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Reports and Memoranda

A Review of the Suggested Exposure of UK Forces to Chemical Warfare Agents in Al Jubayl During the Gulf Conflict


1. Sometime after 03:00 hrs (1) on the morning of 19 January 1991, in Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia, a number of events occurred that caused great concern to many of the troops that were stationed there, in the British Force Maintenance Area (FMA) (2). There were reports of loud bangs, a bright flash, and vapour and liquid in the air. In addition, a number of detection and monitoring systems indicated the presence of chemical warfare (CW) agents. (3) These incidents were subsequently investigated by the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Cell at the HQ FMA and by staff at the Chemical Defence Establishment (CDE) at Porton Down. However, the event was never formally resolved, and troops in Al Jubayl appear to have received a number of conflicting explanations for the alarms.


Previous Work

2. In 1994, Lord Henley (the then Under Secretary of State for Defence) answered three written Parliamentary Questions from the Countess of Mar concerning apparent chemical agent detections during the Gulf conflict.

3. In the first question the Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty’s Government:

‘Whether they are aware that on 1st July 1994 personnel at Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment, Porton Down acknowledged that chemical detectors (NAIADS and CAMS) could be activated by substances other than toxic chemicals they were designed to detect, and by what means military personnel involved in Operation Granby were expected to know when they should use their personal protective equipment.’

4. The answer, published in Hansard on 26 July 1994 included a letter from the Director General of the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment (CBDE). (4) He had stated that, although the Nerve Agent Immobilised enzyme Alarm and Detector (NAIAD) ‘like all other chemical warfare agent detectors, can respond to substances other than chemical warfare agents, it is important to recognise that these other substances are very unlikely to be present on the battlefield in concentrations sufficient to produce an alarm.’

5. The Countess’ second question asked:

‘Why troops had been told that the alarms which sounded on the night of 20th/21st January 1991 during Operation Granby were activated by aircraft fumes, when NAIAD alarms and two RVD (Residual Vapour Detector) tests confirmed the presence of the toxic chemicals NAIAD are designed to detect?’

6. Lord Henley’s answer, published in Hansard on 26 October 1994, included another letter from the Director General of CBDE, which said:

‘As I indicated in my previous answer to you of 26 July 1994, we are aware that chemical warfare agent detectors can respond to substances other than chemical agents or if incorrect drills are used. The drills and training of the British Army are designed to ensure that should there be an alarm then protection is first donned whilst a judgement is being made at the next higher level as to whether chemical warfare agents have indeed been used and caused the alarm.

The event to which you refer on the night of 20/21 January 1991 is entirely consistent with the occasional transient false alarms that arose during Operation Granby. In addition, there has been no evidence that chemical warfare agent was used at any stage by Iraq during Operation Granby. The equipment provided to the British Armed Forces to detect and monitor chemical warfare agents, when used in accordance with the drills and training, is highly effective and is second to none.’

7. By the time that the Department came to answer the Countess’ third question, they had decided that the events to which she referred were those that had taken place on 19 January, in Al Jubayl. The Countess of Mar asked:

‘To what chemicals the two RVD (Residual Vapour Detector) tests gave positive responses following the triggering of the NAIAD (Nerve Agent Immobilised Enzyme Alarm and Detector) alarms on the night of 20th-21st January 1991 during Operation GRANBY.’

8. Lord Henley replied on 7 December 1994:

‘My department has no record of an incident taking place on the night of 20-21 January 1991 during Operation GRANBY. There are, however, records of an incident on 19 January 1991 in the Al Jubayl area when CAM (Chemical Agent Monitor) and RVD (Residual Vapour Detector) indicated the presence of blister agent (Mustard). NAIAD (Nerve Agent Immobilised Enzyme Alarm and Detector) did not respond, thus ruling out the presence of nerve agent.

An immediate follow up by Explosive Ordnance Device (EOD) (5) and chemical reconnaissance teams failed to find any indication for chemical attack which, had it taken place, would have included ground contamination (blister is a persistent agent) and weapon debris.

The identity of the compounds which caused CAM and RVD to respond on 19 January 1991 is therefore not known. Clearly it was not nerve agent since NAIAD did not alarm; neither was it blister agent since there was no ground contamination. It was assessed that the most likely cause of this incident was a damaged coalition aircraft jettisoning JP4 fuel which is consistent with reports of air activity at the time.’

New Work

9. On 14 July 1997, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) published a policy statement setting out its strategy for addressing the health concerns that have been expressed by veterans of the Gulf conflict. (6) As part of this strategy, the Government pledged to review incidents during Operation GRANBY where veterans have suggested that they were exposed to Iraqi chemical or biological warfare (CBW) agents. The first of these reviews concerned a tank of liquid found at the Kuwaiti Girls’ School in Kuwait City in August 1991, and a draft case narrative was published jointly by the MOD and the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illness (OSAGWI) at the US Department of Defense (DOD) on 11 March 1998. (7) Another paper was published by the MOD on 6 April 1998, and reviewed the circumstances in which UK forces reported the presence of groups of dead animals in theatre during the Gulf conflict. (8)

10. In December 1999, the MOD published a paper providing background information about the defensive system that was put in place during the Gulf conflict to protect UK troops from the threat of CW agents. (9) This paper provides a basis for detailed reviews of incidents where veterans have suggested that they were exposed to Iraqi chemical weapons. The first of these reviews was also published in December 1999, and considered the release of CW agents after demolition of the Khamisiyah ammunition dump on 10 March 1991. (10)

11. This is the second of these detailed reviews, and investigates the claims that a chemical attack took place in Al Jubayl in the early morning of 19 January 1991. A third paper will consider other incidents where it has been suggested that British troops were exposed to Iraqi chemical attacks, and should be published in March 2000.

12. A further review will investigate suggested detections of biological warfare (BW) agents and will provide a history of the activities of 1 Field Laboratory Unit during the Gulf conflict. This work is now underway, and is also due for publication in March 2000.

Related Work

13. On 28 October 1997, the MOD published a paper on the medical countermeasures that were used to protect British troops against Iraqi chemical and biological warfare agents, including Nerve Agent Pretreatment Sets (NAPS) and ComboPens, which protected against nerve agents. (11) In addition, a Fact-Finding Team has conducted a study into the way in which the anti-biological warfare agent immunisation programme and the administration of NAPS were implemented in-theatre. A report was prepared on the basis of their work, and was published in January 2000.

Further Information

14. Further information about the Government’s response to the health concerns of Gulf veterans, and all reports published by the MOD on this subject; can be obtained from the Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses (GVI) web page. Alternatively, information is available from the Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Unit (GVIU) which has been established as the Government’s focal point on this issue. The unit can be contacted by calling the GVIU Helpline on 0171 218 4462 or by writing to:

Room 8296
MOD Main Building


15. This review draws on two main sources of evidence: documentary records from the time of the alert in Al Jubayl on 19 January; and the present-day recollections of those who were involved in the events as they unfolded. In addition, this review also draws on the investigations that have been carried out separately by the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illness (OSAGWI) at the US Department of Defense (DoD).

Contemporary Documents

16. Standard military procedures for the Armed Forces require the recording of operational matters, usually at major headquarters (HQ), formation HQ and unit level. The format and content of these records vary to reflect the different organisational structures and requirements of the three Services. The Army Commander’s Diary and the RAF Operations Record Book (ORB) (form 540/541) are not designed to include all of the information received or disseminated during an operation, but to focus on significant operational matters while certain other administrative and logistic issues are covered in less detail. An Army Commander’s Diary should include details of all the major changes within the respective unit or formation; information received and given, including major orders and instructions; short summaries of the day’s fighting (where applicable), including movements and details of casualties and prisoners; statements showing how the unit was employed; and annexes including as much other information as possible, with copies of documents issued and received.

17. But Commanders Diaries have their limitations, particularly during the busiest operational periods, when units are not always able to undertake record keeping in accordance with MOD and service requirements. In addition, the nature of a unit’s duties may mean that it is not always possible for them to maintain a structured Diary, since their personnel may be split between a number of remote locations. (On Op Granby this was particularly the case with a number of the Signals and Transport units.) Furthermore, although most units copy operational orders and instructions into their Diaries, very few retain copies of signals and messages received, unit nominal rolls and casualty returns, and their radio and watchkeepers’ logs. There are often problems with the records of smaller sub-units and specialist cells within a larger organisation, whose detailed material may not be easily included in the larger Commanders Diaries. It is frequently the case that details of routine occurrences, or occurrences initially deemed significant but subsequently considered to be no longer so, are often not recorded or kept. The reality of operations means that the coverage of particular events varies from unit to unit, and the records of the events in Al Jubayl on the morning of 19 January 1991 illustrate this well.

18. Commanders Diaries should be returned to the MOD either at the end of an operation, or if the operation is long-lived, on a monthly rolling basis. Where HQs choose not to use Commanders Diaries but instead store material electronically before printing it out on paper, these files are rarely returned to the UK complete since Service security instructions tend towards the destruction of out-of-date paper. This problem is made worse by the fact that administrative restrictions in-theatre favour the reduction of paper and other material to be shipped back to the UK. In the case of CBW during the Gulf conflict, some NBC officers have noted that they destroyed many of their papers in theatre because they considered that nothing of significance had occurred.

19. Accordingly the range and completeness of the records returned to the MOD after the Gulf conflict varied considerably. This was nothing new, and was not the case only for CBW issues. There are also some inconsistencies between those records that have survived. But this is to be expected. In the case of incidents such as those that occurred in Al Jubayl on 19 January 1991, the units involved would have been more concerned about defending against a possible chemical attack than about maintaining perfectly accurate war diaries. After the alert, and especially once it was clear that there were no casualties, attention would have been focused on their primary role in-theatre, and not on following-up claimed detections of CW agents.

20. In addition to these official records, other sources of documentary evidence may still be in existence, such as private diaries and letters. Some of these have been used in this review.

Individual Recollections

21. The present day recollections of those who were caught up in events of the morning of 19 January in Al Jubayl provide a useful additional source of information, especially where the individuals concerned had particular NBC responsibilities. But the passing of nine years has a detrimental effect on personal memories, which fade and tend to become less objective. It is inevitable that those who have been contacted several years later may not be able to recall the finer details of an event, and that they will, in some cases, confuse their memories of different CW alerts. It is also inevitable, then, that there will be inconsistencies between the recollections of different people, although where independent recollections corroborate one another, there can be greater certainty about their accuracy. Therefore, personal recollections are useful but are less authoritative than the information contained in contemporary records.

The Bounds of Possibility

22. Detailed reviews of historical incidents such as this one are guaranteed to uncover many loose ends that cannot be satisfactorily resolved. Where only limited information about specific details is available, this is made clear, as is the point at which the more objective presentation of evidence gives way to the evaluation and interpretation of that evidence. The MOD’s approach is to ensure that these differences are made absolutely plain in this and other reports, and that there can be no confusion between hard facts and more speculative information.


