As the war dragged on all the combatants looked for ways to get an edge on the battlefield. Two significant innovations took place in the first two months of 1915. Both were from the Germans, and both involved sophisticated chemistry in which Germany was the world's industrial leader.
1. First Significant Use of Poison Gas, 31 January, the Battle of Bolimov
|1915 Gas Attack on the Eastern Front|
In October 1914 the Germans placed some small tear gas canisters in shells that were fired at Neuve Chapelle, France, but Allied troops were not exposed. In January 1915 the Germans fired shells loaded with xylyl bromide, a more lethal gas, at Russian troops at Bolimov on the Eastern Front. The Battle of Bolimov was an inconclusive battle of World War I fought on 31 Januar 1915 between Germany and Russia and considere preliminary to the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes. Because of the wintry cold, most of the gas froze, but the Russians nonetheless reported more than 1,000 killed as a result of the new weapon. (History Channel)
2. First Use of Flamethrowers, 26 February, Malancourt (West of Verdun)
|Early German Flamethrower Team, 1915|
The flamethrower was invented in 1901 by German engineer Richard Fiedler. He tested these devices in the 1908 Engineer Test Company and equipped two special German Army battalions of former Leipzig firefighter Capt. Hermann Redemann in late 1914. They were first used in combat against the French trenches at Malancourt northwest of Verdun on 26 February 1915. Due to the success of this engagement, a Third Guard Pioneer Battalion was created, commanded by Redemann, enlarged to 800 men and equipped with improved models from the Fiedler Flamethrower Works in Berlin. This unit used the flamethrowers at Ypres on 30 July 1915. Flamethrower assault squads of six men were added to the stormtrooper battalions commanded by Captain Willy Rohr after 8 August 1915. The Allied armies adopted the flamethrower by 1916. (WWI on the Web)