A large monster
“Pulled out of bed in the dead of night by a large monster that ultimately turned out to be a man with his gas mask on.” - Captain Robert Grieve of the 37th Battalion.
Gas masks saved lives but also caused fatalities. They were extremely uncomfortable and hampered the movement of the men, inducing fatigue, disorientation, and confusion.
Corporal Arthur Thomas of 6th Battalion wrote 19 March 1918:
“It was terrible there were about four hundred men & they got out of hand & lost their heads … I daren’t keep my head cover on just held the mouth piece and nose clip, one cannot see as the glasses become misty & in the dark with shells falling and crashing all around you it is damned weird … it is the cruellest method of warfare of the lot”.
The ANZAC Voices exhibition will be focussed mainly on using letters and diaries to tell the story of the war but objects, photographs, and works of art will also feature. Many people who have visited the Memorial will remember the man in the mud from the First World War gallery. The object will form part of the ANZAC Voices exhibition along with the letters and diaries of Robert Grieve, VC and Corporal Arthur Thomas. Both described the terrifying experience of fighting during gas attacks. The AIF experienced gas attacks in most actions on the Western Front. Gas bombardment of a wood at Messines led to 1,374 casualties, of which 310 were fatal.
ANZAC Voices, the Memorial’s new First World War exhibition, is currently being installed and will open this Friday, 29 November 2013.