Military Review

Under a hail of chemical shells. Part of 2

To characterize the specifics of the application and to show the effects of chemical shells in the Russian front, we give several examples from the combat activities of the South-Western front in 1916 - 1917 campaigns.

22 August 1916 located in the Lviv direction on the position at the village. Lopushany 6-th battery of the 3-th artillery brigade from 15-ti hours began to lead a demonstrative disturbing fire on the enemy's trenches. It was a quiet, clear and windless day.

At about 16 hours, an enemy airplane began to adjust the enemy's artillery fire on the battery - 150-mm howitzers opened fire on it. For tactical reasons, Russian gunners could not interrupt the fire, although the shelling of the enemy soon became quite effective.

It was possible to detect rings of smoke rising from the crest of one of the heights - and immediately one of the battery platoons opened fire in this direction. Shells lay to the left, but the enemy's battery ceased firing. But as soon as the shooting at the enemy’s trenches continued, the Russian battery again came under fire from the 150-mm guns. The battery became harder under the devastating fire of the enemy.

Alarmed by this situation and, at the same time, having received the order to continue firing at the trenches, the battalion commander ordered that the chemical ammunition 200 of red shells be transferred to the platoon who was fighting the counter battery. He resumed fire at the enemy trenches and again came under fire from the same 150-mm battery, he ordered to cover all space behind the crest with chemical fire - on the 200-meter square, firing 20 chemical shells through each division of the sight. And when the counterbattery platoon had only 43 chemical projectiles left, the enemy didn’t respond. After about an hour of complete lull, when, having received the order again, the battery was forced to open fire on the trenches, then, despite this, and also the luster from the shots unmasking its actions, the enemy was silent. The 150-mm battery has "disappeared" from its position.

5. The gun on the position.

9 February 1917. The Germans launched an offensive at the Batkuv-Zvyrzhen villages. The 3-th battery of the 3-th artillery brigade, taking a position that allowed flank attack of the advancing enemy, fired at its advancing chains. Suddenly, around 10 hours, one of the enemy's batteries hit the battery, firing chemical shells. The fire took on the character of a hurricane. In the heat of battle, gun crews began to put on gas masks already in a slightly poisoned atmosphere.

The shelling lasted about half an hour. Minutes through 5 after it started the wind increased, which began to carry the gas cloud from the battery. As a result, on this day only 4 people were sent to the medical unit with signs of poisoning. The next day, 19 gunners felt bad - people complained of headaches, nausea, and severe pain in the stomach. On 3, the day after the shelling, that is, February 11, 12 people were evacuated with obvious signs of poisoning. And February 18 almost all (except 2-x) poisoned returned to operation. Thus, almost all of the battery personnel under the influence of poisonous substances suffered despite the use of gas masks, which significantly weakened the effect of the enemy's chemical strike. In the dugouts, despite the spraying of an aqueous solution of ash, residual gas remained for a long time, which also gradually caused poisoning. It was necessary to thoroughly air the premises and artillery items.

In 19 hours of 27 February 1917, the Germans conducted an intensive reconnaissance at the forest site of the 3 Infantry Division - in the area of ​​the Hukali forest - der. Repellers. After the 3-hour artillery preparation with chemical shells, the site was occupied by the enemy. But an hour later, the Germans were knocked out by reserves with the support of artillery fire.

But the enemy continued shelling the entire forest (battle line and reserves) until midnight. As a result, people who were poisoned before 600 were out of action in this combat area. And the next day, the pungent, irritating nose and throat, the smell of gases was still strongly felt. A large number of poisoned due to the fact that the infantry companies that fell under chemical fire were confused and lost their temper, trying to get out of the poisoned area as soon as possible.

6 July 1917 in the position of Zlata Gór - Manilówka - Hukaliyovtse, the Germans, carrying out vigorous preparations for the offensive, sought to paralyze the activities of the Russian artillery in the central military section of the village. Maniluvki. During the period from 3 to 14, this area was under fire from chemical shells, sometimes alternating with high-explosive shells. Since the artillery preparation on the flanks began earlier, the command of the Russian battery managed to take the necessary measures, and all the calculations put on gas masks.

The shelling of the firing position of the battery and the front end continued for 11 hours. Shells burst without a crash, with a hissing sound. Due to the deep dell located behind the battery, the gas cloud crawled down, which was a very favorable circumstance. In total, seven gunners were registered with signs of poisoning. Such low losses were attributed to the use of gas masks, the fact that people were outdoors, and the weather-specific terrain (ascending streams of hot air gradually dispersed the gas cloud).

