Rawalpindi experiments

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The Rawalpindi experiments were experiments involving use of Mustard gas carried out by scientists from Porton Down of the British military on hundreds of British and Indian soldiers. Experiments were carried out before and during the Second World War in a military installation at Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan.[1] These experiments began in the early 1930s and lasted more than 10 years.[2]

Since the publication of the story by Rob Evans of the Guardian on 1 September 2007, the experiments are referred to as the Rawalpindi experiments or Rawalpindi mustard gas experiments in the media and elsewhere.

Oversight by Porton Down[edit]

The experiments in Rawalpindi were part of a much larger project intended to test the effects of chemical weapons on humans. More than 20,000 British servicemen and women were subjected to chemical warfare trials between 1916 and 1989 at the Defence Ministry's Porton Down research centre in southwest England.

Aim of the experiments[edit]

The experiments were done to determine the effects of mustard gas, now known to be highly carcinogenic (cancer causing).

According to documents at the British National Archives in London, British army scientists and doctors tested the effects of mustard gas on over 500 British and Indian soldiers[3] over a ten-year period. Beginning in the early 1930s, scientists at Rawalpindi sent Indian soldiers, wearing shorts and cotton shirts, into gas chambers to experience the effects of mustard gas. The scientists hoped to determine the appropriate dosage to use on battlefields. Many of the subjects suffered severe burns from their exposure to the gas.[4]

Effects on subjects[edit]

These tests caused large numbers of burns, some of which were so damaging that the subjects had to be hospitalized. According to the report severely burned patients were often very miserable and depressed and in considerable discomfort.[5]

No long-term effects of exposure were documented or studied.

Missing information[edit]

The patients were treated at the Indian Military Hospital Rawalpindi now known as the Military Hospital Rawalpindi. The exact place where the British Military facility with gas chambers was located in Rawalpindi is not known.

Porton Down view[edit]

Porton Down officials have argued that trials took place in a different era, during a conflict, and so their conduct should not be judged by today's standards.[1]

See also[edit]

  • Keen as Mustard, a documentary film about tests in tropical Australia on serviceman volunteers during WWII.


  • British National Archives