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Ronald Maddison

Ronald George Maddison
c.1933-6 May 1953

Royal Air Force engineer Ronald Maddison.
Place of birth Consett, County Durham, England
Place of death Porton Down, Wiltshire, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Rank Leading Aircraftman

Leading Aircraftman Ronald George Maddison (c.1933-6 May 1953) was a twenty-year-old Royal Air Force engineer who died whilst acting as a volunteer human guinea pig testing nerve agents at Porton Down in Wiltshire. Amongst much controversy, his death was the subject of an inquest 51 years after the event.

Maddison, from Consett, County Durham died within 45 minutes of having twenty drops (200 mg) of sarin dripped onto a piece of uniform cloth draped over his arm during an experiment at a research lab in Porton Down. The experiment began at 10:17 a.m. involved five other subjects, took place in a sealed gas chamber, and all subjects were fitted with respirators. After about twenty minutes passed, Maddison complained that he felt ill. After three more minutes, he fell over and started gasping for breath. At this point, the scientists took him out of the chamber and removed his gas mask. Only when Maddison went deaf, wheezed as if having an asthma attack, and convulsed on the floor, did the scientists inject him with atropine and call an ambulance. Overall, the sarin overdose constricted Maddison's bronchial tubes and blocked the flow of air to his lungs, starving his brain and tissues of oxygen. Ten days later, the death was labeled as accidental in an inquest ordered by the British Home Office. His death, and allegations that other British chemical weapons test volunteers between 1939 and 1989 were not properly informed about the experiments and their risks, was the subject of a police investigation called Operation Antler between 1999 and 2004.

Servicemen were offered about 15 shillings and a three day leave pass for taking part in the experiments. Ronald planned to use the money to help buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend, Mary Pyle. An inquest was originally held in camera (in secret) before the Wiltshire Coroner, Mr Harold Dale, on 8 and 16 May 1953, who returned a verdict of misadventure. The Ministry of Defence apparently paid Maddison's father 40 pounds compensation to cover the funeral expenses.

A new inquest opened on 5 May 2004. On 15 November 2004, this inquest reached the conclusion that Ronald Maddison died unlawfully.

On May 25, 2006 it was announced that the remaining relatives of Ronald Maddison would receive £100,000 in compensation from the Ministry of Defence.



  • Tucker, Jonathan B. (2006). War Of Nerves: Chemical Warfare From World War I To Al-Qaeda (1st ed.). Pantheon Books, New York. ISBN 0-375-42229-3.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ronald_Maddison". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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