Inside Britain’s Armageddon houses: Meet the ‘preppers’ who are stockpiling food and weapons because they fear the world will end
The Mayan calendar predicts that the end of the world is less than a month away – but there are some Britons who are taking the doomsday prophecy more seriously than most.
Meet the UK’s ‘preppers’- people who are preparing for Armageddon behind closed doors. Between them they fear a new dark age, natural disasters, a solar flare, and a world without law and order.
They spend their entire lives and thousands of pounds preparing for disaster.
Science fiction writer Edward O’Toole, pictured shooting an arrow, has abandoned Britain and lives off the land in Slovakia as he believes it will give him a better chance of survival
Tree surgeon Malcolm Bowler has been collecting weapons for more than twenty years. He believes he will have to hunt to survive in an Armageddon situation
They have built emergency store cupboards filled with food with a long shelf life, are stock piling petrol, weapons, and even condoms, have secret remote hideaways, getaway trailers ready to escape in 15 minutes, nuclear and chemical weapon suits and even an inflatable canoe.
One ‘prepper’, Edward O’Toole, has already abandoned ship and is living ‘off grid’ in Slovakia.
From former soldiers to a store manager who believes he can save a community of ‘like-minded individuals’ they are all featuring in a new documentary exclusive to the National Geographic Channel PREPPERS UK: SURVIVING ARMAGEDDON.
Retired soldier Michael Sanderson lives with his wife and two young daughters in Hertfordshire but has a trailer ready for them to escape to a secret Welsh hideaway at 15 minutes’ notice.
Mr Sanderson, who served in the Falklands and Northern Ireland, said: ‘I’m preparing for a natural disaster.
‘Bad things do happen, people’s homes do get burned down, there are floods, there are catastrophic events that affect people completely.
‘If you go too late, you’re dead. People say to me “why are you a prepper?” And I’m always baffled by it, because what I say to people is, I don’t understand why you’re not.
Mr Sanderson was prompted into action watching Hurricane Katrina unfolding on the news – one of the deadliest storms to hit the States which devastated New Orleans.
Mr Sanderson said: ‘My mum’s 85 years old, you know, I’ve got young children, how do I get the family out? So they didn’t leave, the stayed. And – they expected, they expected somebody to come and save them. And nobody did.
‘What we see, internationally, is all these things happening on a day-to-day basis, but we don’t think it could possibly happen here. Couldn’t possibly happen here. Or could it’
He keeps a ‘bug out vehicle’ rammed with three months worth of provisions for his family and he has practiced escape drills.
At his hideaway he will use wood and keeps the fire going and will be ‘reverting to a simpler time’.
Mr Sanderson said: ‘I think what we need as human beings is food, water and somewhere to sleep. And that’s pretty much what’s in this trailer. One of the hardest decisions you will ever make is when do you leave?
‘Much better you go too early, because you can come back. If you go too late, you’re dead.’
Mr Sanderson plans to sit out a disaster using his military survival skills. He said ‘The provisions that we’ve got in place here allow us a slow and progressive transition to a simpler life.’
He added: ‘Towns and cities are dangerous places. You know, an awful lot of people fighting for the same resources, you know, it’s a dangerous place. What you’re talking about is the biggest, the toughest, the meanest, getting whatever’s going.’
He would be prepared to kill to survive. Mr Sanderson said: ‘The last thing you want in a serious situation is for someone to sneak up on you and steal all your preps. I would do everything possible to avoid a lethal confrontation, but if we ended up in a situation without the rule of law, would I use lethal force to defend my family? Every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Absolutely. ‘
American ex-pat, Annie Durbin, who lives in east London, is a new recruit and believes she is one of the only woman preppers.
She said: ‘The specific point that I became interested in prepping was in the summer of 2011, just after the riots. I thought, wow, you know, this is really serious. If this handful of kids can shut down London, you know, what happens if something really major happens?’
So she has stocked up on canned goods and grains which will last three months.
She said: ‘I think, which I think, should be sufficient, because if the s*** did hit the fan, I would probably not be able to stay here very long anyway. So I think that amount of food is probably about right.’
She has put together a ‘survival kit’ including her favourite ‘commando knife’ which makes her ‘feel tough’ and can be made into a spear.
