Wilfred Owen's Use Of Chemical Weapons In Ww1

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“In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, he plunges at me, guttering, chocking, drowning.” This verse from the British poet and veteran, Wilfred Owen, encapsulates the essence of chemical weaponry in the First World War. Inherently, tactics and strategy are as old as warfare itself. Indeed, as technology evolves, so does the way war is waged. The concept of chemical warfare did not come to fruition until the 20th century, when military officials were horrified yet impressed at the devastating effects of such weapons on European battlefields. The aim of this work is to study the extensive use of chemical warfare during the First World War; the principle topics being the origin of this warfare, major chemical attacks during the war, an overview …show more content…

The attack, however, failed due to faulty charges and design. Nonetheless, it was the first attempt by a belligerent to use chemical weapons during the war. Germany possessed a significant advantage when it came to the development of chemical weapons. This is primarily due to the massive chemical industry in the country that included corporations such as “BASF, Bayer, Hoescht, and Agfa.” After the failed attack, Germany tried once again by launching 18,000 150 mm howitzer shells containing xylyl bromide at Russian lines. The shells were rendered useless, however, due to the subfreezing temperatures during the winter of 1915. A few months later, in the spring of 1915, the Germans would have their first successful chemical attack. With the wind in their favor, German troops released chemicals from buried cylinders facing the French and Algerian lines near Ypres. The effect was devastating as two divisions of Allied soldiers ran in horror, while the chlorine continued to blind them and burn their lungs. In turn, the German forces captured two villages, abandoned weapons, and three miles of territory. The German Army launched another attack two days later on Canadian soldiers north of Ypres, which would be used by the Allies to create propaganda against the Central Powers. Subsequently, the Allies retaliated in a tic-for-tac manner by engaging in their own chemical offensives. In September 1915, “the British released a mixture of chlorine gas and smoke from artificial smoke candles over the German lines for about forty minutes before commencing an infantry assault.” Unfortunately for them, the wind blew the toxic gases back to their lines and inflicted more casualties than on the Germans. Following this, both sides did not hesitate to launch chemical attacks. By 1916, both the Allies and the Central Powers discarded the Hague Declaration and were

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