Military Review

The smell of rotten apples and fresh hay. Chemical Weapons in the Civil War

In the Civil War, almost all military developments of the First World War - armored cars, were used aviation, Tanks. But what about asphyxiating gases? Only one episode is widely known around which a heated discussion unfolded - the chemical shelling of Tambov forests and swamps during the suppression of the Antonov uprising in the Tambov region. Meanwhile, a number of sources show that asphyxiating gases were used in the Civil War, though infrequently and only in the form of chemical shells, but quite widely, and in any case. The most characteristic in this regard are operations on the Northern and North-Western fronts in 1918-1919.

Questionnaire on the use of enemy chemical shells. RGVA.


While on all other fronts, asphyxiation was rarely and occasionally used, in the North they became on par with all other types of weapons. The presence of regular European armies here and the character of the theater of war led to the fact that the Northern Front strongly resembled the First World War in miniature: long-term fortifications, trenches, automatic weapon, aviation, tanks.

It is widely believed that in the North, whites used Russian chemical equipment, which remained in the warehouses of the old army. In fact, then they used only British chemical shells. However, the British poisonous substances appeared on the front only in the spring of 1919, when navigation allowed to adjust supplies from the UK. In addition to the usual toxic substances, phosgene and mustard gas, the British sent a certain “secret gas” to the front. For a time, Winston Churchill even hesitated whether to sacrifice this secret for the sake of such a front. But he was supported by the Deputy Chief of the British General Staff, Charles Harrington. “Of course, I would very much like to treat the Bolsheviks with gas if we can afford it,” Churchill wrote. As a result, they promised to send a specialist to the 24 navigation with the equipment and equipment with a warning: “This is a completely secret invention, but, for sure, it will cease to be such immediately after its use. It is intended for use only in case of special need. ”

There was another difficulty - a negative reaction in society. By that time, the question of a complete ban on gases was seriously discussed. However, the Bolsheviks themselves unexpectedly came to the aid of the British. At the beginning of February, 1919 of the year, on the table of the commander of the 6 army A. A. Samoilo, two operations of the 3 army laid down. One is January 20: “Perm direction. We have been busy with. Karagai, but after shelling the enemy with suffocating shells, our units, having suffered losses, moved back to Ust-Lysva ... ”The second, from February 8:“ Perm direction. In the area of ​​villages. Evginskoe, that 12 versts to the east of Rozhdestvenskoe, the enemy’s repeated attempts to go on the offensive were repulsed. Parts of the 3 Brigade, located in the 7 area. north of der. Kalinita (the last on the River Paya), was fired several times during the day by chemical shells of the enemy. ”

February 14 Samoilo sent out a circular: "In view of the repeated use by the enemy on other fronts of shells with asphyxiating gases, the commander ordered once again to confirm the possibility of using those on our front."

Already on March 9 during the shelling of the village. The 24 three-inch chemical equipment was released in red.

Formal reason was given. In the spring, a stormy discussion began in the British House of Commons about sending gas ammunition to the North. Major Gest in mid-May declared: “Since the Bolsheviks are already using poisonous gases on the northern front, preparations are being made to respond to them with the same weapon (Exclamations of approval). All measures are being taken to protect our brave troops from the inhuman methods of the Soviet troops. ”

Documents interventionists on the delivery of shells with a choking gas to the North of Russia. 1919

29 May Churchill said: “I do not understand why, if they themselves use poisonous gas, we must object to using it against them ... This is a very justifiable and permissible thing - use poison gas against them”

In fact, preparation for “response” began much earlier: another 27 of January 1919 of the year in London received an unverified report from Major Gilmore that “the Bolsheviks use chemical projectiles”. This was used as a pretext for an offensive. February 7 to Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Constantinople went circular, in which Churchill ordered "to use chemical projectiles in full, as our troops, and Russian troops, which we supply."

At the end of March, the sending of chemical equipment became possible. April 4, the commander of the British artillery, Major Delagues, distributed the arrived ammunition to the guns, including the gas projectiles. It was planned to have 18-pound gun on 200 chemical equipment, 60-pound - from 100 to 500, depending on the area, 4,5-inch howitzer - 300, two 6-inch howitzers in the Pinezhsky region were released, and there were 93 cases.

As a result, it was possible to identify at least 60 episodes of the use of chemical munitions on the Northern Front, mainly from the whites and the interventionists. One of the first operations in which chemical shelling was used was the attack on the Pinezhsky front of 1 – 3 of June, when the invaders tried to take the area of ​​Trufanova Mountain. Heavy artillery was sent there - two 6-inch howitzers with 700 chemical equipment. The shelling lasted a day and a half. Several hundreds of gas shells were fired.

However, the active shelling and the use of chemical shells did not help the enemy, on the contrary, he also had to retreat: "Throughout June, only isolated clashes of reconnaissance units took place on this frontline."

