Giant British WW1 Stink Bombs

Grace Higgins | November 11th, 2020

During the First World War, both sides were shooting terrible flammable and toxic chemicals at each other. It was a time where all forms of warfare were being used, it didn’t matter how terrible the weapon was. Germans would regularly fire deadly Mustard gas at British and French forces. And the Allies started to use it in 1917 in such high concentrations to force the enemy to abandon positions. But, they also started firing harmless stink bombs.

During WW1 the main way to shoot these shells of poisonous gas was by using the Livens Projector. This was a very simple mortar-like weapon that could throw very large drums. These drums were filled with weaponized chemicals. It was also during this period of time that the cocktail Molotov explosion was perfected. British engineers realized that grenades would not cause the Germans to move out of trenches. And flamethrowers were quite complex to always have around. A 5-gallon oil canister that would cause flames to dispel all over on impact forced enemy soldiers out of trenches quickly. In fact, the Livens Projector was the main delivery mechanism for the British Army even during the early days of World War II.

But it wasn’t always about shooting deadly chemicals! What may come as a surprise is that British forces also used stink bombs. These were chemicals that smelt terrible and simulated how a poisonous gas attack would happen. However, the idea was to force the German soldiers to put their gas masks on. You see at the time gas masks were not streamlined like today. Meaning they were cumbersome to wear and would obstruct vision. As a result, the British started to shoot stink bombs before a regiment would push a trench position. The idea was if the Germans were wearing their masks they would fight worse.

Of course, the Germans had their own equivalent to these devices, which was called the Gaswurfinen. Over eight hundred canisters were fired at the Italian Army at the Battle of Caporetto. It was indeed a terrible time to be on a battlefield, even surviving soldiers came home with deadly after-effects of the chemicals. This is why in 1925 the Geneva Protocol was signed to outlaw chemical warfare.

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