Military Review

"The gas vortex." Chemical war on the Russian front of the First World War. H. 1

A warfare agent is a chemical substance used in combat that infects living organisms or infects objects with which the latter may come in contact.

Already in Antiquity and later, people tried to use various substances (sulfur, tar, saltpeter, vegetable oils, etc.) for military purposes. In 1855, the British command was considering a project to destroy the garrison of Sevastopol using sulfur dioxide. Chlorine and phosgene are known from the XVIII century; diphenylchloroarsine was discovered in 1885, and mustard gas was first (unclean) obtained in 1888.

But the lack of a production base did not allow the use of poisonous substances on a serious scale until the beginning of the First World War.

22. 04. 1915 in 16. 45. the French forces, which occupied positions between Langemark and Bixshut, were subjected to a chemical attack by the Germans. The Germans were the first to apply the new method of warfare, reaching a technical surprise - and for the first time using chemical weapon in April 1915 in French, and in May 1915 in the Russian Fronts.

The first gas attack of the Germans in Ypres 22. 04. 1915 was carried out by the gas balloon method. The chlorine in the liquid state was released from the cylinders — with a turn of the valve, leaving the gaseous state and forming a cloud — so-called. "Gas wave", which in the direction of the enemy's positions drove the wind. The method assumed time-consuming installation of equipment and the presence of favorable weather conditions: the necessary wind speed and direction, soil temperature and air humidity.

Compared to the use of chemical projectiles, the gas cylinder method had many significant shortcomings, the main of which was its dependence on the presence of certain meteorological conditions — primarily on the direction and strength of the wind.

Initially, only chlorine was used for gas balloon attacks, and subsequently - a mixture of chlorine and phosgene, chlorine and chloropicrin.

Artillery chemical firing tactical flexibility took first place.

Without requiring complicated preparation, she submitted to the general rules of artillery fire technology. True, for the competent use of chemical ammunition it was still necessary to take into account various conditions affecting the success of chemical firing (wind force, rain, and other meteorological conditions). Like a gas launch, chemical artillery shooting depended primarily on two factors - the weather and the terrain. But the influence of these factors was not as strong as with the gas balloon method — for example, the direction of the wind, which played a decisive role in gas balloon attacks, almost did not matter. The Germans considered extreme limits for wind speed for “shooting to create a cloud” - 1,5 meters per second, for “gas attack” - 3 meters per second, for “firing on infection” - 5 meters per second.

The Germans used the 3 basic types of chemical shells: blue, green, and yellow cross. There was also a special tactic of chemical artillery firing, which provided for both the order of application and the standards for the volume of used munitions. The Russian gunners in 1916 - 1917 also received similar shells - the so-called. red (the filling is a mixture of chloropicrin and sulfuryl chloride), blue-gray (the filling is a mixture of phosgene and chlorine tin) and blue (the filling is vensenite).

Chemical shells could “neutralize” entire territories from the enemy: the norm established that with fire on areas one 75-76-mm projectile should fall on 40, and one 152-mm projectile - on 80 square. meters What was important was the systematic nature of the conduct of chemical artillery fire (see more details Artillery chemical shooting; After Ypres - the French response to the Teutons; Under a hail of chemical shells. Part of 1; Under a hail of chemical shells. Part of 2).

Gas balloon attacks


Bolimov and Volya Shidlovskaya, May 18 1915

We wrote about it in detail in an article on HE (The first is poisonous. Part of 1. Chlorine hurricane ; The first is poisonous. Part of 2. Not one step back).

By activating 12 gas cylinders on the 12000-km front, the Germans followed the gas launch of the 9 infantry attacks. In an atmosphere of absolute tactical surprise (unfamiliar with the use of chemical weapons, Russian troops took the gas cloud for smoke, masking an infantry attack), suffering heavy losses (55 Infantry Infantry and 14 Siberian Infantry Divisions lost more than 9000 people, including 1183 dead ), Russian troops repulsed the onslaught of the enemy - with great losses for the latter.