The most large-scale gas attacks occurred in the August battles at Severodvinsk and the September battles on the Railway Front. For example, on August 27, at dawn, the enemy fired two hours at the location of the 155 Infantry Regiment near Yemtsa station with shells with choking gases.

3,7-inch British howitzer with calculation. C. Trinity, 1919

Of particular note is the 10 August attack in the area of ​​Sludka - Lipovets and near the village of Gorodok. According to British data, 2066 Red Army men were captured, 300 was poisoned, and many people were temporarily blind because of eye irritation. Soviet historians have argued that the Reds were badly damaged when they came under the "shells that cause tears."

This case was the subject of consideration at the meeting of the Artillery Committee GAU 20 December 1919. It turned out that during the shelling of two mouths of the 479 Infantry Regiment, the 144 man was poisoned, but “solely because of the inability to use gas masks”, which “defended well”. For 30 – 60 minutes, about 2000 shells were fired, and “the cloud from the breaks had a greenish-gray color and the smell of rotten apples and fresh hay.”

In this description you can learn phosgene. However, a different picture was drawn in the report of the November artillery inspector from 2 November. According to him, the 8 – 9 hours of shelling continued, therefore “due to the lengthy shelling” many of the men did not save gas masks. Red Army soldiers not only poisoned, but also received skin burns. The report of Dr. Kadnikov attached to the document read as follows:

“1. The gas, according to the sick, is colorless, having a faint smell of denatured alcohol.
2. Along with the usual effects of poisoning by asphyxiation and tears, exceptional skin and blood phenomena were observed. The skin of the victims was heavily pigmented, and in the blood there was a decrease in red blood balls and an increase in eosinophils. The last two circumstances make Kadnikov think that an unknown gas has been used until now. ”

The description of the unknown means guesses the same "secret gas", to which the British attached such importance. The symptoms showed that it was some kind of a mixture based on mustard gas, but with a different smell.

We can assume that it was a British mustard gas, synthesized by the allies at the end of the First World War. According to British data, in that battle two 18-pound guns fired 600 shells with mustard gas and 240 with "tear gas" from 4,5-dm howitzer.

The front command entrusted the investigation to the Red Cross division of the 6 Army, but how it ended is unknown. Synopsis 6-th army of Shenkursky District said: "Our losses in the battle for shelf 160 1 September 5 commanders ... were killed, Red 28, 5 injured commanders, Red 50, 3 wounded commanders, Red 15, 18 Red gassed, without missing xnumx. 25 captured prisoners, one of them is an Englishman ... On September 9, the enemy fired at our left bank outpost with artillery fire, firing chemical shells up to 3. Our 200 instructor and the Red Army man 1 are poisoned ... "

In general, the combat losses from the gases were small, as the command of the Northern Front quickly began work on chemical protection. 6 th army were released large batches of gas masks, which eventually managed to provide almost the entire front. Quite often, though not always, regular events were held to deal with them. Political departments were specifically mentioned "about the wide familiarization of all Red Army men with measures against asphyxiating gases."

The enemy was supplied with his gas masks, of course. They are among the trophies of the 6 Army. So, on October 14, 1919, during the capture of the village of Seltso, "huge warehouses of warm clothes, overcoats, uniforms, gas masks ..." were captured. When the 14 of 1920 of the 7 and 8 regiments of the Northern Army were taken prisoner in February, 57 gas masks were taken.

The chemical war in the North differed from the First World War in the absence of gas balloon attacks. Even before the arrival of gases from the UK, it became clear that climatic and geographical features prevented their use, primarily the forest cover of the territory with weak wind, which prevented the spread of chemical waves. Gas starts were thus excluded. The problem was solved by long shelling and the creation of a steady poisoning concentration, which even gas masks could not withstand. Another way was the gas aerial bombing. Contrary to popular belief, special poison bombs for aviation did not exist at the time: such inventions were improvisations. In the North, chemical thermogenerators were adapted for them — special poisonous “candles” equipped with adamsite — an arsenic-based compound that easily penetrated through gas masks and sprayed the nasopharynx as an aerosol. Because of the secrecy, they were code-named. "M-device". It was supposed to throw them prepared by grenadiers for 15 – 20 thousand pieces per mile of the front. But, when the major of the chemical service, Thomas Davis, arrived in Arkhangelsk with 50 thousands of “candles”, he discovered that they are useless in the forests. Then Lieutenant Donald Grathem redid them into aerial bombs, adding "M-device" stabilizers and nasal fuse. After this, new shells began to be successfully applied. In August – September there were at least ten cases of their discharge.

General Lord Rawlinson, who had arrived to supervise the evacuation, highly valued Adamsit, who put entire Reds to flight. Chemical bombs were also mentioned in Soviet historiography.

