2015 brings another fascinating but appalling centenary; 100 years of chemical warfare. In January 1915 at the Battle of Bolimov, the Germans used tear gas on the Russians. Unfortunately one story goes, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction and it blew the gas back towards the Germans. Hence my cartoon for this edition. After doing a bit of reading, I found that there was a prior use of tear gas by the French. In August 1914 they possibly used ethyl bromoacetate in grenades against the Germans. So one hundred-ish years then.
(If we are going to be technical here, then consider that explosives are in fact 'chemistry' and significantly pre-date the use of gas, so this centenary of chemical warfare is obviously inaccurate.)
During 1915 the chemical weapons moved from lachrymators to more poisonous and corrosive agents like chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas. 100 years on their threat remains as we have seen renewed use of chemical agents. In recent times, Iraq gassed Iranian fighters, and its own rebellious citizens in the eighties, the US used white phosphorous in Fallujah, Iraq in the 2005, and the Assad regime in Syria has been accused of using gas in their civil war.
The horrors of gas warfare are given substance when you view Otto Dix's etching titled 'Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor [Stormtroops advancing under a gas attack].' Viewable at the National Gallery of Australia's website. I first came across this stunning work in one of Andrew Graham Dixon's documentaries on German Art. There is a haunting sense of immediate danger in the work, even when viewing it all these years later.