Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Effects of Gas

Gassed, by John Singer Sargent, 1918 (Wikimedia)

Sunday 30th May 1915: Mr Brown of Silsoe, who is serving in France as an ambulance driver, has written home describing events which took place last weekend:
“The Germans had been using that dreadful gas again;[1] we have to go right up to the firing line. It was something dreadful, we were under shell and rifle fire all the time. It was night time when we were there, and it was just like as if the whole sky was on fire, the noise was terrible. We could not hear one another speak, and had to drive without lights not daring to strike a match or smoke, if we did, as sure as I am writing we should have been killed … Just as we got our last load of wounded and were starting off, someone struck a match, and the Germans immediately put six shells at us in succession, but fortunately they all went to the right of us so we escaped. Our poor soldiers, when we got them to the nearest hospital, which was about three miles away, we had to lay them out on the grass, which is the best treatment for gas cases, but, poor fellows, they are doubled up in a heap, and their moaning is something awful … I had only eight hours sleep out of those three days, we were all completely knocked up; my mate fainted away and was quite done up. The doctor says his nerves are affected by the continual noise of the guns … I have just got a slice of good luck, there are about ten of us picked out to clear the wounded from the three big clearing hospitals, and I am one of them; we are about five miles from the nearest firing line – I am pleased, no mistake.”
Source: Monthly Magazine for the parishes of Barton-le-Cley, Clophill, Flitton and Greenfield, Gravenhurst, Silsoe, Westoning, July 1915 [P21/30/17]

[1] Chlorine gas was first used at the 2nd Battle of Ypres against the French on 22nd April 1915. 

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