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The Blue Light Outfit c 1917

Standard issue, Australian Imperial Force

Blue Light Outfits, issued during both World Wars were named for the Army treatment depots, illuminated with blue lights, where men received treatment for venereal disease (VD)—what clinicians now call sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  

Ointment No. 1 ‘BROWN’ (Argyrol and potassium permanganate) was used to combat gonorrhoea, while Ointment No. 2 ‘WHITE’ (mercury-chloride) was effective against syphilis.

Attempts at using the outfits were often thwarted by inexperience or alcohol. Many women refused to use them because of the irritating chemicals. Nonetheless, the head of the Australian Red Cross Lieutenant-Colonel Sir James Barrett reported that of 4,580 reported exposures to syphilis and gonorrhoea amongst soldiers, only thirteen resulted in infections when soldiers used the kits properly.  

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Reviewed 01 December 2021