1900-1919 | Chemical weapons

Cabinet has ‘no hesitation’ in approving use of gas against the Turks

Australian troops with gas masks in 1917.
Via Wikimedia.

19 January 1917

On 19 January 1917, the War Cabinet briefly considered the request of General Sir Archibald Murray, commanding the British expeditionary force in Egypt, to be able to deploy poison gas against Turkish troops.  Until then, it had been accepted that poison gas would not be used in the campaign unless the Turks used it first. However, according to the Cabinet minutes, ministers had ‘no hesitation’ in approving Murray’s request, despite the Turks not having resorted to first use.  The Cabinet concluded that it was unnecessary to spare Turkish troops from chemical warfare because of Turkish ‘atrocities perpetrated on subject races’ and ‘their maltreatment of Allied prisoners.’1


  1. War Cabinet Meeting, 19 January 1917, National Archives, CAB 23/1/38.

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