Category Archives: ARP

Civilian Duty Respirator Haversack

Last week we looked at the civilian duty respirator, and tonight we follow this up with the haversack. This was a very simple design, ideal for cheap mass production for civilian services who did not need the same sophistication as the military’s haversacks for the general service respirators. The haversack in this case was a simple heavy duty cotton bag, made of a very coarse grade of fabric:imageA woven cotton tape carrying strap was seen to the bag. This was bundles up and stitched into sections that could be unpicked one by one to lengthen the strap, allowing a cheap way of the haversack strap being adjustable without the need for brass slider buckles:imageThe neck of this haversack closes with a drawstring:imageA loop of woven cotton tape is sewn inside the haversack in one corner:imageWith this pulled out, it is possible to fit the anti-dimming kit into the loop:imageWhich then sits safely in the bottom corner of the haversack when it is turned back the correct way round:imageWhilst this haversack is clearly far superior to the cardboard boxes issued to civilians, it remains a cheap and simple haversack that allows mass production and widespread issue without costing the local authorities large amounts of money.

In this 1941 photograph, this pattern of haversack is clearly visible being worn by the right hand warden:image

Anti-Gas Ointment Jar

Whilst soldiers were issued anti-gas in small tubes that were carried in metal tins stored in their respirator haversacks, this method of supply was not suitable for the civilian population and so from 1939 onwards anti gas ointment, used to treat the skin when exposed to blister gases, was supplied in earthenware seven pint jars. This allowed it to be shared out in the aftermath of an attack as part of the civil defence procedures. These jars continued to be produced and issued in the immediate post war period and tonight’s example dates from 1956. It is a 10″ high white glazed jar, with a sealed lid and carry handle:imageThe earlier examples were half brown and half white, but by the post war period were completely white. The front of the jar has ‘Ointment Anti-Gas’ stamped on under the glazing:imageThe lid has a rubber seal, now perished, and is secured with a twisting metal clip, unfortunately rather rusted on this example:imageThe carry handle is a simple ‘U’ shaped piece of flat steel, secured to the neck of the jar with wire:imageThis jar was made by Doulton and Company of Lambeth in London in November 1956:imageA number of different types of anti gas ointment were produced during the war, and the official history of gas warfare explains their development:

The first ointment introduced was Ointment, Anti-Gas, No 1. It was effective against liquid mustard gas only; it was an irritant after repeated applications, and corrosive to metal portions of weapons if left on for too long. Being irritant it could not be used prophylactically to protect the skin against gas vapour. It was issued in a two-ounce lever tin. In 1939 it became obsolescent and was superseded by Ointment, Anti-gas, No 2. This was an ointment in a vanishing cream base which was effective against both mustard gas and lewisite. It was far less irritant than No 1, but not by any means non-irritant. It was possible to. Use it prophylactically against vapour, but it was an irritant to those parts of the body where the skin is more delicate…

A series of ointments- No 3, 3A, 5 and 6- were introduced successively. These ointments contained antiverm, the chemical used for anti-gas impregnation of clothing. Nos. 3 and 3A (the tropical form of No3) were incorporated in a fatty base; and Nos. 5 and 6 were of the vanishing cream type. They were all superior to No. 2 in that they were non-irritant and less corrosive.

Stirrup Pump (Part 2)

We looked at a stirrup pump back in February, here, that example was incomplete and missing its hose. Since writing that post I have come across another, more complete example, for the princely sum of £5:imageThe most obvious difference between this and the earlier example, is this pump still has the hose with it. This hose is made of rubber, wrapped in reinforcing tape and painted black:imageIt measures thirty feet long and when not in use is coiled up and fastened to the pump. The nozzle on the end does not match the pictures in the Firewatcher’s handbook and may be a later replacement, it is secured in place with a jubilee clip:imageThe hose, when coiled up, is secured with a webbing tab, secured with a metal pin and with a plastic quick release tab. This is nicely marked with a crown and the letters GR:imageThe Royal cypher is repeated on the brass collar part of the pump, albeit faintly:imageA massive move was made to produce enough pumps before the war, but 1940 there were only 86,000 distributed which was viewed by the authorities as woefully inadequate. Here women welder’s work to make the handles for stirrup pumps:imageStirrup pumps appear regularly in press photos showing the work of the Civil Defence services:imageDespite its simplicity, the stirrup pump could be invaluable and St Paul’s Cathedral was saved from destruction using the simple stirrup pump:

When a fire broke out in the cathedral’s library aisle, there was no mains water to fight it — the blaze was eventually suppressed with ­stirrup pumps, buckets and sand.

Then, soon after 6.30pm, an incendiary bomb — one of 29 to fall on and around St Paul’s that night — pierced the lead roof of the dome and lodged in its timbers.

Molten lead began to drip into the nave below. The aged wood of the choir stalls and organ screen, carved by the great sculptor Grinling Gibbons, was at mortal risk, while smoke from the blazing buildings surrounding the cathedral enveloped it. Two teams of specialist fire watchers recruited from the Royal Institute of British Architects — and hand-picked because they had heads for heights — were ­crawling along the wooden beams with hand pumps to reach the ­blazing section. But suddenly the incendiary bomb, having burnt through the wood, fell far, far to the nave below, where it was easily put out. Though almost every building around St Paul’s ­perished, the cathedral survived.

