In 1917-18 as the demand for mustard gas during WW1 rose, the Sutton Oak plant in Merseyside began manufacturing the chemical warfare agent diphenyl chlorarsine , a precursor of mustard gas. This was first employed as a chemical weapon on the Western front during the trench battles of the Great War.
The factory closed for a period after the war
Reopening some years later, in 1932 a curious experiment with 56 of the factories employees involved them being contaminated with Mustard Gas to see the affect of it on the skin
At the outbreak of WW11 the UK’s stockpile of mustard gas was only 10 tons. So for a period of six months from September 1939, the whole of the country’s supply (1100 tons) came from Sutton Oak.
Many mustard gas shells soon found themselves onto the continent, as the allies retreated they were on hand to be used in case the Nazi’s used them first. However as the allies retreated to Dunkirk the mustard gas was made a priority over the retreating armies and was the cause of many soldiers being left behind, only to be captured by the German army.
In 1943 a full-scale plant was constructed there to manufacture a warfare agent codenamed ‘S’
However in 1945 the Allied troops began capturing German chemical dumps, samples were flown to Sutton Oak and in 1946 a nerve gas project was established on the site to develop improved versions of the German agents.
Manufacture of this nerve agent eventually ceased in 1954 and was moved to Nancekuke in Cornwall.
Presently the site is a vacant lot and lies within the Abbotsfield Road Industrial Estate in St Helen’s.