Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Unlikely Encounter: CBARR’s Dennis Bolt spends time with former chemical armourer in the Australian Army

Dennis Bolt with Arthur Lewis at the Marrangaroo project site.

Dennis Bolt is a mechanical engineer for ECBC’s Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) Business Unit. Currently serving a one-year secondment to the Australian Department of Defence (ADoD), Bolt recently had the unique opportunity to visit a few former chemical warfare (CW) facilities while abroad. During his tours, he met Arthur Lewis—a former World War II veteran who had actually worked at a number of former defense sites Bolt visited, including Marrangaroo Depot and Glenbrook Depot and Tunnel.

At age 19, Lewis was a chemical armourer in the Australian Army and not only worked at numerous CW storage depots, but was involved in several CW agent trials. “He discussed the operations in great detail and enjoyed the opportunity to share his experience with others,” Bolt said of Lewis.

Drums of the chemical agent mustard line the right side of the entrance to the Glenbrook Tunnel in 1943. In November 2012, the ADoD invited Bolt to visit the site, along with the Marrangaroo Depot and the Kingwood/Orchard Hill Depot.

Bolt was accompanied by Gareth Johnson, from the United Kingdom Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), and Geoff Plunkett of the ADoD. Plunkett recently published a book independent of ADoD, titled “Chemical Warfare in Australia: 1914-1945,” which recounts Australia’s importation and storage of chemical weapons during that time period. Chemical warfare armourers like Lewis were responsible for handling the dangerous chemicals.

Bolt serves as CBARR’s primary program manager with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) Precinct. The project involves a chemical warfare investigation and assessment of various buildings, laboratories and the surrounding environment at sites such as Maribyrnong, Columboola and most recently, John Brewer Reef.

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