Home Archive Search Result Modern Munitions of War: III.—Poison-Gas and Incendiary Bombs

Modern Munitions of War: III.—Poison-Gas and Incendiary Bombs

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A BRITISH AIR -BOMB OF SMALL TYPE: SHOWING THE SAFETY BOLT, DRAWN BEFORE DROPPING, WHICH STARTS THE PROPELLER IPho Fb Sfor anl 4 enral.


lIB the laiws of dlifilulOn. gases in- terllnglllge at a rate whii 1 IS ivtrsely preusprtlanal to the squlare railnts of thlir densities, hlt ailr-I urrtlnts or wind (llnormolll si increase the rate of asdmix- ture. so that. wrlth ani thing lhke a blczce blloss g, it wouald bhe iipols- salle to lse tha’in sua cessfull ; wtlast the opportunaity for ” frightfulnessh Is, iof alurse. llain teal bl the directioln if the windl, so that in Flandlers it is onlv with the wind In the north or a point or two ion eit her side that ellctti nse uScould be nmso of them. I lurig tile past essw’ months the prevailing as nds


have been in the enemy’s favour for considerably molre than the normal period, and it as to be hoped that during the nest few months. with


the pirevalent wnid from the south or south-west, the opportunity of using these gases will be reduced to a nllllnu m. MaIny years ago an ancestor of Earl Iundonald suggersteid that sulphur dioxide should be employed with smoke screens for attacking strong positions– fires fed s ith tar, pitch, and sulphur, giving dense volulmes of smoke colnbined with the asphyxlating fumes, which coull be floated down wind on to the enenmy, and unlder cover of which the attack could he carried out But England has always declined to a ‘opt any such methrlh of fighting, and even during the early stages of this war, when the idea was again suggested, refused to consider it. The inhalation of a very small proportion of this gas causes coughing; but if the sufferer escapes from the zime within a reasonable period the effects pass off, and the inhalation of dilute ammnomacal fumes rapidly affords relief. The gas can be easily liquefied by cold or pressure, and one pound of the liquid gives, roughly, five cubic feet of the gas. The liquid sulphur doxrlde is being used by the enemy in hand-grenades, which, broken by a small bursting charge, scatter the contents when thrown into the opposition trench. and often contain other volatile irritant bodies be- sides the sulphur dioxide. Chlorine which in all probability is the gas which has been used to the greatest extent, is of a yellowish- green coilour. It can l hiquefied under a pressure of six atmospheres, and hais an insuplportable odlour. This gas Lan be made with thile greatest ease by


hi.tung a misxture of hydroi h lorn acid and black oxide ut imi,.1iui se, but It is now produced in large quantities in tci taci els trolytic pirocesses, from which it can be col- letted and liquieled, the hliluid being stored in lead-lined steel c-hndlers closed b a valve. In isuit a c sunder the gas above the liquid exercises a presuire ait at least oni Ic on the square Inch. so that if a v, inder cntaining it ie fitted with a tube which passes down intoi the hliquil, anti is provided at its exit romn the iindcl r swithl a valve, on opening the valve the liquid is bilown Iout in thIe ollrll iof a spray, which at atmosplheric pressiic istantl assiumns the gaseous form, and it is in this “wayi that it has been IefHvly used. It is repirted, chicver, that where the G(ernman trenhles are of a more or less permanlent chara ter, broad tubes with valves at


A GERMAN INCENDIARY BOMB DROPPED DURING ONE OF THE AIR-RAIDS ON THIS COUNTRY: THE BURNT-OUT SHELL Phoo. by Spot and G;enraul


intervals are laid a few feet in front of the trenches with the openings pointed towards the Allies, the trunk tubes being connected with a gas-holder andi chlorine plant situated in a sheltered spot some little diitance away, so that the mere opening of the valves sets free a flood of gas without the disturbing influence of the cooling effect pro- duced when gas is hberated from a cylinder of compressed liquid. The yellow colour of the gas employed has been a marked feature of all the more serious gas attacks, but it nust be remembered that either chlorine or nitrogen tetroxide would give very much this effect, although the latter would be browner in colour. Nitrogen tetroxide constitutes the fumes formed during the action of nitric acid on various substances in contact with air, and can be liquefied at temperatures below 26 deg. C. to a liquid varying in colour with the tem- perature. Most observers from the front insist that this gas has been largely used; but this seems doubtful, as nitric acid and the oxides of nitrogen play so important a part in the manufacture of explosives that, in spite of the


