UK braced for mustard gas attacks in 1943

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As scientists devised methods to use chemical warfare against Britain’s enemies, other officials were preparing for a chemical attack.

The documents from the National Archives show how the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Home Security held demonstrations to show civilians what to do to decontaminate their food in the event of a mustard gas bombing.

Cheese, tinned food, potatoes, flour, tea and meat were used in 15 seminars in Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham, London, Winchester, Torquay, Cardiff and other centres.

Black-and-white photographs from 1943 show crowds of cheerful-looking women and men attending the sessions, given by chemical weapons specialists and representatives from the food ministry. The food was put in a “gas chamber” and exposed to mustard gas for two hours. Officials in gas masks can be seen administering the poison as local people watched.

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