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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Army's wartime bloomers revealed
Scots regiment
Scots soldiers' legs were vulnerable to mustard gas
British troops were involved in a secret plan to go into battle wearing women's underwear, it has emerged.

The plan - recently declassified by the Public Records Office - was set up to protect World War II troops from mustard gas attacks.

Kilt-wearing soldiers in the Scots regiments were particularly at risk because their legs were exposed to the poisonous gas.

From the 1920s up until 1939, secret tests were carried out on volunteer soldiers dressed in long stockings and woollen bloomers.


A great deal of attention was paid in those days to the impregnation of battle dress and socks

Gradon Carter

Wearing underwear, soaked in protective chemicals dissolved in white spirit, volunteers were exposed to mustard gas.

The research and tests were carried out at Porton Down, the government-funded military research centre in Wiltshire.

Porton Down historian, Gradon Carter, said: "A great deal of attention was paid in those days to the impregnation of battle dress and socks with substances called impregnities.

"These were chemicals which could actually combine with mustard gas vapour to render them harmless."

Although the tests showed the underwear did protect the volunteers, it was decided that the protective clothing would be too costly to supply to all Scots regiments.

As a result, the kilt was banned from the battlefield in 1940.


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11 Aug 00 | Europe
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