Category Archives: Gas mask

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

Civilian Duty Respirator

It was quickly recognised in the 1930s that a level of respirator was required that fell between the cheap but limited civilian respirator and the far more effective, but expensive, general service respirator. The government therefore introduced the Civilian Duty Respirator, the “Air Raid Precautions Handbook No1” described it as:

The Civilian Duty respirator has been designed for members of civil air raid precautions services and others who might be called upon to carry out their normal duties in the presence of gas, but who are not likely to be continuously exposed to the highest concentrations.

The civil duty respirator was issued with a canvas haversack, an anti-dimming set and an instruction leaflet:imageWe will take a closer look at the haversack next week, tonight we are concentrating on the respirator itself:imageReturning to the ARP Handbook No1, the following description was provided for the mask:

The facepiece is of stouter construction the in the case of the civilian respirator, to withstand harder wear. It is made of rubber, moulded to fit closely to the face. It is fitted with an outlet valve, imageand has a protuberance on the left cheek to which a microphone can be attached for those regularly employed of telephone work.imageThe facepiece is held in position on the face by elastic bands passing round the back of the head. These can be adjusted for fit and comfort by means of buckles.imageThe rubber of the facepiece fits tightly round the end of the container and is secured by means of a metal band, or, in earlier examples, by cord.

The eyepieces are made of strong plain glass discs fitted into metal rims, and are removable by unscrewing for decontamination purposes. imageThere were three different patterns of canister on these masks, the MK I was made of waterproofed cardboard with metal ends. The MK II was identical but made entirely from metal. The third pattern is the one one this mask:imageC.D. Mark III: an improved and slightly larger container, which is in fact identical with the container of the civilian respirator except that the charcoal in it has a higher degree of activation. The main effect of this difference is that the container can absorb more gas before becoming saturated- i.e. That it’s effective life in use is longer. In this container the inlet valve is at the inner end, and can itself be disinfected, so that no absorbent pad is required as in the case of the Mark I and II patterns.imageThe Mark III container is distinguished from the civilian respirator container by having a red band round the black lacquered body.

This example of the civilian duty respirator is stamped with a date of manufacture, here December 1941:imageThis design of respirator continued in service with the Civil Defence into the post war period and was used throughout the 1950s and into the 60s. Of the three main designs of early war respirator (Civilian, Civilian Duty and Service), it is probably the least recognised, but served for decades, thankfully never for real.

Desert DPM GSR Haversack

The General Service Respirator began to be rolled out to priority troops in 2010 and at this time many troops on combat operations were still wearing DDPM uniforms, MTP being introduced simultaneously with the new respirator. The history seems a little muddy, but during this transition period a large quantity of haversacks for the new respirator were produced in the earlier pattern of camouflage. It is not clear if these were intended for combat troops with the new respirator until MTP came into widespread use, or if they were trials items used during the testing phase of the GSR. Either way large numbers were produced and being obsolete are easily available on the collectors’ market so tonight we are going to look at an example in detail.

The haversack, more properly called a ‘field pack’ is a large wedge shaped bag made of DDPM IRR Cordua nylon:imageThe inside of the pack is accessed through a large flap on the top of the pack, secured with both Velcro and press studs:imageThe inside of the pack is lined with a grey nylon and has the pack’s NSN number and designation printed on in black ink:imageA simple open pocket is sewn to one side of the pack:imageWhilst a shorter, but wider pocket is sewn to the opposite side, secured with a velcroed flap:imageA third much larger pocket is attached to the base and secured with a zip:imageThe pack is designed to be worn over the shoulder and an adjustable strap is provided for this purpose, along with a steadying strap to pass around the waist:imageThis pack was never intended to be permanently attached to a web set, however a belt loop is provided for this purpose if so desired:imageUnderneath this are a pair of T-Clips to allow it to be securely attached to a PLCE belt:imageThis pack was short lived and quickly replaced with the similar but not identical MTP version we covered here.

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

Anti-Gas Scraper

Persistent or vesicant gasses are those that cause blistering and all known examples are heavier than air so often sit as a pool of oily liquid contaminating whatever they come into contact with. Examples of these include mustard gas and Lewisite and they present distinct challenges to personnel decontaminating equipment and vehicles afterwards. The most common method of decontaminating in World War Two was to use a bleaching powder to neutralise the gas and then wipe it off of surfaces before disposing of the contaminated rags. This was not the only tool at a decontamination party’s disposal however and tonight we are looking at a small hand held scraper that could be used for scraping vesicant gas deposits off of flat surfaces:imageThis scraper has a wooden handle:imageAnd a large metal head:imageA piece of rubber is firmly attached to the head:imageThis acts much like a window cleaner’s squeegee and allows the gas to be effectively scraped off. It is interesting to note that unusually the rubber on this scraper is still supple and hasn’t hardened or cracked at all and it would be as effective today as it was when it was made.

