The First German Gas Attack at Ypres, 1918
oil on canvas
304.8 x 365.8 cm
Transfer from the Canadian War Memorials, 1921
National Gallery of Canada (no. 8729)
"The Germans attacked with gas in the afternoon of April 22nd, and the first to feel the effects of the poisonous fumes were the French soldiers on the Canadians' left. The French troops, largely made up of Turc The Germans attacked with gas in the afternoon of April 22nd, 1915, and os and Zouaves, surged wildly back over the canal and through the village of Vlammertinghe just at dark. The Canadian reserve battalions (of the 1st Brigade) were amazed at the anguished faces of many of the French soldiers, twisted and distorted by pain, who were gasping for breath and vainly trying to gain relief by vomiting."
Canada in Flanders, Volume I
When Roberts was offered his commission for the War Memorials, the only subject left to be assigned was the gas attack on the Canadian troops at Ypres, Belgium. Although he had never encountered a gas attack, his experience as a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery exposed him to some of the same conditions facing the troops at Ypres. He would also have had access to the official war record cited above.