22.04.

1915: First Mass use of Poison Gas in Warfare

1915: First Mass use of Poison Gas in Warfare
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ "Gassed" by John Singer Sargent, 1919 - ygEoGPGLZRQzeg at Google Cultural Institute. Licensed under Public Domain.

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 22 April 1915
  • Interestingly, the gas was dispersed by Germans soldiers who opened the barrels by hand, relying on the prevailing winds. That way, many of them were injured, or even killed.

On this day deadly poison gas was used en masse for the first time in the history of warfare.

This happened during the Battle at the town of Ypres in northern France, during World War I. At 17:00 p.m. that day, the Imperial German Army released 168,000 liters of toxic chlorine gas onto the battlefield. The gas was placed in 5,730 barrels, each weighing 41 kg, which the Germans had brought to the front by hand.

Interestingly, the gas was dispersed by Germans soldiers who opened the barrels by hand, relying on the prevailing winds. That way, many of them were injured, or even killed.

Toxicchlorine inflicted a heavy blow to the unprepared French troops. Around 6,000 French and allied troops died within 10 minutes of the gas being released. The German commanders werethemselves surprised by that success, but did not use it to expand their conquered territory.

German chlorine was produced by known companies BASF, Hoechst and Bayer. The first poison gas attack was a great surprise for the enemies and that is why there were so many casualties. The next strikes no longer had such an element of surprise and were not as effective. The British also started using toxic gas soon after, and protective masks were developed.

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