New German weapons

July 13, 2017

WW1 victim of mustard gas from Germans

Suspecting correctly that the British would launch an offensive from Ypres during the European summer, the Germans took an opportunity to test two new chemical weapons.

The first was Blaukreuz or Blue Cross. This was a chloroarsine delivered in powder form by artillery shell. Its shellburst was indistinguishable from a high-explosive shellburst.

The chloroarsine was not lethal, but it caused uncontrollable sneezing and coughing.

These often resulted in an affected soldier removing his gasmask just in time to be affected by Gelbkreuz (Yellow Cross) or mustard gas.

A Gelbkreuz shell burst with a dull plop spraying a lethal chemical that could lie heavily on the ground for days.

Not only did mustard gas cause blindness, vomiting and blistering but after a few hours soldiers affected by it developed fatal pneumonia.

The tests silenced the British guns at Ypres for two days.

After that, Blaukreuz and Gelbkreuz were the mainstays of German chemical attacks for the remainder of the war accounting for more than half of all shells fired. At one point, British had the equivalent of two Divisions in hospital as a result of these weapons.

After an intense bombardment, the Germans captured Nieuport at the mouth of the Yser, just north-west of Ypres.

Two British battalions were cut off and destroyed. A thousand British were captured.

This week the Russians broke through the Austro-Hungarian front in the Ukraine. Seven thousand Austro-Hungarians were captured. Thousands more fled from pursuing Russian cavalry.

The rout was only stemmed when German reserves were rushed into battle at the Ukrainian border. The Russian offensive then collapsed. It was the last Russian effort of the Great War. Desertions of whole Russian units now began.

HMS Vanguard exploded at its anchorage in Scapa Flow. It was thought that faulty cordite in its magazines was the cause. Two of a crew of 845 survived.

This was not the first British battleship that had exploded unexpectedly. Two had sunk after magazine explosions during the Battle of Jutland.

Gabardine was the bridal fabric of choice in 1917. Brides’ preferences were for a cream or champagne gabardine costume at their wedding. One poor bridesmaid endured a shell pink gabardine costume.

This week Benalla saw a local record price paid for 50 prime heavy bullocks from Lima. Each was sold for $41. When slaughtered, each weighed between 363kg and 500kg.

A welcome home party was held for Charles Bell and John Frazer, two foundation members of Benalla Municipal Band back from the front. Twenty-one members of the Band had volunteered for service. Seventeen had gone overseas to fight — an Australian record for a band. Three other soldiers on pre-embarkation leave were also at the party. Two of them would not return.

— John Barry, Anzac Commemorative Working Party. Coo-ee – Honouring our WWI Heroes

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