Gas ProtectionUnder construction...
The first mass-deployment of poison gas on the Western Front came on 22 April 1915, when the German army released a cloud of chlorine gas onto French and British positions in the Ypres sector. The French units that suffered from the horrendous attack were part of the French 10th Army. Consequently, it was this corps that was chosen act as a sort of proving ground for the first forms of gas protection. Desperate to protect the soldiers at the front who were actively suffering from ongoing German gas attacks, a myriad of experimental forms of gas protection devices were rushed into production during the spring and summer of 1915.
Some came directly from special army organizations set up for the purpose in Paris, while others were produced locally within the army corps themselves. The effectiveness of many of these early measures was poor. By the fall of 1915, the situation was largely stabilized as the French army was able to ramp up production of a standardized model of gas mask. As both sides continued to experiment with and deploy new types of poison gas, French gas masks had to evolve as well. The chemical solutions used to absorb the gases would continually be updated, while new models would be issued in 1916 and again in 1918.
Note: All images used without permission. Original sources are cited at bottom of page.
First Experimental Models
The very first form of gas protection took the form of a bâillon or "gag", which came in the immediate wake of the gas attack on Ypres on 22 April 1915. The unfortunate units that were the victims of the attack belonged to the French 10th Army, which was in direct contact with British troops sharing the same sector. For this simple reason it was chosen by the French Command to be a kind of guinea pig for research and trials for protection against poison gases. The first French gag was simply a copy made off of the German examples recovered off the field and sent to pharmacists in the laboratory of the 10th Army. The neutralizing solution used in German gags was analyzed (cotton soaked in a water bath of heated thiosulphate) and likewise replicated as well. The decision to begin production of gags was officially made on 25 April. Responsibility for the production and requisition of labor fell to the Section Technique du Génie (STG). To meet the material and personnel needs, the STG turned to the great department stores of Paris, which had a ready supply of cloth and women laborers.
The gag was approximately 8 x 12 cm and is made of an envelope of tulle or gauze filled with 125 gm of gauze or cotton spinning waste, impregnated with a solution of thiosulphate. A cotton cord was attached to the two top corners to be tied behind the head to keep it in place. In case of gas attack, the men were to take the ball of cotton, squeeze it between the teeth and breathe through it, the nose being entirely blocked. The first 150,000 copies are sent to the Northern Army group on 12 May 1915, while the other armies receive them beginning on 22 May (200,000 copies sent on this date), with another 1,125,000 copies to be sent out in total. The first deliveries were inadequate and in many sectors, it's recommended to dispose of simple trays filled with thiosulphate solution and to distribute clean handkerchiefs soaked in the solution, which the troops were to then place over their mouth and nose. Indeed, it was truly a race against time. The Germans had continued to launch new chlorine gas attacks in the Ypres sector during the first two weeks of May, which now included deployment via a special artillery shell. All the while the troops in the front line had little to no protection against the gas. In fact, while distribution of the first gags was ongoing, a note was sent out concerning gas protection on 11 May stating:
"To protect against chlorine one can use certain substances soaked in water, such as straw grains, or roughly cut hay, jute, horsehair. Soak them in the water for several hours, then place the substance against nose and mouth with a handerkerchief."To the extent possible, the gags were delivered in a waterproof pouches (or sachets) to protect keep the neutralizing solution from evaporating. It's worth noting that there's often confusion around the terminology used to refer to the gag. In many reports, the term sachet (same word in English) is used for the envelope of the gag or compress, as well as the apparatus itself. Additionally, in some corps gags were made locally.
Those first deliveries of gags were immediately be put to the test among units in the Ypres Salient. A particularly devastating attack came on the night of May 23-24, which started at 2:45 am and continued without interruption for more than 4 hours. This time the cloud of gas that formed was much larger than before, more dense and more concentrated. The Germans also made use of an increasing number of gas shells. In turned out that the gags themselves provided only a few minutes of protection when exposed to high concentrations of chlorine. The shortcomings in the design resulted directly in a high number of casualties during this attack. They were too small and didn’t adequately cover the mouth and nose, and overall the duration of protection was also inadequate. Moreover, the majority were not sufficiently impregnated with neutralizing solution as the interior gauze filling material did not absorb the liquid properly. Cotton was considered as a replacement for the gauze but it too had problems. The cotton had a tendency to tighten up in the envelope when it got wet and subsequently didn't allow for proper air flow. Moreover, the cotton had a tendency to rot and since it had been sewn inside, the cotton could not be replaced later.
Demands were made to increase the coverage area by increasing the size of the gags, as well as calls to change the material used. In response, the dimensions were immediately increased to 13 x 25 cm, while the interior filling of the apparatus was changed to tow (failing in any other material) to improve air flow. The enlarged gags were de facto compresses and would soon be produced by both by the STG in Paris and by the armies locally starting in mid-June.
