Gas Masks during the war.
By September 1939 some 38 million gas masks had been given out, house to house, to families. They were never to be needed.
Everyone in Britain was given a gas mask in a cardboard box, to protect them from gas bombs, which could be dropped during air raids.
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.
There was a fear that it would be used against ordinary people at home in Britain (civilians).
Posters reminded people to carry their gas mask at all times and instructed people how to put their gas masks on. People were fined if they were caught without their gas masks.
The masks were made of black rubber, which was very hot and smelly. 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.
The smell of the rubber and disinfectant made some people feel sick.
To warn people that there was a gas about, the air raid wardens would sound the gas rattle. To tell people that it was all clear they would ring a bell.