Torah and Talmudic scriptures so that anybody can pick one of them. According to the Jewish conception, the prayers carried out at the Western Wall are much more effective.
People slip small papers containing written prayers to God into the cracks of the Western Wall.
Especially on Friday nights and on Saturday, during the sacred time of Shabbat, many families come here to pray. It is also where they celebrate the ritual ceremony of the Jewish children (the bar mitzvah) that marks their entry into adult life. The 13-year-old boys approach the Wall with their relatives accompanied by music and drums. He recites some parts of the Holy Book, the Torah and thus symbolically enters adulthood.
The official deployment of Israeli soldiers also takes place here.
The Jewish folk was first united under King David, who captured Jerusalem and made it his capital. He was probably aware of the tradition that God had designated this place for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, so he wanted to connect his kingdom with the holy place. King David started the Temple’s construction, which his son Solomon completed around 1000 BC.
It became the First Temple.
The laws of Moses, called the Torah, were preserved in the innermost part of the church. The kingdom of Israel reached its zenith under King Solomon. The First Temple stood for 400 years until 586 BC, when the Babylonians subjugated Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, and the Jews were deported to the capital, Babylon.
After returning home from the Babylonian captivity that lasted 70 years, the Jews rebuilt the First Sanctuary in the same place. This became the Second Temple.
Herod, the king of Judea, appointed by the Romans, began massive constructions. He extensively remodeled and enlarged the Second Temple around 19 BC to gain the benevolence of the Jews. He surrounded Mount Moriah (today’s Temple Mount) with rectangular retaining walls and refilled the area. As a result, the Temple could accommodate up to 200,000 people.
The expanding Roman Empire destroyed the Second Sanctuary in 70 AD.
The treasures of the Temple were so valuable that Emperor Titus is believed to have constructed the whole Colosseum in Rome with it. The only part that remained intact out of the Second Temple is the Western retaining wall built by Herod, hence its other name, the Western Wall.
The Wailing Wall is nothing more than a remnant of the walls built by King Herod.
Contrary to popular belief, it did not belong to the church itself; it only bordered the Temple Mount from the west side.
Today, there are two mosques on the Temple Mount just above the Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Jews cannot pray, though they can access it. The Wailing Wall is thus the closest place for them to their former two Temples that once stood and where they now mourn their destruction.
On the feast of Tisha Beav, the ninth day of the month of Av according to the Jewish calendar, the observant Jews fast to commemorate the destruction of the two Temples. People sit around on the ground, recite the book of the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah and mournful liturgical poems (kinot).
Religious Jews in Israel and those living in the diaspora pray daily for the reconstruction. It is part of many Jewish ceremonies, even weddings, to remember the destruction of the Temple.
They also believe that there will be a Third Temple in the future, but it is uncertain when exactly. Perhaps when the Antichrist reveals himself during the Great Tribulation anticipated by the Bible. And the Third Temple will be destroyed by an earthquake at Jesus’ second coming. Some religious Jewish communities are already collecting donations, and some ultra-Orthodox Jews are ready to begin the construction of the Third Temple.