What Poison Gas Warnings Sounded Like, WWI

JF Ptak Science Books    Post 2564

I posted this thinking that I had never heard the sound of a gas warning siren–or any other noise-making instrument–signifying the onset of a poison gas attack during WWI.  So I went poking around the web, looking for an audio recording of one.  I did find contemporary audio of an antique instrument–this was a dreadful sound, sounding somewhat like a high-pitched pulse-jet engine.  It is an awful sound (linked below) though I am sure that it did its job very effectively.  

I haven’t yet found a contemporary recording, though I’ve got a notion that if no audio recording was made for training films and such that they may exist in movies.  

Sirens of course was one method of alerting troops to a gas attack–there were also bells of all shapes and sizes, and kettles, wooden clappers, rattles, empty shell cases, and other such things. 

Here’s a compelling image of conflicting emotional input, this showing a kettle with a clanger attached by a wire:

WWI Project gas alram kettle

 [Source: http://j.mp/1ReHCfK]

 And the youtube video with the audio of the U.S. Army gas alarm:

“Gas alarm whistle, 1918 (c); double reed horn with double barreled bells are made of brass and flare outwards from the mouthpiece; the barrels have incised lines where the bells insert into the socket; one is impressed, ‘D.R.G. M. / SIGNAL [with a lateral arrow through it]’; possibly made by J Hudson and Company. The introduction of gas warfare on the Western Front in 1915 meant that rattles, horns and whistles, such as this example made by J Hudson and Company, were soon adopted as means of warning troops. The devices gave soldiers time to put on protective equipment during gas attacks. Associated with World War One (1914-1918).”–From the youtube video description.  

 Here’s another, a silent film showing U.S. troops reacting to a gas attack:

 And another, this a silent film showing the American Expeditionary Force reacting to a gas attack:


Gas alarm:

WWI Project bells alarm whistle 1918[Source: http://j.mp/1PUOVL6]

Infantryman with very primitive gas protection on guard with a bell, ready to signal the rest of the troops in event of a gas attack:

WWI Project bell ringer


Another version of the above, this more considerable, requisitioned from a Vaux church:

WWI Project bell from Vaux church

[Source: http://j.mp/1ReHCfR

And this simple wooden apparatus:

WWI Project gas rattle

[Source:http://j.mp/1PUOVLc”Gas Rattle: In effect, an English football timber noise maker. By holding the handle and spinning the rattle a loud clacking noise was created. This one is marked, in ink, “2nd Batt Devonshire Regt Trench143 1916 Gas Only Rotate in 3 second Bursts”on the other side a soldier’s inscription reads: “If you see’s it rotate it, If you smells it you’s too late mate”.”


WWI Project gas hand cranked alarm[Source:http://j.mp/1ReHCfK]

WWI Project Gas alarm large bell


WWI Project gas alarm klepper

[Source: http://j.mp/1PUOWPj]

By: Ptak Science Books
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries
Source: http://j.mp/1ReHEV6

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