The Battle of Bolimów: WW1 Experiments With Poison Gas

Picture this: The air is all around you, but you can’t seem to get a breath. You claw at your throat, but no oxygen will come. It is unable to enter your lungs, trapped by something of the likes never seen before. Suddenly, the gun lying next to you looks like much more of a friend.

In January of 1915, that’s what the Germans were expecting at the Battle of Bolimów. They had planned on using xylyl bromide, a new tear gas-like weapon, against the Russians. However, after firing over ten thousand T-shells, or shells with that contained xylyl bromide and an explosive to set them off, it was proven a failure.

The reason for its failure was most likely that the harsh winter temperatures were too cold, resulting in the gas being unable to be released from the shell properly and blend into the air. The shells not only failed to vaporize, but also could’ve been blown back to the German trenches.

All this made the attack a compete failure for the German offense, and because of that, they called it off. The Russians, however, fired back, but in their efforts, they suffered 40,000 deaths. The Russian counterattacks were just as useless as the attempted use of xylyl bromide.

Because of this gas attack’s failure, it is often overlooked for later attacks that featured more lethal gases like chlorine, which was used in the  attack made on the French by the Germans at the Battle of Ypres on April 22, 1915.

Overall, The Battle of Bolimów was a minor battle that no one benefitted from. No one won it, and all it resulted in it was death. Its main significance is that it was the first time poison gas was ever attempted at being used as a weapon. It brought to life a new, innovative idea of warfare that many other battles have built on, for better or for worse.

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