Chemistry student involved in first Allied gas attack

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Aaron Harry Meek served under his real name – Aaron Harry Macarborski. The son of a tailor, he studied applied chemistry at Manchester University. Aaron had weak eyes which prevented him from enlisting. He volunteered for special chemical work when the call went out. He joined the Royal Engineers on June 30, 1915 and within a week he was in France. His unit, 186 Field Company, RE was preparing for gas warfare.
On the first day of the Battle of Loos, which saw the first use of gas by the Allies, he was separated from his unit while acting as sentry and listed as missing, presumed dead. He is buried in Urmston Jewish Cemetery, Trafford. It is possible that the Macarborksi family changed their name because of strong anti German sentiments in Britain at that time when having the wrong sort of name meant trouble . . .
The first use of gas by the British was a disaster. According to Wikipedia, Chlorine was the agent to be used (140 tons arrayed in 5,100 cylinders), and the attack was dependent on a favorable wind. However, on this occasion the wind proved fickle, and the gas either lingered in no man’s land or, in places, blew back on the British trenches. This debacle was compounded when the gas could not be released from all the British canisters because the wrong turning keys were sent with them. Subsequent retaliatory German shelling hit some of those unused full cylinders, releasing more gas among the British troops. Six soldiers died and more than 2,000 were injured. Exacerbating the situation were the primitive flannel gas masks distributed to the British. The masks got hot, and the small eye-pieces misted over, reducing visibility. Some of the troops lifted the masks to get some fresh air, causing them to be gassed.
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