This pump was filthy when I bought it and has been carefully washed with hot soapy water. It is far from perfect, but for the price was a fantastic find and it is different from my earlier example.

Rest Centre Zuckerman Helmet

Rest centres were locations set up by local authorities to process those made homeless by bombing. These centres were normally in school or church halls and offered short term accommodation for those bombed out of their homes, as well as food and access to services to allow alternative housing to be provided, new ration and identity papers to be issued and any other advice and support people might need. These centres were manned by a mix of local authority employees and volunteers, the WVS having a major role to play in providing hot tea and food as well as distributing aid. The workers at these centres were lightly equipped, but some at least were issued with steel helmets to protect them as they went about their duties. Tonight we have a wonderful example of a Zuckerman helmet marked up to a rest centre worker:imageThis helmet is in the standard light grey paint, put a dark green panel has been painted on the front with the words ‘Rest Centre’ neatly painted on this:imageThe Zuckerman helmet was specially developed for civilian use and whilst not offering the ballistic protection of a military helmet, it was ideal for protection during air raids. Examples were issued by local authorities and it was also available for purchase by civilians for a few shillings.

The design was officially called the ‘civilian protective helmet’ and was pressed from manganese or mild steel in two shell sizes, medium and large. This example is a medium, as indicated by the ‘M’ stamped into the underside of the shell:imageThe other stamp on the underside of the rim indicates that it was made by Rubery Owen Company Ltd of Leeds in 1941:imageThe underside of the helmet shows the liner and the loops for a chin strap:imageChin straps were not supplied with these helmets, but users were advised that they could add their own and examples turn up with a wide variety of different chin straps, some as sophisticated as the standard army ones, others just a piece of ribbon.

The liner itself is made of leather with a tape crown, this ensures that there is a large gap between the top of the liner and the helmet shell itself offering more protection from falling debris. Sadly, despite the excellent condition of the shell, the liner in this helmet has perished considerably over the last eighty years:imageThe helmets were distributed with the liner unattached and an instruction sheet advising users how to set their helmet up for use:




The Civilian Protective Helmet is issued unassembled in three parts – body, lining, and lace.

The steel body is in two sizes and the liner is in six sizes – i.e. three sizes to each size of body, as follows –

The medium body (stamped M) takes linings of 6 and a half, 6 and three quarters and 7.

The large body (stamped L) takes linings of 7 and a quarter, 7 and a half, and 7 and three quarters.

Fig 1 shows the general shape of the helmet. Although the body is symmetrical in shape the line of lacing holes is sloped so that when the lining is assembled to the body the helmet has a front and a back. The back comes down lower to protect the back of the head.

The letters L and M stamped under the rim at the back indicates the size of the helmet body.

How to assemble the Helmet.

(i) Take a lining of the required size and a body of the size to fit the lining – see above. (NB – It is essential that the right size of body be used with each lining size.) It does not matter which part of the lining becomes the front or back; but it is usual to assemble it so that the join in the headband is at the back.

(ii) There are eight pairs of lacing holes in the steel body, corresponding with the eight loops on the lining (A ‘pair’ of holes means two holes close together – about 1 inch apart. There is a space of about 2 inches between two pairs.) A loop should be placed behind and between the two holes which form one pair, and the lace threaded alternately through the lacing holes in the body and the loops on the lining as show in Fig. 2.

When the lacing is finished lace should be visible outside the body of the helmet between each pair of holes, and should be invisible between the two holes which form a pair (see Fig. 1).

(iii) When the lacing has been completed, draw the lace tight and tie it firmly in a bow. It will be most satisfactory to form the tie inside the helmet (ie alongside one of the loops in the lining) and at the back, where loose ends can be tucked away, and not outside the helmet, where the tie will be more liable to come undone.

The lacing can be done with any strong piece of cord or lace of the right thickness if the lace originally provided gets broken.

How to fit the Helmet.

The wearer of the helmet should see that it fits well. The leather band of the lining should fit as closely as possible around the head without being too tight. If it is too loose and the next size smaller is too tight, the lining should be padded with layers of paper or other material inside the leather band.

When the fit around the head has been made right, the helmet should be worn to see whether it comes down far enough, or too far, on the head. This can be adjusted by lengthening or shortening the piece of cord which is threaded through the webbing band at the crown of the head. The brim at the front should be about level with the eyebrows when the helmet is worn in a comfortable position on the head. (Note – the cord must not be loosened so much that the head nearly comes in contact with the steel body. People with high-domed heads may find it advisable to wear the helmet above eyebrow level.)

Chinstrap or Carrrying Loops

No chinstrap is provided because it is not likely to be necessary except in rare circumstances. Nevertheless lugs are provided inside the helmet on either side through which a piece of tape can be threaded if desired, to form either a strap (to be worn either under the chin or at the back of the head) or a carrying loop.