Al Jubayl

23. Al Jubayl is a port on the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia. (12) To the north of the city lies a large petrochemical complex, which, at the time of the Gulf conflict, contained at least 16 different petroleum refineries, chemical plants, and other related industries. The city’s port provided extensive facilities for the transport, store and shipping of the products of these plants.

24. Early in Operation GRANBY, it was recognised that Al Jubayl’s industrial complex could present a major chemical hazard in the event of an industrial accident or offensive military operations. The United States Marines Corps (USMC), who were based in Al Jubayl, compiled a list of the major companies in the industrial complex and of some of the chemicals that were known to be stored in some of these plants (these included large amounts of chlorine and ammonia). The UK assessed that the S10 Respirator, which was carried by military personnel in theatre to protect against Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) threats, would provide some level of protection from the significant toxic downwind hazard that would result from a fire in the industrial area, but warned that personnel facing such a hazard would be forced to withdraw.

Force Maintenance Area

25. The Force Maintenance Area (FMA) was established to provide third-line Combat Service Support (CSS) to 7 Armoured Brigade (7 Armd Bde) after their deployment to the Gulf in September and October 1990. The FMA was set up in Al Jubayl, which was one of the major points of entry into theatre for UK troops deploying to the Gulf. The extensive port facilities were used to stockpile combat supplies and materiel to the level required to maintain 7 Armd Bde, and then, once the decision was taken to increase the UK’s contribution to the Operation GRANBY to divisional strength, 1 (UK) Armoured Division (1 (UK) Armd Div).

26. Al Jubayl also played an important part in the US involvement in the Gulf conflict. It was principally their Marines Corps and some of their Navy units that were located in Al Jubayl.

27. Up until December 1990, it had been assumed that 1 (UK) Armd Div would fight under the Tactical Control of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). (13) However, on 14 December, the decision was taken to place the Division under the Tactical Control of the US Army VII Corps, which was deployed further inland, to the south east of the Wadi Al Batin. (14) This prompted the establishment of another logistics base, the Forward Force Maintenance Area (FFMA), more than 300 km to the north-west of Al Jubayl, and vast quantities of ammunition, fuel and materiel were moved to this new location throughout January 1991.

Chemical Warfare Defence Arrangements in Al Jubayl (15)

28. The HQ FMA NBC Cell was located with the rest of the HQ FMA, in the Old Port Barracks near Al Jubayl’s Commercial Pier. The NBC Cell served as one of the Army’s NBC Collection Centres and reported to the NBC Zone Control Centre at HQ British Forces Middle East (HQ BFME). The NBC Cell issued its own Chemical Defence Plan for the FMA, which made clear that it assumed responsibility for chemical and biological defence (CBD) matters throughout the area.

29. The NBC Cell would receive early warnings of suspected chemical attacks from a number of sources. These included the British chain of command, the HQ of the US 1 Marine Expeditionary Force (1 MEF) where the UK stationed a junior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), and the 1 US Marine Division operations centre, which was located some miles outside Al Jubayl, where the UK Support Helicopter Force (Middle East) (UK SHF(ME)) had deployed a Signals Detachment. The NBC Cell would then pass these warnings on to British units within Al Jubayl.

30. In the event of a chemical strike on the FMA, units were to send NBC 1 Reports to the HQ FMA NBC Cell who would seek to confirm the strike and to determine the extent of the contamination and would send appropriate warnings to flanking units and a collated NBC 2 report to 1 (UK) Armoured Division, HQ BFME in Riyadh, the Joint Headquarters (JHQ) in High Wycombe and the US Rear Area Operations Centre (RAOC) in Al Jubayl.

31. In addition, the HQ FMA NBC Cell assumed responsibility for providing CW detection and monitoring equipment to units within the FMA; control of the Sampling and Identification of Biological and Chemical Agents (SIBCA) within Al Jubayl; and post-attack decontamination.


32. At 22:22 hours on 18 January, the Intelligence Cell at HQ BFME warned the Operations Cell of an unconfirmed report that the Iraqis were loading Chemical Weapons somewhere in Kuwait, and that their troops were being withdrawn from that location. It was believed that this report had come from the Kuwaiti resistance, via the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Later that evening, and into the small hours of 19 January, Cells at HQ BFME received and disseminated further messages warning of likely Iraqi SCUD attacks on both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

33. It is clear from the log sheets of 1 (UK) Armoured Division, 7 Armd Bde, 4 Armd Bde, the HQ FFMA and many of the units in theatre that these warnings were successfully filtered right down the UK chain of command. These warnings, coming at a time when hostilities were only two days old and sleep patterns were beginning to be seriously disrupted, (16) resulted in an increased level of tension among units in-theatre. Unit NBC Cells would have been at a higher state of alert. The recollections of staff of 11 Armoured Workshops Main Repair Group (MRG 11), which was based at a Cement Factory at Al Amdar in Al Jubayl, provide evidence that, within this unit at least, there was widespread awareness of the increased threat.

34. The Unit readiness state had been raised to Dress state 2 so troops were sleeping in NBC suits. Respirators were next to soldiers and gloves and boots readily available. Soldiers had been briefed that the threat was from SCUD attack.


35. By reviewing the records passed back to the MOD from the Gulf, it has been possible to determine, with a reasonable level of accuracy, which UK units had personnel in Al Jubayl in the early morning of 19 January 1991. We know of 19 units that were either wholly or partly located in the FMA at that time. (17) Of the units that submitted records to the MOD, only one, 187 Company Royal Pioneer Corps (RPC), who were based at Baldrick Lines, did not refer to the possible detections of CW agent that occurred that morning.

36. Contemporary documentary evidence and the recollections of individuals from units within Al Jubayl confirm that a number of significant events occurred in the FMA on that morning, and that some items of detection and monitoring equipment indicated the presence of CW agents. But it is very difficult to piece together exactly what happened. Only some contemporary documents, such as log sheets, signals and Air Staff Management Aid (ASMA, an electronic communication system) entries, have survived, and these often provide a far narrower record of events than the memories of those individuals who were involved at the time. For example, documentary evidence suggests that the focus of the reporting of the incident was on the possibility of an attack by blister agents, when there is evidence, from the recollections of individuals involved, that NAIADs (which do not detect blister agents) alarmed.


37. The evidence available makes clear that loud noises were heard across Al Jubayl some time around 03:30 hrs on 19 January 1991. All of the surviving documentation from units known to have been stationed in the FMA at that time, with the exception of 187 RPC (who were located at Baldrick Lines), 71 Aircraft Workshop (who were based at the United Feed Depot at Fort Flasheart) and 32 Heavy Regiment Royal Artillery (RA) (who were located in Blackadder Lines) refer to these. The noises were heard right across the FMA, from 66 Sqn RCT’s location on the coast to the north of the industrial area to Al Bunardi in the south, where 6 Armd Wksp were stationed. They were also heard some kilometres to the north of Al Jubayl, at Ras al Ghar, where the Main Operating Base of the Puma Squadron (ME) of the UK SHF(ME) was located.

38. There is also evidence, although less of it, and much only from present-day recollections, to suggest that flashes were seen as well. The relevant documentary evidence is scant. The log sheets from 6 Ordnance Battalion’s (6 Ord Bn) War Diary (they were based at Al Berri) recorded messages from both their Guard Room and 51 Ordnance Company (Ord Coy) reporting that flashes had been seen shortly after 04:00 hours. The Puma (ME) Squadron form 540 noted that sentries at Rezayat reported seeing two flashes in the sky. The Assistant Quartermaster Sergeant from 659 Squadron (a part of 4 Regt Army Air Corps (AAC), based at the United Feed Depot at Fort Flasheart) made the following entry in his personal diary for that day:

‘Woken up at 03:15 with an explosion. Source not known. Flashes seen as well. In IPE + Resp. until 0500.’

39. In addition, a number of individuals who were in Al Jubayl at the time of the alert recall seeing flashes. These include 6 Ord Bn’s Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) and Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS), and the 62 Ord Coy’s Company Sergeant Major (CSM) and a Corporal from their Company Quartermaster Sergeant’s (CQMS) Department (62 Ord Coy were a part of 6 Ord Bn and were also based at Al Berri). The flashes were also recalled by the Officer Commanding 659 Sqn, and the Chief of Staff (COS) at the FMA (who was at the Old Port Barracks at the time). In addition, the CSM of 11 Armoured Workshop (11 Armd Wksp), which was based at the Cement Factory in Al Amdar, recalls a sentry reporting a large flash.

40. There is good evidence that there were two sets of loud noises. Both the log sheets from 6 Ord Bn and 6 Armd Wksp, as well as the Commander’s Diary Narrative from 6 Armd Wksp, indicate that further explosions were heard from some way to the south of their location at about 04:00 hours. As the map at Annex B shows, these were two of the most southerly-based units within Al Jubayl, so it is possible that this second set of loud noises was quieter and more localised than the first. However, that does not explain why there is no evidence of this second set of explosions from units nearby, such as 10 Regt RCT (who were located at Rezayat) and the UKSHF (ME) (who also had personnel at Rezayat). This may simply be because we do not have log sheets from either of these units, and because the passage of time has, understandably, merged the two sets of explosions in the minds of their personnel. But it is also puzzling that this second set of explosions does not feature in the log sheets of the HQ FMA NBC Cell, particularly since an entry in the log sheets from 6 Armd Wksp appears to indicate that their Equipment Maintenance Cell were told to pass the news of these explosions to the NBC Cell.

Mists and Liquid

41. Some evidence suggests that mists of vapour and drops of liquid were seen and felt in and around Al Jubayl at the time of these alerts. As the next section describes, detector paper changed colour, indicating that some form of liquid was present. There is only one documentary source for this, an entry in the log sheets from MRG 11, which was a part of 11 Armd Wksp, shows that they passed a message to the FMA NBC Cell informing them that a cloud of vapour had formed to the South West of their position. A Corporal from 62 Ord Coy recalls hearing the explosions, stepping outside to see what was happening, feeling drops of liquid falling on his face, and seeing that the one-colour detector paper on his arm had turned blue (see below). (The CSM of MRG 6 also recalls this cloud). And the Staff Officer 1 (SO1) Supply at the HQ FMA recalls feeling vapour on his arms as he moved to the Operations Block at the Old Port Barracks.

42. Like the loud noises, these reports of mists and liquid droplets originate from locations right across Al Jubayl, from MRG 6’s position at Al Amdar in the north of the industrial area, to 6 Ord Bn’s location at Al Berri in the South.


43. There is evidence, of varying quality, that detection and monitoring equipment used by seven of the units that were in Al Jubayl on 19 January 1991 indicated the presence of CW agents. Five of the units reported their detections to the HQ FMA NBC Cell.

