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1915::Four Gas Masks of World War One

Updated: Apr 3

Chemical warfare and the development of protective masks.

1918::Four Gas masks of the First World War.

"1915::Four Gas Masks of World War 1"

Photo Clip: Calgary Herald (1918)

Calgary, Alberta

Chemical warfare dates back thousands of years, but its first known substantial use was on the battlefields of World War I. In 1915, the introduction of weaponized gas forced the development of protective masks for soldiers. These masks proved helpful against the initial attacks of chlorine gas but later failed to protect against the newer and more widely used mustard gas. By the end of the First World War, gas as a form of chemical warfare had caused more than one million physical and psychological casualties.

In 1925, a post-war treaty called the Geneva Protocol was signed by those who effectively used gas in the Great War: Austria, Britain, France, Germany and Russia. The purpose of the treaty was to prohibit the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. Unfortunately, the poorly worded treaty was not enough to prevent the return of chemical warfare on the battlefields of World War II. In 1993, however, the Chemical Weapons Convention expanded the Geneva Protocol's purpose by prohibiting the use of chemical weapons as well as the development, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons, with exceptions for medical and pharmaceutical research. In 2013, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won a Nobel Peace Prize for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons without exception. Their work continues to define the use of chemical weapons as a great taboo under international law.


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