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Page last updated at 05:29 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 06:29 UK
Churchill's forgotten hero

Letter from Winston Churchill to the widow of Edward Harrison

A previously unknown letter from Winston Churchill has been discovered during an investigation into Edward Harrison, the World War I army chemist credited with the invention of the gas mask.

Detail from a letter written by Winston Churchill to the widow of the inventor of the gas mask

Churchill, then minister of Munitions, tells Harrison's widow that "it is in large measure to him that our troops have been given effectual protection from the German poisonous gases".

Newpaper cuttings

The chemist died just days before the end of the war, apparently working himself to death striving to develop the perfect gas mask for mass production.

French soldiers using gas masks during the first world war.

But his work on the gas mask had already saved countless soldiers from the slow and agonising death caused by breathing poisonous gas in the trenches.

 Legion d'Honneur

For his work he was decorated with the highest honours including France's Legion d'Honneur.

The millitary funeral of Edward Harrison

In his letter, Churchill notes that had he not died, Harrison was to be promoted to head of chemical warfare. He was buried with full military honours.


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