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Chemical Munitions Dumping (Atlantic)

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Chemical munitions dumping took place in the Atlantic Ocean in the years after World War II.

This is one of two confirmed areas where such dumping has taken place:

  • The north Atlantic, north west of the Scottish (and Irish) coast
  • The Atlantic Deep, 400 miles south west of Land's End, England

For details of the individual operation involving SS Empire Claire and MV Vogtland, see the page detaiing Operation Sandcastle.

For details of sea-dumping of conventional weapons and munitions, see the page for Beaufort's Dyke, which details the dumping that took place there after both Word Wars, together with published locations of the remaining sea-dumping areas around the country.

Lists A1, A2 and A3 given below are similar sites, but originate from different sources, and report differing locations in some cases, so each is plotted separately with each point tagged A1, A2 or A3 to identify its source for comparison. Errors and differences have NOT been corrected, and are as they appear in the original MoD documents.

Chemical weapons

For information, these are brief descriptions of the agents involved, including the more well known mustard gas for comparison.

Mustard Gas
Unlike the other agents, mustard gas was not generally fatal, but produced extensive, debilitating blisters on its victims. The gas is persistent, and the danger comes not only from the gas itself, but the gel-like liquid which can remain for some days in the area where it was deployed. This means that soldiers entering the area could suffer its effects days later, and spread it to others if their uniforms were contaminated. The visible effects of exposure can be delayed by anything up to 24 hours before becoming apparent.
Tabun
This is a liquid rather than a gas, and has to be distributed as a spray or aerosol. It is described as the first nerve agent, discovered by accident in 1936 while new insecticides were being investigated. Nerve agents generally function by preventing the breakdown within the body of the neurotransmitters that signal muscles to to contract. The result is that muscles are no longer able to relax. The victim basically loses control of all bodily functions, and death from exposure will follow in anything from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the level of exposure.
Phosgene
Was used during World War I, with both corrosive and toxic effects, causing carbon dioxide and hydrochloric acid to form when it combines with water in the tissues. Its effectiveness lay within its colourless and almost odourless properties, meaning it did not warn of its presence. The gas is quite dense and slow moving, but if mixed with chlorine will disperse more quickly. Its effects were progressive, and could take anything up to 24 hours to become evident. Apparently fit troops could suddenly be disabled as the poisoning took effect.

From Imperial College report
List A1: Sites of UK-Dumped Chemical Munitions in the Atlantic
Site No. Longitude Latitude Depth (m) Comments
46 59°00’ N 07°40’ W 800 Empire Woodlark: Phase 1 scuttled on 02.11.46 Empire Woodlark A1
49 58°00‘N 11°00’ W 2000 Empire Fal: Phase 1 scuttled on 02.07.45 Empire Fal A1
51 56°30’ N 12°00’ W 2500 Empire Claire and Vogtland: Phase 3 (Operation ‘Sandcastle’) scuttled on 27.07.55 and 30.05.56 respectively Empire Claire and Vogtland A1
52 56°31’ N 12°05’ W 2500 Krotka: Phase 3 (Operation ‘Sandcastle’) scuttled on 23. 07.56 Krotka A1
53 56°22’ N 09°27’ W 1300 Leighton: Phase 1 scuttled on 09.08.47 Leighton A1
54 56°00’ N 10°00’ W 2000 Possible site of Phase 4 scuttlings between June 1956 and September 1956 (ships unknown) ships unknown A1
55 55°30’ N 11°00’ W 2500 Empire Simba, Empire Cormorant, Wairuna and Botlea: Phase 1 scuttled on 11.09.45, 01.10.45, 30.10.45 and 30.12.45 respectively Empire Simba, Empire Cormorant, Wairuna and Botlea A1
56 47°40’ N 09°22’ W 3500 to 4000 Dora Oldendorf: Phase 1 scuttled on 05.02.47 Dora Oldendorf A1
57 48°03’ N 08°09’ W 500 Empire Nutfield: Phase 1 scuttled on 03.09.46 Empire Nutfield A1
58 48°00’ N 08°21’ W 800 to 900 Lanark: Phase 1 scuttled on 11.11.46 Lanark A1
59 47°57’ N 08°33’ W 700 to 800 Empire Peacock: Phase 1 scuttled on 25.08.46 Empire Peacock A1
60 47°55’ N 08°58’ W 2500 Harm Freitzen: Phase 1 scuttled on 01.03.48 Harm Freitzen A1
61 47°55’ N 08°17’ W 750 to 800 Empire Lark: Phase 1 scuttled on 27.07.47 Empire Lark A1
62 47°54’ N 08°21’ W 1000 Kindersley: Phase 1 scuttled on 01.10.46 Kindersley A1
63 47°52’ N 08°51’ W 2000 Empire Connyngham: Phase 2 scuttled on 20.06.49 Empire Connyngham A1
64 47°47’ N 08°21’ W 1500 Thorpe Bay: Phase 1 scuttled on 08.09.47 Thorpe Bay A1
66 47°36’ N 09°31’ W 4100 Margo: Phase 1 scuttled on 03.11.47 Margo A1
67 47°23’ N 09°24’ W 4000 Miervaldis: Phase 1 scuttled on 22.09.48 Miervaldis A1
68 47°16’ N 09°24’ W 4200 Empire Success: Phase 1 scuttled on 22.08.48 Empire Success A1

