The year was 1915 and The Great War was about to change the world forever. A french soldier named Xavier was part of the two divisions stationed at Ypres, Belgium. He had gone through several battles and was now a corporal along the frontlines, just outside of no man´s land. He had many of friends who had died alongside him throughout many of these engagements but he always seemed to push through. He was determined to survive and make it back home to see his wife and young daughter. The conditions were abysmal; he and others were always ducking to keep out of sniper fire, there was always mud and rats in the trenches, and the artillery fire was a constant threat. But none of this had stopped Xavier and as far as he was concerned nothing would stop him, not even the whole German army.
On the night of April 21st Xavier was getting his ration of bread and water and heading back to his small nook carved into the side of the trench. He had eaten a small amount of the bread when he decided to put it away and write to his family.
The letter read,
¨Ma chère Marie,
Je suis en poste ici à Ypres depuis six mois, penser que j’ai été loin de toi et de notre chérie Noémie pendant six mois est ridicule. Mais tous ces sacrifices que je fais, je fais pour vous, tout mon but de lutter est de protéger mes amours. J’espère que vous allez bien tous les deux et qu’elle pratique sa lecture, je suis sûr qu’elle apprend en détail. Mon congé approche dans trois semaines et je vais rentrer chez moi et vous embrasser tous les deux dans mes bras. J’aurais aimé pouvoir écrire plus, mais mes émotions prennent le dessus et je dois reprendre mes fonctions. Je vous aime et vous chéris plus que tout au monde.
Votre mari et père bien-aimé, Xavier Dupont¨
¨My dearest Marie,
I have been stationed here at Ypres for six months, to think I have been away from you and our darling Noemie for half a year is ludicris. But all of these sacrifices I make I make for you, my whole purpose to fight is to protect my loves. I hope you two are doing well and she is practicing her reading, I’m sure she is learning in great detail. My leave is coming up in three weeks and I shall return home and embrace both of you in my arms. I wish I could write more but my emotions are getting the better of me and I must return to my duties. I love and cherish the both of you more than anything in the world.
Your loving husband and father, Xavier Dupont¨
He then shimmied his way out of his nook and walked over to the field post office to give the sergeant his letter to be sent out. On his way back, he was looking up at the sky in the calm evening air, and he noticed several stars poking through the orange sky and took in a moment of peace. During guard duty that night, he was looking through the periscope watching over no man’s land Ss he was watching he thought he noticed what seemed to be something or someone dragging a cylinder. He wasn’t sure as to what he saw, so he rubbed his eyes then looked back through and he could see nothing but mud and craters. Being that his shift for the night was coming to an end, and that he convinced himself his eyes were playing tricks, he did not report the apparition he saw. After his shift, he walked back to his nook, laid down, and swiftly fell asleep in the late hours of the morning roughly around eleven.
At around four forty-five, the ground began to shake and the skies began to scream, and the sight of raining dirt, fire, and shrapnel was everywhere along the trenches. Xavier cramed himself and one other into his nook to protect themselves from any harm. After ten minutes the bombardment began to stop and Xavier and many others prepared for an attack from the germans. But the assault never came, and the French battalions were confused as to what was happening then at 5 in the afternoon the Germans opened their canisters. Releasing something that would change the course of the war and the world for the rest of time.
As Xavier stood guard, ready for an assault, he saw a cloud out in no man’s land. The cloud was a dense green and yellow fog that followed the ground and raised above it at about six feet. As the cloud approached, several soldiers fell back, others prepared for an enemy bayonet charge, thinking it was just a colored smoke screen. The dense fog was now on the edges of no man`s land just barely falling over the edge into the safety and protection of the trenches. For the first time in the war, their trenches would offer no protection from the impending doom.
The gas was now enveloping the trenches, and you could hear people coughing and screaming, as they came into contact with the cloud. Xavier was favoring the back side of the trench to stay away from the gas, but his exit was cut off, and he couldn’t climb out of the trench without getting shot. His only option was to run through the gas and fall back to a secondary defensive position. He counted ¨ Three, two, … one!¨ and took off running into the cloud of gas, as soon as he entered he felt his eyes burning. When Xavier had to take a breath, he could smell the chlorine in the air but only a fraction of a second later that smell was replaced with an intense burning feeling in his nose, throat, and lungs. Xavier began to convulse and began to violently cough to the point where he could no longer walk out of the cloud.
Many were going through the same experience in that they could not breath to the point of not being able to function. Even to the point of rolling on the ground as if they were a wounded animal. Out of the many people who were caught in the gas, a large portion would pass away from asphyxiation due to the burning of their lungs. The majority of those that fell prey to the German´s new weapon would suffer many short term effects such as temporary blindness, and the inability to take in a full breath. Others would have lost the ability to fully breath and would always be short of breath, some were worse off in that they would have permanent blindness without the ability to be corrected.
Two months later you could hear the heavy boots walking up the steps leading to the front door. Then three thunderous knocks on the wooden door, whom a small woman walked up and opened. Miss Dupont opened the door to the sight of a large sargent, upon seeing him she fell to her knees and began to weep. But the sergeant stopped her and held her up, returning to the car to open up the rear passenger door, he then helped the corporal out of the vehicle and forward toward the home. At this sight Miss Dupont called her daughter Noemie to come outside. When she walked out she was able to see the two men standing in front of her mother, when she took off running toward them grabbing her mother’s hand along the way. It was then that Xavier was not able to see his loves but he was still able to embrace them both in his arms.
Oct 19th 1914- april 22 1915 was the start of the first battle and the start of the 2nd