World War Two Gas Protection Equipment

In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of D-day today we are sharing images of the WWII gas masks in our museum collection.

Gas Masks at Home

One of the most interesting varieties we have is this baby’s gas mask from 1941. The baby was placed inside the respirator on its back and its legs put through the loop holes in the canvas and then closed up by the  tying draw strings which are ended with black rubber toggles.

gas mask for a baby: green and yellow canvas bag with two round glass openings for eyes and a respiration filter hanging from the front

We also have this booklet produced by the British Home Office explaining how to use devices like this to keep children safe:

Front page of a booklet. Yellowed aged paper with black text. Title reads ANTI-GAS PROTECTION OF BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN

A similar leaflet has been digitised by the Kenley Revival Project so you can read the inside here if you are interested:

 The government believed that the UK could be attacked by gas in addition to bombings, to prepare for this by September 1939 nearly 38 million masks had  been distributed to the general public. During Air Raids a special rattle would be sounded to alert people that a danger of gas was suspected, and everyone should put on their masks. Thankfully although Britain prepared well for gas attacks, no gas attacks against civilians on British soil ever took place during World War Two.

Gas Masks on the Front

For the men fighting at the front gas attacks were also perceived as a great threat. During World War One chemical warfare in the form of chlorine gas and mustard gas had decimated troops. This service respirator was issued to British Forces during World War Two.

Although they protected people from gas, wearing a respirator came with its own challenges. As you can imagine, wearing mask that covers your whole head limited vision and this became even worse when the glass lenses got fogged over due to condensation.

Green metal tube with black writing: OUTFIT ANTI-DIMMING Mk V

This small metal green tube contains a cloth and compound to rub on to mask lenses to stop them steaming up. The shape of the tube was designed so that it would easily fit into a standard issue canvas respirator bag. Here is an example of a respirator bag from our collection:

khaki coloured canvas bag with dark metal rivets, shows signs of age and use

Thanks to our volunteer Lucy for helping us decide which objects to share in this blog for you to today.