Gas attack rear area French sector Western Front 1918.

Boom!! A gas shell explodes. Gas, especially mustard,was used extensively in offensives towards the end of the war. It was increasingly included in the great preliminary bombardments prior to the offensives, often in shells that contained HE.
Just to the right of the soldier holding the machine gun in the foreground is a brown rat, one of several I have included in the diorama.
Note decapitated head of German Guardsman
With yellow filter
The face of war

This project has been a multi-national collaboration:

Figures and accessories by ICM (Ukraine)

Renault FT-17 and Hotchkiss machine gun by Meng (China)

Barbed wire by Fog Models Uk

Furniture by Miniart (Ukraine)

Rats and decapitated head by Jon Smith Modellbau (Germany)

Sandbags by Tamiya and Meng

Smoke effects by Eileen of St Thomas, Exeter, UK!

Chemical warfare in the First World War

Chemical and biological weapons have a long record of usage. Poisonous fumes were reportedly used by the Spartans in the Peloponnesian war (429 BC). The Mongols threw the corpses of plague victims into the besieged city of Khaffa in Crimea in 1346 and blankets infected with small pox were given by the British to hostile Indian tribes in Ohio in 1763.

Gas had been considered as a weapon before the outbreak of war in 1914, but there was a general consensus that it was wholly ‘uncivilized’ or ‘unsportsmanlike’. The use of gas had been expressly forbidden by the Hague Convention of 1907. Yet all that changed with trench warfare and chemical science, industry and military technology all combined to facilitate the first large-scale and systematic use of chemical weaponry.

The Germans were the first to employ gas as a weapon in the FWW, at Neuve-Chapelle in October 1914, and next in January 1915 near Bolimov, Poland, on the eastern front against the Tsarist Army.

The amount of gas launched (in shrapnel shells) was small and hardly noticed by the French while the xyilil bromide (tear gas) used against the Russians froze in the low temperature and so did little damage.

Nevertheless, the Germans persevered and in April 1915, they released the lethal chlorine gas, which did have a significant effect. It kills by destroying the respiratory organs in a few seconds and causes fluid to be produced in the lungs in which the victim literally drowns.

It was used to devastating effect in the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.

During 1916 the combatants turned to the less lethal and odourless mustard gas, a blistering agent that could be fired by shell. It was a slow acting agent that causes internal and external bleeding and vomiting and frequently leads to death.

However, proponents of gas warfare concluded that lethality was neither necessary nor desirable. They reasoned that gas casualties who survived with considerable infirmity were a constant burden on enemy medical facilities and detrimental to enemy morale in the long run.

Gas was dispersed in two ways. It was released in vapour form by fixed canisters positioned in or near the front line, a technique that wholly relied on the wind blowing in the right direction and one that meant gas was effectively a short-range weapon. Artillery shells filled with an agent in liquid form that evaporated after a small explosive charge burst the shell open were widely used from 1916.

Gas was also put in HE rounds in small quantities for a ‘mixed’ effect. Artillery shells gave greater range and much better accuracy, but some problems remained.

Gas was not a truly effective weapon as it needed a long list of ideal conditions. It often failed dues to adverse weather, especially the strength and direction of the prevailing wind and the temperature. It was quite common for gas to be blown back into the attackers’ faces by contrary winds.

All sides quickly developed gas masks and these became more and more sophisticated. Early ones consisted of cotton pads soaked in bicarbonate of soda, to cover the mouth and nose, and separate goggles, but these gave way in all armies to the more familiar combined mask and respirator types. Filters were usually filled with charcoal or chemicals to neutralize the gas. Animals also needed protection from gas and the British Army began issuing horse respirators in 1916.

‘The Germans were the largest users (68,000 tons), then the French (36,000) and British (25,000). Although hundreds of thousands of soldiers were affected by gas during the war, those killed amounted to only about 3% of casualties. After-effects were, however, persistent, so that many veterans were troubled by breathing difficulties for the rest of their lives, had their lives shortened and were prone to common respiratory diseases. Gas aroused a peculiar horror among all combatants. It was not accidental that the first and universal measure of post-war arms control was the prohibition of the use of lethal gas, a ban which has remained generally effective since 1925’. (John Keegan, The First World War).

