Letter from Sylvia Stoltz - Australian Field Experimental Station

 

 

Biography

 

 

Dear Geoff

 

I have read your book and I can see that it did need to be written to give recognition to the work and experiences of RAAF armourers in the hazardous field of mustard gas during WW2.

 

It is a pity that someone had not written this back in 1975 when the embargo of 30 years secrecy on CW warfare was lifted. Since 1975 there have been so many stories of ex-CW personnel being denied acknowledgement of the danger faced in simulated CW warfare and the effect on the health of personnel who had been exposed to mustard and other gases.  When seeking medical treatment they have been accused of being malingerers and untruthful.  Attempts to have hazardous units deemed eligible for the DVA Gold Card [Veteran Affairs]  also have  been rejected.

 

I must confess that in 1944 I had not heard the term 'armourers'. Although there were some RAAF boys in our Unit I did not know that they had been involved in CW situations already. Secrecy was so strictly observed that none of us knew anything about any colleague other than the work and situations which we shared.

 

The trials carried out by the Research Unit involved a lot of hard physical work in preparing sites in the rain forest at Innisfail - using machetes and axes to  cut trails through thick undergrowth, stinging trees, vines and roots.  The RAAF boys were assigned to this task. I remember one occasion when a senior officer was said to have remarked "the ods and sods will do that" so I can understand the armourers feeling that this was not what they had been trained for.

 

I was particularly interested in the armourers' accounts of the spray tank spill on the Cairns aerodrome. I remember well the phone call received at our Unit and the panic which resulted in a decontamination team being sent immediately to Cairns. We did not hear any details of the situation.

 

Thank you for including in your book the named photo of the C.W. R. & E.S. group at December 1943 and other photos which show that there were young service-women also involved in mustard gas in Australia.

 

I think it is too late now for surviving personnel from secret units in WW2 to receive any benefits or even recognition for their contribution to the safeguarding of Allied troops on active service in the South-West Pacific Islands.  Most of us are now well over 80 years and going downhill anyway!   Today the younger generations seem to have their memories directed more to WW1 than to later conflicts.  However, the part played by CW units in WW2 is now on record and may receive some attention in later years.

 

 Congratulations Geoff, for the tremendous amount of time and effort which you put into producing this book - especially the technical information regarding the gases and weapons used and their eventual destruction. The reproduction of the photos is of very high quality and I am pleased that you chose to include some of the Research Unit at Innisfail and Proserpine.

 

Best regards

 

Sylvia Stoltz 

 

 (ex AWAS member of C.W.R. & E.S.)

         Innisfail and Proserpine

              1943 - 1945

 

 

Sylvia can be contacted at sylvanem@alphalink.com.au