NBC Detector Papers

Since the early 1970s soldiers have been issued with small sealed packets containing booklets of detector papers. These papers are designed to be stuck to the soldier’s uniform and change colour in the presence of chemical agents, warning him of the dangers around him. Two different sets of detector papers are available:imageThe most common has a blue spine to the booklet and consists of ‘one colour detector paper’:imageAlso available is a more sophisticated type of paper that can detect and identify a greater variety of chemical agents, this comes in a book with a green spine:imageThe NBC guidebook ‘Survive to Fight’ from 1983 explained the use of the detector paper:

You are issued with 1 colour detector paper as part of your NBC IPE. It is your personal chemical detector which is why you wear it in a prominent position on your suit. It is possible the paper will detect the liquid chemical agent before you experience, see or hear any other indication you are under attack by chemical agents. The paper is grey in colour and any type of liquid chemical agent will cause the paper to turn navy blue.

Newer papers are now being introduced as explained in the latest CBRNDC aide memoire:

Currently One Colour Detector Paper indicates BLUE, it is planned that future stock will indicate RED:IMG_4801The change to a red indicating colour will bring it into line with other NATO countries so preventing potential confusion when on joint operations. These new books will have a red spine. The indicator patches can be seen attached to NBC suits on exercises, as small dark grey squares:391px-Soldier_Wearing_Full_Individual_Protection_Equiptment_And_Detector_Paper_MOD_45150761Here they can be seen on the knees, wrists and upper arms. I have tried to find out any information on the three colour detector paper, such as which three colours it changes to and what each represents, but information seems to be sparse and as ever if readers can help please get in contact.

4 thoughts on “NBC Detector Papers

  1. John

    We carried two types of chemical detector paper. Both work only with liquid chemicals and were told it indicated in less than a minute.

    The single coloured colour paper changes colour in contact with any harmful chemical.
    Three-colour detector paper turns either red, yellow or green to indicate two types of nerve agent and one blister agent. We were never given the names of each of the types of nerve or blister agents, as this information would have proven useful to the enemy. I don’t suppose knowing would have been particularly useful to us in the event anyway, as the procedure was the same.
    None of these papers detected a vapour attack, or a gas attack. The only way these were detected was with a portable detector that sucked the contaminated air through a series of gauze pads to identify the nasties. These were usually carried on vehicles and ships. In the 80’s and 90’s. A positive indication of an attack would automatically Set off a series of air pumps that would create a positive pressure inside the vehicle or ship and prevent any air from entering the ship or vehicle, this was called creating a Citadel environment, And it usually made your ears pop when it was used. This happened frequently.
    Hope this is useful to you.

    1. hatchfive Post author

      Thanks John, my own NBC training was an afternoon at HMS Excellent- they mentioned the coloured papers but not much more than that. It was assumed we would remain in the ship for the most part. Did have the fun of the gas chamber and the tear gas though…

  2. John

    I did mine up the road at whale island, I must have missed the fun part of the CS chamber, my s10 didn’t fit correctly and quickly filled up with my stand easy Ivor dewney pastie. Like you though I am sure we would do it all again.

  3. Pingback: No1 Mk 4 Three Colour Detector Paper | Tales from the Supply Depot

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