44. These detections fall into two distinct geographical groups. 6 Ord Bn, 10 Regiment Royal Corps Transport (RCT), the Puma (ME) Squadron within the UK SHF(ME), and 90 Ordnance Company (90 Ord Coy) were located to the south of Al Jubayl, while 11 Armd Wksp, 66 Squadron RCT and the rest of it’s parent unit 27 Regt RCT, aswell as 33 General Hospital, were located to the north.

6 Ordnance Battalion

45. With the exception of 52 Ordnance Company, who had already moved up to the FFMA, 6 Ord Bn was based at Al Berri, to the south of Al Jubayl. They were responsible for holding and supplying combat stores to UK forces, and for managing the transit of bulk stores through the port of entry at Al Jubayl.

46. The evidence gleaned from 6 Ord Bn shows a number of discrepancies regarding the events of the morning in question; most notably about the time of the alert. One of the Battalion NBC Instructors claims that the first explosion was heard at about 19:00 hours on the evening of 19 January. The Battalion RQMS recalls that the events took place ‘late’ that day, while the CSM from 62 Ord Coy believes that the alarms sounded at around 22:00 hours. However, the log sheets, which provide the most reliable evidence and an entry in the Battalion Adjutant’s personal diary, place the alert at 03:30 hours on 19 January.

47. The log sheets from 6 Ord Bn show that one of the Battalion NBC instructors obtained an eight-bar reading (the maximum) on CAM at 03:50 hours, although a later entry indicates that the CAM reading went straight up to eight bars and then straight back down again, which places some doubt on its reliability. Entries in the log sheets at 04:00 hours and 04:22 hours show that 62 Ord Coy reported a positive reading on one colour detector paper, while 91 Ord Coy reported a positive reading on CAM. (18)

48. Individuals who were serving with 6 Ord Bn in the FMA have vivid recollections of the alert. The RSM, who was trained as a Battalion NBC Instructor, remembers seeing two CAMs giving positive readings outside the Battalion Operations Room, and the NAIADs sounding. He also recalls the reports of positive readings on CAM and detector paper that came in from the neighbouring Companies. One of the other Battalion NBC Instructors also recollected that the NAIADs sounded, and remembers RVDs and three-colour detector paper indicating the presence of ‘a non-persistent nerve agent’. He recalls that RVD tests were carried out at thirty-minute intervals for an hour and a half until they produced negative results. The Battalion Chief Clerk also remembers RVD tests being carried out at thirty-minute intervals.

49. Some of the individuals at 62 Ord Coy, including the CSM and a Corporal from the Company Quartermaster Sergeant’s (CQMS) Department, as well as the Battalion’s RSM and other NBC Instructor, recall their one-colour detector paper indicating the presence of liquid CW agents. This was also reported to the HQ FMA NBC Cell, and is confirmed by an entry in the 6 Ord Bn log sheets from 07:56 hours, which notes that ‘two more people’ from 62 Ord Coy had reported that their one-colour detector paper had turned blue. One of the Corporals from 62 Ord Coy (as mentioned in para 41) has described his vivid memories of stepping outside, without his respirator, to see what was happening, feeling liquid hitting him in the face and his one-colour detector paper turning blue. There are also several oral reports of positive readings on CAM and RVD from 62 Ord Coy.

50. There are rumours that personnel from 62 Ord Coy developed blisters during this alert. However, there is no first-hand evidence of this, and the Corporal who felt liquid on his unprotected face is emphatic that he did not suffer blisters. A dermatologist who was serving with 33 General Hospital in Al Jubayl cannot recall seeing any members of 6 Ord Bn with blisters; nor are any recorded on the Operation GRANBY Master Casualty List. The confusion about blisters may be because a Battle Casualty Replacement from 6 Ord Bn developed chicken pox some days after the alert.

51. There is good documentary evidence, then, that CAM and one-colour detector paper indicated the possible presence of CW agents at 6 Ord Bn. None of the recollected positive readings on NAIAD, RVD and 3 colour detector paper appear to have been logged by 6 Ord Bn or reported to the HQ FMA NBC Cell. Given that those for CAM and one colour paper were logged, this suggests either that 6 Ord Bn may not have been convinced of their veracity or that the recollections of individuals may be at fault.

10 Regiment Royal Corps of Transport

52. During the Gulf conflict, 10 Regt RCT provided a third line transport capability within the Gulf, moving ammunition, water and fuel. They were also responsible for transporting supplies from the FMA to the FFMA. On 19 January 1991, the unit was based at Rezayat, to the south of Al Jubayl. However, relatively few members of the Regiment were actually present in Al Jubayl that morning, since most were either at the FFMA, or travelling in that direction on the Trans-Arabian Pipeline (TAPline) Road.

53. Although no contemporary documents from 10 Regt RCT appear to have survived, the log sheets from the HQ FMA NBC Cell show that they received a NBC 1 Chemical Report from that unit at 04:15 hours. However, there is some confusion about this Report. A hard copy has survived, and the Grid Reference given for the observer’s position is a long way from Rezayat Camp. However, the Report does indicate that low levels of nerve agent had been detected on CAM at 10 Regt RCT’s location at 03:30 hours. But there seems to have been some doubt about this alarm, since the existing copy of the Report has been annotated with the words ‘POSS FALSE READINGS’. In addition, log sheets from other units around Al Jubayl indicate that they had received reports of positive readings from 10 Regt RCT.

54. The documentary evidence from other units is borne out by the recollections of 10 Regt RCT’s Deputy Operations Officer and 9 Sqn RCT’s Administration Officer (9 Sqn RCT was a sub-unit of 10 Regt RCT), both of whom remember CAM indicating the presence of CW agent (although the Deputy Operations Officer recalls that CAM indicated the presence of blister and not nerve agent). The 10 Regt Operations Officer, the Officer Commanding 9 Sqn RCT, and 9 Sqn’s Administration Officer recall 9 Sqn’s NAIADs alarming.

UK Support Helicopter Force (Middle East)

55. The UK SHF(ME) was made up of three squadrons, of RAF Pumas, RAF Chinooks, and RN Sea King Helicopters, with some Army supporting staff. It was responsible for a variety of functions in theatre, such as reconnaissance and casualty evacuation. The Force was dispersed throughout Al Jubayl. The Force HQ was located in the Al Jubayl Port Facility. The Puma Detachment was located at Ras al Ghar, which was on the coast some miles to the north of Al Jubayl; the Sea King Detachment was located just south of Al Jubayl, in the King Abdul Aziz Naval Base, while the Main Operating Base (MOB) for the Chinook Detachment was purpose-built within the port area of Al Jubayl itself. However the accommodation for personnel from the Puma detachment was provided at the Rezayat compound to the South of Al Jubayl. It is not entirely clear how much of the Force was actually located in Al Jubayl on 19 January, since elements of the Chinook Squadron began to deploy forward of the FMA on 15 January.

56. The 19 January entry in the Puma (ME) Squadron 540 indicated that RVD tests at the Puma MOB at Ras al Ghar had indicated the presence of blister agents. This is confirmed by an entry at 04:33 hours in the HQ FMA NBC Cell log sheets. (19) The detection of blister agent at Ras al Ghar is confirmed by an entry in the personal diary of an individual in the Tactical Support Wing (TSW), which was deployed to provide support to the Puma Detachment. The diary entry reads ‘BLISTER AGENT ON US AND PORT AND RAZ…’, and seems to indicate that there were also apparent positive detections of blister agent by UK SHF(ME) elements at Rezayat (assuming that that was where he was based) and in the Port area. Entries in the HQ FMA NBC Cell log sheets at 04:33 hours and 04:36 hours confirm that there were what appeared to be positive detections of blister agent at both Rezayat and Ras al Ghar.

11 Armoured Workshop

57. 11 Armd Wksp was a unit of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), and provided equipment support, including the recovery and repair of all kinds of vehicles and equipment, to 4 Armd Bde. The Workshop deployed with a mobile element, Forward Repair Group 6 (FRG 6), and a static element, Main Repair Group 11 (MRG 11). On 19 January, FRG 6 were not in Al Jubayl, but were providing vehicle repair and maintenance facilities to 4 Armd Bde’s combat units as they trained at the Devil Dog Dragoon Ranges some 80km north-west of Al Jubayl. However, MRG 11 was based at the Cement Factory at Al Amdar, to the north of Al Jubayl.

58. MRG 11 maintained log sheets and a Commander’s Diary (which was probably written up straight from the log sheets and does not, therefore, constitute independent evidence), which provide some information about the events that occurred on the morning of 19 January. A log sheet entry at 04:08 hours and a mention in the Commander’s Diary indicate that a four-bar reading for blister agent had been obtained on CAM. (20) An entry in the log sheets at 04:27 hours records that a NBC 1 Report was sent to the HQ FMA NBC Cell, warning of a blister agent attack at Grid Reference 545935 (approximately one kilometre to the south-west of MRG 11’s location). (21) The next entry in the log sheets, from 05:33 hours, records that the FMA NBC Cell asked for the dates on the RVD bottles (which indicates that the previous positive reading that had led to the sending of the NBC 1 Report had been obtained on RVD). An entry in the HQ FMA NBC Cell log sheets at 0425 hours, and the NBC1 and 2 Chemical reports subsequently passed on to 1(UK) Armd Div and HQ BFME, state that the presence of blister agent was also indicated by RVD tests. This is supported by the recollection of the CSM of the MRG 11 (see below). However, a later entry in the NBC Cell log sheets notes that the RVD reagents used were found to be well out of date, so this reading cannot necessarily be assumed to be reliable. However, the positive four-bar reading on CAM must be taken seriously.

90 Ordnance Company

59. 90 Ord Coy had been added to 3 Ord Bn Group for the duration of Operation GRANBY. Although many of the personnel had left Al Jubayl on 12 January, to provide support to Divisional troops; an element of the Company remained in the FMA, where they were based at Baldrick Lines.

60. An entry in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps history of the Gulf conflict, written some time after the event, recalls that all of 90 Ord Coy’s NAIADs gave positive readings after two jets flew over their position. There are no other records of these particular alarms, which may indicate that they were assumed to be false. Given that there were no positive detections recorded by the Gurkha Ambulance Group, who were probably also located at Baldrick Lines, this may well have been a correct assumption.

27 Regiment RCT

61. 27 Regt RCT was deployed to the Gulf to provide third-line support to 1 (UK) Armd Div. On 17 January 1991, the Commanding Officer (CO) of 27 Regt RCT moved most of his force, with the exception of those personnel required to run Baldrick Lines, out of Al Jubayl to a quarry. Unfortunately, the exact location of this quarry is not known, but the former CO of the Regiment recalls that it was some five or ten kilometres to the north west or west of Al Jubayl. However, 66 Sqn RCT, who were a part of 27 Regt, were located away from the rest of the Regiment, in what was known as the ‘Dust Bowl’, which their CO recalls as being on the coast to the north of Al Jubayl’s industrial area, at Grid Reference 588995.

