Saturday, 20 June 2015

Gas in the Trenches

Football team of British soldiers with gas masks, 1916 (Wikimedia)

Sunday 20th June 1915: Since the first use by the Germans of their appalling chlorine gas against the French on 22nd April news has been filtering through to Bedford of the effects of this terrible weapon. Mr Charles Ritson of St. Paul’s Square, Bedford has received a letter from his nephew, Captain J. Ritson of the Durham Regiment recounting his experiences:

“Some three weeks ago we had a bad time, my company being caught in dug-outs, asleep, without respirators, and several of them were gassed. Poor fellows; they foamed at the mouth, tore their throats, and gasped for breath. We got a bad doing with gas shells, which seem to contain large quantities of prussic acid. They chiefly affect the eyes, turning some men temporarily blind, and all smart terribly. It is a very uncomfortable feeling when we see a greenish-yellow cloud rolling slowly along towards us, filling up all hollows, and knowing the agony we shall have to suffer if our respirators are out of order. As soon as the gas reaches us the Germans start plastering us with high explosive shells and shrapnel, on the odd chance of catching us outside our trench.”

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 18th June 1915

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