Recently unearthed files from a War Cabinet committee released to the National Archives reveal that British scientists were experimenting with ways to unleash 'bacteriological warfare' on their enemy states during World War II.
The files contained an extensive list of contagious agents and plagues that could be employed as lethal weapons to decimate the enemy's population.
According to The Guardian, an interim report in January 1941 said, "The diseases considered most likely to be effective in bacteriological warfare are:
Human diseases: enteric group (typhoid and para-typhoid), dysentery and cholera.
Animal diseases: anthrax, foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest, glanders, and swine fever. (Anthrax and glanders also affect human beings under conditions favourable for infection)."
Biological warfare was not thought 'likely to achieve a decisive effect, but might cause grave embarrassment at a critical stage in the conflict,' the report said.
Preparation was required both to defend against such attacks by 'the enemy' and as a 'means of retaliation,' it added. These execrable 'retaliatory measures' were to be limited only to diseases or infections 'first used' by the Nazis,' the report stated.
"It is assumed that retaliation would be made simultaneously and on a maximum scale with all the means at our disposal," it added.
Possible contamination routes included planting the pathogens in the air, water reservoirs of the enemy etc. These are also covered in detail in the file with the pros and cons of each option.
Attempts to infect reservoirs from the air would "necessitate large quantities of material and would probably be defeated by the chlorination of water supplies", it said.
Some animal diseases -- "anthrax, foot-and-mouth and rinderpest", the report added, "could be distributed [by spraying] on pasture land from aircraft."