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CBW Events is a project to create a record of events to enable and encourage understanding of how policies on the issues relating to chemical and biological warfare (CBW) are developed.

CBW Events -- recent/notable additions/updates include: (these links will each open in a new window)


CBW Events -- March 2015 selections

Each month, entries for a few anniversaries of notable events in the history of CBW are posted. All will appear in the relevant final versions of the chronologies.

30 years ago | 40 years ago | 45 years ago | 50 years ago | 55 years ago | 60 years ago

30 years ago:

21 March 1985     Thirty-three further Iranian soldiers arrive in Europe for medical treatment [see 19 March 1984]. Eight go to Austria, nine to the UK, and the rest to West Germany and Belgium. All are said to have been injured by exposure to chemical warfare agents on 15 March. Five of the eight in Vienna are considered to be in a critical condition.[1]
     One of the patients in Vienna dies of his injuries on 24 March.[2] One of those in London dies on 26 March.[3] By 1 April, four of the soldiers in Vienna have died. The last of these is named as Amanollah Ahmadi.[4]
     Tests on 13 Iranian casualties flown to European hospitals are reported to show that they were victims of mustard gas exposure.[5] A doctor in Vienna, Gernot Pauser, states that his medical team is certain the soldiers have been exposed to mustard gas and one other unidentified substance.[5]
     [1] [no author listed] (from Vienna), "33 Iranian soldiers injured by chemical weapons", United Press International, 22 March 1985; Roland Prinz (from Vienna), "Wounded Iranians In Vienna for Treatment; Doctor Blames Mustard Gas", Associated Press, 23 March 1985.
     [2] Mohammed Salam, [no title], Associated Press, 24 March 1985.
     [3] [no author listed] "Baghdad Threatens to Extend War to all Parts of Iran / Possible Gulf War Escalation", The Guardian (London), 27 March 1985.
     [4] IRNA (in English), 1125 GMT 2 April 1985, as reported in "Fourth victim of claimed chemical weapon attack", BBC-SWB, 5 April 1985, ME/7918/A/16.
     [5] Jared Mitchell with Paul Grant (from Cairo), Carole Jerome (from Toronto), William Lowther (from Washington) and David North (from Bahrain), "An Unholy War Attrition", Maclean's, 1 April 1985, p.20.
     [6] Mohammed Salam, [no title], Associated Press, 24 March 1985.


40 years ago:

26 March 1975     The Biological Weapons Convention enters into force, a little under three years from its opening for signature [see 10 April 1972]. The three depositary states — UK, USA and USSR — all formally ratify the Convention on this date. Other countries also depositing their instruments of ratification today are Afghanistan (in London), Byelorussian SSR (in Moscow), Senegal (in Washington) and Ukranian SSR (in London, Moscow and Washington).


45 years ago:

24 March 1970     Canada makes a statement in the CCD in Geneva on its "Attitude to chemical and biological warfare".[1] The statement says: "(1) Canada never has had and does not now possess any biological weapons (or toxins) and does not intend to develop, produce, acquire, stockpile or use such weapons at any time in the future.
     "Canada does not possess any chemical weapons and does not intend to develop, produce, acquire, stockpile or use such weapons at any time in the future unless these should be used against the military forces or the civil population of Canada or its allies". Tear gas and other riot control agents are not included in this commitment.
     [1] Canada, statement to the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament, 24 March 1970, CCD/PV.460, para 37.


50 years ago:

26 March 1965     The Times in London recounts that credence is being given to reports circulating in the Middle East that large numbers of gas masks are being bought by Iraq. The paper says "In Baghdad last September almost open inquiries were made of various countries on the possibility of some 60,000 gas masks being supplied". The reports suggest that the purchases might be connected with an imminent offensive against the Kurds.[1]
     The next month an offensive said to involve 40,000 Iraqi troops advances into Kurdish areas. "On April 3 Government units pushed forward north of Khanaqin and a few days later other units began to sweep the area east of Kirkuk and Arbil".[2]
     [1] Middle East Correspondent (from Beirut), "Gas masks sold to Iraq", The Times (London), 26 March 1965, p 11.
     [2] Diplomatic Correspondent, "Fighting confined to foothills", The Times (London), 22 April 1965, p 10.


55 years ago:

31 March 1960     In London, the House of Commons is told: "In 1955 about 17,000 tons of captured German gas bombs were dumped in the Atlantic Ocean; and in 1956 and 1957 some 8,000 tons of shells and bombs containing phosgene and mustard gas were disposed of in the same way. The areas were selected in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods. The depth of water was never less than 1,000 fathoms and I am advised that no danger to anyone can arise."[1]
     [Note: this appears to be the first official public reference to UK dumping of chemical weapons, although it has often been missed. For example, In the Dáil Éireann (Parliament of Ireland) a Minister stated in a written answer: "I understand that the dumping of chemical munitions in the North Atlantic by the UK authorities between 1945 and 1957 first came into the public domain in 1986."[2]]
     [1] Christopher Soames, Secretary of State for War, Written Answer, 31 March 1960, Hansard (Commons), vol 620, c 164, in response to a question from Mr Warbey MP.
     [2] Mr Andrews, Minister for the Marine, Written Answer, 2 November 1994, Dáil Éireann, vol 446, c1495-96.


60 years ago:

30 March 1955     In London, there is an exchange on the floor of the House of Commons about the Geneva Protocol [see also 8 March]. The Foreign Office is asked which other governments are also bound by the Geneva Protocol and to "publish the precise terms of the reservation of Her Majesty's Government in relation to the right to retaliate'. The relevant minister responds by circulating the list of ratifications and accessions to the Protocol and the UK reservation in written form in Hansard. The reservation, as printed in Hansard, reads:
     His Majesty's Government's ratification was subject to the following reservations: "(1st) that His Majesty is bound by the said Protocol only towards those Powers and States which have both signed and ratified the Protocol or have acceded thereto." "(2nd) that His Majesty shall cease to be bound by the Protocol towards any Power at enmity with Him whose armed forces, or the armed forces of whose allies, do not respect the prohibitions forming the subject of this Protocol."
     [1] Lord John Hope, Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, 30 March 1955, Oral Answers, Hansard (Commons), vol 539, c368-69, in response to a question from Reginald Sorensen MP.