"It reaches a point of suffocation to be subject to continual exertion with a gas mask on … it was pitiful to see the horses and mules affected by it."
The Germans were the first to use gas during the war, although the allies quickly retaliated in kind. 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.
Gas masks saved lives but also caused fatalities. They were extremely uncomfortable and hampered the movement of the men, inducing fatigue, disorientation, and confusion.
"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."