Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 17:12 UK

Memorial for Porton Down victims

Peter Sammons
Mr Sammons says he was exposed to nerve agent sarin

Victims of experiments at the Porton Down research centre have been honoured during a service at Staffordshire's National Memorial Arboretum.

A plaque and a tree have been unveiled at the arboretum, in Alrewas, in recognition of Cold War veterans.

The arboretum approved the dedication after a request by the Porton Down Veterans Support Group.

It comes three months after the government agreed to compensate 360 men who underwent nerve agent tests.

Long-running dispute

Peter Sammons, from Rugby, was one serviceman exposed to sarin.

He said he was subjected to a number of experiments while unconscious and awoke in a catatonic state.

"Nobody seemed to be bothered about the condition I was in," he said.

In January, defence minister Derek Twigg announced the government was awarding a 3m settlement to the veterans and issued an apology for the medical trials.

The National Armed Forces Memorial at Alrewas
More than 130 different groups have memorials at the site

It ended a long-running legal dispute between the government and the servicemen.

Andrew Baud, arboretum spokesman, said the tree was planted to mark the conclusion of the veterans' campaign.

"Some of them have passed away and some are still suffering the ill-effects," he said.

"We're incredibly proud to have their memorial here."

He said 130 different groups had stone memorials at the site and that even more had trees planted in dedication.

Between 1939 and 1989, hundreds of servicemen took part in experiments at Porton Down, in Wiltshire.

Many were given forms of the sarin nerve agent and some were told they were merely helping to find a cure for the common cold.

The history of the tests was highlighted during an inquest into the death of Ronald Maddison, a 20-year-old aircraftsman from County Durham.

In 1953, he volunteered to take part in what he believed to be a trial for a cold cure, but died within an hour of having sarin dabbed on his arm.

The Ministry of Defence eventually paid 100,000 in compensation to Mr Maddison's family, but only after mounting an unsuccessful legal challenge against the 2004 inquest verdict which ruled he had been unlawfully killed.




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