Introduction - World War One Poison GasLife for a World War One soldier involved in the trench warfare, which typified this war, was miserable and scary. For these soldiers death could come at any time and in various forms; however perhaps what scared them most was the sudden frantic ringing of a bell followed by panicked shouts of GAS! This would signal the beginning a poison gas attack by the enemy; one of the most horrible weapons of World War One. The soldiers would have to scurry to put on their clumsy protective masks or risk a slow and painful death from the thick green cloud of gas that was approaching their positions. Although not one of WW1's most effective weapons it was none the less terrifying. On this page are a list of interesting facts about poison gas and its use during the Great War written for both kids and adults.
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World War One Poison Gas Facts
- In August of 1914 the French were the first to use poison gas as a weapon during WW1. They used grenades filled with tear gas (ethyl bromoacetate) that were not fatal but rather an irritant.
- Numerous chemicals were used for poison gas attacks during World War 1; starting with tear gas, then moving on to more deadly gasses such as chlorine and phosgene. In 1917 the Germans introduced perhaps the most effective one, mustard gas. Mustard gas was not a particularly deadly weapon but did cause many casualties who would suffer with horrible burn wounds.
- The Battle of Bolimov fought on January 31, 1915 saw the first large-scale use of gas during World War One. The Germans fired artillery shells filled with tear gas at Russian positions near Warsaw. However; the freezing cold weather actually froze most of the gas making the attack ineffective.
- On April 22nd of 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, the German Army opened numerous chlorine gas canisters by hand and allowed the wind to carry the gas towards French positions. Unlike the Germans first large-scale attack, three months earlier at the Battle of Bolimov, this attack was very effective. Thousands of French soldiers died; chocking on the gas while others were forced from their trenches and shot down by enemy gun fire.
- The soldiers who suffered the most from chlorine poison gas attacks were the ones closest to the ground; either taking shelter low to the ground or wounded and unable to climb higher. Also; those soldiers who ran from the gas often faired worse than those who held their positions; retreating men often retreated with the cloud of gas thus increasing their exposure to it.
- The use of chlorine poisonous gas as a weapon had its problems. First; the gas produced a greenish cloud and a strong odor making it easily detectable and allowing soldiers to put on their gas masks and brace for the attack. Also; chlorine is water-soluble so soldiers without a mask could cover their nose and mouth with a wet rag for somewhat effective protection.
- Although one of World War One's most horrible weapons poison gas was not one of its deadliest. Very few soldiers who were gassed died, probably somewhere under 5%; however this number is understated if you count the soldiers flushed out of their positions due to the gas and cut down by enemy gunfire.
- Not only humans but also animals had to be protected from poison Gas attacks. Masks and other protective devices were developed to protect horses, mules, dogs, and carrier pigeons.