Updated: Feb 24
Different types of gas masks of the Great War.
"1918::Four Gas Masks of World War 1"
Photo Clip: Calgary Herald (1918)
Four gas masks represent four different countries of the First World War. From left to right: America, England, France and Germany.
Although archeologists have discovered proof of chemical warfare dating back thousands of years, its first substantial use was on the battlefields of the Great War. In 1915, gas was used for the first time, for a sustained period and on an unimaginable scale. The masks helped to protect against chlorine gas attacks but later failed to offer protection from mustard gas. Gas warfare had inflicted more than one million physical and psychological casualties by the war's end.
In 1925, the post-war Geneva Protocol (under the auspices of the League of Nations) prohibited the use of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, as well as the use of any method of bacteriological warfare. The agreement was signed by those who effectively used gas in the Great War — Austria, Britain, France, Germany and Russia. Unfortunately, this didn't stop the return of gas in the Second World War, and the League of Nations soon disbanded in 1946. But in 1993, the Chemical Weapons Convention augmented the Protocol's purpose by prohibiting the use of chemical weapons and the development, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons (excepting research, medical, pharmaceutical or protective uses). In 2013, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons, as outlined by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. Their work continues today. The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law.