Posted on January 9, 2019
Britain would now be “much better prepared” to deal with a Novichok attack, a former Army officer and chemical weapons expert has told Forces News. However, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon went on to say the UK’s main focus should be to ensure the military is better prepared if the nerve agent is used again.
Specialist military teams are to remove the roof from the Salisbury home of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. The military was first deployed last April in response to the incident with around 190 personnel making Salisbury safe to the public, completing work near the Maltings area of the city the following month.
The clean-up has been taking place ever since the attack ten months ago, but work paused over Christmas. In September 2018, UK forces were deployed to decontaminate Mr Skripal’s home, by which point the military’s commitment was around 120 personnel.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said: “I think only a few weeks ago the police said that there was enough Novichok to kill thousands of people there.
“In extremes that’s the case. I think our concern now is to get our military capability up to a standard that if an adversary in the future decided to use Novichok against us we would be well prepared to do it. On the civil side we have learnt an awful lot from the Salisbury event. If it did happen again, and if it was on a wider scale, we’d be much better prepared to deal with it.”
He also explained why the military has been tasked with removing the roof from the Skripals’ former home.
“We know that it [Novichok]’s very toxic, probably the most toxic chemical ever produced by man. And we know that it is very persistent. So in areas where the Novichok has sunk into material, as in the roof, tiles and timbers, the safest way to ensure that it’s a 100% clean is actually to take it away, incinerate it or bury it. I think everyone wants to be a 100% sure and this was absolute belt and braces.” He added that he did not expect the clean-up operation to take so long but said: “The challenge is Novichoks were designed to overmatch our chemical defensive capabilities. It’s very difficult for us to detect it and it’s very persistent. And of course because it’s such a toxic material the authorities want to make sure that every last trace is removed so we don’t see any more causalities in this dreadful event.”