En route to the Indo-Burmese jungle, the main character in Now the Hell Will Start spent several weeks at a British rest camp called Deolali, about 125 miles from Bombay. Prior to World War II, the camp had been used as a holding area for British soldiers who’d completed their service in Asia, and were finally bound for Liverpool, Glasgow, or wherever else home might be. Unfortunately, many of these soldiers had been driven mad by the conditions of their service, which typically involved endemic malaria, brutal discipline, and oppressive heat. As such, the word “Deolali” was twisted into the slang term “doolally”—”crazy.”
As it turns out, Deolali has another, less well-known claim to infamy. According to a report from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the camp was a testing ground for Allied mustard-gas experiments during World War II:
The numerous testing facilities operated by the Allies in South Asia were particularly concerned with analysing the effects of CW in tropical conditions. Often live human volunteer subjects were exposed to high doses of mustard agents, with anywhere from adequate protection to no protection at all. Photographs show that Indian soldiers also took part in these “volunteer” trials. Of the numerous testing ranges operated by the Allies in South Asia during the war, live agents were tested at the following sites: Deolali, Dehra Dun, Coimbatore, Kumbla, Porkhal, Chakra, Cambellpur (present day India), and Maurypur (present day Pakistan).
Microkhan’s bolding. Of course, Indian “volunteers” were not the only poor souls doused with mustard gas during World War II trials. A fair number of American sailors apparently got the cruel treatment, too.
(Image via A Small Dose Of…)