Newly-released documents from the National Archives have revealed that Germany planned chemical and biological attacks as part of its invasion plans for Britain during the Second World War. The papers, belonging to the Ministry of Home Security and other bodies, show proposed plans for specially adapted German aircraft to spray gas or foot-and-mouth disease over parts of Britain, and even suggested the use of anthrax shells, all with the aim of creating mass panic. Among the documents, which date between 1939 and 1941, are details of the movement of large amounts of chemicals from German factories to “areas occupied by troops likely to take part in an invasion”.
The British Library has struck a deal with internet search engine Google to allow readers to view, search and copy around 250,000 historic texts, free of charge. The works selected date from between 1700 and 1870 and include a pamphlet about the French queen Marie Antoinette, as well as Spanish inventor Narciso Monturiol’s 1858 plans for one of the world’s first submarines. Google will cover the costs of the digitisation, which will take several years to complete.
DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies on 17 skeletons found at the bottom of a medieval well in Norwich in 2004 has suggested that the bodies may have been persecuted Jews who were murdered or forced to commit suicide. DNA analysis of the skeletons, which date back to the 12th or 13th centuries, revealed that five possessed a DNA sequence suggesting they were probably members of a single Jewish family. Eleven of the skeletons were children aged between two and 15; the remaining six were adult men and women whose skeletons showed fractures caused by the impact of hitting the well bottom. Pictures taken during the initial excavation have suggested the bodies were thrown in headfirst.
Experts examining a painting by Vincent Van Gogh that has traditionally been viewed as a self-portrait, have concluded that the piece is actually portrait of the artist’s brother, Theo. The painting, which was created in 1887 when the pair lived together in Paris, has been compared to a known self-portrait of Van Gogh and several differences have been noted, including ear shapes and beard colouring.