62. No documentary evidence has been recovered from 27 Regt RCT. One of the few pieces of information from this unit is the late message that the unit appears to have been passed to the HQ FMA NBC Cell at 11:30 hours on 19 January. This informed the cell that they had obtained positive readings with RVD for blister agent, but that they had obtained no readings on CAM. This is verified by the recollection of the CO that there were two positive results from RVD (he does not specify whether these were for blister or nerve agent). The CO does remember that the chemicals in the RVDs were out of date, although this does not seem to have been mentioned to the FMA NBC Cell.

63. The Officer Commanding 66 Sqn RCT, who were located to the north of Al Jubayl, recalls that one of their NAIADs sounded and that there were droplets on the one-colour detector paper on the arm of the NBC suit worn by one of his chemical sentries. There is no way of verifying this report.

33 General Hospital

64. 33 Gen Hosp was a 600-bed hospital located at the Goodyear Tyre Retailers in Al Jubayl.

65. Their log sheets record no positive detections of CW agent, and indeed an entry at 05:32 hours notes that they sent a message to the HQ FMA NBC Cell stating that all of their detection systems had given a negative reading. However, their Commander’s Diary does record that a NAIAD sounded, and this is supported by the recollection of their Commanding Officer. But, there is no evidence that this alarm was reported to the HQ FMA NBC Cell.


66. The available evidence indicates that there was less than an hour between the first recorded detection in Al Jubayl (the eight-bar reading on CAM obtained by one of the Battalion NBC Instructors at 6 Ord Bn) and news of the alert reaching the Joint Headquarters (JHQ) in High Wycombe.

Reporting in Theatre


67. Entries in the surviving log sheets from the HQ FMA NBC Cell demonstrate the pivotal role that they played in the UK forces’ chemical and biological defence in Al Jubayl. It is clear that the Cell were told about the about apparent detections at 62 Ord Coy, 10 Regt RCT, MRG 11, and the UK SHF(ME). Although they did hear of the apparent detections at 27 Regt RCT, this information did not come through until much later in the morning on 19 January. There is nothing to suggest that the Cell received information about any detections at 90 Ord Coy, or at 33 Gen Hosp.

68. Information about 6 Ord Bn’s eight-bar reading on CAM, and about apparent liquid contamination at their location, seems to have been passed to the FMA NBC Cell by 62 Ord Coy at 03:53 hours. (6 Ord Bn’s log sheets first mention the reading on CAM in an untimed entry sometime between 03:46 and 03:53, and indicate that they received confirmation of liquid contamination from 62 Ord Coy at 04:00 hours, so these times roughly tally.) There is no evidence to suggest that the report of the alert from 62 Ord Coy came in to the HQ FMA NBC Cell as a proper NBC 1 Report. However, we have discovered copies of a NBC 1 and a NBC 2 Report about this detection that were written up by the Cell, and marked for HQ BFME and 1 (UK) Armd Div. But the hand-written word ‘CANCEL’ on top of both copies of these reports indicates that it was subsequently judged to be a false alarm. Nevertheless, an entry in the HQ BFME Land Cell log sheets from 04:01 hours shows that the FMA did pass them news of a positive response on one of 6 Ord Bn’s CAMs.

69. The FMA NBC Cell log sheets indicate that the first message from 10 Regt RCT was received at about 03:40 hours, but that this was simply to report the three explosions that had been heard, and to state that there had been no alarms at that point. But the log sheets go on to show that an NBC 1 Report was received from 10 Regt at 04:15 hours. Interestingly, none of the personnel from that Regiment who were contacted in the course of this review recall such a report being sent, although 9 Sqn RCT’s Admin Officer does recall sending an NBC 1 Report to his Regimental HQ. The log sheets show that 10 Regt RCT later contacted the NBC Cell at 05:15 hours to report that they had no positive readings for G agents (22), and that they were unmasking. At 06:00 hours, they reported that one of their Corporals was being transferred to 33 General Hospital. The Corporal concerned had been injected with a ComboPen by an over zealous colleague who had feared that he was showing signs of nerve agent poisoning. This diagnosis was not confirmed by the hospital.

70. The FMA NBC Cell log sheets show that they received warning of blister agent detections on RVD by UK SHF(ME) personnel at Rezayat Camp at about 04:33 hours. It appears that news of similar detections (again of blister agent; again by RVD) came through only some three minutes later although it is not clear from the FMA NBC Cell log sheet who this came from. As with the message from 62 Ord Coy, there is no evidence that these messages were received in the proper NBC Report format. Reports of negative readings and unmasking appear to have come through from Ras al Ghar at about 05:47 hours.

71. The NBC 1 Report from 11 MRG was recorded in the HQ FMA NBC Cell log sheets at 04:25 hours. The log sheets indicate that the NBC Cell had already received warnings of events at the workshop: an entry at 03:50 hours mentions the cloud forming to the south-west of their position, and an entry at 04:16 hours recorded a positive detection of blister agent. The message recorded at 03:50 hours, and the later NBC 1 Report are also recorded in the MRG 11 log sheets. The HQ FMA NBC Cell log sheets show that the NBC Cell sent a NBC 2 Chemical Report to HQ BFME and 1 (UK) Armd Div at around 04:45 hours, informing them of the detection by RVD of blister agent at 11 MRG’s location. A copy of both this Report, and the corresponding NBC 1 Report, are still in existence. The NBC 1 Report, which is marked for the attention of the Divisional HQ, is not mentioned in the log sheets, from the FMA NBC Cell, although log sheets from the HQ BFME Land Ops Cell record what might be the NBC 1 Report being received from the FMA at 04:36 hours, while the sheets from the J3 Co-ord Cell also indicate that the FMA passed news of the positive RVD reading at MRG 11 at about 04:35 hours. The BFME Land Ops Cell recorded receiving the NBC 2 Report from the FMA Cell at 04:54 hours.

72. The FMA NBC Cell log sheets indicate that 27 Regt RCT does not appear to have passed news of their positive detection of blister agent on RVD up the warning and reporting chain until 11:30 hours that morning. 27 Regt RCT also reported that they had had no positive readings on CAM.

73. In addition to reporting upwards and sideways to HQ BFME and 1 (UK) Armd Div, the HQ FMA NBC Cell also provided information about the alert at the FMA to units, most notably in a conference call made at about 05:38 hours, which is recorded in their own log sheets, and in those of 6 Ord Bn, MRG 11 (albeit at the slightly later time of 05:50 hours), 33 Gen Hosp, 6 Armd Wksp, and 4 Regt AAC (at the even later time of 06:20 hours).


74. Unfortunately, no log sheets from the HQ BFME NBC Cell have been discovered, and we must assume that no copies of these are in existence. However, log sheets from the HQ BFME Land Ops Cell show that the FMA Cell’s NBC 2 Report about the detections at MRG 11 was received at 04:54 hours. An entry from 04:01 hours in the Land Ops Cell log sheets demonstrates that the FMA Cell had already passed on information about a positive response on CAM at 6 Ord Bn, while entries in the J3 (23) Co-ord Cell log sheets at 04:35 hours and in the Land ops Cell log sheets at 04:36 hours records a message from the FMA Cell warning of a positive detection on RVD and of detector paper showing the presence of blister agent at MRG 11.

75. At 04:44 hours, HQ BFME placed the following message on ASMA, marked for the attention of all stations:


76. In a Signal sent at 05:00 hours, HQ BFME passed a proper NBC 2 Report to the Joint Headquarters (JHQ) in the UK. This reported chemical attack with blister agent at 03:30 hours at Grid Reference 545935 (just to the south-west of MRG 11’s position at Al Amdar), by an unknown delivery means. The Report indicated that the chemical agent had been detected by RVD. This Signal from HQ BFME suggests that there were two more NBC 2 Reports to follow, but there is no evidence that any ever did.

Divisional and Brigade HQs

77. The log sheets from 1 (UK) Armd Div show that the FMA NBC Cell kept them informed about events in Al Jubayl, although it seems that their first information about the loud noises heard across the FMA came directly from the UK SHF(ME) at 03:41 hours. There is an entry in the Divisional HQ log sheets at 04:40 hours, referring to a positive reading for mustard agent at Camp 4, for which there is no other evidence.

78. An entry in the Division’s log sheets at 04:47 entry records a message from HQ BFME (not recorded in any of the surviving log sheets from BFME Cells) providing information about detections at MRG 11, 6 Ord Bn, 10 Regt RCT, and the UK SHF(ME). This entry records positive readings on RVD and CAM from MRG 11 and 6 Ord Bn; a positive reading on CAM for nerve agent from 10 Regt RCT; and a positive reading on RVD from a UK SHF(ME) detachment.

79. Although there is no indication of this in the 1 (UK) Armd Div log sheets, entries in the logs from 7 Armd Bde and 4 Armd Bde indicate that the Divisional HQ passed information about events in Al Jubayl down to their level, while the FFMA log sheets show that they were directly informed of events by the FMA.

Reporting Within the UK

JHQ High Wycombe

80. As has been described, an NBC 2 Report about the detection at MRG 11 was passed by HQ BFME to JHQ by Signal at 05:00 hours, along with an indication that a further two such Reports were due to follow (although there is no evidence that they ever did). It is not clear from where in HQ BFME this Signal originated, although it is likely that it came from the NBC Cell. The use of an NBC 2 Report followed the correct procedure for passing information about an apparent detection up the warning and reporting chain (although it should have been sent on ASMA, on the tote set aside for NBC 2 Reports).

81. However, an entry from 04:45 hours in the log sheets from the BFME Land Ops Cell indicates that they had passed information about the detections at MRG 11 to the Land Ops Cell at JHQ. It appears, then, that this message from the BFME Land Ops Cell reached JHQ some 15 minutes before the official NBC 2 Report.

82. The Land Ops Cell at JHQ must have passed this information straight to the JHQ CBD Cell. The CBD Cell appears to have maintained a general log of events on ASMA, and an entry on this log from 04:50 hours reads:

‘From BFME FMA report 3 explosions one at GRID UK555945. Positive CAM detector paper and RVD readings. Possible vapour blister agent. Two other explosions reported by 10 Regt RCT and 6 Ord Bn - Grids to follow. Following the two explosion [sic] troops reported hearing turbo prop engines. There are no reported casualties at this stage. SIBCA team deploying now to obtain a sample to take back for analysis. Incident recorded by BFME at DTG 190330. Land Ops MOD UK informed at 0450.’ (24)

83. The BFME Land Ops Cell’s failure to follow the standard reporting procedure is confirmed by a message that the JHQ CBD Cell placed on ASMA at 13:18 hours later that morning:


84. However, the message from the BFME Land Ops Cell does not appear to be the first that JHQ heard of the events in Al Jubayl. Sometime later on 19 January 1991, the CBD Cell at JHQ prepared a briefing note for the Director of Operations (DOPS), which noted that they had first heard of news of events in Al Jubayl from the CBD Cell in MOD Main Building. This briefing contained a copy of the 04:50 hours entry in the ASMA log sheet that is set out above.

