Two south Wiltshire centenarians reunited in Porton

Two south Wiltshire centenarians reunited in Porton

Published by The Spire FM News Team at 6:18am 23rd September 2016.

A 100 year old man, from the south Wiltshire village of Porton, has returned to his old workplace, which is also celebrating its centenary.

A 100 year old man, from the south Wiltshire village of Porton, has returned to his old workplace, which is also celebrating its centenary.

Mark Darlow, a former staff member at Dstl, was invited to meet current employees and to see examples of the firm's latest work.

The special visit was arranged because Dstl Porton Down is also celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Mark joined the Microbiological Research Department at Porton Down in 1952. As a Surgeon Commander in the Royal Navy he was both the medical and safety officer for the establishment.


During his time at Porton Down Mark has been responsible for many important projects and developments including working first hand on:

  • Pioneering the development of the first safe and effective anthrax vaccine, which is still in use today.
  • Designing an isolated bed for transportation of highly infectious cases.
  • Being the safety officer at annual inspections of Gruinard Island, where the long term effects of anthrax were being monitored.

Mark has lived in Porton since 1957, and the 100 year old told Spire FM more about his visit:

"I'm extremely proud of the work that we did when I worked at Porton Down. I'm just as proud of the incredible work that they are doing today and I was particularly struck by the wide variety of the work that they do."

"I was surprised with how much Porton Down has changed. In stark contrast to the modern buildings of today, in my day, we used to work in corrugated iron huts."

In an intriguing twist of fate, Mark Darlow's interest in science was sparked by an inspirational teacher, Mr Atkinson, who was one of the founders of Porton Down in 1916. He played a key role in developing the early gas masks and his enthusiasm for the practical application of science rubbed off the young Mark Darlow.

It's no surprise that during his visit Mark Darlow was particularly interested in a display showing the development of respirators - including the respirator that his former teacher helped to invent. He was also intrigued to see the latest autonomous Royal Navy vessel, the Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed (MAST) vessel that was recently involved in trials on the Thames in central London.

During his visit on 16th September, he helped Dstl's Chief Executive, Jonathan Lyle, and Dstl Board member Vice Admiral Duncan Potts CB cut a celebratory cake to mark Dstl's centenary.

Mark Darlow 100 year old from Porton - and Dstl centenary - Dstl Cake Cutting

Mark Darlow cutting cake to mark 100th anniversary of Dstl Porton Down

(L-R Mark Darlow, Jonathan Lyle and Vice Admiral Duncan Potts)

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