Whilst gas masks are the first form of anti-gas protection that springs to mind, they are far from the only one. In the Second World War troops were routinely issued tins of ant-gas ointment which they carried in their respirator bags. The ointment was designed to be used on skin as an antidode to mustard gas and lewisite as it is a powerful alkali that neutralises the gas residue. The tins themselves held 8 tubes of this ointment with instructions as to their use printed on the front and back.
The ointment was designed to be applied to the skin as soon after exposure as possible, in small quantities and then rubbed in vigorously for at least a minute. The instructions originally issued with the ointment informed users that even if application was delayed, the ointment could help mitigate the burns gas could cause. The instructions noted that it could be used as a preventative barrier if a soldier knew he was about to be exposed to mustard gas, but there was an irritant effect on the skin. Indeed troops in the far east were supplied with the US equivalent which had a much reduced irritant effect.
There were a number of different formulations for different climatic conditions and these were distinguished by the different colours of the tins.
Anti-Gas Ointment No 2 Tin
The tin for the anti-gas ointment No2 is painted in buff with dark brown lettering. It seems to be the most common type of tin and its contents were formulated for use in temperate conditions like the UK and Western Europe. The tubes are missing in this example, but originally held a mixture of Chloramine-T and vanishing cream. The front of the box gives general details of the contents and how to apply:Whilst the back explains how to get the ointment from the tubes:Anti-Gas Ointment No 5 Tin
Anti- Gas Ointment No 6 Tin
This ointment was designed for tropical conditions and was supplied in a bright green tin with black writing. It was formulated to be effective in the hot and humid jungles of SE Asia. The original Anti-Gas ointment No2 was found to work best on cool dry skin, something not found very often in the jungle, therefore a new formulation was needed to use on warm and sweaty skin. Again the front and rear of the tin follow the standard design:
The letter code printed at the bottom left of the rear of the tin indicate it was made by the Metal Box Company, who seem to have won the contract for many items of military tin-ware throughout the second world war. This example has the original metal tubes of ointment still inside: