Chemical Weapons Disposal

At the end of World War II Australia’s chemical weapons stocks needed disposal. There was uncertainty as to the best methods of disposal. Thus a series of burning, sea dumping and venting (phosgene) trials were undertaken with all 3 methods found suitable for certain types of chemical warfare stocks. The disposals were especially hazardous and a number of injuries were sustained by the participants.

In late October 1945, the first burning  trial was commenced at the Australian Field Experimental Station, Proserpine. At this trial, two types of containers, Drums Storage No.6 and 44 gallon steel drums, were destroyed. These containers were chosen because they were representative of stocks to be destroyed in Australia. The trials indicated that large quantities of mustard gas in bulk storage drums could be destroyed by fire. The second trial was held at No. 1 Base Ammunition Depot, Albury, during November 1945. At this trial, at least 2000 chemical mines were destroyed by burning. Three more major burning and venting disposal operations were subsequently undertaken. The first occurred at the No. 19 Replenishing Centre (Talmoi) between December 1945 and January 1946.

At 88 Mile (Northern Territory), 2,000 tons of gas bombs (both mustard and phosgene-filled) were burnt or vented at Fenton airstrip. Lastly, stocks from No. 1 Central Reserve, including those from Marangaroo and Glenbrook, were burnt at Newnes State Forest. The actual disposal took place from February to March 1946 when 2,000 tons were incinerated.

The Sea dumping of chemical weapons off Australia has been considered in detail elsewhere;

Chemical Warfare Agent Sea Dumping off Australia