Forgotton Tragedies: The Gas Attacks on the 27-29 April 1916 at Hulluch - Hundreds of Irish killed in

Catalpast

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Forgotton Tragedies: The Gas Attacks on the 27-29 April 1916 at Hulluch - Hundreds of Irish killed in

On this day 100 years ago near the small village of Hulluch in France hundreds of men from Ireland were killed in further gas attacks on the Western Front. Now almost forgotten these attacks were some of the most hideous ever experienced by Irish soldiers who fought in the Great War

These men all died during Easter Week 1916 when at Home the Rising was in full swing - but their suffering is today remembered by very few

But today let us Remember them, not in any 'flag waving' exercise or the rights and wrongs of what they did or fought for

- but as men from Ireland who suffered and died lonely and tragic deaths in the fields of France 100 years ago this week


27 April 1916: Irish soldiers gassed at Hulluch on this day. As fighting raged in Dublin troops from Ireland serving in the British Army suffered terrible casualties at a place called Hulluch in northern France. The little village is situated just north of the town of Lens in northern France in the pas de Calais region.

The troops were part of the 16th (Irish) Division of the British Army who were targeted by the II (Bavarian) Corps of the German Army to be subjected to a Gas attack. The Irish knew an attack was imminent but the question was when? Early in the morning of the 27th the Germans struck and the deadly concoction of Chlorine & Phosgene was released from over 3,000 gas cylinders hidden along the German front lines. This caused soldiers to choke to death or to be so incapacitated that they could not resist an enemy attack. For whatever reason, faulty respirators, or just being caught off guard the men of the 8th Royal Dublin Fusiliers suffered particularly badly that day. In two days the 8th Battalion lost 368 men from all causes out of 946 recorded as present at the battle.

An officer of the 7th Leinster regiment, Lieutenant Lyon, had the terrible task of gathering the dead. ‘They were in all sorts of tragic attitudes, some of them holding hands like children in the dark.’ He and his men found themselves pestered for the next few days by ‘half-poisoned rats by the hundred.’

The Chaplain to the Dublin Fusiliers (Father Willie Doyle) described the scenes after the attack in a letter home to his father:

Many men died before I could reach them and were gone before I could pass back. There they lay, scores of them (we lost 800, nearly all from gas) in the bottom of the trench, in every conceivable posture of human agony; the cloths torn off their bodies in a vain effort to breathe while from end to end of that valley of death came one long unceasing moan from the lips of brave men fighting and struggling for life.


Two days later the Germans struck again and this time the 8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were the main target and they also suffered huge casualties. Out of 647 present they lost 263 most of them gassed. Ironically the wind then turned and the deadly cloud drifted back on the German lines and inflicted similar punishment on their own men.

The Official History of the War quotes casualties for this attack for 27th and 29th April, as 570 killed (232 from shelling, 338 from gas) and 1,410 wounded (488 from shelling, 922 from gas).
Ireland in History Day by Day

29th April

At 0500, gas was released again, hitting the 8th Inniskillings, 8th Dublin Fusiliers and 8th Irish Fusiliers. It was preceded by a German artillery bombardment of the reserve and communication trenches. Again the Germans, as they massed for their attack, were overwhelmed by their own gas which forced them out of their own trenches into the open where they were caught by Divisional artillery and British small-arms fire. The expected German attack did not occur.

The 8th Inniskillings lost 63 killed and 214 wounded. In the two attacks the two Inniskilling Battalions lost nearly half their total strength. The 8th Royal Dublin Fusiliers (48 Brigade) had 183 men killed. 60 were buried in one shell hole.

Easter Week, 1916 : A Double Tragedy | Inniskillings
 


Eire1976

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Well they suffered dearly from on this day as the wind changed and it drifted back onto their own lines.....
I always found it very puzzling that they never used Gas on any front during WW2, especially knowing what they were up to in the camps?
 

Catalpast

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I always found it very puzzling that they never used Gas on any front during WW2, especially knowing what they were up to in the camps?
Well the key word there is retaliation

- all sides knew that if they initiated gas attacks then they would certainly suffer the same fate

Though see here on the Bari Raid 1943

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_raid_on_Bari
 

all the best

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I always found it very puzzling that they never used Gas on any front during WW2, especially knowing what they were up to in the camps?
Apparently Hitler had up close personal experience of gas in the first world war and would not permit its use
 

Catalpast

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Apparently Hitler had up close personal experience of gas in the first world war and would not permit its use
Yes I think he was recovering from the effects of a gas attack when the War ended

The Germans who attacked the Irish at Hulluch were from the Bavarian Army

- & Hitler was a member of it

I wonder if he was there that day?:confused:
 

Catalpast

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Now do your homework on the use of gas and biological agents by the Japanese in China.
The Italians used gas on the Ethiopians in their conquest of Abyssinia 1935-1936

The Egyptians used it against the Yemenis 1965-1967

And Saddam Hussein used it against the Kurds and Iranians in the Gulf War 1980-1988

It appears to have been used in the War in Syria too

- but those facts are hard to establish as to what exactly happened
 

parentheses

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The Germans had a big technological lead in cheical weapons in WW II.


It was they who first produced nerve gas. But it was not used.


.
 

johnhan278

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A 1997 textbook produced by the U.S. Army Medical Department asserted that over ten thousand people were killed in attacks using chemical weapons in Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan by communists regimes. The descriptions of the attacks were diverse and included air-dropped canisters and sprays, booby traps, artillery shells, rockets and grenades that produced droplets of liquid, dust, powders, smoke or "insect-like" materials of a yellow, red, green, white or brown color
 
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I'll visit Hulluch on Sunday and see what memorials exist.
 

Ardillaun

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Idle musings...dying in a war is bad enough but to die in the 'wrong' war surely makes it worse for your relatives? Suddenly your country changes teams and you're not even a dead hero at home any more.

For reasons nobody in the family can explain, my grandfather joined the Inns of Court regiment in Berkhamstead rather than the Fusiliers. Fortunately for him and me he left it very late - October 1918.
 
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nomahdi

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Irish deaths on the 2 days of gas attacks: 338. Total Irish deaths during the week at Hulluch: over 500.
Total deaths in the Dublin Rising the same week: under 500.
Secondary effect of the Rising: a dive in Irish conscription.
Q.E.D.
 

Ardillaun

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Irish deaths on the 2 days of gas attacks: 338. Total Irish deaths during the week at Hulluch: over 500.
Total deaths in the Dublin Rising the same week: under 500.
Secondary effect of the Rising: a dive in Irish conscription.
Q.E.D.
So were the IRB and Co trying to reduce Irish casualties on the Western Front?
 

RasherHash

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Them Germans love their gas
Learn your history...

During the first World War, the French army was the first to employ gas, using 26 mm grenades filled with tear gas (ethyl bromoacetate) in August 1914. The small quantities of gas delivered, roughly 19 cm³ per cartridge, were not even detected by the Germans. The stocks were rapidly consumed and by November a new order was placed by the French military. As bromine was scarce among the Entente allies, the active ingredient was changed to chloroacetone.
 


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