A selection of recently released files

June 2009

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Catalogue ref. Date Description
Records of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and predecessors
FCO 45/2362 1978 Urban Black South Africans

This file covers some of the activity over the year in the South African townships. In particular, it contains correspondence about supplying electricity to Soweto, and the possibility of private financing to do so from companies such as Barclays. Other topics covered include allegations of evictions in townships around Cape Town, and updates from the UK ambassador to South Africa.

Records of Special Operations Executive
HS 9/1333/3 1939-1946 Paul Alexander SCOTT - born c.1881

This files details the case of Paul Scott, a former South African international rugby player, and the lengths he went to in a bid to serve in the Second World War. Having been turned down by South Africa, on age grounds (he was around 60 years old), Scott signed on as a member of a Free French ship which arrived at Liverpool in 1942. He then signed up with HM Forces, knocking more than 20 years off his true age on the application form. This file contains correspondence written after Scott's arrival in Britain. While there was a wish to have him involved in the war in some way, given his experience and obvious enthusiasm, there was discussion around what position would suit his age.

Records created or inherited by the Transport Ministries, and by related bodies, and by the London Passenger Transport Board
MT 124/1613 1976-1980 British Railways Board: proposed byelaw to prevent alcohol consumption on trains

Details correspondence and meetings held to discuss the issue of drinking on trains. It includes a meeting involving police constables and various football clubs to discuss solutions to the violence resulting from drinking on trains. It was suggested that trains taking people to sporting events should be designated as 'dry' trains and the file details a new Byelaw to the Transport Act of 1965. The discussions followed trouble on services between London and Glasgow when the England-Scotland football match was played at Wembley.                        

Records created or inherited by the War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General, and related bodies
WO 188/695 1943-1946 Research into use of anthrax and other poisons for biological warfare

This file covers research into biological weapons, looking at their comparative effects and suitability in different battle situations.  Specifically, the file covers research into the use of poisoned darts that could be delivered from the air. It was envisaged that the darts would carry a small amount of a chemical that would cause death to military personnel, or disablement at the very least. The file contains initial designs, including correspondence between the Singer Sewing Machine Company and the Chemical Defence Research Department regarding samples of needles, which may have been used in the design of the dart. The file also details trials carried out on animals and describes the effects of the drug in detail. If the dart was not plucked out within 30 seconds of penetration, death would be caused within 30 minutes.

WO 189/4875 1944 Notes on Japanese anti-gas (AG) equipment; Japanese chemical warfare tactics; and attack on Tokyo with gas bombs

Includes a memorandum entitled 'Attack on Tokyo with Gas Bombs' by Professor D Brunt, dated 8 May 1944. The covering note states: 'Major General Goldney suggested it might be worthwhile attempting to assess the probable effects of a C.W. [Chemical Warfare] bombing attack on Tokyo' (22 May 1944). The memorandum begins with climatic conditions before considering the 'Flow of Gas in the streets of Tokyo'.  The method of attack is also considered: 'there are at least three alternatives, involving the use of phosgene, mustard and incendiaries, respectively'. The file also includes detailed examination of Japanese anti-gas equipment (respirators, ointment etc) and a brief summary of Japanese Chemical Warfare tactics.

WO 189/4885 1944 Decontamination and salvage of food: report on a series of demonstrations carried out in 1943

This file details 15 demonstrations of food decontamination (in the case of contamination by mustard gas) which were carried out around Britain using a technique devised by Porton and recommended and published by the Ministry of Food. The food was subjected to about 2 hours contact with mustard gas - thought to be representative of what would happen in an actual gas 'blitz'. Foods included meat, cheese, flour, tea, sugar/salt, bread, etc. Potato was top of the order of merit in terms of decontamination, followed by fats, sugar/salt, meat, greens, tea, flour, cheese, grain, tinned food and dried fruit. The file contains detailed analysis and results along with pictures of the events taking place.

WO 189/5034 1976 The cause and prevention of the discomfort and malodour associated with the prolonged wearing of NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) gloves and cotton liners

This file contains detailed analysis of tests carried out to try and solve the problems associated with the prolonged wearing of NBC gloves. The gloves were found to cause a number of unpleasant reactions in wearers, including the 'maceration of the skin', 'numbness and tingling of the fingers' as well as an offensive odour that persisted for several hours after taking the gloves off. The file gives details of several experimental solutions such as modifying the design of the glove to include a 'water-vapour-permeable patch' or using sweat suppressants such as aluminium. Ultimately, the only effective solution was found to be taking the glove and cotton liner off for 30 minutes every eight hours.