Original Imperial German WWI M1917 Ledermaske Leather Gas Mask with Can, Filter & Extra Lenses - dated 1917

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very good condition totally genuine World War One issue German gas mask. This model of Gasschutzmaske (Gas Protection Mask) was introduced in 1917, and was known as the Ledermaske due to its leather body construction. The leather of this mask is still quite soft, with a great finish on the inside. There are some ink stamped markings on the gasket, however we are not quite able to make them out.

The mask still has an intact harness strap, as well as the neck strap and the cord that runs from the metal bottom fitting, up across the front of the mask, and secures to the harness. The bottom fitting is marked A3, which is embossed in the steel, and is also marked 40.

It has the original lenses, though there are no markings visible, and they are somewhat deformed. The lid compartment contains FOUR packets of spare lenses, which look to each contain 2 lenses. The packets are somewhat delicate, so we only opened one, and the lenses had 1918 dates. Both metal eye guards still intact and complete. The filter is ink stamped with date marking 19. 6. 17. and II.C.II., as well as a maker marking of Reidel. The filter itself is in great shape, with just a bit of rust.

The carry can is in very good condition with much original paint remaining, though the original straps are all missing. It also has a maker mark stamped on to the bottom, as well as a faint 11 SEP 1917 date. The spare lens compartment has the aforementioned lenses inside, with a functional internal spring, and working hinge. The lid of the canister fits great, and has a fully intact and functional closure latch.

Overall a very good condition gas mask that is more than 100 years of age!

Although the use of toxic chemicals as weapons dates back thousands of years, the first large scale use of chemical weapons was during World War I. They were primarily used to demoralize, injure, and kill entrenched defenders, against whom the indiscriminate and generally very slow-moving or static nature of gas clouds would be most effective. The types of weapons employed ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas, to lethal agents like phosgene, chlorine, and mustard gas. This chemical warfare was a major component of the first global war and first total war of the 20th century. The killing capacity of gas was limited, with only about 90 thousand fatalities from a total of some 1.2 million casualties caused by gas attacks. Gas was unlike most other weapons of the period because it was possible to develop

effective countermeasures, such as gas masks. In the later stages of the war, as the use of gas increased, its overall effectiveness diminished. The widespread use of these agents of chemical warfare, and wartime advances in the composition of high explosives, gave rise to an occasionally expressed view of World War I as "the chemist's war" and also the era where "weapons of mass destruction" were created.

The use of poison gas performed by all major belligerents throughout World War I constituted war crimes as its use violated the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which prohibited the use of "poison or poisoned weapons" in warfare.

The most widely reported and, perhaps, the most effective gas of the First World War was mustard gas. It was a vesicant that was introduced by Germany in July 1917 prior to the Third Battle of Ypres. The Germans marked their shells yellow for mustard gas and green for chlorine and phosgene; hence they called the new gas Yellow Cross. It was known to the British as HS (Hun Stuff), while the French called it Yperite (named after Ypres).

Mustard gas is not a particularly effective killing agent (though in high enough doses it is fatal) but can be used to harass and disable the enemy and pollute the battlefield. Delivered in artillery shells, mustard gas was heavier than air, and it settled to the ground as an oily liquid resembling sherry. Once in the soil, mustard gas remained active for several days, weeks, or even months, depending on the weather conditions.

The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure.

One nurse, Vera Brittain, wrote: "I wish those people who talk about going on with this war whatever it costs could see the soldiers suffering from mustard gas poisoning. Great mustard-coloured blisters, blind eyes, all sticky and stuck together, always fighting for breath, with voices a mere whisper, saying that their throats are closing and they know they will choke."

The polluting nature of mustard gas meant that it was not always suitable for supporting an attack as the assaulting infantry would be exposed to the gas when they advanced. When Germany launched Operation Michael on 21 March 1918, they saturated the Flesquières salient with mustard gas instead of attacking it directly, believing that the harassing effect of the gas, coupled with threats to the salient's flanks, would make the British position untenable.

Gas never reproduced the dramatic success of 22 April 1915; however, it became a standard weapon which, combined with conventional artillery, was used to support most attacks in the later stages of the war. Gas was employed primarily on the Western Front: the static, confined trench system was ideal for achieving an effective contingent. Germany also made use of gas against Russia on the Eastern Front, where the lack of effective countermeasures resulted in deaths of over 56,000 Russians, while Britain experimented with gas in Palestine during the Second Battle of Gaza. Russia began manufacturing chlorine gas in 1916, with phosgene being produced later in the year. However, most of the manufactured gas was never used.

The British Army believed that the use of gas was needed, but did not use mustard gas until November 1917 at Cambrai, after their armies had captured a stockpile of German mustard-gas shells. It took the British more than a year to develop their own mustard gas weapon, with production of the chemicals centred on Avonmouth Docks. (The only option available to the British was the Despretz-Niemann-Guthrie process). This was used first in September 1918 during the breaking of the Hindenburg Line with the Hundred Days' Offensive.

The Allies mounted more gas attacks than the Germans in 1917 and 1918 because of a marked increase in production of gas from the Allied nations. Germany was unable to keep up with this pace despite creating various new gases for use in battle, mostly as a result of very costly methods of production. Entry into the war by the United States allowed the Allies to increase mustard gas production far more than Germany. Also the prevailing wind on the Western Front was blowing from west to east, which meant the British more frequently had favorable conditions for a gas release than did the Germans.

Though the United States never used chemical weapons of its own manufacture in World War I (the Artillery used Mustard gas with significant effect during the Meuse Argonne Offensive on at least three occasions ), it had begun large-scale production of an improved vesicant gas known as Lewisite, for use in an offensive planned for early 1919. By the time of the armistice on 11 November, a plant near Willoughby, Ohio was producing 10 tons per day of the substance, for a total of about 150 tons. It is uncertain what effect this new chemical would have had on the battlefield, however, as it degrades in moist conditions.

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