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Ypres Gas attack august 1916


Bert Heyvaert
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Dear friends,

I am looking for any information regarding the German gas attack in the Ypres Salient 8/9th august 1916. I am especially interested to find out what the extend of the front was where the gas was released, what the points of release were, and which German units were on the other side.

I have the war dairies of the 4th division, who were in the Northeastern part of the salient, but I am lacking any information on units of the 29th division, who were on the right of the 4th division.

Many thanks,

Bert

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You may remember we had a brief discussion on this on a thread a long time ago. I can only contribute a little bit more.

The 2nd Army diary says the following:

" After bombarding our trenches between BELLWARDE LANE &

the YSER CANAL enemy discharged gas against left Bde of

4th Div and left Bde of 29th Div, the former discharge being the heavier.

Raid by about 30 Germans followed, but did not reach

our trenches.

Effect of gas was felt as far back as POPERINGHE where

helmets had to be worn. "

The episode is described in the Diary of No 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station to which most of the casualties were directed. The gas alarm was heard at 11:30 P.M. and casualties began arriving about 4:00 A.M. There is a list of fatalities including regiments and times of death. Rather grim reading, actually.

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Very interesting. Thanks James. Fascinating to see the way that the CCS set up an oxygen administration system. Sounds rather Heath-Robinson in design - good example of initiative and ingenuity. Several casualties developed pneumonia, not surprisingly. What did stand out was the casualty who developed signs of blockage of the arteries in one leg.

Robert

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Hallo Bert,

The gas attack of 8/8/1916 was carried out on a front width of 1 km, and the gas cloud (mixture of phosgene-chlore ) reached a distance of 13,7 kms.

A total of 370 men were killed, and 434 injured by gas.

Large proportion of fatalities had several causes :

the gas mixture contained more phosgene than previously

relief wa s taking place at the time,

trenches were crowded

Regards,

Cnock

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Thanks all, for these most interesting replies.

Especially James, thanks a lot for that reference!

I still have some questions left... I wonder why the 2nd Hampshires (29th Division) had so many fatalities. They had 116 killed on the day and 8 d.o.w. the next day. Their trenches were close to the enemy lines, but not closer than those of the 4th Division. The 4th Division was were the relief was takin place, in the 11th brigade. This brigade suffered heavily, it had 151 killed on the 8th-9th. But still this is 4 battalions.

regards,

Bert

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Bert,

Looking at a map, yes, 2nd Hamphires indeed were close (they were in trenches east of Potijze), closer than other units. Except maybe 11th Brigade in the north, who appear to have been close too. Somehow however I have always assumed that in the north, after the winter 1915/16 positions were less manned. (Wider front per battalion ?)

Also : could the wind direction have played a part ? It was a northeast wind, and being east of Ypres (Potijze, 2nd Hamphires) and not north of Ypres (11th Brigade) might make a difference.

By the way, the map I'm referring to is from RIR 234, page 199, Skizze 19. However, it is an "Abschnittseinteilung 1916 XXVI R.R. (showing German troops positions of 52. R.D. and 51. R.D. (but I'm sure you have that one).

Aurel

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I don't know the topograhpy of this area well. It is worth bearing in mind that the gas clouds 'flowed', being heavier than air. Wind direction was important in determining the overall direction but the contours played a role too. Thus gas clouds would 'flow' around high points in the ground and preferentially into lower areas. Think of the effect of releasing a body of water. This may help in figuring why some geographic locations were better/worse off than others.

Robert

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Hi all,

I think I found an answer to my question. As you can see on this 55th Division HQ map, a sap runs out into no man's land at the Mound, the site where it was said the gas on the 29th divisional front was released. It is said that on the 4th Divisional front close to the canal the Germans placed the gas cilinders in their front line trenches, and than laid rubber tubes from the cilinders to their sap-heads to release the gas. If they did the same thing here, many men must have been overcome by the gas before they could have had chance to put their gas helmets on, as the distance between the sap head and the British lines is very short indeed. Just to give you an idea, the road coming from Potyze was more or less the battalion boundary. Hampshires were to the North and suffered 116 killed, Inniskilin Fusiliers to the south of the road suffered 79 fatalities.

regards,

Bert

post-204-1139151713.jpg

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Bert,

I don't know if this is of any use to you. In my previous posting I referred to a map in RIR 234. Unfortunately, I only photocopied that one page (199), not the previous one(s), not the following one(s). The text on the page I have is :

"Da sich die Windverhältnisse im Abschnitt besserten, wurde das schon längst beabsichtigte Gasunternehmen am 7. abends zur Ausführung gebracht. Es klappte nicht alles wie es sein sollte, einige F. Batterien kamen wiederum überhaupt nicht zum Abblasen, da die Ventile eingerostet waren. Die Wirkung auf den Feind war daher in keiner Weise die beabsichtigte; der Engländer war durchaus vorbereitet und unsere vorge....

(Rest on page 200, which I don't have.)

I'm not sure whether this excerpt deals with the 8 Aug. Gas attack, but I think this Gas attack was in the evening (abends), wasn't it ? So these valves that didn't work may have been the explanation for some of the lower casualties. (The problem is that I don't know where on the front line these unfit cilinders were installed.)

Aurel

Edited one minute later...

Oops, I think I made an error. Now I see that this German source mentions "7. abends". Not the 8th of the month. So probably it must have been a gas attack some other time in 1916, not August.

Anyway, maybe worthwhile having a look in RIR 234 ?

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