Today ear protection is commonplace in the military, but during the Second World War ear plugs were not general issue items. Some units, especially those exposed to loud noise such as artillery, were issued sets of ear plugs and it is a pair of those we are looking at tonight:These plugs are made from a malleable rubber, that has now hardened, with a conical hollow plug:Unfortunately one of the plugs has become distorted with age and hardened with a distinct ‘squish’ to one side- however as I won’t be wearing them it’s not a major problem. The plugs are attached together with a piece of string, tied over a groove on the end of each one:The string made it marginally harder to lose the ear plugs… however being small items I imagine they were easily misplaced. Len Taylor was a gunner and recalls the dangers of not wearing ear plugs whilst manning the guns:
One of the first things I remember about the Blitz was arriving on the outskirts of London, where we took over a gun site with four 3” Naval Guns and a Command Post. We thought these guns looked rather small, as we had done all of our training on much larger guns and had got familiar with the blast, so when we got called out on the same afternoon to intercept three Stuka Bombers, we manned the guns without our ear plugs.
The Bombers attacked the factories we were guarding, so we opened up with our ‘small’ guns but soon realised our mistake when our ears were badly punished. We had not realised that the smaller the shell in artillery the worse the crack of sound. As the guns get larger the sound from them develops from a crack which really hurts your ears to a sound more like a roll of thunder which is not so painful. We were very careful to wear our earplugs after that lesson.
In this photograph of anti-aircraft gunners, the ear plugs can just be seen as black dots on their ears:As could be expected for such small and easily lost items, ear plugs are not common finds today and this pair, despite some perishing to one, are in pretty good condition and make a nice little addition to the collection.