Miss Durbin said: ‘I can’t imagine I’ll need a spear, but you never know what’s going to happen. That’s a handy dandy little item to have. Prepping is a statement of independence. You know, I’m taking the situation into my hands.
‘I don’t like the feeling of being helpless. I felt so helpless when the stores were shut, when the riots happened, and I thought, this is pathetic.’
She has put together an unusual kit bags, telling the documentary: ‘One of them is actually a couple of versions of the Qur’an. Because I live right in the middle of the largest Muslim population in the UK.
‘So you never know, it’s very good to adapt to your environment. And I’ve got baggies of all sorts of things. Oral hygiene things, a little hairbrush.
‘Even if you’re out surviving, you still want to look nice, don’t you? Still a matter of self-preservation, taking care of yourself, I think that’s very important. Especially if everything around you is collapsing.
‘Apparently I am unusual being a female prepper. There don’t seem to be many others around. But I probably do think of issues that men don’t think of.
‘I’ve got lots of condoms, and various lubes and things, because even in times of hardship, people have sex.
‘Perhaps even more so in times of hardship, that’s one natural comfort that they can easily get. So it’s good to be prepared.
‘You don’t know who you’re going to encounter out there on the streets, or in the wild, so it’s best to protect yourself. You never know.’
Although it sounds like something out of a science fiction novel department store manager Royston Upson, from Surrey, is preparing for the aftermath of a solar flare.
But he will not survive alone and has prepared to save a dozen ‘like-minded’ people from the impending disaster to form a new community.
He said: ‘I’m going to make sure that myself and those around me are prepared for anything.
‘It only takes, say, like, an EMP from the sun, with a coronal mass ejection, and it can potentially wipe out all electric grids in the Western world.’
‘These are what the Mayan calendar’s all based around, it’s about solar maximus, solar minus. We’re now coming into solar maximus.
‘The system is fragile, incredibly fragile. Everything is reliant on electricity. Here we rely on Tescos, well if Tescos doesn’t have any tills to work and there’s no money in the banks, nothing is going to happen.
‘And then after that we’re only 72 hours from anarchy. If that happens, that’s when we go back to pre-industrial Victorian-era lifestyles again, but only for the few who have prepared for it.’
He runs Survival Instinct UK, the only survival and preparedness radio show, where he shares his fears.
He keeps has a storeroom packed with barrels full of food, including rice and pulses, two army field cookers and oil lanterns. It’s location is a secret so it is safe from looters when the solar flare strikes.
He said: ‘It’s cost thousands of pounds to get to this point, but I actually will be topping up my food to the point where I have at least two years’ worth of food.
‘For me, in any emergency or disaster, the ultimate goal is just longevity. It’s about actually having people around you who you can look after, they can look after you in equal measures, and it’s about just effectively rebuilding, and maintaining a level of society.
‘I can equip about a dozen people, all in all. I can actually create a community around me of like-minded individuals, people who can work, people who can actually help us build and construct.
‘With the skills and the knowledge that I have for the situation, I think the leadership would be something that’s forced upon me.
‘Now if you imagine there’s any form of disaster, especially if power goes out, the shops will be looted and ransacked. There won’t be the law and order that we have today. It’s going to effectively turn into a war zone.
‘People would become very desperate, because within 72 hours most of the supplies would have gone. Even grandma might pick up a kitchen knife in order to actually get a loaf of bread from her next door neighbour because they may not have anything in the house.’
The ‘preppers’ believe it is a form of ‘physical insurance’ and there are no shortage of Britons uploading clips and showing off their kits online on sites that get hundreds of thousands of views.
Pete Stanford, form Hampshire, is a personal development coach who has been ‘prepping’ for five years for WROL – a world without the rule of law. Along with his inflatable canoe to get to his island hideaway eight miles out of town he has an NBC – nuclear, biological, chemical – suit.
Mr Stanford said: ‘To control any civil unrest, nerve gas, tear gas and type of chemicals might be used to subdue whatever civil unrest there is. So if, for some reason, I had to clandestinely and stealthily go through that area, I’d want to be protected.’
