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Livens Projector

Livens Projector

British soldiers loading and fitting electrical leads to a battery of Livens projectors
Type gas bomb thrower
Place of origin UK
Service history
In service 1916 - 1918
Used by British Empire
Wars World War I
Production history
Designer Captain William H. Livens, Royal Engineers
Number built 140,000 projectors, 400,000 bombs[1]
Shell Gas Drum, 61 lbs filled[2]
Calibre 8 inch
Elevation 45°
Effective range 1.5 km
Filling Chlorine, Phosgene, flammable oil
Filling weight 30 lb[3]

The Livens Projector was a type of mortar that was used by the Allies in World War I for chemical warfare.



It was created by the British army officer Captain William H. Livens of the Royal Engineers.[4] Later, in World War II he worked on petroleum warfare weapons such as the flame fougasse and various other flame throwing weapons.[5][6]

Prior to the invention of the Livens Projector, chemical weapons had been delivered either by "cloud attacks" or chemical-filled shells fired from howitzers. Cloud attacks were made by burying gas filled cylinder tanks just beyond the parapet of the attacker's trenches, and then opening valves on the tanks when the wind was right. This allowed a significant amount of gas to be released, but there was a significant danger that the wind would change and the gas would drift back over the attacker's own troops. Chemical shells were much easier to direct at the enemy, but could not deliver nearly as much gas as could be contained in a cylinder tank.

It was first employed at the Battle of the Somme.[7]

Combat Use

  The Livens Projector was designed to combine the advantages of both gas cylinders and shells by firing an actual cylinder tank at the enemy.[8]

The Livens Projector was a simple 8 inch metal pipe that was set in a ground at a 45 degree angle. A drum containing 30 lbs of gas was shot out with an electrically initiated charge, with a range of about 1500 meters. On impact with the target, a burster charge would disperse the chemical filling over the area. [9]

It was also used to project flammable oil, as with 1,500 drums before the Battle of Messines in June 1917.[10] Oil was also tried on 20th September 1917 during the Battle of Menin Road with 290 projectors in an attempt to capture Eagle Trench east of Langemarck, which included concrete bunkers and machine-gun nests, but the drums did not land in the trenches and hence failed to suppress the German defenders there.[11]

It was a cheap, simple and extremely effective method of delivering chemical weapons. Typically, hundreds (or even thousands) of Livens projectors would be fired in unison during an attack in order to saturate the enemy lines with poison gas.


  1. ^ Jones 2007, page 43
  2. ^ Jones 2007, page 42
  3. ^ Jones 2007, page 42
  4. ^ Palazzo, 2002, p103.
  5. ^ LeFebure, 1926, p60
  6. ^ Banks, 1946, p33
  7. ^ LeFebure, 1926, p60
  8. ^ LeFebure, 1926, p48-63
  9. ^ United State Dept. of War, 1942
  10. ^ Jones 2007, page 44
  11. ^ Farndale 1986, page 207. British Official History (Military Operations France & Belgium 1917), page 270


  • Banks, Sir Donald. Flame Over Britain. Sampson Low, Marston and Co, 1946.
  • LeFebure, Victor. The Riddle of the Rhine; chemical strategy in peace and war. The Chemical Foundation, Inc, 1923
  • General Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Western Front 1914-18. London: Royal Artillery Institution, 1986
  • Simon Jones, World War I Gas Warfare Tactics and Equipment. Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 2007
  • Palazzo, Albert. Seeking Victory on the Western Front: The British Army and Chemical Warfare in World War I. University of Nebraska Press, 2002 ISBN 0-8032-8774-7.
  • United States Department of War. (1942) Livens Projector M1 TM 3-325

See also

Surviving Examples

  • Several barrels are displayed at Sanctuary Wood Museum Hill 62 Zillebeke, Belgium
    Bernard Plumier : Link to his web page which has details and photograph Direct link to photograph
British weapons of the First World War
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Livens_Projector". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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