The scraper is dated 1942 and has a /|\ mark stamped into the metal shaft of the head:imageThe only indication of the maker are the letter MHB. MHB appears as a makers mark stamped on a large number of military tools, sadly I have been unable to identify an exact manufacturer, even on Grace’s Guide.

Happily these scrapers were never needed and a small stock appears to have come to light in recent years as examples are regularly listed for sale on eBay for around the £10 mark.

Dubbin, Protective No 1 Tin

One of the more common military tins to come up for sale is that for Dubbin, Protective, No 1. This is a small round, dark green tin:imageThe details of the contents are printed onto the front of the tin in black letters:imageThe style of tin was almost certainly produced by Joseph Pickering & Son Ltd of Sheffield and it is believed that this style of tin dates from after 1953.

I must confess I had not really given the use of this dubbin much though, beyond its use as a waterproofing agent and somewhere in the back of my mind realising that it was used in anti-gas procedures. The following Army Council orders came up on a Facebook site a few weeks ago however, kindly provided by Jonathon Price, and offer some more information into the use of Dubbin that I have not come across before and might be of equal interest to you:

Dubbin, Protective No 1.

  1. Attention is drawn to War Clothing Regulations, 1941, para.27, which forbids the use of blacking on boots.
  2. Dubbin, protective No. 1, is now being introduced into the Service for issue to all units other than the Home Guard and will gradually replace the ordinary service dubbin as at present issued.
  3. All service boots in wear, including those provided under A.C.Is. 2124 and 2456 of 1941, (a) by officers in battledress, and (b) by other ranks (including boots, leather, ATS, but not ATS shoes) will be treated with ordinary service dubbin or dubbin, protective No 1, as supplies of the latter commodity become available.
  4. Units will continue to obtain supplies by indenting on the R.A.O.C. If dubbin, protective, No. 1, is not available at the time, ordinary service dubbin will be issued in lieu. One tin, containing 2-oz. of dubbin, will be issued to each soldier, and also to each A.T.S. auxiliary in possession of boots, leather, A.T.S. When empty tins will be refilled from the bulk supply carried by the unit. Issue to officers will be on repayment.
  5. The object of dubbin, protective No. 1, is to resist the penetration of blister gas through the uppers of the boots. One pair of boots will require ½ oz. of dubbin for each application. The dubbin will be applied at least once a week. Instructions for the application of the dubbin, by the individual are as follows:-
    1. Remove all mud and dirt from the boot with a damp cloth and then wipe dry.
    2. Apply dubbin evenly over the whole of the upper of the boot including the tongue.
    3. Work well in with the hands, paying particular attention to the seams and to the join of the upper and the welt.
  6. Boots referred to in para. 3 above will not be polished in any circumstances.
  7. Dubbin will not be carried in the respirator haversack…


Opening the tin reveals the dubbin:imageDubbin was first invented in the mediæval period as a waterproofing agent and traditionally consisted of a mix of wax, oil and tallow that acted both as a proofing agent and as a feed for leather. It is an oily, waxy substance and is still used today alongside more modern synthetic substitutes.

Anti-Gas Over Mittens

There was a wide variety of anti-gas equipment produced during World War II, including oiled suits and gloves to protect the wearer from vessicant gases such as Lewisite. The problem with these oiled fabrics was that they were quite fragile and whilst this wasn’t too much of a problem for trousers and jackets, gloves could be expected to receive much rougher treatment as they were used to pick up things and manipulate equipment. To help protect these gloves, and consequently their wearer, special cotton over mittens were produced that could be worn over the top to provide an additional layer of physical protection. Tonight we have one such pair to look at:imageThese are incredibly simple and cheap mittens and I suspect they were designed to be used once and then thrown away once contaminated. The mittens have separate thumbs and forefingers and the tips of the fingers are exposed, presumably to give a bit more manual dexterity at the ends of the digits with just one layer of fabric rather than two:imageThe wrist has a simple tape and stamped metal buckle:imageThis is used to tighten the mittens to hold them secure:imageThis particular pair are stamped in the inside with a date of 1944 and a /|\ mark:imageAs well as British manufacturers I have also seen Canadian examples so they were certainly produced there as well and Air ministry marked examples. Concrete evidence of their use is limited, although there is a reference to cotton over mittens in the 1939 Manual of Protection against Gas and Air Raids and this excellent photograph shows a man decontaminating food cans whilst wearing them: imageI do not believe these were general issue items, but only handed out to those who needed them for a specific role such as decontamination teams. If anyone can provide more information or further photographic evidence please get in contact