From Imperial College report
List A2: Post War Atlantic Deep Sea Dumping. (Data source. T. Dixon, personal communication).
Phase I :1945-1948 (Operation Sandcastle)
Ship (scuttled) Munitions Cargo Weight (Tons) Date N W Approx position Depth (m)
Empire Pal Defective bombs Unknown 2.7.45 59 20 11 10 >1000 Empire Pal Defective bombs A2
Empire Simba Unknown 8032 11.9.45 55 20 12 05 >1000 Empire Simba A2
Empire Cormorant Unknown 8383 1.10.45 55 20 11 50 >1000 Empire Cormorant A2
Wairuna Unknown 8432 30.10.45 55 30 11 30 >1000 Wairuna A2
Botlea Unknown 6152 30.12.45 55 40 11 00 >1000 Botlea A2
Empire Peacock Unknown Unknown 25.8.46 47 40 8 10 >1000 Empire Peacock A2
Empire Nutfield Unknown Unknown 3.9.46 48 05 7 55 200-1000 Empire Nutfield A2
Kindersley Unknown 2074 1.10.46 47 20 7 55 >1000 Kindersley A2
Empire Woodlark Unknown 4348 2.11.46 58 55 8 55 200-1000 Empire Woodlark A2
Lanark Unknown Unknown 11.11.46 47 55 7 30 200-1000 Lanark A2
Dora Oldendorf Unknown 2507 5.2.47 47 10 8 40 >1000 Dora Oldendorf A2
Empire Lark Unknown 7649 27.7.47 47 40 7 10 200-1000 Empire Lark A2
Leighton Unknown Unknown 9.8.47 55 55 12 50 >1000 Leighton A2
Thorpe Bay Unknown 1933 8.9.47 46 50 8 50 >1000 Thorpe Bay A2
Margo Unknown 1259 3.11.47 47 40 8 50 >1000 Margo A2
Harm Frietzen Unknown 7854 1.3.48 47 55 8 40 >1000 Harm Frietzen A2
Empire Success Unknown 9853 22.8.48 47 00 9 05 >1000 Empire Success A2
Miervaldis Unknown 1880 22.9.48 47 00 8 05 >1000 Miervaldis A2
Phase 2: 1949
Empire Connyngham Unknown Unknown 20.6.49 47 05 7 30 >1000 Empire Connyngham A2
Phase 3: 1955-1956
Empire Claire 16,088 Aircraft bombs -nerve gas (Tabun) 3500 2.7.55 55 55 12 10 >1000 Empire Claire 16,088 Aircraft bombs -nerve gas (Tabun) A2
Vogtland Approx 26,000 Aircraft bombs -nerve gas (Tabun) Unknown 30.5.56 56 10 11 00 >1000 Vogtland Approx 26,000 Aircraft bombs -nerve gas (Tabun) A2
Kotka Approx 26,000 Aircraft bombs -nerve gas (Tabun) Unknown 23.7.56 56 50 12 30 >1000 Kotka Approx 26,000 Aircraft bombs -nerve gas (Tabun) A2
Phase 4: 1956-1957
Jettisoned Artillery shells 25pdr mustard & 1ton phosgene 271 ?.6.56 56 00 10 00 200-1000 Jettisoned Artillery shells 25pdr mustard & 1ton phosgene A2
Jettisoned Artillery shells 25pdr mustard & 5 tons phosgene 3200 6.9.56 55 30 9 30 <200 Jettisoned Artillery shells 25pdr mustard & 5 tons phosgene A2