Having come under the blow of a new weapon for the first time, having no means of chemical protection, the Russian troops resisted and did not give the enemy a piece of land.

Suha - Volya Shidlovskaya, 24 June 1915

On the night of June 24, the Germans repeated the gas balloon attack — now in the area occupied by units of the 55 Infantry and 6 Siberian Rifle Divisions. The chemical discipline was still low - and the passage of the German gas wave caused considerable losses to parts of the 21 Siberian Infantry and 218 Infantry Regiments. Despite the additional gas releases against the counter-attacking Russian troops, the latter managed to restore the lost position.

The total losses of the 218 regiment amounted to 2,6 thousand people, and in the 21-m Siberian only half-company remained combat-ready. The 1 battle magazine of the Astrakhan Cossack Regiment recorded that the Cossacks provided assistance to the injured Siberians and helped to remove the guns. Having restored the situation together with the units of the 50 Infantry Division, the Astrakhans witnessed a heavy picture - they saw the corpses of the soldiers (the poisoned soldiers were overpowered by the Germans) and the officers (many poisoned officers, so that they could not be taken prisoner - shot) of the 21 Siberian Regiment .

The 220 Infantry Regiment that conducted the counterattack lost up to 1,4 thousand people. The battalion of the 22 Siberian Regiment, which, during a counterattack, overcame the gas wave, lost a quarter of its composition.

Moreover, when the wind suddenly changed its direction, the gas caused heavy losses in the German trenches.

Osovets, 24 July 1915

Unable to destroy the fortress of Osovets with heavy artillery fire (including 420-mm caliber), the Germans launched a chemical attack (see 10 Facts about Attacking the Dead).

Applying 30 gas batteries and manpower, 6-fold superior to the defenders, the enemy failed to achieve the desired result. The German infantry that had broken through was counterattacked by the defenders and destroyed. The enemy suffered heavy losses - including from its own gases (up to a thousand people).

Although the presence of primitive gas masks, the courage and heroism of the Russian troops disrupted the gas attack of the enemy.

4 June 1916, Krevo.

The gas cylinder attack took place at Krevo, west of Molodechno - and the 48 Infantry Division was hit in parts. The attack was carried out under favorable meteorological and topographical conditions for the Germans: open, down to Russian positions, removal of enemy trenches only half a kilometer, wind 2 - 4 m / s. The vigilance of the commanders and personnel of the Russian units, who took the appropriate precautions (masks and gas masks, igniting fires), thwarted the enemy himataku.

Reconnaissance secrets were moved to the wire barriers (they included soldiers from regimental gas teams) - they had a telephone connection with the headquarters of battalions and regiments and were equipped with shrapnel for sending sound signals with empty glasses. Gas waves, released by the enemy in the 2 hours of the night, were discovered by the scout of the 189 Infantry Regiment - Private Kononov crawled close to the German wire fence. The fighter was able to promptly notify the advanced company of the impending danger.

Smorgon, 19 June 1916

In places. Smorgon, the main gas strike of the enemy, fell on the 64 Infantry Division of the 26 Army Corps. The “gas accessible” terrain of Smorgon, the distance between the trenches of 300 opponents - 1500 steps, weak winds - favored the German gas attack (see On the path of a chemical hurricane. Part of 1. Fatal Smarhon).

The Russian command managed to take the necessary measures (the troops were warned about the possibility of a chemical strike, provided with gas masks, material was prepared for fires (a fire - the most effective chemical protective agent after the gas mask), water tanks (20-30% soda solution) were put in the trenches quicklime), and 2 gas waves, accompanied by infantry attacks, did not lead the Germans to success.

The 1,5-hour gas attack led to the penetration of toxic substances at 12-km depth, and in the 3 divisions of the 26 corps 45 officers were poisoned (including 5 died) and more than 2,5 thousand lower ranks (including 429 died - of which 412 was a man in the 254 Infantry Regiment of Nikolaev).

But the enemy did not achieve the desired, although he inflicted heavy losses on the Russian troops. When it came under fire, the German infantry swung back, and Russian artillery damaged the gas cylinders with a return fire.

