THE MEDICAL ASPECTS OF GAS WARFARE


During WW1, Gas Warfare was first used at the Battle of 2nd Ypres in 1915 when Chlorine gas was released from cylinders with devastating effect on French Colonial Troops. This use of gas from cylinders, however, was dependent on the prevailing wind and it was subsequently found that chemical agents could be carried more effectively inside shells; these could be fired at the enemy, independent of the weather.

The gases used during WW1 may be classified as:

1. Lacrimators: (eye irritants and "tear gases") such as Benzylbromide.

2. Sternutators: (nasal irritants, "sneeze gases," "vomiting gases"), such as
Diphenylchlorarsine. Sternutator gases were mixed with the other, more lethal, gases in order to interfere with the men wearing their protective gas masks.

3. Lung irritants: (suffocants, respiratory irritants) Chlorine, Phosgene, carbon oxychloride, chlormethylchlorformate, bromacetone, chloropicrin.

4. Vesicants (skin irritants, escharotics) Dichlorethylsulphide, or Mustard Gas, chlorarsines and bromoarsines.

Dr M. G. Miller, Editor.

 


 

The Medical Manual of Chemical Warfare, published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1941 Edition, based on data from 1918. A detailed account of the general effects of gases used during war and the appearance, physical properties, effect, treatment and decontamination of the vesicant gases, Mustard and Lewisite. Chapters VIII and IX have been omitted as these relate to gas warfare on civilians and Armed Forces during World War 2.


The Medical Manual also includes an Atlas of Gas Poisoning, first published in 1918, the 3rd Edition of March 1938 is reproduced here.

 


The following descriptions of the medical effects of Gas Warfare have been extracted from "The Medical Department of the United States in the World War", Volume XIV. 
A Description of the Medical Effects of the Various Gases used during WW1   The classification and methods of use of the gases used on the Western Front.   
The Pathological Effects of Gas Warfare  An account of the general pathological findings in 107 fatal gas cases, subjected to postmortem examination during 1918. This article describes the effect of suffocant gases, the pathology of Mustard gas poisoning is described separately in the next link.

The Pathology of Mustard Gas  The detailed post mortem examination reports of twenty five men who suffered fatal exposure to this gas,


  Notes on the Use of Gas in the last War   Extracted from:   "Air Raid Precautions Hand-book No. 3, 1st Edition, HMSO. London 1937. This handbook was introduced in 1937 to advise those concerned with Air Raid Precautions about the potential dangers of WW1 gas warfare and, in particular, the dangers of gases dropped by aircraft. In the event war gases were not used during WW2 and no gas was dropped by air. References to the effects of gas warfare on civilians has therefore been edited out, but the chapter was based on a review of war gases used during 1915 to 1918 and gives valuable information about the usage and classification of war gases during the Great  War.

  The Mode of Action of Mustard Gas An Editorial in the MJA, 7th February, 1919


  Protection for animals used for transport and communication

This link illustrates the measures used to protect horses, mules, dogs and carrier pigeons from poison gases.

 

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