July 11th, 2013
We honour and remember the new Zealand boys who made the ultimate sacrifice in Flanders fields but those who survived also had their lives changed irrevocably. We continue our series of Passchendaele members stories with Private Ira Wilson Mudford who was gassed in the Passchendaele region in 1917 – his health never recovered.
The use of poisonous gas was one of the most deadly aspects of the First World War. This impressive Canadian memorial at St Julien is known as the “brooding soldier” it is a landmark on the road from Ypres to Bruges. The inscription says it all:
THIS COLUMN MARKS THE BATTLEFIELD WHERE 18,000 CANADIANS ON THE BRITISH LEFT WITHSTOOD THE FIRST GERMAN GAS ATTACKS
THE 22ND-24TH OF APRIL 1915.
2,000 FELL AND HERE LIE BURIED
Gas was to go on to cause 1.3 million casualties. It was an indiscriminate killer until as Ormond Burton in “The silent division: New Zealanders at the Front, 1914-1919” states “The evolution of the gas-shell however changed everything. From being rather an expensive and ineffective novelty gas immediately became one of the most dangerous weapons of modern warfare.”
The Nelson Provincial Museum
Gas masks provided effective protection – if you get them on in time. The New Zealand soldiers were issued with the “small box respirator” but as Burton describes it “was looked on as rather a mixed blessing. It certainly gave an extra sense of security but it was more weight to carry. Still there were compensations. With a scarf on top it made an excellent pillow and the mask compartment of the satchel was useful for love letters and extra socks. This casual treatment of the soldier’s best friend had anything but good results.”
And protection against Mustard Gas [Dichlorodiethyl sulphide] proved difficult. It could seep through clothing and remained potent in the soil of the trenches for weeks, tainting the earth and anyone who crawled through it. It blinded eyes, burned blisters on skin, throat and lungs. For those who survived, there was long term damage.
One of those survivors was Private Ira Wilson Mudford.
Not many of us can say “my father served in the first world war” but Don Mudford can and he shares his father’s story here.
If you would like to share your story please contact the Web Editor – Juliana Austen – firstname.lastname@example.org