Another issue was that the first gags were not always distributed in the protective sachets as the waterproof cloth to make them was lacking. Thus, they rapidly degraded with the neutralizing agent evaporating. In the absence of waterproof cloth, protective pads made of simple canvas or oilcloth were given out. For example, the first pouches weren’t sent to the 10th Army until the beginning of July. Even then, the army was 150,000 units short of the number required, and the size of the pouches were too small to hold the first gags distributed. Reports from late May indicate as well that not all troops had received a form of gas protection. Instead, the devices were being distributed to men in the first line, who would then hand them off to the next unit coming up in relief.
Other shortcomings were addressed during the month of June. The strings (attached to the four corners of the gag) which secured the compress to the face were easily torn off. It was also observed that the tow should be attached to the envelope by strings to prevent it from forming balls or fraying. To address these issues, a second type of compress was rapidly produced which saw the replacement of the strings with two cloth ribbons as wide as the compress where they attached and gradually narrowing in width towards the ends. The tow meanwhile was stitched to the envelope at several points.
In order to neutralize the sulfuric and hydrochloric acids, a sodium carbonate solution was added, as well as glycerin to keep the pad moist. Some gags were dyed with methyl orange to indicate when the neutralizing substances were exhausted, by changing the color of the compress to red when the last portions of thiosulphate had been decomposed by the chlorine and acids been cleared.
For its part, the British army was following the same path in the development of the first means of protection. A gag similar to the French one was first produced. Then, in early May, two other types of equipment were produced to be soaked thiosulphate solution. The first was a protective hood made of wool flannel in khaki. The eye openings were covered over with talc. The second, called the Black Veil Respirator, is a type of compress held in place by a piece of black tulle. The apparatus were held in waterproof bags that were hung around the neck. For the French, the English devices appeared to be more convenient than the gags being employed and would be the inspiration to improve their own means of protection.
First Gas Hoods:
The first French army cagoule, or gas hood, was simply a copy of the experimental English model. Numerous tests were also carried out in certain army corps, which will be covered below. While the Section Technique du Génie (STG) opted to copy the English hood, it simultaneously improvised several models of their own design. While the ease of use was one of its prime advantages, in reality the protection afforded by the hoods was in fact for inferior to that provided by the gags. The need to replace the neutralizing solution thiosulphate with other solutions required to counter-act new toxic substances deployed by Germany, gradually ended the development of the hoods, which proved too inadaptable.From the end of April, the British began experimenting with a gas hood made from a particularly fine wool flannel called Viyella. The decision by the Section Technique du Génie (STG) to copy the English model of hood came at the start of May. France was already constrained by the demands of outfitting it’s entire army in horizon blue cloth. Under these conditions, it confronted a veritable textile crisis and all cloth productions are reserved for the production of the new uniforms. Coupled with the knowledge at the time that the English flannel was the only known-material effective in the use as a mask, the French purchased and imported 30,000 meters for the purpose. Meanwhile, the STG improvised fabrication of hoods with various other types of cloth that it could find and experiments with several different patterns. On 17 May, the following note is sent to the armies:
"In addition to the means of protection against the action of asphyxiating gases listed previously, hoods will be distributed to the armies. These are simple flannel or canvas sacks pierced with an opening at eye level, the opening is closed by a transparent plate of special material. The bag is large enough to encompass the head with the kepi on and can be hermetically sealed to the lower part by tucking it under the greatcoat or jacket and buttoning it above. When not in use, it can be worn rolled up in a turban around the kepi. Breathing taking place through the fabric of the hood itself, it is necessary to plunge the entire hood into the thiosulphate solution indicated above. Some hoods are also comprised of a pad applied over the mouth and nostrils, after dipping it in the same solution."Whenever possible, the hood was distributed in an impermeable cloth envelope, which was intended to simply attach to the standard suspension braces (front ‘y’-straps) or to the inside of the jacket with two cloth loops on either side. On 22 May, 48,000 hoods (in four different models) were distributed, with 8,000 going to the following armies: 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th. Another 30,000 were sent on 26 May, and as of 18 July, 100,000 copies had been manufactured. At the front, they are welcomed by the troops and in early June, the STG estimates that it will need to produce two million to equip its army. Yet the situation unexpectedly becomes critical when the import of Viyella flannel is stopped by the British, who were afraid they would not have enough stocks for their own hoods. Without the flannel from England, production of the English style hoods by the STG was stopped at the beginning of June.
Improvisations at the Front1) 10th Army
2) 36th Army Corps
3) 1st Colonial Army Corps
4) Other Masks
The role of the French Health Service was crucial in the development of gas protection. It was the Health Service that was responsible for carrying out the production of much of the gas protection apparatus. ==== As outlined above, the French medical services were simply not equipped to carry out the rapid mass-production of millions of gas protection apparatus. Indeed, at the end of April 1915 the Protection Commission had decided that masks were to be provided only to the most exposed troops. In this dearth of proper equipment, many French army units simply took matters into their own hands. In the months of May and June, improvisation remained the rule, as each corps was left to itself to produce a certain amount of protective gear. Local workshops were quickly organized, operating independent of the STG. Many trial apparatus of various shapes and forms will be produced, some relatively effective and others completely useless.