The situation was different in the line, where the gun front was located. If the riders in gas masks calmly withstood the shelling, the horses, in spite of the sleeves with wet hay they were wearing, were very worried - and as a result, they had to move their vaults no less than a kilometer ago.

It was especially hard for telephonists who rebuilt damaged lines and were forced to run under enemy fire. One unconscious telephonist was found with a gas mask torn off next to him.

In order to facilitate the telephone operators responsible work, a special blindage was equipped between the observation point and the battery. It consisted of tents moistened with a solution of ash strung on wooden frames; the frames at the edges were wrapped with wetted felt - they did not allow gases to pass when closing the dugout. This dugout was very useful to telephonists - he gave them the necessary short respite, and people were able to at least temporarily get rid of the gas mask and breathe freely. However, almost all (6 people) telephonists of the battery with strong signs of poisoning were put out of action.

The vegetation on the position, despite the summer time, looked autumn: the leaves of the trees were curled and turned yellow, the grass was withering and had a dark yellow color. All metal (copper) parts weapons and the gear went green. Eyewitnesses noted the insignificant high-explosive effect of chemical shells. So, 2 projectile struck the roof of the battalion's dugout, but there was no destruction. One of the shells exploded one and a half steps ahead of the telephone operator and did not cause him any harm.

Shelling was carried out by two types of projectiles: the first contained liquid bromide compounds (xylobromide and xylylen bromide) (they gave a pleasant smell and irritated mucous membranes), and the second were filled with palit - metal formic acid ester (this was indicated by a strong effect of gases on metal). A German source recorded that the Germans used to fire chemical shells on a system of so-called "gas rectangles" to neutralize Russian batteries in this battle. This method of firing consisted in the defeat of a predetermined area of ​​the terrain, in the center of which was to be the battery of fire. The shelling area usually had the appearance of a rectangle 200 - 300 meters along the front and 400 - 500 meters in depth, and the number of projectiles needed for this task was calculated based on the square of the rectangle. A similar method of firing chemical shells was used by the Germans on the Russian front during the breakthroughs - at Chervyshchensky springboard on April 3 and near Riga on September 1 of 1917.

6. Defenders of the bridgehead.

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  1. Olgovich
    Olgovich 1 September 2017 06: 51
    Good as always!
    Sources of such a detailed description of events are interesting.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 1 September 2017 07: 45
    Somehow it’s difficult to comment ... to whom the war, to whom the mother is dear
  3. Barcid
    Barcid 1 September 2017 09: 23
    When the process is worked out to the smallest detail, it turns into a routine. And routine is commonplace and losses are small. But it’s interesting to read about little things - I haven’t read such details of chemical counter-battery firing. Thanks to the author.
    BRONEVIK 1 September 2017 19: 14

    Work in a situation of increased complexity. Glory to the Russian artillery!
  5. Lieutenant Teterin
    Lieutenant Teterin 2 September 2017 09: 05
    Wonderful article! To the author - my sincere appreciation for the work done, as well as for the entire series of essays on the WWI. This cycle is very informative, and, importantly, sheds light on the criminally forgotten pages of the military glory of the Russian army.
  6. Alex
    Alex 11 September 2017 20: 35
    Question to the author: did he teach chemistry at all or did he oversleep all the lessons?
    I'll start with this nonsense:
    formic acid metal ester (this was indicated by the strong effect of gases on the metal).
    What kind of beast is this? Methyl ether - yes, it does, but it never happens. A "logical" passage about the connection of the name with the impact on the metal and in general from the field of delirium.

    “Palit”, aka “K.”, aka “S.” - not some kind of mythic ester of formic acid, but a mixed OM consisting of chloromethyl ether of chlorocarbonic acid and dichloromethyl ether of chlorocarbonic acid. It was used for a very short time, soon and everywhere it was replaced by a more effective, cheaper and more convenient trichloromethyl ester of chlorocarbonic acid, in other words - diphosgene, aka Superpalit, Surpalit, aka Per-shtoff.

    Now advice to the author: write about what you know well. If something is not special - it’s not shameful at all, it’s impossible to know everything — then seek the advice or consultation of specialists: there are more than enough of them at VO. Or give yourself the trouble to look at publications, for example, mine on the subject of OB: there all the formulas and names are painted.
    1. OAV09081974
      21 September 2017 23: 12
      Question to the author: did he teach chemistry in general or did he miss all the lessons? I'll start with such nonsense
      What kind of beast is this? Methyl ether - yes, it does, but it never happens. A "logical" passage about the connection of the name with the impact on the metal and in general from the field of delirium.