1. Chronicles of the War 1914-15-16 No. 95.

Smorgon, 20 July 1916

On the night of July 20, the Germans again on the Smorgon fighting area struck a chemical blow at Smorgon-Krevo in units of the Caucasian Grenadier Division (see On the path of a chemical hurricane. Part of 1. Fatal Smarhon).

The grenadier was caught off guard, and the trenches were crowded. Gas masks for many fighters were not at hand. But there was no panic, and the strike of the German infantry was repulsed. Of great importance were the actions of Russian gunners - operating in the gas cloud clubs.

Losses - up to 4 thousand Grenadiers poisoned (died before 300 people).

But the warriors heroically fulfilled their duty.

September 9 1916, Naroch.

Under the veil of thick morning fog, the Germans struck a gas balloon attack on the 2-th Siberian rifle division, which occupied positions on the front south-west of Lake Naroch. 2 waves of poisonous gases, stumbled upon a ridge of elevations (92 mark), poured into lower places.

Detained in various cavities, trenches and shelters, the remnants of gases were neutralized using smoke bombs and fires lit in trenches and shelters. Part of the gas wave penetrated beyond the dd line. Nodes, Broussi and Andrei.

A total of 2660 people were disabled.

11 September gas attack took place south of Art. Baranovichi.

Ikskyl, 12 September 1916

12. 09. 1916 (25. 09. Of the new style), the Germans struck a gas strike on the positions of the Kamenetz Infantry Regiment of the 173 Infantry Regiment located on the Ikskylsky bridgehead (On the path of a chemical hurricane. Part of 2. Gas tornado on the Ikskyul bridgehead). Although the personnel of the 44 Division (which included the regiment) in June was familiar with the combat properties of toxic agents, there were masks and gas masks of Zelinsky-Kummant, tactical surprise was of great importance - it was not possible to detect a gas wave on the approach to the positions. The personnel of the 173 regiment prepared in advance to repel the gas strike, but it suffered seriously - 811 people got poisoned (of which 272 died). But the double attack of the German infantry was repelled.

The Germans used the 3 gas bar.

The gas cylinder attack at Ikskylä was also successfully repulsed, without leading to a change in the situation on this sector of the front. The Germans also received a fire response - after the 3 gas passage, Russian heavy artillery retaliated with several gas cylinders.

2. Military thought and revolution. 8,24.

Kroshin and Adakhovshchina, September 24 1916

On the night of 24. 09. 1916 d. Two regiments of the 2 Grenadier Division — the 6 Grenadier Tavrichesky and 8 th Moscow Grenadiers for the first time experienced the effects of German chemical weapons — in the local area. Kroshin and der. Adakhovshchina (see On the path of a chemical hurricane. Part of 3. Grenadiers under attack).

The main blow during the gas start, which occurred around 24 hours, fell on the trenches of Moscow and Tavrič. The time of passage of a gas cloud is from an hour to one and a half. Repeated gas waves were present at different sites. The attack was carried out on the 5-km front, and a gas wave penetrated the rear of the 12-km depth. Chlorine was used (but one of the officers smelled the smell, similar to the smell of hay - it was given by phosgene). Most likely - chlorine-phosgene mixture was used.

4895 people poisoned 988 (including 76 died) people. Due to the timely use of chemical protective equipment (this concerned not only the supply, but also training in the use of masks and gas masks), most of the poisonings were mild. Brought fruit and high-quality monitoring and alarm systems.

We took care of timely evacuation of the victims.

Division doctor P. Potiralovsky developed vigorous activity. The entire transport division was actively involved. Porters of the divisional dressing unit and regimental doctors worked tirelessly - oxygen and dressing points were organized. The wounded were not only transported by transport, but sometimes carried on their hands.

The gas attack once again revealed the advantage of Zelinsky’s gas masks, as well as the fact that, with the observance of chemical discipline, personnel losses were minimized. The enormous role of fires was revealed (which prevented the passage of gas waves, and, like the hydraulic controls, helped to clean trenches and shelters from gas). They began to organize the first medical aid points - oxygen stations equipped with oxygen pillows and balloons.

