Records I discovered at The National Archives show the British Army’s top brass tried to harness ‘supernormal‘ powers during the war against Hitler – and may still be conducting experiments on a range of special powers.
An article by Mark Branagan in The Sunday Express summarises the research published in my 2014 book Britain’s X-traordinary Files (Bloomsbury):
During the Battle of Britain and Blitz they began tests to see if unexploded bombs and mines could be detected with water divining rods.
The idea of using the paranormal even reached war leader Winston Churchill’s ears and, when victory in Europe was secured, it continued to obsess military boffins for decades.
They persevered with their efforts to use troops armed with divining rods to strike fear in enemy hearts for another 30 years before finally ditching it as unworkable.
The notion was inspired in 1940 when officials heard of a policeman using a divining rod to search for victims of a Nazi bombing in Warwick. Word of it reached Herbert Morrison’s civil defence department, which reported to Churchill.
In an experiment in 1940, a dowser was used to explore the gardens of the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington for buried objects. His trusty rod failed to detect a large gas main running 2ft under the grounds or a bomb case in an underground trench. Dowsing was written off as “completely unreliable”.
Yet by 1968, with British forces in difficulties in Aden, experi ments were recommenced. A dummy minefield was laid over a 384acre heath in Dorset and dowsers were called in.
They failed to find any of the 400 explosives, either by walking the ground or trying to locate them on maps.
A 1941 file on the policeman’s claims, which were debunked, was found in the National Archives by Sheffield academic Dr David Clarke, who also found a dossier on the later experiments. He has written a book called Britain’s Xtraordinary Files.
He said yesterday: “Dowsing, divination and other super natural powers sound like some thing from The XFiles.
“Yet during wartime the Brit ish government was prepared to consider all kinds of unconven tional methods to gain a tactical advantage over the enemy.
“I would be surprised, in the aftermath of 9/11 and with the war on terror, if the military are not still working on super-normal experiments.”