Science fiction author Edward O’Toole believed that the only way to survive was to escape our green and pleasant Isle so left his home 14 years ago and traveled over 1,000 miles to a remote corner of Slovakia, where he has been living ‘off grid’.
He met his wife, Renata, and now has three children who help him hunt and help him prepare.
He said: ‘I’m preparing for a new Dark Age. If Britain lost electricity, and oil, then within a week most people would be dead.
The emergency larder, pictured, is filled with row after row of food with a long shelf life including tinned vegetables, gravy, and cooking oil
‘You’re talking 70 million people on an island, all competing for the same resources. The most likely catastrophic situations that we could experience are natural disasters. I think there will be a new Dark Age. And I want to prep so that my children have a good chance of survival.’
He believes that governments are secretly preparing for Doomsday.
‘There are lots of things being prepared for at the moment. For example, China and Russia – Have both been building vast bunkers,’ he said.
‘Russia now has enough bunkers to house the entire population. In America people are trying to build bunkers, but they can’t get the equipment and they can’t get the companies to do it, because the government has been hiring the companies to build theirs. On a much, much higher level, there obviously is something in the works’
He said: ‘I’ve probably been preparing since I was about fifteen, sixteen, in one form or another. Obviously now I have a family, there are five of us, I’ve got to think about feeding five people each day, day after day. You know, I don’t want my five year-old daughter, like, starving.
In Buckinghamshire tree surgeon Malcolm Bowler has been collecting weapons for more than 20 years.
He said: ‘These are all weapons that I could use for hunting animals in the wild. I’ve shot rabbits and pigeons and squirrels with these guns, quite easily, it will take them out. If you wanted to take something big, you could use a crossbow like this. It is illegal to hunt with crossbows in the UK, and with bows, but I suppose in a dire survival situation you could, you know, if you had no choice.
‘To me, prepping is like learning first aid skills. You hope you don’t need it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.’
Former soldier and father-of-five Simon Dillon, 47, has added a purpose-built store cupboard full of beans, pulses, rice, flours, sugars, sauces and fried dried meals at his home in Brinnington, Stockport.
His emergency larder has enough food for 365 days and spending £20,000 to ensure his house will run without power and he keeps chickens and grows his own fruit and veg which he has learned to can and preserve.
But he said he hates the word and prefers to be called an urban homesteader, adding: ‘People hear the word and they think it sounds like you’re waiting for the end of the world or a WROL – a world without rule of law.
‘I sympathise with those who do make these preparations for those reasons, but I am not one of them. I’ve always been interested in foraging and catching my own food.’
Mr Dillon, who was a soldier for two years, is a keen cave explorer.
He said his main aim is to provide for his family if economic times get tough and care for his wife, Noreen, who has a heart condition and is partially paralysed.
Mr Dillon believes the food would sustain his family if he had to give up his job as a support worker for people with learning disabilities.
He said: ‘I’ve invested in food. Food prices have gone through the roof, if you compare basket prices it’s probably more than doubled on some items.
‘And then there’s the weather – look at the extreme weather that they’re having down south . If we have a really bad winter and trucks couldn’t get to the shops to supply food, then I don’t have to worry.
‘If you walked into someone’s house and saw they had that much food, you’d think they were a bit off the wall. But if you look at it as a whole with everything else I do, I like to think it’s just a bit like The Good Life. I’m just a normal guy who is quite religious and feels a duty to support my family. If a difficult time comes, I won’t be relying on the state.’
They all feature in PREPPERS UK:SURVIVING ARMAGEDDON which is exclusive to the National Geographic Channel on Thursday 29th November at 11pm or Friday 30th November at 8pm
The show is part of the British version of a series about people preparing for the apocalypse. The date that some believe will bring the end of the world is fast approaching.
The Mayan tribes of South America are believed by some to have been privy to impending disasters that coincide with 2012, ranging from explosive storms on the surface of the sun that could knock out power grids to a galactic alignment that could trigger a reversal in Earth’s magnetic field.
Experts met in September to quell fears that the end of the world is nigh and Mayan prophecies have been misinterpreted.
Archaeologists and anthropologists gathered in the southern Mexico city of Merida to discuss the implications of the calendar, which is made up of 394-year periods called baktuns, and had named the end date as December 21.