WW1: Maddiston soldier succumbed to poison gas

Private John turner died from the effects of gas poisoning
Private John turner died from the effects of gas poisoning

Many a terrible fate awaited the brave soldiers who fought in World War One – one of the most sinister from the effects of poison gas.

While machine gun fire killed more men during the 1914-18 conflict,poison gas was undoubtedly the most feared.

Private James Eadie was a miner at Craigend Colliery before heading to the theatre of war

Private James Eadie was a miner at Craigend Colliery before heading to the theatre of war

Death from a gun was usually an instant destiny, but dying after a gas attack often meant the victim was in agony for days, sometimes weeks, before succumbing to the effects.

One man who perished a whole month after a gas attack was John Turner from Maddiston, who was just 18 at the time of his death in a French hospital.

He served with the Black Watch 7th Battalion (Royal Highlanders) after enlisting in 1915 in Polmont.

He had only been on the front line in France for two months.

The extract from The Falkirk Herald noting his death said: “Private John Turner, Black Watch, only son of Mr Thomas Turner, Viewfield Cottage, Maddiston, has died in a French Hospital from the effects of gas poisoning.

“He was “gassed” in the trenches a month before his death, which took place on 16th September 1916. Supplementing the official intimation is a letter from an Army chaplain, who states Private Turner received every attention and comfort in the hospital which it is possible to give.”

Mr Turner was buried in the cemetery attached to the hospital. Before the war he had been employed as a miner at Craigend Colliery.

Another miner from the colliery died on the field of battle the day before Mr Turner.

Pte James Eadie of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who is listed alongside Mr Turner on the Muiravonside War Memorial in Maddiston, was officially reported as killed on September 15. He was a well known local footballer. His half brother Pte Robert Lithgow had received a discharge as a result of gas poisoning.

IMPACT OF POISON GAS WAS IMMEDIATE AND DEVASTATING

Chlorine (poison gas) was used for the first time by the Germans during the Second Battle of Ypres, which started in April 1915

On April 22, at around 5 p.m., French sentries noticed a yellow-green cloud moving towards them

It was a gas from pressurised cylinders dug into the area’s front battle line

The soldiers thought the cloud was just a smokescreen to disguise the German troop movements and all the troops were ordered to their firing lines in the trenches, right in the path of the chlorine

The impact of the gas was immediate and devastating and the French and Algerian allies fled in terror leaving the Germans to freely advance

Britain was the first of the Allied nations to respond by using gas in September 1915 by the newly-formed

Special Gas Companies, which attacked German lines at Loos