85. An NBC Summary produced for the Joint Commander at JHQ, covering events up until 09:00 hours on 19 January, noted that reports of possible CW attacks had been received from three locations in Al Jubayl: two at locations one kilometre apart, and the third ten kilometres to the south east of the first two. (25) It was noted that CAM readings (in blister mode) had been obtained from all three locations, and that these were supported by RVD tests, which also showed the presence of blister agent. However, the Summary also stated that the FMA had since reported all clear and unmasked by 05:20 hours, and that a chemical reconnaissance team had failed to locate any signs of contamination. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams were to carry out a search for signs or remains of ordnance at first light.

MOD Main Building, Whitehall

86. There is no comprehensive surviving documentation from the CBD Cell or the Land Ops Cell at the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) in MOD Main Building, and so there is no evidence from their side about when staff first heard of the alert in the FMA, or, indeed, about what they were told.

87. A briefing produced by the Overseas Secretariat for the Secretary of State for Defence at 09:00 hours on 19 January contains very similar information to that in the JHQ NBC Summary of events occurring up until this time:

‘Three explosions were heard at 190330 near Al Jubayl. Residual Vapour Detectors and Chemical Agent Monitors showed positive readings. No sign of Scud [sic], but a propellor [sic] aircraft heard. Later investigations by the Forward [sic] Maintenance Area (FMA) showed no trace of residual chemicals. There were no casualties. Further recces to take place this morning.’

88. There was no mention of events in Al Jubayl in the briefing that the Chief of the Defence Staff provided to the Secretary of State later that day. Nevertheless, the possibility that there had been a chemical attack was viewed very seriously within MOD until it had become clear that there were no casualties or resulting chemical contamination, which will have been taken as an indication that the positive readings had been either false alarms or equipment failures.


Follow- Up Action Within Al Jubayl

89. The log sheets from 6 Ord Bn and 11 Armd Wksp, as well as those from the FMA NBC Cell indicate that, from around 06:30 hours, (and therefore during daylight hours) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel visited some of the units that had reported detections of the presence of CW agents. The 6 Ord Bn log sheets make it clear that the EOD Captain in charge of these investigations wanted to speak to the Battalion NBC Instructor who had obtained the eight-bar reading on CAM, and to those members of 62 Ord Coy who had observed positive results on their one-colour detector paper. Some of the personnel from these two units recall that statements were given to visiting personnel that morning, and that equipment involved in the alert was taken away for analysis.

90. The EOD Captain who led these investigations who is mentioned in the log sheets from both 6 Ord Bn and MRG 11, recalls visiting various units and taking statements from individuals who had been involved in the alert. He entered a message on ASMA at 16:24 hours to provide the CBD Cell at JHQ with an update of the progress that he had made. He does not recall collecting any equipment for analysis.

91. However, equipment was sent back to the UK by the HQ FMA NBC Cell. A recovered document from that Cell appears to list the equipment that was passed back to the UK for analysis:

‘Bag 1 1 x Suit

Bag 2 Complete IPE

Bag 3 Complete IPE

Bag 4 Complete IPE

Bag 5 2 x Helmet covers

5 x Detector paper Samples

Various RVD Ticket Samples

Bag 6 Original container for Samples

Bag 7 CAM Ser No 11818’

92. An entry in the log sheets of 6 Ord Bn at 10:18 hours on 19 January indicates that all equipment that had given positive readings, including NBC suits whose detector paper had given positive readings, was to be handed in to the ‘NBC Cell’.

93. Records from the JHQ CBD Cell make it clear that there was some confusion about the transport of these samples from the Gulf back to the UK. Although HQ BFME had placed a message on ASMA at 04:44 hours on 19 January stating that normal SIBCA procedures (26) were to be followed in transporting samples back to the UK for analysis, which should have meant that their delivery back to CDE Porton Down was accorded priority status, their transport appears to have been held up, and the samples do not appear to have reached CDE until 21 January 1991.

Follow-Up Action in the UK

94. Normal SIBCA procedures involved the speedy transfer of samples back to CDE Porton Down for analysis, so it would have been standard procedure for their Chemical and Biological Agent Technical Evaluation Board (CBATEB) to have been informed of alerts in theatre as they occurred, so that they could prepare to receive the samples and carry out the necessary analysis. However, it is not clear whether staff at CDE knew of the alert in Al Jubayl before the samples arrived on 21 January, and certainly, when the samples did arrive, there was some confusion about their origin.

Petrols, Oils and Lubricants

95. However, CDE appear to have been aware of events in Al Jubayl earlier, as a result of concerns about the effect of aviation fuel on CW agent detection and monitoring equipment. An ASMA message from 1 (UK) Armd Div at 08:49 hours on 19 January, indicated that the FMA had been told that the aviation fuel OMD 85 would cause a positive reaction on RVD. An 05:45 hours entry in the log sheets from the FMA NBC Cell indicates that this information had come from HQ BFME, in the course of a discussion about that morning’s alert in Al Jubayl. In addition, log sheets entries from MRG 11 and 4 Regt AAC indicate that this information was disseminated in the HQ FMA NBC Cell’s conference call when they provided an update on the earlier alert. It is highly likely, then, that the interest in OMD 85 arose due to the situation in Al Jubayl, probably because the emerging explanation of the morning’s events was that aviation fuel from a passing aeroplane had caused detection and monitoring equipment to give positive reactions.

96. 1 (UK) Armd Div were concerned about the possibility that OMD 85 was a potential interferent, since this fuel was widely used by UK troops in theatre, and they requested urgent confirmation of this fact. A copy of their ASMA message was faxed to CDE at 10:50 hours on 19 January (indicating that some staff at CDE should have been aware of the alert in Al Jubayl within hours of it occurring). An unsigned and undated hand-written document found in CDE’s Operation GRANBY file appears to set out their immediate reply. This noted that, according to tests that had just been carried out, OMD 85 vapour would not produce a positive reaction on RVD, although actual droplets of liquid fuel on the RVD ticket might produce a reaction. Tests had shown that the fuel would produce reactions on both one- and three-colour Detector Paper at temperatures of 50șC.

Investigation of Samples at CDE

97. Two boxes of equipment were delivered to CDE on 21 January. A member of their Chemistry and Decontamination Division (CDD) produced a memorandum, setting out detailed information about the way that this equipment was handled and tested. Initially, it was thought that this equipment might relate to the previous correspondence about the effects of Petrols Oil and Lubricants (POLs) on detection and monitoring equipment. What is clear, however, is that only one member of staff at CDE seems to have been aware of the events that had taken place in Al Jubayl. The Memorandum states that CDE had received no signals or SIBCA information about these samples.

98. One of the boxes contained a number of respirator canisters. It was known that CDE’s Senior Military Officer (SMO) had asked to inspect a number of canisters from the Gulf, and it was assumed, therefore, that these related to his request. The canisters were passed to the SMO, and no further information about them has been traced. It is unlikely that these related to the alert in Al Jubayl, since respirators returned to the UK for analysis after a CW alert would probably had included more than just the canister.

99. Some of the equipment in the second box clearly related to the alert in the FMA on 19 January some did not. Some RVD equipment labelled with ‘RVD Tickets, (27) test with OMD 80 [sic] 27 Regt RCT’ was returned in this box. (It is not clear whether these tests related to the general debate about POLs and detection and monitoring equipment that is outlined above.) In addition, the box included two CAMs from 33 Gen Hosp that had been contaminated by industrial ammonia. However, the rest of the equipment in the box seems, broadly, to match that on the list recovered from the FMA Cell. The box contained five black plastic sacks (whose contents broadly tie in with the bags listed by the FMA NBC Cell). One contained a helmet cover and an envelope of RVD tickets; one included an NBC Suit; and the remaining three each included an NBC Suit and NBC Overboots. By the time they reached CDE none of the sacks containing IPE were labelled to indicate from where they had come. In addition, other envelopes and a polythene bag that were loose in the box contained more RVD tickets and sheets of detector paper.

100. All of the equipment in the second box was monitored by CAM. None of it led to positive readings, with the exception of the one black plastic sack containing the helmet cover, and the brown envelope of RVD tickets. The CAM showed a three-bar reading for blister agent when this sack was opened, but this was not repeated when the sack was retested, both immediately and after it had been left resealed for 90 minutes. Any detection and monitoring equipment from this box was passed to a member of the Detection and Aerosol Division (DAD) staff at CDE, for further investigation. He also produced a report, which has been discovered, and which provides further useful information about the results of CDE’s analysis.

Equipment from 6 Ord Bn

101. A number of the items of equipment in the second box appear to have come from 6 Ord Bn. Two envelopes appear to have been sent from 53 Ord Coy (which was part of 6 Ord Bn). One, recorded by both the CDD Memorandum and the DAD Report, was marked ‘53 Ord Coy ASP 2 JAN 19th 1991. Ticket showing agent present false reading’, and contained 20 unused RVD tickets and a set of RVD reagent bottles, of which two were out of shelf life. There was, however, no ticket showing agent present. (It may be, however, that the out of date reagents were the reason for the indication of CW agent on the missing ticket.) Another envelope, recorded only in the DAD Report, was marked ‘53 Ord Coy ASP2 Jan 19th 1991. Ticket showing agent present. False reading’, but was empty. There is no mention of a positive RVD test from 53 Ord Coy in the log sheets of 6 Ord Bn.

102. Another envelope labelled ‘From 62 ORD COY’ contained a used RVD reagent pack. Bottles H1 and H2 were out of their shelf life, while bottle NA2 was undated, but the unusual colour of the solution that it contained was thought to indicate that it, too, was out of date. (This may discount at least one of the positive RVD tests that are recalled by individuals from 62 Ord Coy.)

103. Two more envelopes appear to have come from one of 6 Ord Bn’s NBC Instructors, since they are marked with his name. The first contained two RVD tickets showing negative readings, which, according to the labelling on the envelope, had been taken at the same time as he had obtained the 8-bar reading on CAM. The second contained two RVD tickets showing faint positive readings for nerve agent, and a scrap of one-colour detector paper with an irregular area of colouration that was not typical of a positive result. RVD tickets should not still have shown a positive reading for nerve agent so long after the event, indicating, perhaps, that the positive reading had been caused by something other than a CW agent. The writing on the envelope indicated that these came from 62 Ord Coy, and that a simultaneous CAM reading had produced negative results in both nerve and blister mode. (Some other pieces of unidentified one-colour detector paper that were examined at CDE possibly came from 62 Ord Coy (see below).)

