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The war memorial at Steenstraete near Ieper

Throughout the war years

At the end of the afternoon on 22 April 1915, the German troops released approximately 150 tons of chlorine gas at the allies, which were dug in at the Northern side of the so-called Ieper Salient between Steenstrate and Langemarck. This meant the start of chemical warfare in World War I, which would only increase up to the point where near the end of the war in 1918 approximately 25% of all ammunition would carry a chemical payload.

In 1929 the veteran French soldiers of the 418th regiment at Steenstrate erected a monument in commemoration of the first major gas attack with chlorine gas. The memorial was made by the French artist Maxime Real del Sarte and realistically portrayed a soldier with his hands around his neck fighting for one last sip air. Two soldiers are already choked at his feet. The text under the monument read that on April 22, 1915 troops of the French 45th Division and the 87th Territorial Division were poisoned by gas and since then there were still casualties of this terrible weapon which was first used by the Germans.

Het opgeblazen momument te Steenstraete

This monument was clearly a thorn in the foot for the Germans and they blew up the monument during the Second World War in May 1941. Which says something about the realistic expressiveness of the memorial, of which now only survive some photographs.

After World War II, at the same location a 15-metre high aluminum cross was erected in 1961 which was unveiled as a sign of Belgo-Franco-German reconciliation. No longer the sign of the finger for the Germans, but at the foot of the monument a text calling for peace and reconciliation in the world. At commemoration of the events in April 1915 German soldiers can be safely present. Realistic image has been replaced by a widely known Christian religious symbol. Ironic is that one of the two French divisions, which, on April 22, 1915, received the maximum load of the gas attack, was the 45th Algerian Division. The question remains if all Algerian fighters could find themselves under the symbol of the cross.

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