15 November 1916, Baranavichy.

The Grenadier Corps was subjected to a gas cylinder strike. 3 gas waves were released (two almost immediately after each other - in 20. 20., And the third - to 22 hours). The wind drove the waves through the Russian positions in 10 - 20 minutes (gas stagnated only in hollows). Due to the strong concentration, the gas advanced to a considerable depth: the smell and effects on the respiratory organs were felt even in 30 - 45 km from the front line, at the army headquarters. The measures taken in due time caused the losses to be relatively insignificant: 495 people were poisoned (of which 33 people died) - that is, 2,5% of people exposed to gases.

In the spring of 1917, the Austrian "Special Engineer Battalion" conducted a series of small gas-cylinder attacks against the troops of the Russian Western Front - at Bogdanov, Smorgon, Leshchanyaty and Postav.


Smorgon, 24 August 1916

Russian troops struck back chemical attacks on the enemy. In particular, in August 1916 near Smorgon (see Chemical retribution. Part of 1. Answer from Smorgon) at the 2-km combat section of the 2 Infantry Division.

2200 cylinders were used (500 large and 1700 small, with a capacity of 32,5 tons). Attack duration is 15 minutes (from 03. 30. To 03.45). It was discontinued because the gas wave was shifted by the wind, and the fire of German artillery and mortars destroyed 3 and damaged the 3 gas cylinder, which resulted in losses.

Russian artillery led an active counter-battery struggle - including using chemical ammunition.

The actions of the 5 chemical team were quite effective.

The gas 3 meter wall hit the target (up to 13 tons of gas was consumed).

Olsevichi, October 12 1916

October 12 1916 d. The 6-I chemical team conducted a gas balloon attack on the 2-km front of the Olsevichsky bridgehead (see Chemical retribution. Part of 2. 6 Team Specials). 1200 50-kilogram (30-31 kg) and 3000 30-kilogram (13,5 kg) gas cylinders were involved.

The attack in three waves led to the fact that gas waves penetrated into the enemy's rear on 10 - 12 km.

The gas cylinder attack was supplemented with a chemical strike.

German troops suffered serious losses - during the next day the enemy transports were evacuated, evacuating the injured. The 6 chemical team lost about 70 people (including the deceased).

In 1916, gas balloon attacks were practiced very actively - especially by the Germans. But serious goals (due to the loss of technical surprise) could not be achieved. The introduction of chemical protection means and the strengthening of gas discipline forced us to consider a gas balloon attack in this period only as a tool for inflicting losses on the enemy.

13 January 1917, during the German counteroffensive during the Mitava operation, the Russians carried out a gas balloon attack at the r. Aa - on the Riga-Mitavskoy road. In 7 hours, despite the blizzard, 2 gas waves were released. At the same time, an artillery chemical fire was fired - with phosgene shells (up to 2000 units). The chemical attack was followed by searches of the scouts that ended unsuccessfully.

To be continued
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  1. Blue cop
    Blue cop 25 December 2017 06: 46
    Super! Chemical warfare is in the system.
    Initially - gas attacks (them and ours).
    Clear and interesting
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 25 December 2017 07: 19
    Thanks, interesting, we look forward to continuing ...
  3. XII Legion
    XII Legion 25 December 2017 07: 24
    Russian chemical troops gave a worthy rebuff to the adversary.
    The blow was retaliatory - Germany turned out to be the chemical aggressor.
    But the retaliatory strike showed that Russian military chemistry is at an altitude and level
    Thank you!
  4. igordok
    igordok 25 December 2017 07: 48
    Perhaps gas balloon attacks have not sunk into oblivion. In essence, terrorists use this method. Syria, Tokyo Metro 1995
    1. Mikado
      Mikado 25 December 2017 12: 17
      now only terrorists. hi
      By the Second World War, all the powers had conducted so many experiments with gases and had accumulated so many chemical weapons that they were simply afraid to use them (with rare exceptions. Surely the Japanese used something, the Germans used gas against the defenders of the Ardzhimushkaysky quarries in Kerch - I think because they were sure that no one would know about it) Although the smoke bombs in the assault actions to "smoke" the enemy were used with might and main. Just yesterday I read the memoirs of Lieutenant Colonel Mindlin (I recommend everyone, a very good story written in bright language: about how our forces forced the garrison to surrender during the assault on Berlin German defenses with their help, so the surrendering Nazis still had the audacity to say, "you violated the rules of warfare by using chemical weapons." wassat funny by golly! angry
      1. igordok
        igordok 25 December 2017 13: 58
        Quote: Mikado
        now only terrorists.

