Remember me - echoes from the lost generations

Article: Germany's Use of Chemical Warfare in World War I
Brian Blodgett
First Published 1999

Cylinders released gas clouds that would 'float' towards the enemy. Carrying the cylinders through the maze of trenches to the front line and placing them for an attack usually took several days as each weighed 100-pounds and up to 12,000 might be used for a single operation. The task was carried out when visibility was poor to avoid alerting the enemy to an impending attack. If spotted by the enemy, their gunfire could damage the cylinders, exposing friendly troops to their own chemical agents.

The speed and direction of the wind was a problem to be considered. The wind needed to be blowing towards the enemy at a speed sufficient to move it away from the release point, yet slow enough for it to linger over enemy positions. The lack of favourable winds often delayed chemical operations for days or even weeks. This unpredictability eventually forced Germany to abandon the cylinder-based cloud attack and use specially-adapted artillery shells instead.

print page Close