The first workshops were formed in the Groupes Barcardiers Divisionnaire (GBD) or Groupes Barcardiers de Corps d'Armée ("Divisional or Army Corps Stretcher-Bearer Groups"), with the designers themselves being actual stretcher-bearers. Subsequently, in order to obtain better quality masks, orders for anti-gas devices were often organized within the same army, with the actual manufacture of the devices being carried out in civilian workshops. Another approach was to buy the masks offered by a certain company or store on behalf of the army.
As an example, General Humbert -- who commanded the Army of Lorraine and feared an attack on the positions of Chamois (north of Badonviller) and around the Parroy Forest -- sent a request to the Director of Health Services to provide a working model of gas protection for his army. The request was circulated around the different stores and factories which were already offering many masks. In response, a large stock of felt rectangles -- to be impregnated with a solution of thiosulphate -- were provided, along with protective goggles.
With the 32nd Army Corps, the first response was to transform the first-aid packets of gauze dressings into an improvised form of gas protection. Finally, on 30 April, 6,000 felt masks and 6,000 rubber goggles with gelatin eye lenses were purchased from a local manufacturer. The Health Service immediately prepared a base of thiosulphate solution and impregnated the felt masks. These were delivered to troops from 2-4 May. On May 5, units of the 32nd Corps were hit with by a German gas attack. In the event, the masks proved effective, and on 12 May, another order would be placed for another 6,000 sets of goggles and masks from the maison Houzelle in Paris.
Old cloth: Since mid-May, some were conducting tests of their own with hoods made of recycled old cloth -- iron-blue gray greatcoats cut up for the purpose or blankets taken out of service. But the resulting hoods didn't provide the expected results. The fabric was too heavy and made breathing too difficult. Water vapor released by respiration, carbon dioxide, and heat accumulated in the inside and quickly made wearing the hood unbearable. On 23 July 1915, three months after the first German gas attack, the French army was still in urgent need of 530,000 hoods, 135,000 gas pads, 290,000 sachets to hold the pads, and 726,000 pairs of goggles. After the adoption of the polyvalent ("multi-purpose") solution in August 1915, the medical services set about again toward the production of new pads and modified goggles. Some army formations would continue rely on their own unique, locally-sourced devices. Starting from the beginning of September, the French Command would attempt to reduce these local measures in order to standardize and then eventually suppress them altogether by the end of October. In order to avoid the same decentralization that led to the multitude of variations, the suppression won’t be enforced until January 1916, time enough to allow for the TN masks to be widely distributed.
1) 10th Army
The gas compress designed in-house by the French 10th Army. The French 10th Army was the first to suffer gas attacks since it had occupied positions in the Ypres Salient on 22 April, and was in direct contact with British troops sharing the same sector. For this simple reason it was chosen by the French Command to be a kind of guinea pig for research and trials for protection against poison gases. The first recovered protection devices, along with the first French gags produced, are sent to 10th Army first, in light of the numerous attacks carried out in this sector of the front.
Pharmacists working in the laboratory of 10th Army had recovered and analyzed the German protection pad. On 27 April, it was decided to reproduce it locally, hence the French pad was a copy of the German model. Production began the very next day. The cotton used in production consisted of spinning waste soaked in a bath of heated thiosulphate. Once weighed at 40 gm, the pads were then placed in impermeable pouches and delivered by the Quarter-Master. In case of gas attack, the men were to take the ball of cotton, squeeze it between the teeth and breathe through it, the nose being entirely blocked. In 10 days time an incredible 120,000 were made. Yet the process was not practical and it was decided to manufacture similar envelopes with compresses made in Paris. Thus, sachets began to be made, sewn on four sides and filled with 125 gm of cotton impregnated with a solution of thiosulphate. A cord was attached to the two top corners to be tied behind the head to keep it in place. Unfortunately, the cotton inside the envelopes occasionally had a tendency to rot, and the sewn seams prevented replacement.
The studies began on a new model and decided upon at the beginning of June, consisting of a large envelope of tulle in the form of portfolio, which opened on the short side to receive a 180 gm of cotton (a feature adopted later for the ‘P2’ pad interior). A lace was fixed to the upper corners, while at the two lower corners, a buckle was sewn that was crossed by the upper lace which slid into it. The top lace was long enough to be tied over the mouth after the intersection of the two leads on the neck. On 29 August, 764,779 examples of the new compress were manufactured and will remain in service until the arrival of the 'P2’ pads in August 1915.
