My family has had a long and storied history of serving in the British Army. Some records even show members of our family being given commendations at such battles as Waterloo, Balaclava, the Somme and even the D-Day landings. Our family's pretty damn proud of it, and most male members of my family eventually serve Queen and country at some point. My father's a colour sergeant in the Royal Scottish Regiment, and my older brother Andy's already been made a Lance Corporal, so I guess the tradition is alive and well.
I never really bought into all that "Queen and Country" shite, probably because my mother didn't either. She married a soldier quite young, and I think she's regretted it ever since. Because of this, we've always been closer to each other than we have to the rest of the family. I think my male relatives do love and care for me, but at the same time I doubt they'll have any respect for me until I sign up for at least a few years. And the day I agree to go to some desert shithole to fight an invisible enemy I can't understand why we're bothering to fight, will be when Hell freezes over. I don't think anybody was surprised when my grandmother died. Her husband had been dead for a decade now, and she was well into her eighties when it happened, quickly and painlessly in her sleep.
The funeral happened and then I got dragged to the reading of the will, a futile effort by my parents, or so I thought at the time. She'd never liked me very much, probably for the same reason a lot of my relatives didn't respect me; I couldn't care less about war. I was, however, astonished when I got left a beautiful antique mahogany box with a lock and key. In accordance to the will, I was only to open it alone (because that is so easy to enforce). I think my thoughts at the time were among the lines of "What? So is a hand going to pop out of the box and drag me to Hell? The way the old bitch looked at me I wouldn't be half surprised.
Still, I did go along with her request, as being spiteful to the dead won't do anything, spiteful as she was. I opened the box as soon as I got home and ate the McDonalds I was promised for going to the reading. The first thing I saw was a handwritten note from my grandmother; Kieran, "As you know, our family's been in the military for quite some time. And during that time, not everything we've done in service to Britain has been as heroic as we'd like to believe. The documents in this box are proof of that enough. They were written by your great-grandfather during the Great War, who was serving as a record keeper after being injured and recievng the Victoria Cross at the Somne. Ashamed of what was contained in them, he left them to your grandfather, who left them to me after his demise. Never disclosing them to the public has been my greatest regret, and greatest shame. Ironic, I suppose, seeing as I hid them to avoid shame upon this family. We've never seen eye to eye, but you are the wisest of all your brothers, and I trust you to do what's right.
Granny" I set the note down next to the box. The remaining contents of the box all seemed to be documents of some kind. After skimming through them for a while, it seemed that they were mainly reports upon how numerous deserters were dealt with. Mainly with a rifle. I remember reading somewhere that the British shot more of its own men for desertion in WWI than any other country, so this was hardly surprising. A lot of the pages were heavily water-damaged (how that managed to happen I have no idea), meaning many pages were in shreds and impossible to read. What did shock me is how many prisoners started to be killed by ways other than a firing squad. Groups of people around the second half of 1917 had some very graphic descriptions of death by mustard gas. I couldn't believe it. Why would the British Army waste precious time and money killing someone who wasn't the enemy in one of the most inhumane ways possible? It didn't make sense. But then it did.
Clearly, these men were being killed to gauge the effects of the gas, which seems plausible, judging by the numerous medical terms used in the description of death. My only guess as to why they would do such a thing, when chlorine and mustard gas had been proven to wreak havoc with the opposing side, was to find better ways of killing Germans. Judging by the following documents, featuring some very long chemical names, usually followed by words such as "internal bleeding", "cardiac arrest" and "paralysis", it seemed that my guess was true, and Britain was using a lot more than chlorine and mustard gas.
The last few pages, were almost completely burned, like someone had intentionally tried to destroy these documents. I wonder if preserving our family's honour had anything to do with it. What I could find were the nearly scorched top of one page, with the title "Lues #1:1", and a complete page entitled "Lues #6:5". It read as follows;
0855, 4th October, 1918 - Subject- disgraced Corporal J. Campbell, age 24, weight 183 ibs. Administered the Lues solution into bloodstream. While previous tests have been proven to be somewhat volatile, and have so far returned negative results, with luck we shall finally succeed and end this War much faster.
0855, 5th October, 1918 - Patient seems to appear completely normal, despite the circumstances, and the mixture of influenza, cholera and tuberculosis supposedly flowing through his bloodstream. Repeatedly asked when he would be released or killed.
0855, 7th October, 1918 - A blood sample of the patient has confirmed that we have achieved part of our goal- every disease administered through the Lues solution is currently dormant. Tomorrow we shall see if the second phase is also successful.
0600, 8th October, 1918 - Patient executed by firing squad of fellow deserters in testing area. Deserters are currently locked in a room with the body of the patient. With luck, the viruses should be sufficiently altered to be airborne, and should kill the deserters within 12 hours.
1800, 8th October, 1918 - All subjects deceased. Experiment successful. The alarming briefness of the last part shocked me. I know all governments have their dark secrets, but this? Were they planning to infect their own men with latent disease so that they would infect opposing infantry upon their death? That would kill thousands of people in an unbelievably slow and cruel fashion, many of which would have been our own men. I was horrified.
My only solace is that the war ended so shortly after this study was completed. After that, the war had changed the world so utterly that we tried to avoid such a travesty ever taking place again. Hopefully that meant that this research was never used to kill another man in battle. One question remained, though. What should I do with this information?
Eventually, I decided that I would send the documents to the UK Government. We aren't an empire any more, and our modern nation would surely be mature enough about this to not cover this up, and instead reveal the truth to the public (probably at the same time reports about how much money we've lost come in). I believe this is the correct action to take. However, I have my doubts, which is why you, the reader, now possess this information. Although it won't achieve much, I can at least take comfort in knowing that someone knows what happened, so that we may learn from the atrocities committed.