At 9.00pm on the evening of 22nd April 1915, news was received at the 2nd Battalion in the front line between La Clytte and Resninghelst, that to the north near Ypres, the Germans had used poisoned gas for the first time.
The war diary made mention of this ‘obnoxious gas’ and that it “hurt men’s eyes” It was the first use of gas warfare against the Allies during the Great War.
In the first instance, handkerchiefs and socks soaked in urine were the most basic of protection. Shortly afterwards an appeal went out to women in England and the Empire to make small facemasks filled with cotton wool and fitted with tapes to allow it to be tied around the wearers head. Separate rubber goggles were issued to cover the eyes against its effects.
It was however quickly discovered that the wool pads, when soaked in repelling liquid (normally sodium thiosulphate and glycerine), it formed a complete mass and made breathing through it impossible. Quickly the cotton wool was changed to cotton waste which did not form a solid mass. The first basic gas masks were christened ‘black veiling’ respirators on account that black silk crepe from old mourning dresses was the best material to use. This simple ‘gas mask’ continued in service for a further two months until a better solution was found to the problem.
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.