Read today's entry from Harry Gissing's 1914-18 war diaries

August 14, 1917

Now have to go on the early morning parade, 7 a.m. Simply a roll call. At 9 a.m. we went for a route march through Reniecure, passing through some beautiful country the road running along a ridge from which splendid views could be seen. Harvesting now in progress altho’ sadly upset by the rain, which we have had lately almost daily.

Before returning we called in at the Engineers Camp for a Gas lecture. A new gas used by the huns this last month has caused a lot of casualties and apparently went a long way to check our Flanders offensive. This gas is like mustard, ol sinafes perhaps, and is fired in shell 7.7 and 10.5 containing the liquid combined with enough explosive sufficient to burst the shell. The liquid then becomes gas and affects both the eyes and lungs in addition to the skin. The eyes become entirely closed with great pain, but ultimately recover. The lungs may be affected for months or even years, while the skin is blistered if it comes in contact with it.

The enemy with his usual thoroughness only uses it when ‘tis most favourable, i.e. night and morning, wind about 4 miles per hour or light mist. Strong wind, hot sun and heavy rain weakens its effect so under these conditions ‘tis rarely used. Our casualties apparently were very heavy altho’ ‘twas proved conclusively that our helmets were a perfect protection, they were either not put on properly or quickly enough, either through carelessness or failure to smell or realise the seriousness of the gas.

Armentieres was bombarded early in the morning very suddenly, 120 gas shells to the minute being rained on the town followed by a heavy bombardment of H.E. and shrapnel, designed to make the troops cover in dugouts and cellars already filled with gas. The idea was successful. The civilian casualties totalled 1,500 but cannot find out how many amongst the troops. Lecture to that Subdivision during the afternoon.


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