Spare Civilian Gas Mask Containers

Although never used as intended, the civilian gas masks issued in the run up to World War Two were designed to be maintained and repaired as necessary to keep them in service. Spare parts were produced and instructions given on how to dismantle and reassemble the respirators. Amongst those spare parts were replacement filter canisters that could be swapped out in the rubber face masks. Spare gas mask parts are unusual today, so it was very pleasing to be given this pair of replacement filters for civilian gas masks:imageBoth are tin metal boxes, with a rubber inlet valve on the rear:imageThe front has a green tin grill through which air would pass when assembled on a mask and used:imageInside the canister was a particulate filter and a layer of charcoal:SKM_C30819021808020The official description of the canister was:

The container (known as G.C. mark II) consists of a cylindrical tin canister (lacquered black) containing activated charcoal to absorb gases such as phosgene and mustard gas, and a particulate filter which prevents the passage of finely divided smokes like the arsenical gases. The contents of the container do not deteriorate either with age or with wearing the respirator when gas is not present.

The canister itself, like so many other items made from tinplate, was manufactured by the Metal Box Company and this is indicated by the combined MB stamp on the back of the canister:imageTo fit a new canister to a civilian gas mask, the following procedure should be observed:

(I) Replace the rubber disc valve on the stud in the container end.

(II) Grasp the container by the rim on its outer end and insert one side of the inner end into the aperture in the facepiece at a point immediately under the window. If the facepiece is a large size, the edge of the rubber should be brought just over the raised swage in the container body, and if it is either a medium or small size the edge of the rubber should be brought up to the raised swage. Hold the rubber in place of the container with the fingers, insert the fingers of the other hand inside the facepiece and stretch the rubber outwards and slip it over the container.

If the facepiece has not been slipped over the container far enough it must not be corrected by pulling the edge of the rubber; the fingers are to be inserted in the facepiece and the rubber lifted and pushed onto the container. See that the edge of the rubber is not turned in, that it is straight round the container and in the correct position according size of the facepiece.

(III) Place the rubber band in position around the container so that one half of its width lies on the rubber of the facepiece and the other half on the container.

One of these rubber securing bands is slipped around one of the canisters and has a date of 1937 stamped on it:image

Stirrup Pump

Although very simple, the stirrup pump was a key piece of equipment in fighting incendiary bombs during World War II. The stirrup pump was a little hand operated water pump that could be used with buckets of water to fight fires. It consisted of a tube that was placed in the water, a foot rest to hold the pump steady and a handle that was worked up and down to draw the water up:imageThe base of the pump is fitted with a pierced metal filter that prevents grit and debris being drawn into the pump and fouling it:imageA large handle is fitted to the top of the pump:imageThis can be pulled upwards, creating a vacuum that draws water into the pump:imagePushing this down forces the water back out through this nozzle:imageOriginally a thirty foot rubber tube was attached here that could be used to fight fires. To keep the pump steady, a foot rest is fitted to the side of the pump, this part was on the outside of the bucket of water and the user held it steady with their foot:imageThe main tube that was in the bucket of water is protected by a sleeve of a hard rubber that prevents the inner tube from getting crushed:imageThe stirrup pump was recommended to Fire Guards in their handbook as an ideal way to fight small fires caused by incendiary bombs:imageIt could be used by teams of one, two, or ideally three persons:imageimageThe handbook also gave some instructions on how to care for the pump and actively encouraged owners to use them in civilian life for purposes such as washing windows in order to ensure they were familiar with its operation:imageimageimageHere we see the pumps being manufactured:D 3597And used on an ARP training exercise:image

ARP Triangular Bandage

Anticipating large numbers of civilian casualties, the Government began stockpiling large quantities of medical supplies to treat those injured in the aftermath of aerial bombing in the months leading up to the outbreak of World War Two. These medical supplies were marked up as being the property of the Air Raid Precautions Department and ranged from shell dressings to bandages and tourniquets. We have looked at a number of these items on the blog over the year and tonight we have an example of a triangular bandage to look at:imageA triangular bandage is exactly what it sounds like, a large piece of triangular shaped cloth that could be used for a variety of different things, but predominantly as a sling or to immobilise a fractured limb. These bandages were compressed to remove all the air so that they did not take up much room in a first aid box, wrapped in blue sugar paper and then had a label applied around the outside with details of their contents. A cloth tab is included on this packet to allow it to be quickly ripped open in an emergency. The front of the packet indicates the contents and that it was manufactured by R Bailey & Son of Stockport:imageThe rear dates this bandage to March 1939 and shows that it was procured by the Air Raid Precautions Department of the Home Office:imageThese bandages were used for training as well as for actual incidents and one small boy recalls their use during one exercise when he played a casualty:

A group of us boys were taken along Stone Road and placed in front gardens as casualties. I had a large label hung round my neck that said “broken right arm”. The exercise started and rescue workers came: my arm was splinted then placed in a large triangular bandage hung from my neck. I was then taken to the “Casualty Clearing Station” on the Common. When the exercise was over, our reward was a cup of tea and a bun at the big green refreshments van.

There were many uses for a triangular bandage, as indicated here in an article from the 1940 edition of First Aid Journal:CaptureCapture1