Equipment from UK SHF(ME)

104. The first items of equipment that CDE staff removed from their packaging were used RVD tickets, which appear to have come from UK SHF(ME) personnel at Rezayat, since the envelope in which these tickets were contained was marked ‘RVD results 190415-190445 Jan 91. Taken at Rezayat. Ticket with asterisk was taken inside guardroom.’ It seems likely, though, that they travelled through Ras al Ghar on their way to the FMA NBC Cell, since this first envelope was delivered inside another, marked ‘RVD tickets Raz [sic] al Ghar’. All of these tickets showed negative results. This ties in with the Puma(ME) Squadron’s 540 entry for 19 January, which notes that they used RVD, but not with their record that they obtained positive results for CW agent.

Equipment from MRG 11

105. Two envelopes came from MRG 11. The first, recorded in both the CDD Memorandum and the DAD Report, contained six RVD tickets and a piece of paper marked ‘RVD tickets taken at 0415+ reading mauve’. Only one of these showed a positive reaction. This was for nerve agent, but, again a positive reaction for nerve agent would not be expected to remain blue for this period of time, suggesting that the reaction had probably been caused by another substance, such as the presence of oil on the ticket. The second envelope, which was only recorded in the DAD Report, contained four RVD tickets, and a piece of paper marked ‘RVD tickets still showing mauve/blue at 0730 from MRG11 tests ongoing since first report + reading 0415’. (There is no information about whether these tickets were supposed to have indicated the presence of nerve or blister agents.) Despite this indication that they had once showed positive readings, all of these RVD tickets showed negative results.

Equipment from 27 Regt RCT

106. An envelope marked as coming from 27 Regt RCT contained a used RVD reagent pack, 9 RVD tickets, and some RVD datasheets. Six of the RVD tickets showed positive results for nerve agent. (As with those from MRG 11, the RVD ticket should not have shown a positive reading for nerve agent at this late stage.) CDE noted that the H1 and H2 capsules in the reagent pack were out of date, and that the NA2 capsule, which had no date on it, had not been properly crushed. It is interesting to note that, whereas these were tests for nerve agent, the late entry from 11:30 hours in the FMA NBC Cell log sheets indicates that 27 Regt RCT had a positive reading on RVD for blister agent. The problems with the age of the reagents ties in with the recollections of 27 Regt RCT’s Commanding Officer, who remembers positive results on RVD, and that the chemicals were found to be out of date.

Equipment from Unidentified Units

107. A polythene bag from the second box contained five sheets of one-colour detector paper showing areas of colouration. One of these was labelled ‘CQMS ACCOMMODATION’. Given that a Corporal from the CQMS Department at 62 Ord Coy recalls his detector paper turning blue, it may well be that this piece of paper, if not all five in this bag, had come from 62 Ord Coy, from where there are contemporary reports and subsequent recollections of individual detectors showing the presence of CW agent.


108. It is very hard to trace the actions that took place to follow up the events in Al Jubayl on the morning of 19 January. When writing up the reports of his analysis of the detection and monitoring equipment, CDE were critical of the way in which the equipment had been used by troops in theatre, and of the lack of information sent back to Porton Down. In only one case was there any hint of a verifiable genuine positive reaction to CW agents: the two apparently positive reactions on detector papers from unidentified units. CDE concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that any of the items had been contaminated by CW agents.


109. Various explanations for the events in Al Jubayl that morning were passed around, both within the UK, and right down to unit level in theatre. During the time of the alert, a number of personnel within the Force Maintenance Area reported hearing a propeller driven aircraft flying overhead. An entry in the MRG 11 log sheets from 05:55 hours notes that a light aircraft had been heard before each of the explosions, and the CSM of MRG 11 recalls a sentry telling him of the sound of a light aircraft. The sound of a light aircraft overhead is also mentioned in the entry for 19 January in the diary that was maintained by a member of the Scientific Advisory Group (Army) Gulf (SAG(A) Gulf), who was based in Baldrick Lines during the alert. In addition, three officers who were based at the HQ FMA at the Old Port Barracks, including the Commander of the NBC Cell, recall hearing this aeroplane.

110. The Commander of the NBC Cell suspected that this aeroplane was linked to the alert, and wondered whether leaking aircraft fuel or oils could have been responsible for readings on CAM and detector papers. He recalls investigating this hypothesis almost immediately, and being told by the local USMC airbase that no damaged aircraft had limped home to their base that morning. However, he also recalls that the British Liaison Officer stationed at HQ 1 MEF received a ‘less than convincing answer’. The records in the log sheets of the BFME Land Ops and J3 Co-ord Cells of the message that the FMA NBC Cell sent to HQ BFME at around 04:35 hours on 19 January indicates that they were told of the propeller-driven aircraft.

111. Presumably after receiving this information, the Squadron Leader who ran the NBC Cell at HQ BFME also looked into the same possibility. He recalls speaking to a USMC Operations Officer that afternoon, and being told that one of their aircraft (possibly an OV10) had dumped fuel before landing during the early hours of 19 Jan. In the absence of any collateral damage, CW-related casualties, or other corroborative data, he informed both the Commander British Forces Middle East (CBFME) and JHQ that, in his opinion, the spurious alarms in Al Jubayl probably originated from fuel being dumped from an aircraft and not from a CW attack.

112. This light aircraft tended to feature prominently in the explanations of the event. The 04:50 hours entry in the JHQ CBD Cell’s log, which noted some of the information that they had been passed by HQ BFME noted that ‘[f]ollowing the two explosion [sic] troops reported hearing turbo prop engines’. The initial, worst case assessment in the JHQ NBC Summary for 09:00 hours on 19 January suggested that a light aircraft might have been used to drop CW agents, although it was also remarked that some kind of leakage from the chemical plants in Al Jubayl might have caused the alarms. However, by 15:30 hours, JHQ were sure that the alert was not due to the release of hazardous chemicals.

113. The message that DOPS placed on ASMA at that point noted that:


114. This explanation, with some variations of detail, was soon accepted as the most credible version of events, particularly by those at high level. The ‘Gulfgram’ that was distributed by Signal to all units within the UK at 06:30 hours on 20 January noted that ‘a positive chemical attack reported by three logistics units has been attributed to fuel leakage effluent from a damaged aircraft’. This explanation also accounted for the reports of mists of vapour and droplets of liquid that were reported by troops in Al Jubayl.

115. This hypothesis is supported by the Army’s Operation GRANBY Update for 10:30 hours on 20 January 1991. This included a copy of the Operation GRANBY General Sitrep for 02:59 hours on 20 January, which noted that a US Marine Corps OV10 had been lost, although there is no evidence to link this directly with the aircraft heard over Al Jubayl.

116. Certainly at unit level, within the FMA, this hypothesis tended to be linked to another: that other aeroplanes passing over Al Jubayl at the same time had broken the sound barrier and caused sonic booms, which were mistaken as explosions. This is in line with the record of the alert in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps history of the Gulf conflict, which notes that 90 Ord Coy’s NAIADs alarmed after two jets had overflown their position. However, there were other variations on these basic theories. 6 Ord Bn appear to have been told that a PATRIOT missile had hit the aeroplane; damaging it so that it leaked fuel, and also causing the loud noises and flashes. Other explanations suggested that fuel had been deliberately ditched by an aeroplane coming back into land.

117. Personnel from 11 Armd Wksp, whose location at the Cement Factory in Al Amdar was in Al Jubayl’s industrial area, say that they were told that their positive readings were due to fumes from the nearby refineries. One of the members of SAG(A) Gulf was also told something similar. Others believed that the explosions and positive readings were due to PATRIOT engaging a SCUD missile and releasing fumes. Some of the local indications of the presence of CW agents by detection and monitoring equipment were put down to interferents and user error.


118. Although this report has focused on UK personnel who were involved in the events of 19 January, the alert also affected some of the American personnel who were in Al Jubayl, and the US Department of Defense (DoD) has carried out its own investigation into the events that took place that morning.

US Case Narrative

119. The US DoD’s Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI) has published a detailed case narrative covering a number of suggested chemical detections that occurred in the area of Al Jubayl during the Gulf conflict (29). These include the events that took place on 19 January 1991.

120. The case narrative notes that ‘at approximately 0332 hours local time on 19 January, 1991, a very loud noise was heard at Camp 13 and in the whole Al Jubayl area’. Reports were received of two blasts to the west of Camp 13, and of a white cloud moving towards that location from the south. The US unit that was located in Camp 13 noted in its Command Post log that checks for the presence of CBW agents that were carried out at Camp 13 and in the port area between 04:07 hours and 05:01 hours produced negative results, while the log from a US Air Detachment stationed at King Abdul Aziz Naval Base noted that there had been a sonic boom at 03:30 hours. Although one member of the Air Detachment recalled carrying out chemical tests that produced positive results for blister agent two out of three times, and also recalled another member of the Detachment developing a blister, OSAGWI found no other evidence to support any of this. Records from other American units stationed in Al Jubayl on 19 January record a series of loud explosions.

121. The Case Narrative also notes that an entry at 04:30 hours in the US Central Command (CENTCOM) NBC log records a report of a British unit obtaining a reading on CAM for mustard agent, which was subsequently reported as ‘all clear’. A report of another British unit obtaining a positive reading for blister agent on detector paper was received at 04:40 hours, as was news that a propeller-driven aircraft had been heard in the area. The log noted that a British team sent out to verify this reading later confirmed that they had no positive reading on detector paper. At 05:18 hours, a CENTCOM NBC team was sent to recheck the area near to Camp 5, where these apparent positive detections had occurred. At 07:48 hours they reported that they had taken no positive readings, and had found no chemicals or debris, despite having carried out two sweeps of the area.

122. Eyewitnesses from Camp 13 described a large fireball illuminating the sky, a concussion wave, and a mist in the air. Several speak of having experienced symptoms such as runny noses, numbness, and burning sensations after the explosion, although there is no record that anyone subsequently sought medical attention for such symptoms. Some of the eyewitnesses say that they smelt an ammonia-like odour, but this is not mentioned in the logs. Other individuals recall that they were not wearing protective clothing and were not in collective protection at the time and that they showed no symptoms to suggest that they had been exposed to CW agents.

123. The case narrative notes that there were thought to be two possible causes of the loud noise heard in Al Jubayl on 19 January. One possibility was that the noise was made by an incoming SCUD missile, but the narrative states that no SCUD missiles were launched in the direction of Saudi Arabia that day. The other possibility was that the noise was made by an aircraft, and OSAGWI are convinced that it was due to a sonic boom caused by coalition aircraft. The Air War had started, and the skies over Al Jubayl were full of aircraft flying out on their missions or returning home, and there were also several refuelling routes over that area.