        The use of OM is very dependent on the weather, which is difficult to predict. But terrorists, especially suicide bombers, do not care.
        1. Mikado
          Mikado 25 December 2017 14: 17
          or to executioners ... as a profession .. like, in the USA are gas chambers still used? (I am silent about the Nazi savages angry ).
  5. Olgovich
    Olgovich 25 December 2017 09: 31
    Russia again showed itself to be a powerful and noble power: it strictly adhered to the Hague Conventions on the prohibition of chemical weapons, which were accepted by the whole world at the insistence. Weapons NOT produced and NOT used.
    But quickly and effectively she was able to give a decent response to the aggressor
  6. Some kind of compote
    Some kind of compote 25 December 2017 16: 21
    January 13, 1917, during the German counterattack during the Mitava operation, the Russians carried out a gas-balloon attack near the river. Aa - on the Riga-Mitva road. At 7 o’clock, despite the blizzard, 2 gas waves were released. At the same time, artillery chemical fire was fired with phosgene shells (up to 2000 units).

    Frost is not the best satellite of gas attacks, in addition to a blizzard.
    Therefore, despite the magnitude - the result of the Mitavian attack was not impressive
    But how many times the courage and resourcefulness of our fighters and commanders thwarted the German gas attacks. And that was impressive.
    Fine good
  7. serge siberian
    serge siberian 25 December 2017 19: 11
    Once upon a time. Having been in the "fumigation" chamber, chloropicrin mistakenly was not "0,8" with something, but 1,2. It was in the winter. After 2-3 hours, two platoons in one office, a hot office 3, instead of 2x, at the table, and the PS is saturated with entom muck, "hiding" ogogo. I can imagine to an insignificant degree what happened on those fronts of the Imperialist. Yes, even the troops counterattacked. Yes, I don’t understand the Russian man to foreigners.
    I liked the article, if possible I will follow up with the continuation.
  8. Sergey-8848
    Sergey-8848 25 December 2017 21: 19
    In the First World War, all the warring countries re-spent a lot of money, people, resources, equipment, chemicals. They created a bunch of chemical weapons and equipment for their delivery. We spent even more money on the organization of counteraction against chemical weapons. They came up with new lethal substances. And they did not use it.
    We finally understood that this ajar box should not be cracked further. Not all reptiles understand this, unfortunately.
  9. Lieutenant Teterin
    Lieutenant Teterin 26 December 2017 11: 42
    An interesting and informative article. The stamina of the Russian troops, who managed to repulse the enemy’s attacks several times despite the losses, is impressive. The author - my sincere gratitude for the work done! hi
  10. Mart14
    Mart14 3 January 2018 21: 45
    According to the post-war study of Alexander Nikolaevich de Lazari, CHEMICAL WEAPONS ON THE FRONTS OF THE WORLD WAR 1914-1918. The first use of chemical weapons (shells, rather than gas ballistic launches) by the Germans was noted in January-February 1915 on the Russian front.
    1. soldier
      soldier 4 January 2018 08: 32

