The Richmond Herald, 8 January 1916, ran a story titled ‘The Kaiser’s tears’, a Richmond man’s account of surviving a gas attack. He wrote:
“At one point our trench was blown up…I stepped into the darkness and fell off, rifle and all. My word I was in a pickle. Some saucy German had the sauce to fire his rifle. I felt awfully wild having to go through all that nerve-racking business.”
There is no mention of where this takes place but the letter was written by Lance Corporal E.C. Williams of the 8th East Surreys on New Year’s Day. The tone and language of the letter is quite jolly, possibly a way of coping with the events he’d experienced.
Poison gas was first used as a weapon during the First World War. The first German attack came in April 1915 at Ypres. The British and French armies immediately began developing their own chemical weapons.