- Created: 28 October 2013
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Gas masks were issued to all everyone young and old at the start of World War Two. There was a very real fear in Britain that Nazi German Bombers would drop poison gas bombs on Towns and Cities as they had previously done in the Spanish Civil War a few years earlier. The Government had planned for tens of thousands of deaths in London alone. An advisor to the government - Liddell Hart - told the Government to expect 250,000 deaths in the first week of the war alone. Gas had been used a great deal in the First World War and many soldiers had died or been injured in gas attacks. Mustard gas was the most deadly of all the poisonous chemicals used during World War I. It was almost odourless (could not be smelt easily) and took 12 hours to take effect. It was so powerful that only small amounts needed to be added to weapons like high explosive shells to have devastating effects.
It was the responsibility of air raid wardens to ensure that everybody had been issued with a gas mask, babies had special gas masks made for them which would only be issued if an emergency situation arose. Everyone in Britain was given a gas mask in a cardboard box which they wore around their neck and carried it at all times wherever they went. Children were issued with what became known as "Mickey Mouse" gas masks - the nickname was an attempt by the Government to make the gas masks seem less scary.
Mums being shown how to protect their baby's
The masks were made of black rubber, which was very hot and smelly and It was difficult to breathe when you were 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.
School Children carrying out a Gas Drill
Posters reminded people to carry their gas mask at all times. People were fined if they were caught without their GasMasks