100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

France Issues Preparations For Gas Warfare

Despite being prohibited by various conventions and treaties forbidding it’s use, the German has made the decision to use chemical weapon in the form of poisonous gas in the recent conflict against Britain and France.


On February 21, 1915 the French War Ministry issued instructions for the systematic preparation of gas warfare.

Ministry of War, February 21, 1915

Remarks concerning shells with stupefying gases:

The so-called shells with stupefying gases that are being manufactured by our central factories contain a fluid which streams forth after the explosion, in the form of vapors that irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.

There are two kinds: hand grenades and cartridges.

Hand Grenades. The grenades have the form of an egg; their diameter in the middle is six centimeters, their height twelve centimeters, their weight 400 grams. They are intended for short distances, and have an appliance for throwing by hand. They are equipped with an inscription giving directions for use. They are lighted with a small bit of material for friction pasted on the directions, after which they must be thrown away. The explosion follows seven seconds after lighting. A small cover of brass and a top screwed on protect the lighted matter. Their purpose is to make untenable the surroundings of the place where they burst. Their effect is often considerably impaired by a strong rising wind.

Cartridges. The cartridges have a cylindrical form. Their diameter is twenty-eight millimeters, their height ten centimeters, their weight 200 grams. They are intended for use at longer distances than can be negotiated with the hand grenades. With an angle of twenty-five degrees at departure, they will carry 230 meters. They have central lighting facilities and are fired with ignition bullet guns. The powder lights a little internal ignition mass by means of which the cartridges are caused to explode five seconds after leaving the rifle. The cartridges have the same purpose as the hand grenades but because of their very small amount of fluid they must be fired in great numbers at the same time.

Precautionary measures to be observed in attacks on trenches into which shells with asphyxiating gases have been thrown:- The vapors spread by means of the shells with asphyxiating gases are not deadly, at least when small quantities are used and their effect is only momentary. The duration of the effect depends upon the atmospheric conditions.

It is advisable therefore to attack the trenches into which such hand grenades have been thrown and which the enemy has nevertheless not evacuated before the vapors are completely dissipated. The attacking troops, moreover, must wear protective goggles and in addition be instructed that the unpleasant sensations in nose and throat are not dangerous and involve no lasting disturbance.

French soldiers in gas masks on the line - 1915

French soldiers in gas masks on the line – 1915

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