Often called "the first major chemical warfare attack," the release of chlorine by the Germans along their front near Langemark-Poelkapelle in the Ypres salient marked the beginning of serious chemical warfare in World War I. Prior to April 22, the French had previously employed toxic tear gas grenades, all sides were preparing chemical weapons, and the Germans previously tried at least two other chemical attacks with little result, but the events of April 22, 1915 were the most successful chemical attack in the previous hundred years and they sparked a serious escalation in chemical warfare that culminated in the devastating use of mustard agent in the final year of the war. The original attack outshines later developments, and they have taken on mythical characteristics. Much of what transpired is buried in propaganda, myth, and legend, but the significance of that early evening attack cannot be denied.
On April 22, 2015, the Belgians recognized and remembered the victims of that first attack in ceremonies at the French Memorial (Cross of Reconciliation), the Canadian Memorial (Brooding Soldier), and the Menin Gate. The King of Belgium placed wreaths at the two memorials as part of the ceremonies, and the ambassadors of France, Germany, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, the United States, Russia, and Latvia, as well as numerous distinguished guests, veterans, and military representatives paid their respects. It was my distinct honor to be included among those present. Over the next few days I will be posting some of the photos and video from that trip and those commemorations, as well as some historical material regarding the events of April 22, 1915.