Memoirs & Diaries - The German Gas Attack at Ypres, April 1915

Livens gas bombs exploding Utterly unprepared for what was to come, the [French] divisions gazed for a short while spellbound at the strange phenomenon they saw coming slowly toward them.

Like some liquid the heavy-coloured vapour poured relentlessly into the trenches, filled them, and passed on.

For a few seconds nothing happened; the sweet-smelling stuff merely tickled their nostrils; they failed to realize the danger.  Then, with inconceivable rapidity, the gas worked, and blind panic spread.

Hundreds, after a dreadful fight for air, became unconscious and died where they lay - a death of hideous torture, with the frothing bubbles gurgling in their throats and the foul liquid welling up in their lungs.  With blackened faces and twisted limbs one by one they drowned - only that which drowned them came from inside and not from out.

Others, staggering, falling, lurching on, and of their ignorance keeping pace with the gas, went back.

A hail of rifle fire and shrapnel mowed them down, and the line was broken.  There was nothing on the British left - their flank was up in the air.  The northeast corner of the salient around Ypres had been pierced.  From in front of St. Julien away up north toward Boesinghe there was no one in front of the Germans.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. III, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

Photograph courtesy of Photos of the Great War website.

A "Dixie" (from the Hindi degci) was an army cooking pot.

- Did you know?


On This Day