A personal account

During the second battle of Ypres on April 22 1915, the Germans used their secret weapon of chlorine gas:

‘The scene was more than sad; it was tragic. Everywhere were fugitives: Territorials, joyeux (‘happy ones’, French nickname for their African troops), tirailleurs, Zouaves, artillerymen-without weapons, haggard, greatcoats thrown away or wide open, running around like madmen, begging for water in loud cries, spitting blood, some even rolling on the ground making desperate efforts to breathe. I shall see for a long time, in particular, a staggering joyeux who with loud cries demanded water and noticing me, called, ‘ Colonel, those bastards have poisoned us!’ We soon gave that up. It was no longer soldiers who were escaping but poor souls who had suddenly become insane. All along the canal was the same scene: without noticing bullets or shells, a crowd of unfortunate sufferers on both banks had come to beg for water to relieve their horrible sufferings’.

Colonel Henri Mordacq, HQ, 45th Division. From ‘The Great War’. By Peter Hart.

Adolf Hitler

In mid-August 1918, the List regiment, in which Hitler served, was moved to Cambrai to help combat a British offensive. At the end of September the regiment was put under pressure from British assaults near Comines and it suffered badly. On the night of 13-14 October, Hitler himself fell victim to mustard gas and he and several comrades, retreating from their dug-out during a gas attack, were partially blinded and only found their way to safety by clinging to each other. For Hitler, the war was now over and it was in hospital at Pasewalk, recovering from his temporary blindness, that Hitler was to learn the shattering news of defeat and revolution, an experience that left him traumatised or hysterical, The gas attack and the damage to his lungs possibly accounts for his rasping and harsh voice.

Austin Armoured Car 3rd Series. MiniArt 1:35 scale. Броньований автомобіль “Остін” третьої серії. Армія УНР, Січових Стрільців, восени 1919 року. And Diorama Polish-Ukrainian war 1919.

Irresistible artwork. Looks a typical Ukrainian scene, which is what initially inspired me!

As soon as I saw that box art, I knew this was going to be one of those ‘must have’ kits! I am always drawn to the exotic or unusual, at least as far as model kits are concerned, and this project certainly filled the bill! There is a bit of a personal connection as well, however, as I will show below. It was quite a challenge but a definite labour of love at the same time. In a way, I suppose it is another tribute to my Father, Anton. By the way, MiniArt are a Ukrainian model manufacturer based in Kiev.

Austin armoured cars were exported to Russia and also manufactured there. They were used by various sides in all the civil and military conflicts in the aftermath of the First World War.

There are several interesting marking options for this model, including Georgian and Polish, but I was immediately drawn to the one on the box top with the name ‘Petlura’ in Ukrainian on the turret sides.

Army of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Would have loved to have made this version just for the beautiful Georgian script alone! The only word I know in Georgian is ‘Gamarjoba‘-‘Hello’, which also means ‘Victory’! The language is unique and not related to any other. The Democratic Republic of Georgia was crushed by the Red Army in 1921.
Very drawn to the Polish Republic version as well with the Polish coat of arms on the side of a white eagle. Maybe for another day, then I can have a duel with my Ukrainian one!
The kit has full interior with engine and chassis detail. When I first looked at the instruction sheet, I thought I might have taken on more than I could chew! Unbelievably, there were even tiny photo-etch parts for the cylinder heads, which might have been spark-plugs. They kept getting stuck to my tweezers with the super glue and so in the end I had to leave those out, my eyes, patience and tweezers couldn’t take the strain!
To undertake a model like this, you have to be either mad, dedicated or both! Lots of tiny delicate parts including photo-etch.
The last of 74 stages in total-agggghhh!!
Starting to take shape with the chassis finished and engine installed. That probably took 2 weeks alone! Note there is also a rear-facing driving station, not quite sure how that was supposed to work! Quite clever for its time, I think. There are gear/brake levers and even foot pedals. I used steel wire for some of the longer pieces as the plastic snapped very easily-MiniArt please take note!
Floor on and the positions for the turret bins. To the left is the photo-etch fret. I was starting to feel a sense of achievement by this stage, but it was still like only being half way up Everest!
Commencing on the upper hull…
Example of the photo-etch. It’s a bit wonky but never mind it’s those Ukrainian blacksmiths again! Wait till you see my ‘secret weapon’ below!
More photo-etch! The white little blobs on the side of the hull were extra rivets I made from modelling putty. The instructions suggest you carve off tiny pieces of plastic from the sprue and stick them on instead! Absolutely impossible!!! Mine are a bit uneven but hey, extra realism I say!
The engine frames were very delicate and later caused a certain amount of difficulty!
Interior rear facing with clear window ports. I think by now you are getting the picture this is a complicated model!
My ‘secret weapon’! A handy device I saw someone make on Youtube. It’s just a door hinge screwed to a piece of wood for bending photo-etch parts! It actually works but a pity I only came across this about half way through construction!
The moment of truth! I managed to get the hull onto the chassis without too much trouble. I knew that was going to be the most difficult step but we got there. Note the photo-etch on the back wheel arches. Attaching those arches to the hull was extremely tricky with only the tiniest of guide points. Unfortunately, I inevitably broke the tiny photo-etch clasps on the bonnet and had to make substitutes from scrap plastic card.
One of the Maxim guns, at least I presume it’s a Maxim. Unfortunately, the instructions came with no reference material about the vehicle itself.
The photo-etch side supports
Incredibly starting to look like a vehicle!
Finally, the finished article. Phew!
Left the front panel off to display the engine

Polish-Ukrainian War 1919. Diorama.