124. The OSAGWI Investigators have discovered that two aircraft were in the air over Al Jubayl at about the time of the alert, (30) which were the source of these sonic booms:

‘To identify aircraft as the source for the loud noise, investigators reviewed the Air Force Central Command (CENTAF) Air Tasking Order (ATO) for the air campaign. The ATO shows that several sorties were scheduled during the early morning of January 19, 1991, which would have over flown Al Jubayl. To further isolate and identify the aircraft most likely to have caused the sonic boom, data recorded by Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft was analysed by the Department of the Air Force’s 552d Computer Group (ACC) located at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. This data showed that two coalition aircraft … were exceeding the speed of sound as they flew over Al Jubayl at approximately the same time the ‘loud noise’ was heard and reported (approximately 0332 hours local time). Aircraft ‘A’ flew closest to Camp 13 and was accelerating through 638 knots (733.7 mph) to 652 knots (749.8 mph) while flying over the city at 0327 hours plus nine seconds local time. Aircraft ‘A’ continued to accelerate out over the Gulf achieving a top speed of 924 knots (1062 mph) at 0333 hours local time local time. Aircraft ‘B’ flew a course that led it over the outskirts, south of Al Jubayl. Aircraft ‘B’ approached Al Jubayl at 0327 hours and 16 seconds local time at a speed of 700 knots (805 mph). Aircraft ‘B’ accelerated as it passed by the city and achieved a top speed of 873 knots (1003.95 mph) at 0327 hours and 57 seconds local time.’ (31)

125. OSAGWI assessed that it was ‘unlikely’ that a CBW agent was present in the Al Jubayl area on the morning of 19 January 1991. (32) This assessment was based on three factors: the knowledge that no SCUD missiles were launched at Saudi Arabia on 19 January 1991; the fact that no verifiable tests conducted in the Al Jubayl area tested positive for CW agents; and the fact that no records have been found of any individual receiving medical treatment for symptoms related to exposure to CBW agents.

Criticism of the US Case Narrative

126. On 13 July 1999, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) gave a presentation to the Presidential Special Oversight Board for Department of Defense Investigations of Gulf War Chemical and Biological Incidents, in which they evaluated some of OSAGWI’s work. Although they agreed with OSAGWI’s conclusion that the presence of Iraqi CW agents in Al Jubayl on 19 January 1991 was ‘unlikely’, they criticised the Case Narrative for failing to include the fact that several individuals, primarily from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24 who were involved in these alerts, have reported health problems since their service during the Gulf Conflict. In fact, their health problems were among the first ‘Gulf War illnesses-related incidents’ that had been reported, had been the subject of several major DOD investigations and studies.


Were British Troops Exposed to Chemical Warfare Agents?

127. A careful consideration of the available evidence relating to the chemical alert in Al Jubayl on 19 January 1991 leads the MOD to assess that UK troops were almost certainly not exposed to Iraqi CW agents. This assessment is based on three facts.

128. Firstly, there is no evidence to suggest that any of the delivery systems that Iraq was thought to have available for chemical weapons were used against the FMA on that occasion. The MOD paper ‘British Chemical Warfare Defence during the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’ lists the CW agent delivery means that were thought to be available to Iraq. These included mortars, artillery shells and rockets, and bombs. Chemical warheads for SCUD missiles were considered to be probably available, and chemical cluster bombs and air to surface rockets possibly available. There were also suggestions that projectiles filled with CW agent could be fired from one or two Iraqi long range guns.

129. Al Jubayl was some 200 km from the nearest point on the Kuwaiti border, and some 370 km from the nearest point on the Iraqi border. However, mortars, artillery shells and artillery rockets had ranges of only kilometres (the 130 mm artillery shell had the greatest range (27.8 km)). Although Iraq’s ballistic (SCUD) missiles were thought to have ranges of 300 km or more, and although there is no agreed information about the number of SCUD missiles that Iraq fired during the Gulf conflict, there is no evidence, from US or UK sources, that SCUD missiles were fired towards Saudi Arabia on 19 January. The weakness of the Iraqi Air Force during the air war, which had begun at 02:38 hours on 17 January, is one of the best-known facts about the Gulf conflict, and there is no evidence that any Iraqi aircraft penetrated the Coalition air defences on 19 January 1991. Also the Iraqi long range gun (‘Super Gun’) was never used.

130. Secondly, there is no evidence that there were any casualties on 19 January, or on subsequent days, from units in the FMA, who showed symptoms similar to those that would result from exposure to CW agents. The UK had initiated a process of Morbidity Reporting in order to detect unusual levels or patterns of ill-health among British troops in theatre that might have indicated that they had been exposed to previously undetected Iraqi chemical weapons attacks. Morbidity reports returned to the UK after 19 January showed nothing that caused any concern. Had the Iraqis mounted a CW attack in the small hours of that morning there would have been some British troops who failed to don their IPE in time to avoid harm. In fact, the evidence presented above demonstrates that there were some soldiers who did not adhere to the appropriate dress category or react as required to a possible CW attack, such as the Corporal from 62 Ord Coy who stepped outside without his respirator. Although there are rumours of troops developing blisters after the suggested exposure to CW agents, these are unsubstantiated. Additionally, there were no reports of civilians or coalition partners suffering any harm at all. Although it was early in the morning, there would have been some unprotected civilians in the area of the FMA, and, as the CO of 91 Ord Coy recalls, they suffered no signs of any ill-health.

131. Provisionally, MOD has identified 5,839 individuals who served with units located in Al Jubayl. To date 332 of these have been seen at the Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) and 37 have died since 1 April 1991 based on the latest information we have available. The MAP attendance rate and the mortality rate is well within the expected range of random variation from the overall rates of 60 MAP patients per 1000 Army personnel and 7.8 deaths per 1000 Army personnel since 1 April 1991.

132. Thirdly, the examination of equipment returned from the FMA to CDE Porton Down, with only one minor exception, did not indicate exposure to Iraqi CW agent. That was the conclusion reached by the staff member at CDE who oversaw the analysis of the equipment that was done there. The one exception that was outlined above (the two apparently positive reactions on detector papers from unidentified units) cannot be ignored. However, it would be peculiar if these two papers could genuinely indicate the presence of CW agents when none of the other equipment examined at Porton Down seems to show reliable positive detections. As the MOD paper ‘British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’ shows the detector papers were susceptible to false alarms caused by interferents.

133. In his answer of 7 December 1994 Lord Henley indicated that NAIADs had not alarmed thus ruling out the presence of nerve agent. Our research confirms that no surviving contemporary documentary evidence mentions NAIAD alarms with the exception of the Commanders diary of 33 Gen Hosp. Some individuals also recollected NAIAD alarms. There is no evidence that NAIAD alarms were reported by units up the chain of command. NAIAD had a propensity to false alarm, 33 and other sounds were often mistaken for it. Research in to this incident does not suggest that there were any confirmed NAIAD alarms linked to the reported detections.


134. Nevertheless, it must be recognised that there is an element of doubt about the assessment that UK troops on Al Jubayl on 19 January were not exposed to Iraqi CW agents. Firstly, we are dealing with history, and the passing of nine years introduces an element of uncertainty. We no longer have available all of the information that we would like to see. Secondly, we cannot dismiss the two detector papers that had apparently responded to the presence of CW agent and that were analysed at CDE Porton Down.

135. Thirdly, we cannot provide a positive explanation for the events that did occur in the small hours of that morning. What caused the one or two sets of explosions; the flashes; the mist of vapour at MRG 11; the liquid drops reported by other individuals; and the positive readings on CW agent detection and monitoring equipment?

The Cause of the Alert in Al Jubayl on 19 January 1991

The Loud Noises

136. The loud noises that echoed around Al Jubayl at around 03:30 hours on 19 January 1991 have been convincingly explained by the US Department of Defense (DOD). The evidence from the AWACS data for two aircraft breaking the sound barrier above Al Jubayl at about 03:30 hours seems the most logical and likely explanation for these ‘explosions’. This also explains how the loud noises were heard across Al Jubayl, from the north-west to the south-east, since the flight paths of the aeroplanes ran in that direction, right above the FMA (as is shown on the map at Annex B).

137. However, we have found no plausible explanation for the second set of explosions that was recorded in the log sheets of 6 Ord Bn and 6 Armd Wksp. But unexplained explosions were, according to the officer who commanded the Puma Squadron of the UK SHF(ME), not an uncommon occurrence in Al Jubayl. It is possible that these noises were only heard in their area to the south of Al Jubayl, since there is no evidence that they were heard by personnel from units located further to the north. This does not explain why no-one from 10 Regt RCT and the UK SHF(ME) accommodation at Rezayat seems to have heard a second set of loud noises, but we do not have detailed log sheets from either of these units.

138. None of these loud noises were caused by Iraqi SCUD missiles, since there is no evidence that any were fired at Saudi Arabia on 19 January. Nor were the noises caused by PATRIOT missiles being fired from the PATRIOT battery that was based near Baldrick Lines in Al Jubayl. The US DOD have confirmed that this PATRIOT battery did not fire a single missile during the entire conflict.

The Flashes

139. Aircraft breaking the sound barrier do not cause flashes. We were able to find only one possible explanation for the flashes that were seen in the FMA that morning. At 11:30 hours on 19 January, 27 Regt RCT contacted the HQ FMA NBC Cell and reported that they had fired maroons during the chemical alert. Maroons are described in the MOD background paper ‘British Chemical Warfare Defence during the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’. They had been provided for use as a local warning device, and fired with a pattern of three bangs. They were also fitted with flares, to provide a visual warning. It is possible, then, that it was 27 Regt RCT’s use of one or more of these maroons that caused the flashes that were seen. As the background paper records, maroons were banned from further use as a local warning device in Al Jubayl, since the HQ FMA NBC Cell officer had concluded that their use had only led to further confusion. However, given that 27 Regt RCT were based away from Al Jubayl, in a quarry some kilometres to the north-west or west, it is not clear whether these flares would have been visible to units based actually in the FMA.

The Vapour Mists and Drops of Liquid

140. Apart from the dissemination of CW agents from the air, the obvious explanation for the appearance of vapour mists and liquid across Al Jubayl would be that fuel had been dropped from an aircraft flying overhead. This potential explanation is discussed below.

Indications of the Presence of Chemical Warfare Agent

The Aeroplane Theory

141. As has been shown, it was widely suggested that fuel dropped from an aeroplane flying over Al Jubayl had caused detection and monitoring equipment to indicate the presence of CW agents. We cannot rule out one variation on the standard explanation for the alert which is the theory that the aeroplane was leaking fuel because it had been hit by a PATRIOT missile. We know it was not hit by a PATRIOT missile from the Al Jubayl battery, since the Al Jubayl PATRIOT battery did not fire on that, or any, night of the conflict, but there is no evidence that rules out it being hit by another missile from another area.

