Battles - The Battle of Bolimov, 1915

British gas mask variant An inconclusive battle between the German Ninth Army and the Russian Second Army, the Battle of Bolimov, launched on 31 January 1915, formed part of the third German attack directed against Warsaw and was a necessary preliminary to the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes.

The attack was centred around the town of Bolimov in the plains to the west of Warsaw.  The German force was led by August von Mackensen and the Russians by Smirnov.

Today the Battle of Bolimov is chiefly remembered as the site of the German army's first extensive use of poison gas.  Experimental in nature the firing of several thousand gas shells proved entirely unsuccessful.  Not only was the xylyl bromide (a tear gas) blown back towards the German lines, it also failed to vaporise in the freezing temperatures, falling harmlessly to the ground.

In consequence of the gas failure the German attack was called off in failure.  The Russians in turn launched a number of heavy frontal counterattacks by some 11 divisions (led by Vasily Gurko), suffering 40,000 casualties and achieving little, German artillery repulsing the Russian attacks with ease.

Although the Russians were aware that the Germans had attempted an innovation in their use of poison gas, its failure was such that it was not greatly remarked upon at the time, and consequently was not widely reported to Russia's Allies in the west.

Poison gas was to make its next appearance on the better-suited Western Front, with much greater success, during the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.

Click here to view a map charting the course of the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes.

Photographs courtesy of Photos of the Great War website

A "biff" was a Bristol fighter plane.

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