In April 1921 The Examiner published an extraordinary interview with Major Tom Davies DSO MC, who'd just returned from Russia, and now that his work has been declassified, we can add to the story.
Tom was born in Beaconsfield in 1881, son of the famous gold mine manager.
After attending Launceston High School, he studied mining engineering in Ballarat.
He worked as a metallurgist and set up an assay lab, before travelling the world studying chemistry.
He was in London when the Great War broke out in 1914 and immediately volunteered as a private in the King's Light Horse.
The army soon needed his chemical expertise.
He was made Lieutenant in 1915 in a Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers, and sent to a poison gas unit on the western front.
Ironically, after a huge barrage of gas shells the wind reversed and blew it back into the British trenches, killing several and injuring about 2600 including Tom.
After further service at Gallipolli, he was awarded the Military Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace and sent to France to command a special chemical unit.
Again he was gassed, then awarded a DSO and promoted to Captain.
At the end of the war he was supervising an ammunition factory where chemical weapons were made and promoted to Major.
He should have been returned to Australia, but Winston Churchill was now Minister for War and wanted to overthrow the new communist government in Russia.
With limited artillery available, he decided to use poison gas instead.
The only person he could find who was both a chemist and a combat officer was Major Davies.
As chief chemist of the allied forces, Davies modified their gas to be more effective and able to pass through masks. It no longer killed, but made people exposed to it wish they were dead.
For delivery he invented a gas bomb, able to be dropped from aircraft.
It proved hugely effective in operations around Archangel and Murmansk. Unfortunately, during training of Russian officers in use of the devices he was gassed himself - for a third time. The White Russians awarded him the Order of St Vladimir.
Ultimately Churchill's Russian adventure failed. On leaving, the Allies dumped their gas weapons at sea.
Tom was now a physical and nervous wreck, but after marrying in London returned to George Town to become a farmer, joining the Labor Party and entering politics in 1929. Premier Ogilvie made him a minister.
He spoke passionately against chemical weapons prior to WWII and was probably still suffering their effects.
He set up schemes to assist Aborigines in Bass Strait, over strenuous objections from the Anglican Church.
Under great nervous stress with both political problems and his son Peter fighting in New Guinea, he suffered a heart attack and died on September 11, 1942, receiving a state funeral.
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