This Day in History - 22 April
In 1915,the second battle of Ypres started when German troops released clouds of deadly chlorine gas on British troops. It was the first major gas attack of World War I.
The German Army released 168 long tons (171 t) of chlorine gas over a 6.5 km (4.0 mi) front on the line held by French Territorial and Moroccan and Algerian troops of the French 45th and 87th divisions.
Anthony R. Hossack of the Queen Victoria's Rifles described the chaos as the French Colonial Corps troops fled from the gas,
Plainly something terrible was happening. What was it? Officers, and Staff officers too, stood gazing at the scene, awestruck and dumbfounded; for in the northerly breeze there came a pungent nauseating smell that tickled the throat and made our eyes smart. The horses and men were still pouring down the road. two or three men on a horse, I saw, while over the fields streamed mobs of infantry, the dusky warriors of French Africa; away went their rifles, equipment, even their tunics that they might run the faster. One man came stumbling through our lines. An officer of ours held him up with levelled revolver, "What's the matter, you bloody lot of cowards?" says he. The Zouave was frothing at the mouth, his eyes started from their sockets, and he fell writhing at the officer's feet.
Within days the British were advised by John Scott Haldane to counter the effects of the gas by urinating into a cloth and breathing through it. Both sides set about developing more effective gas masks. After a month of bloody battle, a stalemate was reached.
In the British Official History, J. E. Edmonds and G. C. Wynne recorded British losses of 59,275 casualties, the French about 18,000 casualties on 22 April and another 3,973 from 26–29 April.