In June, in an effort to streamline and standardize the initiatives, the Quarter-Master Corps proposed a hood made of light-blue flannel wool made by Rodrigue. After trials, the fabric was shown to easily absorb the liquid neutralizing solution. The results were considered to be excellent, but the fabric itself was very expensive, so a similar fabric in Rouen was found that was more affordable. The manufacture of new hoods was entrusted to a private manufacturer. The cut was more ample in order to fit the hood over the kepi. An elastic interior was added and was mounted on the same edges of the transparent viewer plate made of yellow celluloid or mica. On the inside, in front of the airways, a pouch was sewn in which the breathing pad was enclosed and fastened closed with a button-snap. A cord was sewn to the outside along the center line and thus a hermetic seal was made. The order was given to produce 250,000 copies, with 4,000 being turned out a day in workshops in the Interior starting in the beginning of September. The entire order will be completely delivered by late October.
2) 36th Army Corps
It was the commander of the 36th Army Corps stationed in the fortified region of Dunkirk, who first insisted that troops undergo indoor gas exposure training in order to demonstrate the effective wearing of gags and goggles. This measure would be made compulsory throughout the entire all the army several months later. Pharmacists in the 36th Corps proposed replacing the cotton gag with a gauze pad, 20 cm x 15 cm. This was equipped with two elastic loops fixed to the sides that were then hooked behind the ears for use, allowing for the device to be quickly put on. Early copies were made within the brigade ambulances. After several minor modifications, the designs would be sent to workshops in the rear for mass production.
Along with these locally made pads, the 36th Corps would go on to receive various other models of pads and hoods, though the distribution of these did not go smoothly. When the corps was furnished with the 'P2' pads in the fall, they would receive four times as many pads as there were goggles. The situation was still unresolved by December, and on the 20th of that month, the British army would supply the 36th Corps with 25,000 of their hoods in English gray-blue flannel, these being distributed to the most exposed men at the front. The hoods were impregnated with a mixture of thiosulphate and phenate, exhalation being made through a tube held in the mouth that ended with a rubber valve placed outside the hood. Some of these hoods were adapted to receive a cut-down version of the ‘P2’ compress. The use of 'P2's would also prove short-lived, as the corps would receive the new T and TN masks as a replacement at the start of 1916.
3) 1st Colonial Army Corps
After first receiving 1,500 gags from Paris in mid-May, commanders in the 1st Colonial Army Corps (CAC) focused on developing a full-face mask that could be quickly applied to the face. Through the efforts of two senior officers (Leclercq and Dehoey) a demi-cagoule ("half-hood") was improvised made of a waterproof rubberized fabric, which covered the face and back of the head. The seal was ensured by an elastic band that was sewn around the edge of the mask. Vision was provided by two transparent plates sewn into the mask. Breathing was done through a terry cloth towel, which was folded in two layers and fixed level to the respiratory tracts. Breathing was easily done through this material as its structure allowed for the circulation of air through while simultaneously allowing for a maximum contact of fibers with the neutralizing solution. The first masks were made at the beginning of August and were impregnated with the new neutralizing solution containing castor oil. Following this, a second order was placed at the beginning of September for 50,000 more units. To make them adaptable to the polyvalent pads (once they were received), the C2 and C3 compresses (designed for the ‘P2’ pads) were simply sewn down onto the terry cloth surface.
The "Dehoey-Leclercq” (or “Colonial”) mask appealed to other commanders of 4th Army (of which 1st CAC was attached) and an order was placed directly with a commercial garment maker for 250,000 masks of this type, which are referred to as half-hoods. The combination of it's simplicity of design and the speed of its implementation made it seem as though it was destined for commercial success, and there quickly appeared many copies of the original design. Yet the Commission for asphyxiating gases rejected the mask on 3 September 1915. According to it’s judgment, the presence of elastic band that ensured the sealing made the mask unfit to adapt to all types of faces. Starting in October 1915, the waterproof half-hoods with terry cloth pad were being offered by major Parisian stores. Nonetheless, due to the increasing number of devices available on the market (the effectiveness was often questionable at best), GHQ decided to ban the use of protective devices other than those recommended by the Protection Commission. Despite the ruling and the dubious effectiveness of the half-hood, concessions were still made to continue to allow these to be used. It took another round of test-trials on 25 November 1915 to finally prove once and for all how completely useless the masks really were. Incredibly, these masks will remain in use, and still worse, 80,000 will be distributed to the 2nd Cavalry Corps (4th Army) and it will take a few months for the conclusions of the Protection Commission are applied.
4) The Piedalu Mask
At the start of May 1915, the Pharmacist Adjutant 2nd Class Piedalu invented his own mask to protect against poison gas. The mask, made in fleece impregnated with a thiosulphate neutralizing solution, joined the eye protection with that for the respiratory tract. The eyepiece was made of mica or celluloid. The mask was fixed to the face with a double elastic band that passed behind the ears. Passing on his idea to the Governor of the Place de Verdun, General Coutanceau, an order was placed on 10 May with the Quarter-Master for 10,000 units. This interim measure was intended to provide protection to front-line combatants, pending delivery of "individual sachets'' announced by GHQ. Although 12,500 masks had been manufactured by 2 June, the region had also received 800 hoods and 60,000 gags sent from the Interior. Despite this, the amount of protective gear available still did not meet the demands. On 18 July, Senior Physician Bilouet, Director of Medical Services of the Place of Verdun, ordered an additional 10,000 Piedalu masks to be made. The work was carried out, as with the first order, by a laundry contractor in Verdun, Mr. Blanchard.
