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Louth Museum

Ruth's Blog

Gas mask

by Will, work experience student

Gas mask in museum

Gas mask in museum

Poster issued by Government

Poster issued by Government

My name is Will, and I am doing work experience in Louth Museum.  I chose to write about the gas mask because it’s interesting how they work.

This gas mask or respirator was made in 1938, the year before World War II started on 1st September 1939.  In 1938, the government issued a law stating that all civilians had to carry a gas mask, and to wear it if there was a gas attack.

The face piece was made with thin sheet rubber.  Air is drawn in through the front filter, and exhaled air is released through a simple non-return valve.  The incoming air goes through a filter which is a dense layer of carbon/charcoal, and this absorbs the poisonous fumes from the gas.  The air which has passed through the filter is safe to breathe.

The UK government produced 38 million gas masks - there were different sizes for babies to adults. The children had a gas mask with a Mickey Mouse face design.

The reason they produced gas masks in such large quantities was because of the fear of German air raids using poison gas.  Most gas masks contained asbestos which is toxic, but at that time there was little awareness of this problem.

In large towns, the air raid warden used a signal to alert the civilians to a gas attack.  This was a hand rattle.  When the gas was cleared away, they used a hand bell.