Due to the nature of trench warfare, some form of poison gasses would have been really useful in the trenches. In the trenches the gasses really would’ve been really useful with the limited mobility of the soldiers and would resulted in maximum enemy casualty. So what types of poison gasses were used in WW1?


As noted in another answer, the Germans introduced chlorine gas early in 1915, the French countered with phosgene gas later in the year, and the Germans "topped" this with mustard gas in 1917.

Gas was used mainly for shock value. The German apparently gained an advantage with "first use" in the Second Battle of Ypres. But gas is hard to store and transport, and the Germans soon lost their initial advantage when they ran out of gas.

And in terms of "killing ability" gas was less effective than other forms of weaponry, because it needed "ideal" (e.g. weather) conditions to be fatal, and because antidotes such as gas masks were easily developed. That's why unlike other World War I innovations such as the "tank," gas never really "caught on" as a weapon.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Could also mentioned that occationally the wind would turn, with predictable result. All in all, gas wasn't that successful a weapon. – Baard Kopperud Apr 30 '13 at 17:38
  • Chlorine gas is also heavier than air, walking up a hill or simply out of the trench was usually an acceptable way to avoid it. – Odysseus May 1 '13 at 0:13
  • another important reason it never really "caught on" was the international outcry and condemnation over the horrific injuries. The mere threat of reprisal gas attacks against the civilian population were a big part of preventing it from being used in WW2 despite all sides having large stockpiles (in fact it wasn't until quite recently that the US and Russia destroyed their last stockpiles, kept mainly for their deterrence value). – jwenting May 2 '13 at 6:43
  • @jwenting:Not a bad point. – Tom Au May 2 '13 at 20:07

A number of poison gasses were used in WW1. The first use is by the Germany at the battle of Second battle of Ypres. But, by 1915 the French managed and even more powerful gas called Phosgene. Phosgene took 24 hours to manifest itself, chlorine had a greenish cloud and a very strong ouder. But the most effective chemical weapon was mustard gas which, despite not being particularly fatal, was great for disabling the enemy or polluting the battle field. It was used in the third battle of Ypres by the Germans.

Source(s): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poison_gas_in_World_War_I

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Is this supposed to be a comprehensive list? – American Luke Apr 30 '13 at 16:14
  • Sort of, but it has explanations as well. – clickonMe Apr 30 '13 at 16:20

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.