War history didn’t know gas attacks before WW1, and these photos will show you how combatants, civils, and sometimes animals, protected themselves with gas masks against this new mortal threat.
The historical appearance of gas attacks
Germans were the first to realize the efficiency of the gas attacks, but other countries followed them very soon. The very first german forces used chemical shells on April 22 versus the french division. Russian forces faced the green gas threat on May 31, 1915. A greenish cloud that appeared above the trenches at about 3:30 a.m. was mistaken for a well-known smoke screen, usually followed by an attack. Therefore, reserves tightened around the front line, and the forward line as crowded as possible.
Two Russian regiments were virtually destroyed as a result. Losses included 16 officers and 3147 soldiers. Total casualties on the entire front sector hit eight thousand.
All allied countries started their researches towards any protection from gas attacks. Russian scientists played an exceptional role in the history of chemical warfare, and in particular, in the history of the development of gas masks.
Both in the pre-war period and during the war of 1914-1918, there were many outstanding world-famous scientists among the Russian professors. Most of them were involved in defense researches.
The best mean of protection involved activated charcoal, which performed as a natural filter for gas masks. The crush-testing was pretty simple: sulfur was burned in an empty room, and when the concentration of sulfur dioxide reached a level at which it was impossible to enter the room without a gas mask, people came into it with worn gauze bandages, between the layers of which fine-grained activated charcoal was wrapped. Charcoal showed the best result when used with a tight fit of a gas mask.
Nonetheless, the history of the gas mask is not that simple. Russians somewhat improved gas masks and adjusted them to the gas attacks protection then invented them. Let’s note that the modern gas mask was designed in 1912 by the American Garret Morgan. True, it was intended to protect firefighters and engineers during toxic environments works. Lewis Haslet claimed the first American patent for a “lung protection device” in 1849. The German Alexander Drager patented his gas mask design in America in 1914. All of these history devices are here, in this gas masks photos collection.