The personal connection I alluded to earlier is the fact that my Grandfather’s brother, Anton, had served in the Sitch Rifles and was killed fighting the Poles during the war in Eastern Galicia in 1919. My Father refers to him in his story, God Save Me From My Friends:

‘Father had two brother called Michael and Anton. Anton had volunteered for the Ukrainski Sitchovi Striltsi (Ukrainian Sitch Riflemen), the Ukrainian corps that fought on the Austrian side in World War I and later tried to join up with Petlura in the East in the fight against the Bolsheviks. In my childhood at home, we kept photos of some of these men still in their Austro-Hungarian Army uniforms.

My grandmother told me that Anton had died in 1919 during the Polish-Ukrainian war in eastern Galicia. The Ukrainians could not withstand the stronger Poles, whose Army under General Józef Haller had received equipment and support from France. The Ukrainian Galician Army had to retreat to the East, and the Poles killed Anton in a skirmish in the village of Saranchuk, about three villages from Kryve. He had been shot in the head just above the eyebrow.

Anton became a hero to the Ukrainians. My grandparents fetched his body from Saranchuk and buried him in a large mogila (grave) in the centre of our village cemetery. Usually the dead were interred in family plots, marked with just small white, wooden crosses.

Every year during our holidays, such as the spring holiday or the third day of Easter, a special service was held in honour of Anton. The priest would always lead the procession to sing and pray at the grave of Anton first, as he had lost his life for Ukraine.

In the church, there was a plaque commemorating all those from Kryve who had died in that war for Ukrainian independence. They probably christened me after Uncle Anton, and my relatives in Kryve today still go to visit his grave.

Grandmother told me that in the war with the Poles the Ukrainians were not very disciplined, the officers sometimes went off to brothels and left their men without orders. The soldiers were mostly peasants, who were more concerned with tilling the land and putting in the crops than fighting. They would try to sneak home from the front to visit their families and to do their washing (as they were so lice-infested) or carry on farming.

Of course, the people then were not so nationally conscious and still called themselves ‘Rusyni’ (‘Ruthenians’) and not Ukrainians. I heard that the village priests had mobilized the young men. The Greek Catholic clergy was the most educated class of the population in that backward period, acting as the political leadership to the Ukrainian peasantry. In Kryve, our priest had organised the Sitch Riflemen and taken them to Berezhany.

Symon Petlura did a deal with the Polish leader Józef Piłsudski, ‘trading’ Galicia in exchange for support to liberate the rest of Ukraine from the Bolsheviks. Piłsudski’s Polish-Ukrainian Army did advance as far as the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, though the Red Army soon drove it out. After the Polish-Soviet war, eastern Galicia became part of Poland and was officially renamed Małopolska Wschodnia (Eastern Little Poland), although we regarded it as west Ukraine. Although at first we enjoyed some autonomy under Poland, the Ukrainians called Petlura a traitor in my youth for abandoning us to the Poles after 1919.’

In Ukrainian:

‘У батька було два брати, яких звали Михайло та Антон.

Антон пішов добровольцем в Українські Січові Стрільці – український корпус, який воював на австрійському боці в Першій Cвітовій Bійні,а пізніше намагався приєднатися до Петлюри на Сході в боротьбі проти більшовиків.

У моєму дитинстві вдома ми зберігали фотографії деяких з цих чоловіків, які все ще були у формі австро-угорської армії.

Бабуся розповідала, що Антон загинув у 1919 році під час польсько-української війни на сході Галичини.Українці не могли протистояти сильнішим полякам, чия армія за генерала Галлера отримувала техніку та підтримку з Франції.

Українській Галицькій армії довелося відступити на Схід, і поляки вбили Антона в сутичці в селі Саранчук, яке знаходиться  приблизно в трьох селах від Кривого. Антон загинув від пострілу в голову безпосередньо над бровою.

Антон став героєм для українців.

Бабуся і дідусь забрали його тіло у Саранчука і поховали у великій могилі в центрі нашого сільського кладовища.

