Deputy Director-General Attends 94th Armistice Day Commemoration in Ieper

Friday, 16 November 2012

Members of the OPCW visited Ieper this past autumn.

The Deputy Director-General, Mrs Grace Asirwatham, visited the Belgian town of Ieper on 11 November 2012 to represent the OPCW at the annual ceremony commemorating the end of World War I.  The Deputy Director-General attended a service at St Martin’s Cathedral, laid a wreath at the Belgian Monument and addressed the academic session in the Town Hall.

Ieper is of special significance to the OPCW as the scene of the first large-scale use of poison gas as a weapon of war, on 22 April 1915.  In her address [PDF - 22 KB], Mrs Asirwatham stated that this legacy has made Ieper not only a place for reflection of the terrible human suffering but also  “for hope and resolve - the hope for a more secure and peaceful world in which chemical weapons are completely eliminated and the resolve to work together, tirelessly, towards the realisation of this noble goal.”

By the time the Great War ran its course more than 1 million soldiers on all sides had been exposed to chemical weapons, mainly mustard gas, of whom an estimated 90,000 died agonizing deaths and countless others suffered lifelong afflictions like respiratory disease and failing eyesight. The special horror of their experience was immortalised by Wilfred Owen in his poem “Dulce et Decorum est”:

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.”

For further information, please contact OPCW Public Affairs. +31 (0) 70 416 3242, | ORGANISATION FOR THE PROHIBITION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS, Johan de Wittlaan 32, 2517 JR The Hague, The Netherlands

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