Gas attack

By: Reema Patel

What is gas attack?

April 22, 1915: Gas Attack at Ypres. At 5pm on April 22, 1915, following a German artillery bombardment, French soldiers holding the northern face of the Ypres salient saw a greenish-yellow cloud drifting towards them from the enemy trenches along a roughly four-mile-long stretch of the front.
The first use of gas warfare by the Germans was January 3, 1915 and was dispersed by an artillery shell. Tear gas was launched on Russian forces on the Rawka River, but the chemical froze instead of valorizing and had little impact. The Germans tried again on the Western front near Ypres, France; a five mile wide cloud of chlorine gas settled onto the French and Algerian trenches causing panic, death and destroyed moral. It was primarily used as a disruptive tactic prior to an assault. Within seconds of inhaling the vapor the victim's respiratory system was destroyed and the French and Algerians fled in disorder. The Germans were surprised by the success of their attack, and unprepared to take advantage of the break in the lines, and allowed the British and Canadian troops to regroup and fill the gap.

Primary types of gases used in WW1

Lachrymator - tear gas. This caused temporary blindness and serious irritation to the nose and throat of the victims. It was used more for harassment of troops engaged in close fighting or operating machine guns. A gas mask offered good protection.

Sternutator gasses - poisonous gas, chlorine, phosgene and diphosgene. Chlorine gas mixes with moisture so it will attack the eyes and lungs. Phosgene was used in lieu of chlorine. It caused much less coughing in the initial assault and more of it was inhaled causing a delayed effect. Often a soldier could be taken down up to 48 hours after the attack. It was later mixed with chlorine to cause the vapor to be spread more widely and more deadly. It was usually delivered in high explosive shells leaving the troops unable to immediately recognize its presence.

Suffocating gasses - Caused severe edema of the lungs and death from asphyxiation could come within hours. No mask could protect a soldier from mustard gas. It penetrated all clothing and was remarkably persistent on the soil or on foliage over which it had been scattered. These factors tended to increase its effectiveness; in addition to the physical action of the gas on the men themselves, the morale of troops was impaired. It was almost odorless and caused serious blisters both internally and externally.

How did they save themselves from the gas attacks

People protected themselves from gas in WW1 by urinating on the hankerchiefs and placing the hankerchiefs over their mouths. You see the ammonia in your urine acts as a filter on the gas. this is what the Canadians did during the battle of Ypres. The Germans however just used gas masks against the allies so after gasing they could run at the enemy line.