February 14, 2005
Bleach

wwi_gasd.gif

It’s nice when professional and personal interests come together. Chlorine gas, for instance. For the cleaning book, I was trying to track a fact down about chlorine –- was World War I the first use of chlorine? A: No, not quite.

Not the first, but still, when that first wave of gas came over, in April 1915, maybe that was the beginning of everything. A personal memoir: “. . . more curious than anything was a low cloud of yellow-grey smoke or vapour, and, underlying everything, a dull confused murmuring. . . One man came stumbling through our lines. An officer of ours held him up with levelled revolver, "What's the matter, you bloody lot of cowards?" says he. The Zouave was frothing at the mouth, his eyes started from their sockets, and he fell writhing at the officer's feet. . . . We pass a field battery; it is not firing, as it has nothing to fire, and its commander sits weeping on the trail of one of his useless guns.”

There’s more, of course, like here.

Which made me remember that my maternal great-great-uncle was gassed in the Great War (I think probably mustard but that’s just a guess, he was American and so went over later). Russell. He survived almost two more decades in an Iowa institution, though I don’t know which one. I have a picture of him, from probably about 1910. He is dapper, thin, handsome, in a fresh suit, standing on the archetypally Iowan front porch with his mother and father. There is a rocker on the left, and a porch swing on the right. His collar is very, very high, I don’t know how he could have standed it.

Posted by dbrown at February 14, 2005 11:40 PM
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