Primary Homework Help

Britain Since the 1930s

by Mandy Barrow
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Gas Masks during the war
Gas Mask

By September 1939 some 38 million gas masks had been given out, house to house, to families. They were never to be needed.

Why were people given gas masks during the war?

Why did people wer gas masks?

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 mask in a box

Click here to download a make it yourself a Gas Mask Box(87.7 KB)

Instructions written on the inside lid of each gas mask box

Instructions written on the gas mask box

Why did people fear that chemical weapons might be used in World War Two?

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. People were fined if they were caught without their gas masks.

Gas poster
A poster remindng people to lways cary their gas masks

What were the gas masks like?

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.

Woman wearing a gas mask
Woman wearing a gas mask

The smell of the rubber and disinfectant made some people feel sick.

Army Gas Mask
Army Gas Mask

Gas Mask
Army Gas Mask

There was a special gas mask for children .....

Children's gas mask
Mickey Mouse childs gas mask

....... And for babies

Baby gas mask

gas mask for baby

Posters instructed people how to put their gas masks on

Gas Attack instructions

How were people warned about a gas attack?

To warn people that there was a gas about, the air raid wardens would sound the gas rattle (pictured below).

Gas Rattle

To tell people that it was all clear they would ring a bell.

Was there ever a gas attack?

No, gas was never used against the British, so the effectiveness of the preparations was never tested.


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


Further Information

Children's Gas Masks

Information on Gas Mask

Photographs of Gas Masks (pictures)


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