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100 years ago: Germany uses poison gas

by
08 May 2015

May 7th, 1915.

IT IS not too much to say that the whole civilized world has been shocked by the German army's use of poisonous gases as weapons of warfare, and the feeling of horror is intensified by Sir John French's description of their effect, which is not merely disabling or even painlessly fatal. "Those of its victims," Sir John French wrote on May 3, "who do not succumb on the field and who can be brought into hospital suffer acutely, and in a large proportion of cases die a painful and lingering death. Those who survive are in little better case, as the injury to their lungs appears to be of a permanent character, and reduces them to a condition which points to their being invalids for life." As though their use of this horrible aid to fighting were not vile enough, the Germans have added lying to their iniquity. Sir John French affirms that they had made long and methodical preparation on a large scale, yet a week before they employed the asphyxiating gas they announced that they meant to use it because we had already done so. Our Commander-in-Chief detects a reason for this "astounding falsehood" in a desire "to forestall neutral and possibly domestic criticism" on an act the illegality of which they clearly recognized. It is gratifying to see that in Hungary amazement is expressed at the adoption of unscrupulous tactics by Germany, with all her strength and resources, against an adversary whom she professes to despise as weaker than herself and in every way inferior. Hungarians are saying, and with justice, that neither Austrians nor Russians have soiled their hands with these abominable atrocities.


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