During the course of September, the North Sector of the Verdun fortified region finally received several deliveries of the new protective equipment, the ‘P2' pads and goggles of ricin fleece. To the dismay of the Health Service, the quality of protection that these new devices afforded was of great concern. In fact, the goggles were so fragile that they deteriorated at the slightest handling and lost the ability to provide a proper seal. Thus, it was decided to organize a repair and improvement of these devices, the work being carried out in Verdun by divisional stretcher-bearers under the supervision of Adjutant Pharmacist 1st Class Rodier. The goggles were modified by gluing on the edge of the mica plate a cardboard disc and coating it with a waterproof substance. In this way, 22,000 pairs of goggles were refurbished. In addition, the 22,500 Piedalu masks had been found to be defective in that they did not apply correctly the face, and efforts were made to refurbish these by turning them into eye protection.
This was done by cutting a vertical slot along the seam from the chin up to the nose of the mask, divided the lower part of the mask in two. Then, using a sewing machine to create a central vertical seam, it brings the two mica eyepieces closer together, as the spacing had previously been too far apart. The eyecups were strengthened by placing a piece of rectangular cloth pierced by two round holes onto the inner face of the mask. The fabric used for this was taken from the envelope of the sachets for the small gags and the edge was coated with a sticky substance, ensuring a perfect seal. The fleece was then sealed with a ricinate solution. This excellent model of glasses was tried in saturated atmospheres bromine, chlorine and benzyl bromide. The protection was deemed perfect and glasses were distributed soon made their making. The workshop was also held to repair the protective equipment of all kinds, damaged on the front. Not only is he allowed to make much more effective part of this material, but it helped to make substantial savings.
Polyvalent ('P') Pads
Starting at the end of May 1915, the Germans made a change in their tactical deployment of chemical weapons. They temporarily abandoned gaseous wave attacks in order to develop munitions (i.e. gas artillery shells) containing newer, more aggressive substances. New toxins were introduced and deployed in succession, each acting to compromise the protection provided by compresses and pads soaked in thiosulphate. The goggles distributed proved ineffective at against the effects of the tear gases (in French, ’lacrymogènes’) that the German army began using heavily from the summer of 1915. On 18 June 1915, the Germans introduced a new substance that will prove the most lethal of 1915: chloromethyl chloroformate (in French, ’palite’). This chemical, loaded into 170 mm shells, is an aggressive tearing agent and powerful suffocant (ten times more toxic than chlorine). French gas pads soaked with the thiosulphate solution are absolutely useless against this solution.
With Germany’s increased use of chemical weapons in June and July 1915, the French military’s Chemical Material Service jumped into action. On 5 July 1915, reports describing the situation at the front arrive at the newly created Protection Commission, which detail the new toxic substances being used, the deployment via artillery shells, and the lack of effective protection for the troops, resulting in blindness and suffocation. The Commission immediately takes steps to come up with measures to neutralize the effects of gas. After a grueling trial-and-error, the solution was finally discovered on 26 July: a mixed solution of castor oil and ricinate soda solution called ‘ricin-ricinate’. Trials are conducted the same day and lead to the development of the first respiratory device referred to as ‘Polyvalent‘ (or, “multipurpose”). This was subsequently designated the tampon ‘P’: the ‘P’ pad. Two days later, a note is sent out calling for immediate production of the device.
On 3 August 1915, a provisory notice is published describing the new pads intended to replace the compresses previously in circulation. The ‘P’ pad consisted of a simple envelope; a sort of rectangular portfolio as before with a flap on one of the short ends, made of a double layer of soft gauze 26 cm long by 14 cm wide. The flap was fitted with either buttonholes or button snaps. The gauze making up the envelope turned a yellowish-brown by the impregnation of a potassium permanganate solution. To protect the skin from the actions of neutralizing substances, the envelope was treated with paraffin wax. Four compresses -- made of six layers of undressed muslin or tarlatan and conforming in size to the envelope -- were placed atop each other and inserted into the envelope.
The fasteners consist of two strips of elastic-cotton, 80 cm in length and ranging in width from 12.5 where it joined the pad to 7.5 cm at the bitter end. To increase airflow in the pad, a flexible wire 10 cm in length was inserted into the top of the pad, which could be shaped to the contours of the wearer’s face. This allowed for a small space to be formed below the nostrils and in front of the mouth. Two other metal splints are placed obliquely in the lower corners of the envelope, to allow the bottom corners of the pad to be shaped to the jaw. The pad was intended to cover as much of the face as possible, an area about 20 cm by 10 cm. The notice describing the 'P' pad also stipulated that any existing compresses that the armies had existing in stock and not yet distributed would still be used after being impregnated with the new castor-ricinate solution. On 22 August, workshops are set up specifically for the production and repair of the pads within the sanitary formations at the unit level (presumably division).
