George Richard Cross

On October 5th, Cross was exposed to the chlorine gas. He's lucky to have survived.

Chemical warfare is one of the more horrific advancements in killing technology to emerge during the Great War. Particularly cruel was chlorine gas: heavier than air, the greenish-yellow vapour drifted across the battlefield, sinking into trenches and shell holes where men huddled for safety.

In early October of 1918 Private George Richard Cross of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles was caught in a gas attack that left his eyes lacerated with ulcers. The unit’s war diary tells only the barest details of what must have been hellish fighting near Cambrai, France. It mentions heavy shelling, including “gas shell strafing,” and the explosion of a cordite dump that left a crater “70 feet wide and 30 feet deep.”

Between October 4 and 7, the Germans fired more than 800 rounds of medium and heavy shells at the CMRs. On the 5th, Cross was exposed to the chlorine gas. He’s lucky to have survived. When inhaled, the gas destroys the respiratory organs; leaving victims to die through slow asphyxiation.

Cross, a native of Campbellford, Ontario, was honourably discharged and, in 1919, married Roberta Kelly of Peterborough. They had five children, four of whom served in the Second World War. George died in March of 1959 and is buried in the military section of Pine Hills Cemetery in Scarborough, Ontario.

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