Chemical Warfare by Edward M. Spiers (auth.)

By Edward M. Spiers (auth.)

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Livens, was a remarkably simple but effective device. The projector was a steel tube: it came in two sizes, a shorter version, 2ft 9 in in length, weighing 100 lb, and having a maximum range of 1375 yards; and a longer version, 4 feet in length, weighing 150 lb, and having a range of 1700 yards. Once embedded in the ground at an angle of 45°, it was fired remotely by means of an electrical charge, usually in batteries of twenty-five. The charge propelled a drum from each tube containing 30 lb of chemical (normally pure phosgene).

Further refinements of the Green Cross shell included a special casing for chemical fillings (longer than the HE shell and with thinner walls) and their adaptation for the entire range of German field artillery by August 1917. Sir Douglas Haig, the new British Commander-in-Chief, was also attracted by the potential of gas shells. On 16 May 1916, in preparation for the Somme offensive, he requested the production of 40 000 rounds within the next month and 10 000 rounds per week thereafter. This was quite impractical.

The non-persistent gas was supposed to penetrate Allied respirators, prompt their precipitate removal by intensely irritating the nose and throat, and enhance the scope for the more lethal Green Cross shell. In their massive offensives of March 1918, the Germans sealed the flanks of a projected attack with mustard gas, while bombarding the enemy positions for several hours before the assault with Blue and Green Cross shells. So substantial were these assaults that the normal establishment of a German ammunition dump contained some 50 per cent of gas shell by July 1918.

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