The Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915 marked a shift towards total attritional warfare on the Western Front. Not only was war now industrialised, its aims were to maim, terrify and kill as many of the enemy as possible, in the hope of wearing them down and breaking the stalemate in France. Gas warfare, first seen in Russia at the Battle of Bolimov earlier that winter, became after Ypres a tragically common feature in every-day trench life and one more faceless thing that could kill from afar.
The Shadow of Ypres demonstrates through photographs and artifacts the ubiquity of gas warfare on the Western Front after the spring of 1915. After the nearly catastrophic breaking of the lines of battle at Ypres poison gas was in the war to stay, and coloured all aspects of trench life, from medical care to art. As we enter a century where poison gas has once again reared its head, it is important to remember that its moment has come before and that once opened, the metaphorical box can never again be closed