WW1: Maddiston soldier succumbed to poison gas


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

Private John turner died from the effects of gas poisoning

Private John turner died from the effects of gas poisoning

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

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.”

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

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.


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.

Article provided by the Falkirk Herald, Reporter Scott McAngus.
Do not reproduce, copy or distribute this article. Argunners has special and granted permission from the Falkirk Herald to use some of their articles.


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Argunners Magazine is an independent online historian and collector's magazine, dedicated to the militaria and history of both Axis and Allied powers during the World War 1 & 2. Argunners is a central resource offering the latest militaria and war history news, journals, articles and press releases related to these themes.

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