      Dear Alex!
      I was interested in the peculiarities of the chemical counter-battery struggle on the Russian front of the WWI.
      I myself am not a chemist - but with regard to the names of the chemicals used (or supposedly used) in these battles by the Germans and the impact (in the latter case) on the metal - then this information is present in the OFFICIAL REPORTS of the actions of these batteries. Plus, studied the comments of specialists of those years. I myself did not invent these names. Perhaps something is named because it was called in 1917. 100 years have passed. Maybe chemists 1917 years are wrong.
      Or take the trouble to view publications, for example, my on the subject of OV: there all the formulas and names are painted

      To know more actually - who you are.
      Anyway - all the best to you and thank you for your valuable recommendations.
      1. Alex
        Alex 24 September 2017 23: 18
        I'll start with the presentation. hi I am a candidate of chemical sciences and a candidate of pedagogical sciences. I graduated from the chemistry department of Kiev State University.

        Now about the terminology. Over the past 100 years, she - believe the specialist - has not changed, since its foundations were developed years ago that way 150. And during the WWII, the names of chemicals did not change.

        On the impact on materials, in particular on metals. I have no doubt for a second, because I know for sure that most chlorine and sulfur-containing substances (and OM refers to them) have an extremely aggressive effect on metals, which was noted by the witnesses you indicated. It was about the fact that there is no connection between the word "metal", referring to real material, and the mythical "metal ether". Perhaps this is a very common mistake in pronouncing the name of the radical "methyl" - we, chemistry students grinned when Major Ryabov read the names of various chemicals used by the chemical defense forces at the university’s military department. Among them was "mono-metal-alamine," which turned out to be "monoethanolamine."

        Perhaps I very sharply ran into you, of which I apologize now. The fact is that this resource is quite popular and competent in matters of military history, and therefore it would not be desirable for young people reading its publications to replicate mistakes and "flips."

        And finally, if you may, practical advice. When I personally started writing articles, I first looked through all the publications on this site. I did this for two purposes: not to write what has already been written and to coordinate my knowledge with the opinions of people more competent than me. And then, the very first publication caused a lot of comments, and not always friendly. However, this also benefited. I recommend you do the same - it will save a lot of time and save you from annoying mistakes. But they are inevitable: it is impossible to know everything and this is by no means shameful.

        I wish you further creative success! drinks

        PS By the way, your descriptions of counter-chemical warfare for me personally were a revelation, for which special thanks to you!
        1. OAV09081974
          25 September 2017 08: 24
          Nice to meet you!
          Clear. Honestly, I took the word for the materials of those years - the external changes of surrounding objects were especially vigorously described after the Germans used chemical projectiles, in particular about the fact that the copper equipment turned green and the grass withered. Maybe other substances were used, or the reason is different - this is the guesswork of the gunners.
          My mistake was not to check it, I took the word, did not consult with chemists.
          By the way) After the release of one of the articles - in the Chemical War series on the Russian front of the WWI. Fatal Smarhon - one comrade asked the question: what gas did a milky-bluish cloud give when gas was released by its gas balloon method (while chlorine gave a brown color, phosgene is colorless, and mustard gas appeared only in 17 year). Even our local chief of chemical protection could not answer))
          Your advice is very valuable, and if I return to similar questions, I will definitely consult you, if you don’t mind.
          Thank you for your advice and suggestions. hi
          Best regards
          Oleynikov A. drinks
          1. Alex
            Alex 25 September 2017 10: 20
            Quote: OAV09081974
            I will definitely consult you if you do not mind.
            Always happy to help yes

            Green copper coins and buttons are a clear sign of chlorine, copper reacts with it in the air (due to the presence of moisture) quite quickly.

            I only know about Smorgon that they used mainly chlorine with impurities of phosgene and bromine (this one is for more stable filling of troughs). What gave such an effect there is hard to say. Maybe it’s just water fog that could (this is just an assumption) form when the gas escapes from the cylinders abruptly: this process takes place with the absorption of heat and can cause significant air cooling. If so, then chlorine and phosgene could slightly dissolve in this fog and form a fairly stable aerosol. Something like this.

            Best regards again!
  7. Some kind of compote
    Some kind of compote 21 September 2017 22: 45
    Excellent article good
    A similar method of shelling with chemical shells was used by the Germans on the Russian front during breakthroughs - at the Chervishchensky bridgehead on April 3 and near Riga on September 1, 1917
    I read about the bridgehead, but I did not know this
    Thank you for the unknown details of the chemical war. soldier
  8. Bouncer
    Bouncer 9 March 2018 14: 41
    Thanks for the interesting article!