The 'P' pads were distributed in the same (or similar) sachets as the original compresses, eventually designated as the 'S1' sachet. The sachet was a simple envelope made of various types of impermeable canvas, some being lined with oilcloth or rubber, which were made in roughly the same dimension as the compress (20 cm by 10 cm). The envelope had an opening at the top with a flap that was fastened down by either a button or a button-snap. A cloth loop on the top of the sachet allowed it to be worn hung from one of the buttons of the greatcoat.
In parallel with the research into resisting German gases were studies into the neutralization of two toxic agents that the French army wished to deploy in response to the German attacks. These are phosgene and hydrogen cyanide. These studies were all the more pressing following intelligence indicating that the Germans were also conducting tests on how to weaponize them. At the end of July 1915, reports stated that a solution was still a month away from deployment. A problem therefore presented itself: how to quickly manufacture a new device impregnated in the new castor-ricinate solution (acting to neutralize blinding agents) in large quanities that could be altered within a month to take on the solution in-development that was resistant to phosgene and hydrogen cyanide. The answer was conceptually straight-forward: modify the existing gas pads so that additional compresses could supplement them. This modified pad would come to be designated as the tampon 'P2'.
On 24 August 1915, a new notice was sent out describing in detail the new pad to be produced by the Chemical Material Service. It included the prescription that the pad should also be replicated in the army workshops to replace the 'P' model. The 'P2' pad is composed of a rectangular portfolio (the envelope) with an opening on one of the short sides, which was fastened closed by a flap. The closure mechanism in the 'P2' was modified as the snap-buttons used on the 'P' model tended to come unfastened. The closure mechanism now consisted simply of a flap of gauze (9 cm in width) that effectively lenthening one of the short sides. The new style of compresses were then inserted into the opening. Three metal splints (7 mm wide and wrapped in a thin fabric) are sewn inside the body of the pad so that the pad could be shaped to the contours of the face and create space in front of the nose and mouth to allow for airflow. These were installed such that one ran parallel to the long side (crossing over the bridge of the nose) with the other two set diagonally near the short sides (across the cheeks). The pad fasteners consist of two bands of elastic-cotton. As prescribed, the gauze compresses (16 layers of gauze in total) inserted into the envelope were initially soaked only in the castor-ricinate solution. These compresses were officially designated the C1.
The 'P2' pads were delivered in new protective sachets designated as the 'S2'. Larger than the previous version at ~17 cm x ~28 cm, the 'S2' sachet was divided into two compartments down the length of the interior, permitting the goggles to be placed in one compartment and the pad in the other. Initially, in the absence of rubberized cloth, the 'S2' was manufactured in a purplish-blue cloth. Later versions in various dimensions were made in a variet of waterproofed cloth (up to twenty different known varieties). The army workshops would also continue to produce 'S2' sachets in some cases to spec and in other cases, unique to that particular workshop.
It should also be noted here that the notice on the 'P2' pads also described a method for impregnating hoods with the castor-ricinate solution. In short, the implementation and especially the impregnation of new pads was incumbent upon each army to carry out. By decentralizing the manufacture of protective devices within each army, the Ministry of War was hoping to expedite distribution of the new formula more than anything else. Production of the first 'P2s' began in early August 1915, reaching 3,000 units a day at the end of the month. By the end of the month, the first 10,000 'P2s' had been delivered to the French 3rd Army. Shortly thereafter, production will exceed 30,000 units daily.
Though crude in form, the protection provided by the 'P2' pad proved reliable. Six months in advance of any other belligerent army, the 'P' and 'P2' pads were the first mass-distributed form of chemical weapon protection. Experiements showed they could provide more than two hours of protection against moderate exposure to a chlorine gaseous wave. What is not anticipated in the labs however are the real conditions at the front, where heavier concentrations of gas were encountered. Nonetheless, between the start of August and the end of October 1915, 4.5 million 'P2s' were produced by the Chemical Material Service. In addition to these, an unknown number of pads were made by certain armies in workshops. On 18 January 1916, notice is sent out that all non-impregnated pads were to returned and those not yet distributed were to be scrapped. On 25 February 1916, those 'P2s' still in use were officially suppressed and replaced by the TN mask.
