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By Marion Leslie Girard

The arrival of poison fuel in global struggle I surprised Britons in any respect degrees of society, but by way of the tip of the clash their state used to be a pacesetter in chemical battle. even though by no means used at the domestic entrance, poison gasoline affected nearly each phase of British society bodily, mentally, or emotionally, proving to be an armament of overall conflict. via cartoons, army files, novels, treaties, and different resources, Marion Girard examines the various methods diverse sectors of British society considered chemical battle, from the industrialists who promoted their poisonous guns whereas conserving deepest regulate of production, to the politicians who used fuel whereas balancing the necessity for victory with the danger of constructing a name for barbarity. even though so much Britons thought of gasoline a vile weapon and a symptom of the enemy’s inhumanity, many finally condoned its use. The public debates concerning the way forward for gasoline prolonged to the interwar years, and proof unearths that the taboo opposed to poison gasoline was once faraway from inevitable. an odd and ambitious Weapon uncovers the complex background of this weapon of overall conflict and illustrates the widening involvement of society in struggle. (20090401)

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Extra info for A Strange and Formidable Weapon: British Responses to World War I Poison Gas (Studies in War, Society, and the Militar)

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Indd 34 2/29/2008 9:31:20 AM Descent to Atrocities? |  Kitchener’s response resembled a press release, with its references to “degraded Germans” and the “infamy” of the foe’s actions. He also had the luxury of resources and time that French did not. He could think clearly about bringing the might of Britain’s scientific resources to bear in order to make the nation’s response as strong as possible. His primary remark addressed the legal implications of the Germans’ actions. In the first place, in his mind, the recent events were illegal; in the second place, they were beyond the pale of civilized behavior.

Two days later, the Canadians proved that troops could withstand gas, although at a great cost in lives, even without sophisticated antigas helmets. Although there was no way of knowing whether the Germans would use gas again, the general assumption was that they would, and thus Britain needed to start an antigas helmet industry as well as institute military training to respond to the threat. In addition, Britain considered trying the new armament. indd 30 2/29/2008 9:31:19 AM Descent to Atrocities?

He did not rule out the possibility of offensive actions by the army, but neither did he condone or even refer to French’s request for them. Kitchener was in a position, close to the government physically and with regard to his role in the war, to need to consider image as well as practicalities. In fact, the former concern seems to have come first in his set of priorities. However, Lord Kitchener did not become the chief soldier of Britain without being realistic; he began planning for all contingencies.

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