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Although Porton Down has been careful to cultivate and maintain its image as a facility whose work is purely defensive in nature and relatively open to parliamentary scrutiny and official oversight, in reality this is far from the case. Porton Down is not without its dark side. During the 1950s, for example, a select number of British military personnel were — unbeknownst to them — given LSD at Porton Down as part of a classified effort to determine the effects of the drug and ascertain the extent to which it might have a viable role to play in warfare, perhaps by rendering enemy personnel incapable of engaging in hostilities.

Furthermore, at least as far back as the early 1950s, Porton Down was also secretly exposing military personnel to nerve gas, again to try and understand its potential role in warfare. Sometimes, this action proved to be recklessly and tragically costly: In 1953, Ron Maddison, a 20-year-old serviceman with the British Royal Air Force, died after Porton Down scientists ruthlessly exposed him to Sarin, an extremely toxic chemical agent that is now classed as a Weapon of Mass Destruction under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which came into being in April 1991.

Top Secret Work At Porton Down

It is intriguing to note that, in addition to its regular (albeit controversial and Top Secret) work here described, Porton Down has been directly linked to two additional highly controversial issues:

1. UFOs and alien life.

2. A series of mysterious deaths that dominated the elite field of microbiology in the first decade of the 21st century.

Let us start with the former.

UFOs and Alien Life

On the night of January 23, 1974, an enigmatic event occurred in the large Berwyn Mountain range in North Wales, United Kingdom, that, for some within the UFO research community, has come to be known as the British Roswell. Researcher Andy Roberts summed up this mysterious affair: “The claim was that a UFO piloted by extraterrestrials crashed, or was shot down, on the mountain known as Cader Berwyn and that the alien crew, some still alive, were whisked off to a secret military installation in the south of England for study.”[44]

That secret military installation was said to be none other than Porton Down. Of course, this sounds like a conspiracy theorist’s wildest dream come true, but despite vociferous attacks from the more skeptical members of the UFO research community, it has steadfastly remained an integral part of the story ever since it first surfaced (publicly, at least) in 1996. The original source of this Porton Down story was a now-deceased UFO investigator named Tony Dodd, a North Yorkshire, England police sergeant with a quarter of a century of service on the Force. At the time the account was first revealed, Dodd flatly refused to reveal to anyone the real name of the source for his sensational story, and instead preferred to provide the pseudonym of James Prescott.

According to “Prescott,” at the time of the Berwyn incident he was stationed at an Army barracks in the south of England. Stressing to Dodd that he could not name either his unit or his barracks, as they were still very much operational, Prescott said that by January 18, 1974, it was clear that something unusual was afoot: He and his colleagues were placed on emergency stand-by status. The reason why became apparent 24 hours later, when Prescott’s unit was directed to make its way carefully and quietly toward the English city of Birmingham.

The team then received orders to proceed with speed towards North Wales, but were halted on the outskirts of the English city of Chester, in readiness for a military exercise they were told was about to take place in the area. Not long after, the orders changed yet again, and they were to make their way to the town of Llangollen, in northeast Wales. On arrival at Llangollen, recalled Prescott, the unit noticed a great deal of ground activity in the area. In addition, military aircraft were soaring across the darkened Welsh skies. Extraordinary events were clearly unfolding at an extremely fast rate. It was shortly after 11:30 p.m. when the situation began to take shape, and Prescott and his colleagues were on the move once more: to the village of Llandderfel. The team soon reached the little hamlet, whereupon they were directed to load two large, oblong boxes into their vehicle: “We were at this time warned not to open the boxes, but to proceed to Porton Down and deliver the boxes.”[45]

A number of hours later, they reached the secret Wiltshire facility and were duly directed to a specific part of the installation. Once inside, explained Prescott, the boxes were opened by staff at the facility in their presence. He could see that they contained two strange, unearthly creatures that had been placed inside decontamination suits. The staff at Porton then began the careful task of opening the suits. Prescott said that when this action was complete it was clear to all those present that the entities were not of this Earth. He elaborated: “What I saw in the boxes that day made me change my whole concept of life. The bodies were about five to six feet tall, humanoid in shape, but so thin they looked almost skeletal with a covering skin. Although I did not see a craft at the scene of the recovery, I was informed that a large craft had crashed and was recovered by other military units.”[46]

Perhaps even more remarkable was what Prescott had to say next: Shortly after his life-changing experience at Porton Down, he had the opportunity to speak with several colleagues from his own unit, who guardedly informed him they had also transported aliens to Porton Down, but with one amazing difference. “Their cargo was still alive.”[47]

And that’s where the Berwyn Mountains story dries up, unfortunately. But the Porton Down/UFO link continues.

Invasion Earth

As I noted in a previous chapter of this book, Nick Pope, who officially investigated UFO reports for the British Ministry of Defense from 1991 to 1994, wrote a novel in 1999 titled Operation Thunder Child that focused upon a hostile attack on the British Isles by alien entities. In the book, alien bodies recovered from a UFO crash are secretly taken to Porton Down.

At the same time that Nick Pope was writing his book, the British Ministry of Defense, in a truly unprecedented move, gave a huge amount of technical assistance and support to a BBC science-fiction production titled Invasion Earth that dealt with an attack on the planet by hostile alien entities. Inevitably, rumors began that this move was a less-than-subtle attempt by certain elements of the British government to get the general public thinking about the possibility of waging war against an alien species. Did the MoD know something that the rest of us didn’t? A Ministry of Defense source — who was specifically referred to me directly by Nick Pope — had a number of perceptive comments to make on this particularly odd set of circumstances: “It’s extremely strange,” said the man, “that on the one hand the MoD is publicly so dismissive about UFOs, and yet on the other they bent over backwards to provide assistance to a TV company producing a science-fiction drama which starts with the Royal Air Force shooting down a UFO. Normally, the Ministry of Defense only helps film and TV companies where it believes that significant benefits will fall to the MoD in terms of recruiting, training, or public relations. This was the case, for example, with our participation in the James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies. What, one wonders, did the MoD think it had to gain from helping to perpetuate a view that the Royal Air Force were virtually at war with extraterrestrials? Questions about our participation in this project were raised at the highest level within the Ministry of Defense.”[48]



Roberts, UFO Down?



Dodd, Alien Investigator.



Redfern, Cosmic Crashes.



Redfern, Interview with Ministry of Defense source.