Compresses: As noted, the first deliveries of 'P2' pads only afforded incomplete protection, as they didn't protect against phosgene and cyanide derivatives in use by the Germans at that time. The first 'P2s' began to see widespread distribution in combat units starting in the month of September. Some time later, sent to troops of pink compresses phosgiane, limited in number, knowing that they only confer very limited protection. During the month of August, two separate solutions intended to neutralize these substances are proposed. First, the basic nickel acetate known as ‘Vinciane’, which neutralizes the derivatives of hydrocyanic acid. However, due to production issues, the first compresses soaked with this solution only begin production on 22 September. These will be later designated the C3 (20 layers of gauze) and are green in color. Two weeks later, the armies had received only 200,000. The second solution was soda sulfanilate known as ‘Phosgiane’, adopted to combat phosgene. Yet this substance can only neutralize very low concentrations of phosgene gas. No other solution being envisioned, distribution of the compresses soaked in Phosgiane starts on 6 October 1915. These compresses, which were to have begun distribution before the C3, are designated the C2 compress (12 layers of gauze) and are pink in color. but production did not exceed 10,000 copies a day. By 15 October, only 96,000 packs were produced. ===================
Since the beginning of June 1915 goggles made in rubber goggles were being made to protect against tear gases. After the attacks with benzyl bromide at the end of June, it becomes a matter of urgency to distribute these goggles. The entire production of the month of June is sent to the armies: 140,000 pairs by 1 July 1915. In September the “plaques de vision” are replaced in some models with glass strips with polished edges. The same month the last two models of eye protection are adopted which prove effective. Models were then made with waterproofed cloths, rubber, and leather. The eyepieces were simply sewn onto the completed mask. Some examples have a glass strips embedded in a tronconique sheet metal housing. The better models utilized an elastic strap to attach the goggles to the face. When this not available, a simple lace was used which tied behind the head. At the end of July 1915, 600,000 pairs of goggles had been distributed. While the number of items shipped is record-breaking, the quality of some of the goggles is so poor that they offer little protection against gas.
change that should help transform all existing goggles finally making them waterproof. The description of the amendment is sent on 3 August 1915. The eyepieces were sewn onto a piece of soft, thick fabric measuring about 11 cm x 20 cm pierced with two circular holes for vision. The fleece is impregnated with a castor-ricinate solution. At the lower part of the fabric a wire was fixed that was 15 cm in length. The goggles were intended to conform to the shape of the face and an almost perfect seal needed to be had. All goggles in stock were to be modified or reformed as well. Ultimately, only three types seem to have undergone the modification: the rubber type, the blue type, and the beige type, making 312,850 pairs of goggles at a rate of 30,000 a day. For their part, the armies will conduct the same modification with every type they have in possession.
On 14 August, the goggles offered by the Meyrowitz house, known as pneumatics, are adopted. They consist of glass visors, set in sheet metal frames and trimmed at the bottom with a wide rubber airtight strip. The distance between the eyepieces is adjusted by a simple wire. During the month of September, eye lenses made of gelatin are replaced on some models by glass plates with polished edges. And in the same month two of the latest models of eye protection were adopted that finally proved effective.
At the start of the month a fleece-line waterproof mask lined with eyepieces of acetyl cellulose embedded in metal blinkers. Then, in mid-September, a rubber mask produced by the Meyrowitz house is adopted in turn. It is fleece-lined and the eyepieces are embedded in protruding rubber blinkers, allowing for easy replacement. The transparent plates will first be made of acetyl cellulose before soon being replaced by glass plates with milled edges. The goggles are attached using two laces; an elastic band which ensures a snug fit. A metal strip, as in all other models manufactured since August, allows them to be molded to the nose and cheeks. Progressively, the latter model would replace all others. Some armies however would receive Bertrand fleece goggles, again referred to as ricinées goggles until the middle of 1916, when stocks were finally exhausted.
All glasses will now be fitted with a layer of soft cloth and sufficiently thick, of single or double thickness. For this purpose, a piece of rectangular fleece or similar fabric slightly rounded at the corners 20 cm long and 11 cm high, pierced with two round holes 5 cm in diameter and separated by a gap of 2.5 cm. The fabric, being previously impregnated with a ricinate and alcohol solution, is pressed and dried and then sewn around the entire edge of the openings of the eye holes frames. At the lower end of the eye mask, a cross wire (annealed and galvanized) 15 cm in length is installed 4 cm below the lengthwise axis of the goggles. This wire is intended to be modeled to the nose and cheeks to allow for a good seal once formed to the shape of the wearer's nose and cheeks.
