Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

Reprinted from, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive

Documents Show Secret Rainmaking Test Killed 34 Brits

  • Newly declassified documents detail a devastating flood caused by British attempts at rainmaking.
By Vivian Bird

Declassified British Ministry of Defense (MOD) records recently released reveal the terrible truth about a sudden rainstorm and subsequent flash flood that swept through Lynmouth, England on August 17, 1952.

These documents reveal that just prior to the disaster, military scientists carried out secret rainmaking tests which may have caused the flood that wrecked Lynmouth and left 34 dead.

The files contain the first official evidence MOD was seeking a method to flood enemy trenches. Officials wanted to paralyze troops and bog down tanks in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.

The experiments, which used small aircraft to seed clouds with rain-inducing chemicals, were continued despite some official fears that civilians could be put at risk by the resulting rainstorms.

Records show government lawyers dismissed ideas of claims for civilian compensation in the event of the latter being adversely affected. Besides, it was cynically argued, "It was not a matter of great consequence: because civilians would be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what had caused the rainstorm."

Residents near Lynmouth claim the unseasonable downpour on August 17, 1952 was not a natural event, a "freak simmer storm." To back up their contention, residents cite the presence of many small airplanes before the storm.

The residents' suspicions have been confirmed by the release of MOD records. Moreover, Whitehall officials have admitted that rainmaking experiments were carried out over Lynmouth in the days just before the flood.

The admission reinforces the belief held locally that the British government was somehow responsible for the tragedy.


This admission opens up the question, many years later, of possible compensation claims from relatives of those killed, injured and left homeless by the disaster.

The following is a brief account of what happened on that night of terror:

After eight hours of incessant rain, the normally small and calm river Lyn, usually no more than a rippling stream flowing between high walls and banks through the village, began to flood. It produced a twelve-foot wall of water that swept through the streets of the village.

Within a few minutes, nearly 1,000 residents had their homes totally wrecked while High Street was left littered with wrecked cars. Boulders were piled 25 feet high in places by the raging torrent.

The search for bodies went on for two weeks.

One local resident, who was nine years old at the time, has recently recalled ho six members of her family were swept away in the vortex of water which engulfed everything in its path.

"We clung to railings beside out cottage as boulders and eater came down the hill, she said. "It was terrifying. My mother felt something grab her ankle. When we shone the torch (flashlight) down into the water, we saw it was my grandfather."

The declassified documents confirm that government ministers authorized rainmaking experiments across Britain during the period from 1949 to 1957. Early tests were carried out over the Menine Hills range in the north of England.

These experiments were intended to "refine" American rainmaking experiments. Silver iodide or dry ice particles were dispersed into the center of clouds to induce rain.

In one section of the documents headed "Experiment on Rain Making," scientists reported several "successful trials" during 1949. In 1953, the War Office held a confidential meeting to discuss the experiments and to brief the then under secretary of state for air. George Ward.

In the course of this meeting, scientists pinpointed four uses for the technique, believing rain or snow could be produced up to 300 miles from cloud seeding activity. They claimed that artificially induced rainfall could bog down enemy advances in a particular area or increase water flow in rivers to stop the enemy form crossing.

With Germany chiefly in mind, they discussed whether German soil would become muddy enough to hinder tank columns advancing. Snow packs could be increased to significantly hinder enemy progress, it was maintained.

Ministers also considered the advantages of using rainmaking in conjunction with the atomic bomb. If such a bomb were exploded into a storm system, greater damage and radioactive contamination would result, the scientists said.

War Office rainmaking experiments were shelved in 1954 so that officials could compare the results of other similar projects undertaken by the Meteorological Office. According to the records they ended in 1957 after moderate success.

A MOD spokesman has conceded survivors of the Lynmouth flood disaster were now free to sue the government. He added that it was impossible to say anything that might help these people at this time but that they were free to take the government to court, ad the MOD would then present its argument.