The war on the Western Front was long and arduous, with both sides, the British and the Germans, having entered a stalemate in which they dug down into their trenches and literally waited for the enemy to attack, consequently waiting the war out and dragging it on for an unnecessarily long time.
To break the stalemate, the notion of the development of biological warfare was developed – poison gas. It’s a common generalisation that it was the Germans who were the first to develop and use poison gas in war. This is a common misconception – it was in fact the French who did in August 1914. The French used tear gas grenades against the German army advancing upon them in Belgium and throughout north-eastern France. The gas used was known as Xylyl Bromide and this particular type of gas was more of an irritant than a biological weapon of war, designed to incapacitate the German army, rather than kill them. Despite this seemingly “inhumane” act of warfare, the German’s had been considering gas warfare as a means to crush their enemies and as an easy way to win the war effectively for quite some time.
In October 1914, the Germans attacked Nueve Chapelle. Here they fired gas shells at the French that contained a chemical caused violent sneezing fits. Again, this gas was designed to incapacitate, rather than kill the enemy so that the enemy was unable to defend their positions
Once Trench warfare had dug in, both opposing sides were desperately looking for ways to bring movement back into their campaigns. So one of the more obvious ideas was to develop a weapon that was so inhumane and appalling that it would destroy not only the enemy frontline, but also the will to maintain troops on that frontline. The Germans believed that poison gas might even provoke a mass mutiny amongst the enemy troops in the frontline and thus, causing it to collapse.
Poison gas (chlorine) was used for the first time at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. At around 17.00 hours on the 22nd...