      Here is the cover of this study, which says (p. 35. The beginning of firing chemical shells) that in June 1915 the Germans used chemical shells in the Argonne (French Front), and on August 4 - between Lomzha and Ostroleka (Russian Front). The author notes the last case in the next article of the cycle - of course, specifying the dating in the old style that is in force in Russia - that is, July 22, 1915
      1. Mart14
        Mart14 22 January 2018 22: 07
        Unfortunately I do not have the original of this publication and use the reprints available on the Internet. At the beginning of the chapter The first gas balloon attacks and their significance
        ... In January, the Germans completed the development of a new chemical projectile known under the brand name “T” of a 15-cm artillery grenade with a strong brisant effect and an irritating chemical substance (xylyl bromide), which was subsequently replaced by bromoacetone and bromoethyl ketone (Fig. 1). In late January, the Germans used it at the front in left-bank Poland in the Bolimov region, but chemically unsuccessfully, due to the low temperature and insufficient massing of the fire ...
    2. soldier
      soldier 4 January 2018 09: 29
      By the way, regarding the data of de Lazari, etc.
      IN AND. Gurko recalled the Germans' use of chemical weapons back in December 1914 - on Bzur and Ravka: “On my right flank there was the 55th division, which occupied the defense near the Borzhimovitsky forest a short distance from enemy positions. ... division trenches, stretching for about a kilometer along the forest, were again subjected to heavy shelling. With the dusk approaching, the Germans launched an attack and, to the amazement of the head of the ... division, they occupied the forest without any particular difficulties. By that time, Russian soldiers were already accustomed to the hurricane fire of German artillery, which opened immediately before the attack, and found ways to escape from the shelling so as to bear as little loss as possible. At the same time, the units were located in such a way that they could meet the attacking enemy with fire; if the Germans were temporarily successful, then our soldiers immediately counterattacked, preventing the enemy from recovering from the attack or organizing the defense of the trenches he had just captured. This time we had to call up divisional reserves in order to better prepare a counterattack using larger forces. At about three o’clock in the morning, I received a report that this attack was successful and that the Germans had been knocked out of the forest. At the same time, they informed me that our trenches are literally littered with the corpses of Russian and German soldiers, which is why in other places digging of new trenches has begun. They buried the old trenches, using them as mass graves .... the next morning I received an additional report ... that the bodies of soldiers who were unconscious and almost showing no signs of life were found in the forest, and that about two hundred people in a similar state were sent to the rear ... At the same time, medical officers reported that clothing delivered to them in a semi-conscious state of people emits a distinct smell of formalin. Survivors of the battle confirmed that during the shelling the same smell was much stronger, which during the attack they did not attach any importance, thinking that some new explosive smells like this. No one suspected what the results of the distribution of these gases would be. The German soldiers who sheltered in the Russian trenches they had captured in order to escape from our fire were apparently also exposed to suffocating gas, as a result of which the Borzhimovitsky forest remained in our hands, and the attacking Germans themselves suffered heavy losses. "
      Argonne and Lomza-Ostroleka are clearly marked episodes
      But the Germans began to use chemical shells probably earlier - at least I found information on the manufacture of such as much as in October 1914.
      1. Mart14
        Mart14 22 January 2018 22: 15
        It is possible that this episode was the reason for the order of gas masks: ... In early May 1915, even before the first German attack on the Russian front (May 31), Red Cross organizations began to manufacture the first antichloric masks, which are a compress of five six layers of gauze, stitched around the edges and equipped with two pairs of ribbons to strengthen the mask on the face. There was a pocket against the mouth and nose, in which a lint soaked with hyposulfite was put (mask-bandage of the first sample). Such mask masks in early May 1915 were produced in fairly significant quantities, at least in Moscow and Minsk. The newspapers of that time posted the following message, dated May 23: “In the all-zemstvo union, as Rech reports (May 14), a notification has been received from Moscow that respirators are being released on a large scale in Minsk. Every day they produce 25 thousand pieces. Respirators are supplied with passing military units. An improved type of them has been developed. ” From the stories about the first gas attack on the Russian front in May, it is known that the command of individual units independently tried to take measures to protect their troops in the event of a possible chemical attack by the enemy. For example, the command of the 55th Infantry Division, on the site of which gas was used for the first time, on its own initiative ordered gas masks in Moscow in early May and sent a receiver for them. However, these gas masks arrived at their destination only in the evening of May 31, after the end of the gas attack ....