CS gas was developed by the British at Porton Down in the 1950s and 1960s as a non-lethal riot control agent based on the discovery of the compound by American scientists in the 1920s. CS Gas reacts with moisture on the skin, in the eyes, nose and mouth, and in the lungs, causing a burning sensation. Apart from the pain it causes it also results in tears being shed as the eyes go into an automatic cleaning mode. In severe cases coughing and vomiting can occur, especially if the victim is confined to an area of high concentrations of the gas, such as a room. The effects wear off within a few minutes of reaching clear air. The use of CS gas came to prominence in 1969 when it was used to quell civil disorder in Northern Ireland during the so called ‘Battle of Bogside’. The British Army made extensive use of CS gas during the troubles and used both grenades and fired canisters from their Federal Riot guns. As usual with a weapons system, troops need to train on it under controlled circumstances so inert cartridges were produced that only released pink smoke, rather than actual CS gas. These training rounds were clearly marked:The cartridge case is made of aluminium, 1.5” in diameter and has a pair of coloured bands, blue over green. As can be seen it is clearly marked as being an irritant practice round. The rear of the cartridge gives a filling date of October 1974:Turning to the base of the cartridge we can see that the casing itself dates from July 1973 and has a head stamp marking of FPL:The CS projectile itself was a separate piece of ordnance that fitted inside this casing, the cartridge case holding the percussion cap in the base and a propellant charge. When fired at a distance of 100m the cartridge had a delay of between 1 and 5 seconds and then burnt, expelling the CS gas for between 10 and 15 seconds. During the Fall Curfew of 1970 the British Army had fired up to 1,600 canisters of CS and following its use at Lenadoon in 1972 the RUC and British Army ceased using CS gas in Northern Ireland. The Royal Scots report ‘Internal Security training for Northern Ireland’ explained:
When CS gas is thrown in open spaces, such as post war housing estates, it needs to be used in considerable quantities to be effective…
Later the Battalion commander would remark that one of the more damaging consequences of using CS gas was the potential
for it to blow the wrong way and end up in old people’s houses.
Despite the decision to stop using it in Northern Ireland, munitions and training continued in case it was needed at a future date.