Table A3: CHEMICAL MUNITIONS DISPOSAL BY UK POST 1945
Phase 1
Date Location Ship Depth
02.07.45 Lat 58 00,9 N Lon 11 00.0 W Empire Fal 2000M (NOT plotted, typo in Lat)
11.09.45 Lat 55 30.00 N Lon 11 00.00 W Empire Simba 2500M Empire Simba A3
01.10.45 Lat 55 30.00 N Lon 11 00.00 W Empire Cormorant 2500M Empire Cormorant A3
30.10.45 Lat 55 30.00 N Lon 11 00.00 W Wairuna 2500M Wairuna A3
30.12.45 Lat 55 30.00 N Lon 11 00.00 W Botlea 2500M Botlea A3
25.08.46 Lat 47 57.00 N Lon 08 33.24 W Empire Peacock 700-800M Empire Peacock A3
03.09.46 Lat 48 03.00 N Lon 08 09.00 W Empire Nutfield 500M Empire Nutfield A3
01.10.46 Lat 47 54.00 N Lon 08 21.00 W Kindersley 1000M Kindersley A3
02.11.46 Lat 59 00.00 N Lon 07 40.00 W Empire Woodlark 800M Empire Woodlark A3
11.11.46 Lat 48 00.00 N Lon 08 21.00 W Lanark 800-900M Lanark A3
05.02.47 Lat 47 40.00 N Lon 09 22.00 W Dora Oldendorf 3500-4000M Dora Oldendorf A3
27.07.47 Lat 47 55.00 N Lon 08 17.00 W Empire Lark 750-800M Empire Lark A3
09.08.47 Lat 56 22.00 N Lon 09 27.00 W Leighton 1300M Leighton A3
08.09.47 Lat 47 47.30 N Lon 08 21.00 W Thorpe Bay 1500M Thorpe Bay A3
03.11.47 Lat 47 36.00 N Lon 09 31.00 W Margo 4100M Margo A3
01.03.48 Lat 47 55.00 N Lon 08 58.00 W Harm Freitzen 2500M Harm Frietzen A3
22.08.48 Lat 47 16.30 N Lon 09 24.00 W Empire Success 4200M Empire Success A3
22.09.48 Lat 47 23.00 N Lon 09 24.00 W Miervaldis 4000M Miervaldis A3
Phase 2
20.06.49 Lat 47 52.00 N Lon 08 51.00 W Empire Connyngham 2000M Empire Connyngham A3
Phase 3 – Operation SANDCASTLE
27.07.55 Lat 56 30.00 N Lon 12 00.00 W Empire Claire 2500M Empire Claire A3
30.05.56 Lat 56 30.00 N Lon 12 00.00 W Vogtland 2500M Vogtland A3
23.07.56 Lat 56 31.00 N Lon 12 05.00 W Krotka 2500M Krotka A3
Phase 4
??.06.56 Lat 56 00 N Lon 10 00 W UNKNOWN 2000M UNKNOWN A3
??.06-09.56 Lat 56 00 N missing Lon UNKNOWN 2000M (NOT plotted, no Lon given)

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