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Gassed: Behind the Scenes at Porton Down

By Robert Evans

The story of Porton’s experiments is the story of chemical warfare itself, from the blinded victims of the First World War to the threat of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal.

At Porton Down, the oldest chemical warfare station in the world, scientists developed both an array of poisonous gasses and defences against them – and then tested them on humans. Since 1916, more than 25,000 human subjects have taken part in experiments at Porton, and the tests continue to this day. With police now investigating the 1953 death of a test subject after exposure to nerve gas, interest in what goes on behind the barbed wire fences only gets stronger.

Gassed is a remarkable, often harrowing, look at what drove young people to voluntarily enter the gas chambers – and whether they were misled into doing so. Examining the experiments themselves in detail, Gassed records the personal testimonies of both the human ‘guinea pigs’ and the scientists, both of whom are now paying a steep price for their participation. This exceptional book reveals the dark truth of how Britain came to be the world leader in human chemical warfare experiments.

Robert Evans is an author and journalist on the Guardian newspaper. His articles prompted the government to launch two independent enquiries into the safety of germ warfare experiments in Britain.

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