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Gas poisoning


BillyH
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I have been researching a man shown as Killed in Action on a given date.

The Battalion war diary reported a "Quiet day" with casualties of just 8 other ranks because of gas.

I had always imagined that deaths due to gas poisoning would usually have been in the days following the incident and would be reported as died of wounds.

Can anyone say if it was the case that a casualty might die the same day?

BillyH.

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Several thousand British troops were recorded as dying of gas poisoning, and these tended to be men who perished in hospitals in the days following their admission.

But there must have been many more who were so badly overwhelmed that they died before they could be evacuated ; surely these would qualify for being posted as killed in action.

That's my best stab at it, Billy, wish I could provide something more substantive.

Phil ( PJA)

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Possibly the gas casualties were suffered when entering a dugout or shell hole where the gas had lingered. Mustard 'gas' could be reactivated if water in a contaminated shell hole was disturbed, for instance, and chlorine was heavier than air so would sink to the lowest possible level.

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Depends on date, gas and battalion. Hope it's not 2nd Welsh at Loos because their diary is almost fiction.

I've been involved with a man who died on 27th of 'Gas poisoning' Source SDGW.

CWGC shows KIA

Soldiers' effects says 'Died of Wounds'

I believe my man suffered from inhalation of British chlorine gas on 25th Sept 1915.

Reports of POWs stated that although they has a whiff of gas they were fine. 48 hours later they relapsed and died.

Battle of Loos 1915, post war analysis showed 2600 men wounded by 'friendly fire' gas on 25th Sept 1915. Of these, 1600 had no gas related symptoms. The remainder had 'slight' gas related issues but not long term. Most rejoined their units the same day.

Battle of Loos, despite wind blowing gas back over British troops and 950 of 2nd Bde reporting with gas effects before leaving trenches and dressing stations treating 800 & 900 men, the post war analysis only found 7 men that died of gas.

But yes, chlorine heavier than air and was reported as being 'bad' in German trenches nearly 12 hours after its release. Probably those that died, either took cover in gas filled trench or had a serious dose at the start or possibly had underlying respiratory problem.

TEW

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Billy

War diaries, like regimental histories, are not necessarily the best indicators of what happened on a particular date. In this case it is quite possible that date of death is correct, and that war diarist noted the casualties without knowing about your man's demise which might have occurred some hours later at a medical facility, or even have been confused with the day he was gassed, if that was actually the case. Does the diary give any indication about the type of the attack and the time? Does the end of the month return (if any) record any fatalities? Also, knowing what date and year might indicate what gases were being used and help give a pointer, again, if that was the actual cause of death.

TR

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Thanks for the replies.

Just for the record, they were in support trenches, August 1918.

The diary simply said : “Quiet day. Working parties supplied at night. Casualties 8 other ranks (Gas)”

Checking on the SDGW CD he was the only man killed on the day. I am now thinking that he may perhaps have been killed in the night time working party. We will probably never know, and I just wanted a few other thoughts.

Thanks, BillyH.

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Thanks for the replies.

Just for the record, they were in support trenches, August 1918.

The diary simply said : “Quiet day. Working parties supplied at night. Casualties 8 other ranks (Gas)”

Checking on the SDGW CD he was the only man killed on the day. I am now thinking that he may perhaps have been killed in the night time working party. We will probably never know, and I just wanted a few other thoughts.

Thanks, BillyH.

Also remember that casualty records in the war diary may actually be from the day before due to the 24hr reporting periods they used for casualties (not always running from midnight to midnight). What was happening on the day before in the diary ?

Craig

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Russ,

My man has the information on his commemorative certificate. As I'm on iPad I can't seem to access that right now.

I know that SDGW, CWGC and Soldiers' effects give conflicting information, DOW, KIA, Died of Gas poisoning.

Off hand I can't say which is which right now. But will update ASAP.

TEW

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Thanks for the replies.

Just for the record, they were in support trenches, August 1918.

The diary simply said : “Quiet day. Working parties supplied at night. Casualties 8 other ranks (Gas)”

Checking on the SDGW CD he was the only man killed on the day. I am now thinking that he may perhaps have been killed in the night time working party. We will probably never know, and I just wanted a few other thoughts.

Thanks, BillyH.

Casualties are not necessarily fatalities. Once effective respirators had been developed only a small proportion of chemical casualties were fatal. Mustard gas, a persistent agent, could inflict a lot of non fatal casualties, on say a working party walking through a contaminated area. There is an account of an entire gun battery blinded in October 1918 and lining up holding each others shoulders in the manner of the famous "Blinded" painting. The author of the account claimed that the battery were so exhausted that the opportunity for 48 hours rest with sore eyes was welcomed..

There seems to have been quite a pragmatic attitude. The crew of the British tank in the first tank v tank action had been gassed in their hide before the battle and half the gunners had difficulties with their eyes.

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Russ

Ok have to be corrected there. But I have 'Died of wounds' from Soldiers' Effects, 'Died of gas poisoning' from WO Casualty Lists, 'Killed in Action' from SDGW and 'Died' from CWGC.

Battalion dairy also says 'quiet day'. I believe he was gassed 2 days earlier so the KIA is certainly mis-leading.

Sorry but at present I have to at least try to mask his ID, not a difficult task for some members to ID him but I tried.

TEW

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Also remember that casualty records in the war diary may actually be from the day before due to the 24hr reporting periods they used for casualties (not always running from midnight to midnight). What was happening on the day before in the diary ?

Craig

Yes, I had thought about that as well Craig.

The war diary for the day before and the day after was pretty much the same. This is the diary for the day before (for what it's worth)

“The day was quiet except for intermittent gas shelling. Working parties supplied at night. Casualties from gas shelling were: 2nd Lieut B.L. Perry and 13 other ranks.”

BillyH.

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Russ

Ok have to be corrected there. But I have 'Died of wounds' from Soldiers' Effects, 'Died of gas poisoning' from WO Casualty Lists, 'Killed in Action' from SDGW and 'Died' from CWGC.

Thanks. Yes, I agree that you can sometimes find conflicting information from the various records - it was just my experience that you can always "rely" on CWGC stating simply "Died" without any further qualification unlike what the others sources provide (irrespective of any potential conflict).

Regards

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