On Active Service
With the British
Wednesday June 26/18
Was very pleased to get your letter last week & to hear you were enjoying yourself at B. Hope you will make a good long stay & have a thorough rest. I heard from mother last week said she & Kate & Freda had been staying at Kenton but I expect that was before you left. Haven’t heard any more news about father so conclude that no news is good news. Hope the weather has been nice so that you’ve been able to spend most of the time outdoors.
How did you like the Hippo entertainment, you must make the most of your opportunity of going to the theatre etc. We are still here at the Workshops much to our surprise, but of course we might go off any-day at a moments notice. The War News has been quite cheering the last few days hasn’t it, let’s hope it will continue so. We went to the Baths again this afternoon and as we all go on two lorries, being too far away to walk, it makes quite a decent outing, apart from the advantage of having a comfortable bath. Love to Edith shall be probably writing her tomorrow, & love for yourself, hoping you are both A1. from your loving brother Harvey.
June 25 1918
My Dear Nell,
Thanks for letter & photos which arrived this morning. Not a bad photos of you at all. Have had a day out to-day for the first time. Getting on A.1 now. & we shan’t be long.
Come down any day you like now only let me know as I might be sent to Eastbourne convalescence any day now. You see we have had some more cases in & the place is full now so I might be marked out for con. Camp any day. Still don’t put your visit off. Could you manage the week end. Would be fine if you could. Wouldn’t matter if you brought the girls like you did before, only we shouldn’t go looking for frogs.
Don’t think much of the place round here. Southborough was bad enough but this place takes the cake. Just about the last place made & not finished. As for the hospital – roll on Eastbourne or leave.
Well Dear must close now or shall be having “windows” after me. Best respects to Mother & Father. With Fondest Love & Kisses
Dear F & M
Just a line to say I am gogging along just nicely at present. I received Par’s letter OK and am again on a good financial footing. It’s surprising how the dough disappears nowadays. Had a letter from Jacko the other day he seems to be going on A1 at present. Hope it lasts for some time to come. The War news is becoming quite pleasant to read just lately. The Italians I see have given the Austrians something to go on with. Let’s hope Austria will soon pack up and then the war will soon be over. The countryside is very extra just now. They produce excellent crops round here. Suppose the allotment is going on A1 by now. Suppose Gladys feels like a bloated capitalist at present. Sorry she missed such a good chance still it’s better to be at home. What does it feel like Gladys to have a watchful eye over you. Suppose Par will be trotting in one of these days with a silver bowl as winner of the bowling H-cap. Ah well my deries I think this is all at present.
K.J. Bunting Capt.
Issued down to Divisions
(for distribution down to Battalions)
NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 16.
(Issued by the General Staff)
Use of gas by the enemy prior to his attack on the British on the Aisne, the 27th of May, 1918.
Particulars of the bombardment.
There was practically no gas shelling on our front up to the morning of the 27th of May. At 1 a.m. that day an intense bombardment with gas and H.E. shell was opened along the whole sector, and apparently extended on both flanks. There is no reliable information as to how much gas was used on our front line system, but various targets – notably woods and villages in back areas – and battery positions were very heavily shelled with gas. The enemy attacked about 4.30 a.m., and the whole of the area affected by the preliminary bombardment appears to have been free from gas by about 7 a.m.
Nature of gas shells used by the enemy.
Everywhere the gas seems to have caused sneezing, but there is no evidence to shew that the enemy employed any new gas. It is clear that a large number of blue-cross shells were used, but as it is impossible to distinguish this shell from H.E. except for the gas effect, it is difficult to arrive at an estimate of the proportion of blue-cross shells actually fired. The matter is further complicated by the enemy’s employment of shells containing ethyl dichlorarsine (yellow-cross I) the gas effect of which is similar to that of blue-cross. A considerable amount of ethyl dichlorarsine was used in the bombardment. Green-cross shells were definitely recognised by the characteristic smell of phosgene. The evidence as to the employment of yellow-cross shells (dichlorethyl sulphide) is inconclusive, especially as it is uncertain how far the effects of ethyl dichlorarsine (yellow-cross I) may resemble those produced by dichlorethyl sulphide.
Effects of the gas.
The gas formed a continuous invisible cloud of low concentration with pockets where it was more concentrated. It was noticeable as far back as Corps H.Q., about eight miles from the nearest point in the line.
The casualties caused by the gas appear, however, to have been few and mostly slight. They were caused by:-
- Shells bursting close to men.
- Removal of respirators owing to the difficulty of seeing.
- Men being surprised while sleeping.
- Blue-cross shells being mistaken for H.E.
- Respirators being damaged. As the whole bombardment prior to the attack only lasted four hours and was directed against a highly organized-trench system, the main intention of the enemy was probably to cause a temporary paralysis of the defence. For this purpose, a combination of gas shell and H.E. appears to be more effective than either gas or H.E. would be alone.For defence against this use of gas three things are essential:-
- The effects of the gas may be regarded as practical and moral. The practical effects arise from the physical discomfort which it causes and the difficulty of seeing when men have to wear their respirators for any length of time. Reports, however, shew that the majority of our artillery continued firing in spite of the gas and that in some cases the rate of fire was not even reduced to any appreciable extent. The moral effects are uncertainty as to whether it is necessary to wear respirators, and a tendency for men who have smelt the gas to believe that they have been poisoned.
- The protection given by the Box Respirator appears to have been complete so long as the respirator was in good condition. On the whole, the gas discipline was excellent and the system of alarms worked quickly and well. The sector was well provided with gas-proof dug-outs and staffs were able to work without wearing respirators.
- Careful instruction of officers in the properties of the various kinds of gas used by the enemy.
- Thorough and consistent practice with the respirator by all ranks.11th of June, 1918.
- Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationary Services. PRESS A-6/18-6750S-4,000.