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DER GASWERFERANGRIFF BEl FLITSCH AM 24. OKTOBER 1917. [The gas attack at Flitsch, 24 October, 1917.] Major Heydendorff.
Major Heydendorff gives credit for the first gas attack by means of projectors to the British, near Arras, on 24 April, 1917. The simultaneous discharge of a large number of gas drums, obtained by this method, flooded the trenches with gas to such an extent that respirators failed to keep it out, and the German losses in this and in the succeeding attacks were heavy. German headquarters at once decided to adopt the projector method, and the 15-cm. gas projector was soon produced. It consisted of a smooth tube with hemispherical end, without a mounting, for burying in the ground. The charge was fired electrically, and threw a gas drum containing 3 to 4 gallons of phosgene (COCl2), or Green-Cross, a distance of about 1,400 yards; ordinary bombs could be used instead of the gas drums.
An opportunity for the first trial of this new weapon was afforded in the autumn of the same year in the great Austro-German offensive, which resulted in the Italian disaster at Caporetto. The 35th Pioneer Battalion of the German Army, trained in gas-projector work, was allotted to the forces selected for the attack, the Fourteenth Army under General von Below. The area chosen for gas bombardment lay south of Flitsch and included deep ravines with steep sides, which had served the Italians well as covered positions for reserves. Of 1,000 projectors arranged for, 894 arrived and were dug in.
At 2:00 AM, 24 October, the artillery started a gas-shell bombardment, and five minutes later the whole of the projectors were fired, of which 47 failed to explode. There were also 29 prematures. The latter, by gassing the firing positions, spoiled to a great extent the rest of the program. It had been intended that each projector should fire one gas drum and then one ordinary bomb. Actually, by nearly 9:00 AM, it had only been possible to fire a second time with 269 of the projectors.
At 9:00 AM, the infantry went over the top, 63 German battalions and 72 Austro-Hungarian battalions advancing on a front of about 20 miles. The Italian lines were penetrated at Flitsch, at Karfreit (Caporetto) and at Tolmein.
Major Heydendorff states that the whole Italian garrison in the ravines, between 500 and 600 men, were found to have been killed by gas, and that the gas-projector bombardment, by thus eliminating all flanking fire from the ravines against the Austrians advancing on Flitsch, had doubtless influenced the events of the day.
Source: Periodical Articles-Catalog. Review of Military Literature. Dec 1934.
Cheers. Raúl M
Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.