Weapons of Mass Destruction

I don’t usually comment on current events in this blog. For one thing, it’s a guaranteed way of losing half your readership; the phrase ‘agreeing to differ’ seems to be on the point of extinction in the English language, with plenty of people seeming to take offence at reading or hearing something that even mildly contradicts their firmly held preconceptions and prejudices. For another, the seventeenth century is generally a much nicer place to spend one’s time (yes, despite all the violent death, plague, and relentless baroque architecture). But the bizarre case of the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, of all places, struck a few chords. I taught Russian history for quite a few years – the Peter the Great era for a while, and also the period from the end of the Napoleonic War to the Revolution – and when you’ve done that, you can’t really look at Putin and Russia’s attitude to the west without getting an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. But the idea that this was ‘the first use of chemical weapons in Europe since the Second World War’, trotted out by the media with no immediately obvious supporting evidence, put me in mind of a story that I researched and wrote about a few years ago. Yes, there certainly was use of chemical weapons in Europe during the war – indeed, they were used on British soil. One wonders what the public and media reaction would be in this day and age if the British government carried out a live anthrax bombing test literally a couple of miles from the centre of a town with a population of 30,000. But in 1942, that’s exactly what it did.

Why did I get interested in all this, as it’s way outside my usual historical comfort zones? Simple: the town in question was where I was born and grew up. I told the story on the website of the excellent Llanelli Community Heritage organisation, and you can read it here.


  1. Irwin Bryan says:

    Well, fortunately the test and its effects were confined to a small area. Whether that was dumb luck or careful calculation will never be known. The luckiest thing was the bomb hitting only twenty yards from the bulls-eye instead of in the center of town!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rob Kirk says:

    Fascinating about Llanelli, David. But this was during WWII. Do you have reason to think that nerve agents have been used in Europe since the war, contrary to the current media mantra?


  3. Gael E Phillips says:

    Dear Mr Davies, Thank you for this. We, in the general public, are not privy to all the facts in the affairs of States. I agree with you that people should agree to differ on issues and I also believe one must keep an open mind and not judge issues without sufficient facts.

    This week my hard back copy of “Britannia’s Dragon” has arrived. I am looking forward to reading your account of the role of the Welsh in Naval History.

    Best regards

    Gael Phillips


  4. Huw Williams says:

    That’s a piece of Llanelli history that I knew nothing about, fascinating.


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