The 6 Army Operational Report reported: “During the day, September 4 was dropped by enemy aircraft on our location to 100 bombs, most of which with asphyxiating gases. We have one killed, one wounded, several people gassed; two horses were killed and one was wounded ... ”
Soviet propaganda often used evidence of the use of chemical weapons by the enemy. For example, in August 1919, a newspaper was printed in the newspapers that “the British on the northern front are using shells with asphyxiating gases. English pilots drop bombs on peasant huts in villages, burning bread. The peasants call them stranglers and arsonists. ” These munitions after the fall of the front got red.

The smell of rotten apples and fresh hay. Chemical Weapons in the Civil War
Lieutenant D. Gratham holds M devices. Onega, 1919


The North-Western Front was partly similar to the Northern one, since the intervention also played a large role on it, but not the British, but the German one. Reasons similar to those in the North led to the use of chemical weapons, which the Germans were supplied with in abundance. It was not only about old stocks: despite the ban, its production in Germany did not stop so completely. Thus, according to the testimony of one worker in April 1919 of the year, his factory continued production of grenades, gas bombs and gas masks.

Apparently, the first major shoot-out was made by the Germans on April 12 near Mitává (now Jelgava) while trying to break down the stubborn defense of parts of the 3 th brigade of the 2 th rifle division. Although more than 300 projectiles with phosgene were fired, in general, the attack failed: the Latvians were well supplied with gas masks, and the wet weather prevented the spread of gases. The detailed description of this episode was left by the fighter of the Riga battalion F.E. Krustkaln: “The Germans, having made sure that the Communist battalion firmly turned off all the main roads to Riga and that we didn’t move us backward, we used toxic gases (phosgene), hoping that it will help them. 10 or 12, April afternoon, the enemy, whose armored train unnoticed under cover by a little forest sneaked up to our positions, opened heavy fire from the guns of the armored train and the nearest batteries with poison gas shells, first along our advanced line and then carrying artillery waves to the rear , covered the battalion headquarters, the sanitary unit and the wagon train, which were located in the Tentskaya tavern. Some of the orderlies and trainers, in order to avoid poisoning, not wearing gas masks, rushed to run along the highway in the direction of Olaine.

At this time, the enemy suffered fire and forward, and ours, fleeing, got into a new gas wave and were poisoned. There were several casualties, some were taken to Riga, to the hospital, while the gunners who were on the front line immediately put on gas masks after the first volley and during the trenches in the dry gray grass and therefore did not suffer any losses. Those who were at the front of the shelling, wearing gas masks, opened fire on the embrasures of an armored train. Already at the exit from Riga, the entire battalion was supplied with gas masks, which were very useful. Thus, the high hopes of the Germans, despite the great noise, did not materialize. When, after the end of the gas attack, we, several scouts, arrived from the forward battalion headquarters, we saw that German shells had been done here. The whole space around the Tentskaya tavern looked like a plowed field. The next day, all the needles on the pines near the battalion headquarters and at the positions became as brown as squirrel tail. ”

Asphyxiation gases — chemical equipment, gas mines — were also used by P.A. Bermondt-Avalov’s troops when attacking Riga in October 1919. “The shooting was indiscriminate, started at different times, and therefore no one was sure where it was clear if Bermondt artillery bombarded certain strategic goals, when a person who left home could be caught dying by a projectile. It would be important areas and points, places or buildings that seemed suspicious, but Bermondt’s artillery bombarded the stations and private houses, government buildings and churches, bazaars and hospitals, museums and public gardens, gardens and city shelters with equal zeal. That the shooting had the character of pure mischief, can be seen from the fact that sometimes only chemical shells with suffocating gases were produced in the city. In places where such shells fell, the air was covered with wild black smoke, poisoning which people and horses were dying on the street. Where such shells were torn, the stones of the pavement and the walls of houses were painted with light green paint. ” But, despite all the efforts, it was not possible to take Riga Avalov's army.

Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians have also repeatedly used chemical projectiles, although such cases, which are occasionally found in the literature, are devoid of details. Operational reports of red from Narva 25 February 1919 of the year noted: "The use of chemical and high-explosive shells by the enemy has been established."

In the North-Western Army of General N. N. Yudenich, chemical munitions were also used, although, apparently, less actively. Information about this is regularly found in Soviet reports. July 5 GROWTH reported that “during the retreat of whites from the village of Maloye Kikerino, they tried to use stifling gases against us,” but they didn’t bring any serious harm due to the unfavorable wind. Two months later, the newspapers wrote that “in the Pskov and Luga sectors, the struggle continues on the same frontiers, but takes a more stubborn character, whites bombard our positions with chemical projectiles, indicating that the line is close to each other”.

