WW1 Photos Centenary Website: 2014-2018 By Paul Reed

Gas! Gas! Gas! Second Ypres Centenary

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Today is the Centenary of the start of the Second Battle of Ypres and a hundred years since the first use of poison gas on the battlefields of the Great War. Poison gas was a weapon outlawed under the Hague Convention but by 1915 the Germans viewed the conflict as a ‘Total War’ and that every weapon was justifiable for victory; there was also belief that the Allies had gas weapons too and it was just a matter of time before they were implemented.

After much preparations and a trial use of the gas, the poison cloud was released at 5pm on 22nd April 1915. More than 170 tons of chlorine gas was released over a 6.5km front, on positions held by French Colonial and Territorial troops. More than 6,000 of them quickly became casualties, having no protection against the gas. Most died within ten minutes as the chlorine gas irritated their lungs causing a ‘drowning’ effect. German assault troops came flooding through the French positions, protected by their own gas masks, and gradually the whole front, including the British lines, began to collapse. In the fighting that followed troops of the Canadian Expeditionary Force played a prominent role in the defence of Ypres; the 1st Canadian Division losing more than 2,000 men killed in action in the first days of the battle.


The photograph above is grainy and unfocussed but shows German soldiers in a captured French trench in the opening phase of the battle. Two dead Poilus are on the trench floor, victims of the gas attack which took place a hundred years ago.

Many thanks to German historian Rob Schäfer for the use of these images.


5 responses

  1. Trench Publishing

    Brilliant post Paul. Captured French position by the way.

    Sent from my iPad

    22/04/2015 at 08:15

  2. Trench Publishing

    Reblogged this on Chris Cherry and commented:
    From my colleague Paul Reed

    22/04/2015 at 08:28

  3. They may be grainy and unfocussed, but what an excellent choice of photos. Thanks for sharing.

    22/04/2015 at 11:36

  4. Reblogged this on First Night History.

    22/04/2015 at 13:52

  5. Good post. Particularly significant because my grandfather was buried aliv in a trench during this campaign at Ypres.

    23/04/2015 at 09:48

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