WWII Gas Masks:
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What Is A Gas Mask?

A gas mask is a mask which is placed over the face to stop the user from breathing in dangerous gasses which may be harmful.

Why Were They Issued During During World War II (WWII)?

During World War I (WWI) many soldiers had been badly injured, or killed, when their enemies had used bombs that released poisonous fumes when they exploded; the gasses were so powerful that only small amounts needed to be added to weapons like high explosive shells to have devastating effects.

Mustard gas was the deadliest of all the poisonous chemicals used during WWI and some of the gasses were almost odourless and took several hours to take effect.

Gas Mask Issue:

During WWII Britain was very worried that gas bombs would be dropped on the country during air raids and injure civilians and soldiers alike; therefore, the authorities supplied gas masks 'Respirators' within a cardboard box, with Instructions printed on the inside lid, to everyone in Britain, including babies and children; by September 1939 some 38 million gas masks had been issued in Britain.

Gas Mask Types:

Different masks were used for different age groups; adults masks were simply coloured black; babies had a large mask which covered their whole body and air had to be pumped into the mask with a hand pump.

Children had brightly coloured masks known as “Mickey Mouse” masks because they looked like the famous Disney character.

It was thought that bright colours made them less frightening.
Gas Mask 'Respirator' Instructions:


Ordinary gas masks were made of black rubber, which were very hot and smelly and made some people feel sick when worn; it was difficult to breathe when wearing a gas mask; when you breathed in the air was sucked through the filter to take out the gas; when you breathed out the whole mask was pushed away from your face to let the air out; e
ach gas mask had a filter near the mouth, which stopped the harmful gas from entering the body when you breathed; in most cases the mask would also cover the whole face in order to protect delicate parts, such as the eyes.

Notifications:

Posters were issued to remind people to carry their gas mask at all times; those caught without their gas masks were fined.

Air raid wardens had masks with long hoses and speaking boxes which could be attached to their belts.

To warn people that there may be gas about, air raid wardens would sound a gas rattle.

To let people know that it was all clear air raid wardens would ring a bell

Children had to take regular gas drills at school, but they found these drills hard to take seriously, especially when they discovered that blowing out through the rubber made 'rude' noises.

Luckily, the gas masks were never needed because gas bombs were never dropped on Britain during WWII.


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