One of such examples is also found in the memoirs of Staff Captain von Sauer, the battery commander of the Lievensky Division, in the part dedicated to the October offensive on Petrograd: “October 24 ... In the 22 hour, a platoon fired chemical shells around Annino near 100 chemical shells, thanks to which, according to testimony more than a hundred people were killed, wounded and poisoned, and the regiment commissar was killed. ”

The armament of the battery was only light 18-pound guns, so chemical shells were probably tear (in English labeling - SK) or phosgene. As for the red troops of the 7 Army, it is not yet known exactly how often they used poison shells. However, it seems that they were unlikely to concede to the enemy. In any case, the telegram of the British military mission in Narva from 8 of September 1919 of the year noted that White’s advancing troops seized several chemical equipment from the Reds.
Consequently, the Red Command's munitions were also there.

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  1. cartridge
    cartridge 8 June 2013 09: 50

    Chemical weapon. Error handling
  2. Novel
    Novel 8 June 2013 09: 51
    For the "Great and Indivisible" the White Guards "fought" shoulder to shoulder with the Agliks and the Germans and their chemical weapons. ". Eternal Glory to the soldiers and commanders of R.K.K.A.
    1. Firstvanguard
      Firstvanguard 8 June 2013 11: 44
      Years and decades pass, and the methods of the arrogant Saxons do not change at all am
      1. The comment was deleted.
      2. Corsair5912
        Corsair5912 1 August 2013 19: 14
        Quote: Firstvanguard
        Years and decades pass, and the methods of the arrogant Saxons do not change at all am

        It's true.
        In Syria, mercenaries of small British and Yusovian arrogant Saxons use chemical weapons, and all the Western media scream that the legitimate government and people of Syria are doing this.
        Assad has the right to destroy foreign rats that invaded his country by any means, the truth is on his side, and the arrogant Saxons, their mercenaries and the Western media are war criminals after the invasion and support of bandits and terrorists.
    2. valokordin
      valokordin 9 June 2013 18: 54
      Quote: Roman
      Eternal Glory to the fighters and commanders of R.K.K.A.

      All dermographic literature barked so violently at Tukhachevsky, and was silent both against the Red Army and the white cornets and their Entente aides, they poured mustard gas over the RSFSR and its defenders. I hate this bourgeois rabble more and more.
  3. bublic82009
    bublic82009 8 June 2013 21: 19
    we were told a lot what Tukhachevsky used. but the fact that in the civilian used against the red silence has always been.
  4. omsbon
    omsbon 8 June 2013 22: 13
    Chemical weapons are terrible, whoever and for what purposes would not use them!
  5. Severok
    Severok 9 June 2013 02: 14
    At all times, there were those who adjusted history and the past to selfish goals. Enough to look wider at the material offered and take a closer look! Immediately donkey ears of any forger will become visible, but only, unfortunately, the facts are false and sometimes false, the stated facts are not visible, true events are not visible.
  6. Mite27
    Mite27 9 June 2013 14: 08
    We can assume that it was a British mustard gas, synthesized by the allies at the end of the First World War. According to British data, in that battle two 18-pound guns fired 600 shells with mustard gas and 240 with "tear gas" from 4,5-dm howitzer.

    The front command entrusted the investigation to the Red Cross department of the 6th Army, but how it ended is not known. A summary of the 6th Army in the Shenkursky district reports: “Our losses to the 160th regiment during the battle of September 1 ... killed 5, Red Army 28, wounded 5, Red Army 50, shell-shocked 3, Red Army 15, gas poisoned by the Red Army 18, without news is gone 25.
    840 fragmentation shells would do much more damage.
  7. Ratibor12
    Ratibor12 11 June 2013 03: 25
    And as always, the Anglo-Saxons first provocation - they say the Soviets themselves first started!
  8. Cicero
    Cicero 24 July 2013 01: 47
    Hmm ... Now I often come across sites, forums, groups where people who support the "White Idea" insult the Communist Party, Soviet revolutionaries, leaders, and leaders in every possible way. Although they themselves, roughly speaking, act like rats, hiding behind the Germans and the British.
  9. Corsair5912
    Corsair5912 1 August 2013 18: 59
    Churchill said on May 9: “I don’t understand why, if they themselves use poisonous gas, we must object to its use against them ... This is a very justified and permissible thing - to use poison gas against them”
    On February 7, a circular went to Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Constantinople, in which Churchill ordered "to use chemical shells to the full, both with our troops and with the Russian troops that we supply."

    The fat man suffered from dementia, he did not realize that it was the British who invaded Russia, and not the Russians in Small Britain.
    The Russians defended their land from foreign invaders, and what they were allowed to have with morality and conscience was a war crime for the interventionists. Horror, what would happen to Russia if the Bolsheviks were defeated!