The goggles made by the Direction du Matériel Chimique de Guerre, or DMCG, (made in light blue, beige and rubber) had to be modified in the same way if possible or else refurbished. Their method of attachment via elastic straps was replaced by lace ties. This included 312,850 goggles in storage, 30,000 pairs being completed a day. The armies were to make these changes with whatever means at their disposal. The work was carried out by the Divisional Stretcher-Bearer Groups from the beginning of August. On 22 August, specialized workshops were created in each of the sanitary formations, which were tasked with fabricating, repairing and refurbishing the devices. ==== ==== The first pairs of goggles were ordered before the attack of 22 April 1915. They were meant to protect people using the suffocating grenades, the use of intensified since the beginning of the year 1915. Thus, 90 000 copies were made available to the armed 20 April 1915. It is difficult to precisely determine today what type it was, and if they showed themselves effective. One model seems to be rubber with eye gelatin. To ensure proper sealing, it was sufficiently tighten the link passing behind the head, which sometimes caused the ejection of the sights outside of the frame. Is this the same type as those distributed in the future? On May 9, after the attack of Ypres, 100 000 copies were ordered again, and then on May 11, the number increased to 400,000 including 50,000 in rubber gasket. To ensure the production of all these copies in record time, the STG under-treated with numerous manufacturers. Some armies also not hesitate to order from the same suppliers, making bids for the precious glasses as soon as possible (the Houzelle Hutchinson and houses seem to have been the most requested). In the frenzy to recover everything that looked like goggles, stocks of automobile glasses commercially sold out in a few days. Unfortunately, they were not intended for such use and proved no efficiency. At the Commission asphyxiating gases, protecting eyes seemed so unnecessary. Indeed, the various members assumed that the ocular irritation caused by chlorine was not produced by direct contact and respiratory protection should be sufficient to avoid. The question was therefore left open until June 1915, when the German attacks by benzyl bromide were developed. The Commission then changed his point of view and it is in the urgency that the first decisions were taken. The daily production of glasses was only 3000 copies! The STG gave way at the beginning of July to the ECMCG which launched a massive and rapid production to fill the gap, addressing all industry capable of a major production. He then produce fabric patterns rendered sealed by a gum arabic solution, rubberized fabric or leather models. Ocular were simply glued or sewn on the wolf thus formed. All transparent substances were used; some copies had a plate of glass embedded in truncated housing sheet (800 000 copies of the latter will be produced). The attachment was ensured in the best case, by an elastic strap, but when this tissue was missing, a simple loop to tie behind the head. At the end of July, 600,000 glasses have already been shipped! But their quality was very poor, and according to various reports, they do not adequately protect against tear. Slight progress was made through the distribution of glasses crafted red rubber, who married more easily face, but the solution was finally found by Professor Bertrand. In early August, he suggested, as we have already seen, a fleece fabric on which was fastened a metal blade. This process helped to transform quickly all existing types of glasses. The fleece was to neutralize ricin gas. Failure by elastic tissue fixation was performed by a cord attached to all specimens manufactured. Then, August 14, 1915, glasses, tell tires were adopted by the Commission and provided in three different sizes. They were constituted by glass viewfinders, set in sheet metal frames and trimmed at the base of a wide rubber sealing bead. The distance between the eyes could be regulated by wire adjustment. If the model proved effective, its cost and the care necessary for its production seemed slow distribution. Therefore, it will ultimately be reserved for the use of closed circuit apparatus. During the month of September the vision plates gelatin, which tended to crack, were replaced on some models, for glass slides. A waterproof fabric wolf fleece-lined, with eye on acetylcellulose enshrined in blinkers sheet, was adopted in early and quickly produced. Compared with existing models, he finally procured a satisfactory seal and strength. Then a rubber wolf, proposed the establishment Meyrowitz, was adopted in turn in the middle of September. It was lined with fleece and eye were embedded in rubber protruding blinkers for changing them easily. The transparent plates were first in acetylcellulose, but having a tendency to leave their homes, they were very quickly changed by glass plates with milled edges. The attachment was provided by two laces; elastic was added later and allowed a good fit fleece on the face, the system which will then resumed for all produced glasses. A steel blade allowed, as in all existing models, mold glasses on his nose and cheeks. These two types of glasses would be controlled by the ECMCG from many manufacturers. They then had to provide copies conforming to a specification, relatively severe, developed by the care of Professor Lebeau and his collaborators. In practice this meant that different models became standard and that the repairs were finally possible, without major problems. Gradually, Meyrowitz glasses were brought to replace all other models. However, armies will receive goggles Fleece, also called glasses ricinées until the middle of 1916, when stocks were exhausted. At the end of 1915, batting rubber goggles ceased to be ricin to avoid degradation than oil, in the long run caused the rubber. Then, to avoid ejection problems visors, fixed window washers, equipped with claws on one side, were distributed to be secured around the eyecups of the mask, by folding their legs. These rings appear in the middle of 1916. To prevent condensation from forming on the windows glasses, the Commission proposed a number of substances, in September 1915. First, the acetyl-cellulose Meyrowitz glasses windows were replaced with panes of ordinary glass, then formed blades two layers of glass sandwiching a flexible and transparent sheet that ensures the seal in case of breakage of the glass. Antifog pencil, which is applied on the inner face of the glass, was then distributed to minimize condensation of water vapor on the eyepieces. To define the most suitable substance, examinations of different materials were performed in laboratory Lebeau. Thus, it adopted a hydrocellulose manufactured by the company '' Cellophane '. At the beginning of year 1916, thus used a cellophane plate placed inwardly and protected by a glass pane, positioned outside. Cellophane absorbed moisture as and when it is formed but, against, became fragile and malleable. These eye then seemed to satisfy new and suppressed the glass slide which brought, it seems, any benefit to the device, but especially that prevented setting the fixed window washers. Cellophane these blades were then embedded in a metal ring whose inner edge, folded on the glass was jagged. The complex was called anti-fog glass. They appeared in the middle of March 1916. Sights to acetyl cellulose were in turn embedded in a metal circle with smooth edges, to differentiate them from previous ones. ===================