SHOWING THE WEIGHT OF A GAS–SSENTIAL TO ITS EFFECTIVENESS IN TRENCH-WARFARE: BROMINE VAPOUR POURED FROM A BOTTLE; HOW THE HEAVY GAS FALLS, AS IT WOULD FROM A TRENCH. CREST BEFORE BEING BLOWN TOWARDS THE ENEMY BY THE WIND.


large quantities of nitric acid made by electrical processes from atmospheric nitrogen, the enemy cannot spare much for this purpose. Only two liquid elements are known, mercury and bromine; and the latter, which is closely allied to chlorine in all its properties, becomes a vapour at atmospheric templeratures, and boils at 59 deg. C. Germany produces practically the whole European supply from” traces of magnesium bromtde found in the great salt-mines at Stasslurt. It rs a reddish-brown liquid, and gives a vapour of the same colour. The question of whether England should retaliate in kind is a cery open one. The element of surprise is neededt to make gas attacks successful, and inasmuch as we have not the remotest chance of surprising the Germans, who expect and are prepared for retaliation, it is far better to keep our hands clean, and fight the same straight fight that has always pulled us through. A form of poisoning used by the enemy has been the use of amorphous phosphorus in the shrapnel shells used partly for the marking of ranges. Amorphous phosphorus is a violet-brown powder, largely used in the composition on safety- match boxes, and differs widely from yellow phosphorus in that it is non-poisonous and inflammable only at a temperature that converts it into the inflammable yellow form. A tmall cartridge of this included in the i8-pounder shell is converted by the heat of explosion inti the ordinary variety, which burns, giving a dense white fume of phosphorus pentoxide, which marks the position of the bursting shell by day and has conferred unon this


type of shell the name of ” woolly bear.” and a flame which performs the same marking func- tion by night. When, however, a fragment of such a ~hell inflicts a wound the phos- phorus poisons it and serious
com- plications ensue. Probably the phase of ” fright- fulness ” that in- terests the British public as much as any are the bombs dropped by aero- planes and Zeppe- lins, of which sev- eral distinct varie- ties are in use. The British Air Service during this war have used the “Marten Hale bomb,” and the executicn they have wrought in


WITH AN OUTER SIN OF HEMP : A GERMAN INCENDIARY BOMB DROPPED IN ENGLAND, AND EXTINGUISHED BY BEING PLACED IN A PAIL OF WATER. Phao. by Sport and Gnral.


their numer- ous and brilliant raids speaks well for the con- struction of these deadly instruments. The bpmbs are of two types-shrap-


nel and high explosive. The former carries an explosive charge of 4 lb. 2. or. of trinitrotoluene, and 321 steel balls, which, with fragments of the shell, will often give over wooo pieces propelled on bursting with enormous force. The latter type, designed for dropping on war-ships and fortified positions, where structural damage is the important effect, carries an explosive charge of 6 lb. if T.N.T. Besides these, incendiary bombs are used, which differ somewhat from those used by the enemy, and which, for manifest reasons, cannot be discussed. The incendiary bombs used by the Germans consist of an outer skin wound round with tarred rope, and containing a charge composed of a mixture of very finely divided aluminium and oxide of iron, which, when ignited, develops an enormous amount of heat owing to the combination of the oxygen of the oxide of iron with the aluminium. This mixture is known in trade as ” thermit.” and was successfully introduced for practical use by Goldschmidt in 1898; it is now largely used for weld- ing rails and other iron and steel structures, and also for repairing castings-indeed, for any purpose for which intense local heating is desired. In many of these bombs there is a layer of amorphous phos- phorus at the base, which, converted into phosphorus vapour by the heat of the thermit reaction, burns with a rush of poisonous flame, igniting everything around, giving burns which, if not fatal, are poisoned and most difficult to get to heal, and also pro- ducing a cloud of fumes of phosphorus pentoxide.



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Issue 3980. - Vol CXLVII

Jul, 31 1915

Illustrated London News