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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

slugs of the Gastropod variety as Gas detectors?


gem22

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Has anyone come across any references to troops using 'slugs' to detect the presence of gas in or near the trenches?

The question was posed to me today and I had to say I had never heard of it but I might know someone who does. So do I know someone who has the answer? or do I go back to my inquisitor and admit failure?

Help please!!!!

Garth

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It rings a distant tinkle, I have heard somewhere of slugs being used to detect gas but I've a feeling it wasn't in a WW1 trenches context. Perhaps some of my tired old neurons will start firing and I'll remember.

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Dr Paul Bartsch of the Smithsonian had noticed that slugs were far more sensitive to certain air borne chemicals than humans and tests he ran showed that this was especially the case as regards mustard gas. Accordingly he wrote a report to the US Army in July 1918 suggesting that they might be used as gas detectors. This has spawned numerous accounts that the US Army were using slugs as gas detectors from July 1918 but I can't recall seeing any accounts of this in the American reports on gas produced at the end of the war. I'll have a look tonight. Army hierarchies mimic slugs sometimes in their speed of movement when it comes to introducing the new. However I do recall where I have seen an account of slugs being used in this manner - in an account of the tunnel warfare in the Vietnam war when the Viet Minh used them as low tech, low cost gas warning systems

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How do you detect a reaction in a slug? slow movement, coughing perhaps?, seriously though I presume they die, but they are not the most visual of creatures, a canary falling off its perch is more noticeable.

khaki

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How do you detect a reaction in a slug? slow movement, coughing perhaps?, seriously though I presume they die, but they are not the most visual of creatures, a canary falling off its perch is more noticeable.

khaki

The various accounts I have read share at least one thing - that slugs have an advantage over canaries in that they are reusable. It seems that they are so sensitive that they react long before the concentration becomes lethal but other than that they do react in a visible fashion none of the items I've seen state how - which makes me think that most of them are nth rehashes of Bartsch's original report and the approach was not actually implemented in WW1. Now if we have any former Viet Minh tunnelers on the forum .....!

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Centurion

Many thanks for your help. I seriously doubted the proposition but obviously where there is smoke there is fire.

Garth

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