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John Turner


291973 Pte

7th (Fife) Battalion (Territorial), Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 153rd Infantry Brigade, 51st Division

Age: 18

Date of death: Died of Wounds 16 September 1916

Buried: Ploegsteert Memorial, Panel 7

Family history: Son of Thomas Turner & Marion Forsyth Turner, Carden Cottage, Maddiston.

The action that lead to his death

The battalion was in the line in front of Armentieres. An article, accompanying the picture opposite, which appeared in the Falkirk Herald states that, ‘He was 'gassed' in the trenches on 16 September 1916 and died one month later in hospital and was buried in the cemetery attached to the hospital.’

The War Diary for the 15th September 1916, indicates that the battalion had been issued with new respirators and were testing them in a gas chamber. This would have been smoke test and not actual gas.

The War Diary also indicates that on the 16th September 1916, the battalion provided ‘50 men + NCO’s + 4 officers’ for gas carrying party.

There is no record of any accidents or of gas activity from the enemy. However, we have to conclude that an accident did occur and he was ‘gassed’ as a result. On the 17th September 1916, the War Diary indicates the gas equipment to be carried by officers and other ranks as:

Methods of Protection from Gas

By 1916, the British soldier was now carrying three types of anti-gas protection, the Smoke Helmet, gas goggles and the PH Helmet. A further development of the PH Helmet was the PHG (Phenate Hexamine Goggle) Helmet this replaced the need for troops to wear gas goggles by simply incorporating the gas goggles into the helmet design. The effect of this change was minimal with the helmets being issued to men in static positions such as artillery and machine gun units. Approximately 1,765,000 of this type of helmet was produced. With the introduction of the Large Box Respirator the PHG helmet was withdrawn.


This picture (Admin Picture) shows the progression in gas protection from 1915 to 1918.

Large Box Respirator - the LBR was the idea developed by a senior chemistry lecturer at Oxford University Bertram Lambert following trials in the summer of 1915. The idea being that the LBR would be effective against a range of gases and the British had identified at least eighty gases that the Germans could potential deploy. It was the Russians once again that had identified that activated charcoal, essentially grains of charcoal that had been treated with steam to give their surface tiny holes and making them extremely porous so making them effective in filtering gas. It should be noted that the Box Respirator did not offer any eye protection this role was filed by pairing the respirator with the gas goggles. The filter was made from a standard Army water bottle that was filled two-fifths with lime permanganate and pumice stone treated with sodium sulphate and the rest was charcoal. A collapsible rubber tube connected the filter to the facepiece which was made of up to forty layers of muslin sewn together and treated with a zinc-hexamine solution. This had been developed by Edward Harrison of the Royal Army Medical College at Millbank and another officer, John Sadd, developed the breather tube that was held in the soldiers mouth by using elasticated straps worn around the back of the head. The size and weight of the filter was a problem and it had to be carried over the shoulder in a haversack and the filter hung down by the hip. The LBR was introduced in February 1916 and was again issued as a priority to the artillery, machine gun units and later to the Heavy Branch if the Machine Gun Corps who operated the new weapon, the tank. Only 250,000 were ever produced.


Large Box Respirator being worn (IWM Image)

Parts of Large Box Respirator


The Small Box Respirator (SBR) which was of a similar construction to the LBR however, the SBR was to be lighter and easier to carry and the plan was to make it available en masse. The SBR had a full canvas facepiece which contai8ned a nose clip and mouthpiece allowing breathing through the mouth and also meant that facepiece did not have to be gas tight around the wearers face all the time. An initial order was placed in June 1916 for 100,000 however, following the gas attack on the British at Wulverghem opposite the German lines at Messines Ridge, this was revised to 500,000. The SBR was further revised and updated in 1917 and again in September 1918 and saw service until 1924.


Parts of SBR






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