Зазвичай поховання померлих відбувалося на сімейніх ділянках, позначені маленькими білими дерев’яними хрестиками. Щороку під час наших свят, таких як свято весни чи третій день Великодня, на честь Антона проводилася спеціальна служба.

Священик завжди керував процесією, відспівував і  і молився спочатку на могилі Антона, оскільки він втратив життя за Україну.У церкві була встановлена ​​табличка пам’яті всіх кривчан, які загинули у війні за незалежність України.Можливо, вони охрестили мене на ім’я дядька Антона, і мої родичі в Кривому сьогодні ще їдуть відвідати його могилу.

Бабуся сказала мені, що у війні з поляками українці були не дуже дисципліновані, офіцери іноді ходили в публічні будинки і залишали своїх солдатів без нагляду.Солдати в основному були селянами, котрі більше турбувались обробкою землі та посівом врожаю, ніж боротьбою.

Вони намагалися втекти додому з фронту, щоб відвідати сім’ї та помитись, оскільки вони були так заражені вошами, або продовжувати землеробство.

Звичайно, люди тоді не були такими національно свідомими і все ще називали себе “русинами”, а не українцями.

Я чув, що сільські священики мобілізували юнаків. Греко-католицьке духовенство було найосвіченішим класом у той відсталий період, виступаючи політичним керівництвом українського селянства.

У Кривому наш священик організував стрілецький загін і відвіз їх до Бережан.Саймон Петлюра уклав угоду з польським лідером Йозефом Пілсудським, «торгуючи» Галичиною в обмін на підтримку звільнення решти України від більшовиків. Польсько-українська армія Пілсудського просунулась аж до української столиці Києва, хоча Червона Армія незабаром її вигнала.

Після польсько-радянської війни Східна Галичина стала частиною Польщі та офіційно перейменована на Східну Малу Польщу, хоча ми розглядали її як Західну Україну.

Хоча спочатку ми все ще користувалися деякою автономією під Польщею, українці називали Петлюрoю зрадником у моїй молодості за те, що нас покинули поляками після 1919 року.’

My Father’s home village of Kryve!
The sign reads: Kryve village, Berezhany district, Ternopil region, Western Ukraine in 1919 during the Polish-Ukrainian war.
The little boy waiting for his milk is wearing a Soviet-style tall peaked ‘Tatarska’ cap with a red star badge. Perhaps he is an early Bolshevik, the traitor!
All figures and accessories by MiniArt apart from the apple tree and cottage or ‘khata‘, which I made myself.
Ataman Symon Petliura 1879-1926. He headed the ‘Directory’ or Ukrainian government from February 1919. Over the next few years he battled the Bolsheviks, the Poles, Denikin’s Whites and Makhno’s anarchist groups in the hope of achieving Ukrainian independence. Kiev changed hands 16 times in the course of the war!! In the final stages of the Russo-Polish war, he allied himself with the Poles whose price for supporting hm was Ukrainian recognition of Polish rule in Eastern Galicia, which had long been a bastion of Ukrainian nationalism.

Józef Piłsudski. Chief of State 1918-22 and Marshal of Poland from 1920. Son of an impoverished Polish-Lithuanian nobleman from Vilnius (Polish Wilno). He wanted to restore the ‘Greater Poland’ of the 18th century by including Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States in a Polish federation to act as a buffer against the Bolshevik menace which he saw as the greater threat than Germany. But instead of an alliance, Poland found itself in bitter border conflicts with her neighbours between 1918-21, fighting Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians to the east, Lithuanians to the north, Germans to the west and Czechs to the south.
Polish forces entering Kiev. They occupied the Ukrainian capital by 6th May 1920 but were driven out after five weeks by the Red Army. Note how well-equipped they appear and the French-style helmets.
Following the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, its subject peoples all tried to gain their independence. A Ukrainian government or Rada was set up in November 1918 and formed the ZUNR (Zahikdno Ukrainska Narodnia Respublika-Western Ukrainian People’s Republic). The ZUNR’s army was known as the Ukrainska Halytska Armiia (UHA), and it immediately began fighting the Poles in the region who wanted Galicia for themselves. The core of the UHA was provided by the legionaries of the Ukrainian Sitch Rifles. The figure on he right is an NCO of the Sitch Rifles 1917. The early UHA wore a mixture of Austro-Hungarian uniforms and civilian dress with Austro-Hungarian equipment. The cap is called a Mazypynka.
My Father, Anton, at the end of his life, under a blossoming tree, which symbolizes regeneration, hope and life. The little figure under the apple tree in the diorama reminded me of him.
A good summary
Poem of Ukraine