142. In the course of this review, the MOD asked the US DoD whether their AWACS data showed an aeroplane flying over Al Jubayl at approximately 03:30 hours on 19 January. The US analysis of this data indicated that an aeroplane, with characteristics conforming to those of a propeller-driven craft, took off from the King Abdul Aziz Naval Base at 03:35 hours and flew around at low altitude for several minutes and then out to sea at 03:46 hours. Air Tasking Orders did not reveal that any aircraft was scheduled for takeoff or landing at this time.

143. OSAGWI have also contacted a USMC officer who flew OV10 aircraft and was based at King Abdul Aziz Naval Base during the Gulf conflict. This officer confirmed that it was standard procedure to carry out maintenance checks only in daylight hours, thus removing the possibility that the aeroplane had been taken up for a short test flight after maintenance work, where further problems resulted in its dropping fuel. The officer also said that he recalled no mishaps involving any of their aircraft on 19 January. He noted, too, that OV10s are not able to deliberately dump fuel. Had the pilot taken off with a full tank, he would have had to fly around for quite some time before his craft was light enough to land. However, it was, apparently, standard procedure for aeroplanes to remain airborne during chemical alerts. One possible explanation for the aircraft’s strange flight might be that the pilot, coming into Al Jubayl at the time of the feared chemical alert, had aborted his landing attempt and flown around for a while longer until the alert ended and he was given permission to land. However, this would not explain why the aeroplane was last known to be heading out to sea.

144. While this information from the US does add validity to the reports of a light aircraft in the skies over Al Jubayl, this particular craft identified from the AWACS data cannot be the cause of the detection and monitoring equipment indicating the presence of CW agent. Even had the aeroplane been dropping fuel (which now seems unlikely), the map of its flight path shows that it remained well to the south of Al Jubayl and probably only flew over 6 Armd Wksp’s location at Al Bunardi. Meteorological data obtained from the Met Office indicates that both the surface and upper air winds in Dhahran at 03:00 hours on 19 January were in the direction of 130° and at 10 km per hour. The Met Office advises that this data can be assumed to apply to Al Jubayl as well. Therefore, any fuel dropped from the aircraft would have been blown further away from the British units in Al Jubayl.

145. So there is no evidence to suggest that an aeroplane dropping fuel caused the indications of the presence of CW agents, or, indeed, the appearance of vapour mists and drops of liquid within the FMA.

The Industrial Theory

146. The only other suggested cause for this alert was a possible leak from the industrial plant in the north of Al Jubayl. As has been described above, the chemical plants in this area were certainly recognised as a potential threat, but it is unlikely that this would have caused an alert without there being further corroborating evidence, such as chemical burns or signs of ill-health among unprotected military and civilian personnel.

147. The message placed on ASMA by DOPS at 15:30 hours on 19 January stated that face-to-face questioning of executives at the petro-chemical plant had confirmed that there was no chemical release overnight. So evidence suggests that this explanation cannot be confirmed.


148. In conclusion, then, the balance of available evidence relating to the events in Al Jubayl on the morning of 19 January 1991 does not indicate that British troops were subject to attack or exposed to the presence of CW agents. While further information that may come to light, particularly following the publication of this report, might lead to a different conclusion, and while it is not possible to explain all of the events that took place that morning, the MOD conclude that the indications of the presence of CW agent were false alarms.


149. One observation from the events surrounding that alert is that, in future, such alerts should be investigated more thoroughly at the time, even when it is suspected that there is no actual chemical threat, so that subsequent concerns and rumours can be more effectively answered. In addition, records of such alerts must never be destroyed by those responsible for compiling them, even after it becomes clear that any alarms were false.


1 All times quoted in the paper local Gulf times, 3 hours ahead of GMT. Times quoted in GMT in documents have been adjusted to local time for consistency.

2 A glossary of the acronyms used in this review is included at Annex C.

3 For the background to detection and monitoring equipment see ‘British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’, dated 7 December 1999.

4 During the Gulf conflict, the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment was known as the Chemical Defence Establishment (CDE). It is now the Chemical and Biological Defence (CBD) Sector of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).

5 "Device" is a direct quote from Hansard but it should read "Disposal."

6 ‘Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses: A New Beginning’, dated 14 July 1997.

7 OSAGWI and MOD Case Narrative: ‘Kuwaiti Girls’ School’, dated 11 March 1998.

8 ‘Dead Animals During the Gulf Conflict’, dated 6 April 1998.

9 'British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’, dated 7 December 1999.

10 ‘Review of Events Concerning 32 Field Hospital and the Release of Nerve Agent Arising from US Demolition of Iraqi Munitions at the Khamisiyah Depot in March 1991’, dated 7 December 1999.

11 ‘Background to the Use of Medical Countermeasures to Protect British Forces During the Gulf War (Operation GRANBY)’, dated 28 October 1998.

12 A map of Al Jubayl is included at Annex B.

13 Tactical Control is a NATO State of Command, which the British Army interpreted as being a situation where the subordinate force had already received its missions and tasks, and the commanding force could only co-ordinate its movement, real estate and local defence.

14 A map of the Gulf region is included at Annex A.

15 See ‘British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’ dated 7 December 1999 for background details.

16 There is evidence that many units had been disturbed by the first hostile SCUD launches of the war, which had taken place the previous night, when as many as seven missiles were launched at Israel. The Commanders Diary Narrative of 11 Armoured Workshop for 18 January 1991 records that their sleep patterns had been interrupted by the launch of a possible SCUD at 0448 hours. Although no SCUDs were fired at Saudi Arabia on 18 January, US patriot missiles were launched on 17-18 January at what were subsequently deemed to be false targets.

17 The locations of these units, where known, are shown on the map of Al Jubayl at Annex B.
(* The Office for National Statistics – Cancer Statistics – registrations England and Wales 1992, Series MB1, No25, page 13. ** Documents of the National Radio Protection Board (NRPB) Volume 4, No4, 1993.)

18 The HQ FMA NBC Cell log sheets indicate that news of the eight-bar reading on CAM and the one-colour detector paper reading from 62 Ord Coy was passed to them. The HQ FMA NBC Cell drew up NBC 1 and NBC 2 Reports relating to these detections at 6 Ord Bn.

19 An entry in the FMA NBC Cell log sheets at 05:36 hours shows that the RVD used for this test was in date. This is contradicted by the recollections of the Officer Commanding the Puma Squadron, who recalls that the equipment used was out of date. However, the log sheets, as the contemporary source, should be accepted as the more authoritative evidence.

20 An entry in the HQ FMA NBC Cell log sheets at 04:16 hours indicates that they received early warning of the positive reading on CAM.

21 The HQ FMA NBC Cell recorded receiving this message at 04:25 hours.

22 See ‘British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’ dated 7 December 1999 for a description of G agents.

23 J3 was the operations division at JHQ.

24 ‘DTG’ stands for ‘Date Time Group’.

25 Assuming that this Summary is referring to the detections at MRG 11, 6 Ord Bn and 10 Regt RCT, these locations do not fit with what we know of the location of these three units at the time.

26 See ‘British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’ dated 7 December 1999.

27 For background see ‘British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’ dated 7 December 1999.

28 A ‘meteorological inversion’ occurs at a point or through a layer where the temperature increases with height (this is an inversion of the positive ‘lapse’ of temperature that normally occurs in the atmosphere).

29 OSAGWI Case Narrative: ‘Al Jubayl’, last updated 13 August 1997.

30 This is contrary to a intelligence report received by 6 Ord Bn at and recorded in their log sheets at 08:35 hours on 19 January, which noted that the loud noise ‘was not a sonic boom, since no aircraft were in the air with that capability’.

31 OSAGWI Case Narrative, p. 16. The flight paths of these aircraft are shown in the map of Al Jubayl at Annex B.

32 OSAGWI have adopted an assessment scale that includes five possible assessments for the presence of chemical and biological warfare agents: ‘definitely not’, ‘unlikely’, ‘indeterminate’, likely’ and ‘definitely’.

33 See ‘British Chemical Warfare Defence During the Gulf Conflict (1990-91)’ dated 7 December 1999.

Annex A

Map of Northern Persian Gulf


Annex B

Map of Al Jubayl


Annex C


AAC – Army Air Corps

AC – Aircraft

AFB – Air Force Base

ASMA – Air Staff Management Aid

ATO – Air Tasking Order

AWACS – Airborne Warning and Control System

BFME – British Forces Middle East

BW – Biological Warfare

CAM – Chemical Agent Monitor

CBATEB – Chemical and Biological Agent Evaluation Board

CBW – Chemical and Biological Warfare

CBFME – Commander British Forces Middle East

CDD – Chemistry and Decontamination Division

CDE – Chemical Defence Establishment

CENTAF – Air Force Central Command

CENTCOM – Central Command

CIA – Central Intelligence Agency

CO – Commanding Officer

COS – Chief of Staff

CQMS – Company Quartermaster Sergeant

CSM – Company Sergeant Major

CSS – Combat Service Support

CW – Chemical Warfare

DAD – Detection and Aerosol Division

DoD – Department of Defense

DOPS – Director of Operations

DTG – Date Time Group

EOD – Explosive Ordnance Disposal

FFMA – Forward Force Maintenance Area

FMA – Force Maintenance Area

FRG – Forward Repair Group

GAO – General Accounting Office

GMT – Greenwich Mean Time

GVI – Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses

GVIU – Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Unit

HQ – Headquarters

IPE – Individual Protective Equipment

JFAO – Joint Force Air Operations

JHQ – Joint Headquarters

JOC – Joint Operations Centre

MARCENT – Marine Central Command

MEF – Marines Expeditionary Force

MOB – Main Operating Base

MOD – Ministry of Defence

MRG – Main Repair Group

NAIAD – Nerve Agent Immobilised enzyme Alarm and Detector

NAPS – Nerve Agent Pre-Treatment Set

NBC – Nuclear Biological and Chemical

NCO – Non-Commissioned Officer

OSAGWI – Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illness

POLs – Petrols, Oils and Lubricants

RA – Royal Artillery

RAF – Royal Air Force

RAOC – Rear Area Operations Centre

RCT – Royal Corps of Transport

REME – Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

RPC – Royal Pioneer Corps

RPG – Rocket Propelled Grenade

RQMS – Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant

RN – Royal Navy

RSM – Regimental Sergeant Major

RVD – Residual Vapour Detector

SAG(A) – Scientific Advisory Group (Army)

SF – Special Forces

SHF(ME) – Support Helicopter Force (Middle East)

SIBCA – Sampling and Identification of Biological and Chemical Agents

SMO – Senior Military Officer

SO – Staff Officer

TAPLine – Trans-Arabian Pipe Line

TSW – Tactical Support Wing

UK SHF(ME) – UK Support Helicopter Force (Middle East)

USMC – United States Marines Corps

© Crown Copyright 2000

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