Category Archives: Gas mask

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.

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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

Olive Green S10 Respirator Haversack

Tonight we are looking at another respirator haversack, that fits in between the olive green butyl nylon example here, and the DPM example here. This respirator haversack was developed as part of the olive green PLCE webbing set, and is made of the same fabric as the rest of the components we have been looking at over the last few weeks:imageThe haversack is made from a plain green Cordua nylon, with a large box lid, secured with Velcro and a press stud:imageThe underside of this lid has two elasticated straps for stowing the user’s NBC gloves. This example has just a single marking under the lid, with the words ‘MADE IN UK’ printed here:imageThe inside of the haversack has a front pocket for carrying nerve agent pens, nerve tablets etc. Two other pockets are fitted in the base of the bag to hold spare canisters:imageHere we see the rear of the haversack. As well as a belt loop at the top, we can see another smaller loop to allow a steadying strap to be passed around the waist to hold the haversack steady so it doesn’t flap around when slung over the shoulder if the wearer needs to run:imageNext to this is a green patch for the owner to put his personal details (although in this case the original user has ignored this and just written his name across the back in black marker!

One major area of difference between this haversack and later examples can be found under the belt loop flap:imageThe ‘T-tabs’ used to attach it to the PLCE belt are made of metal, rather than the plastic which can be seen on the DPM version.

My thanks go to Michael Fletcher for helping me add this interesting variant to my collection.

Canadian C3 Respirator

A month or so back we looked at the Canadian 64 pattern respirator haversack here; since writing that piece I have been very happy to add a Canadian C3 respirator that would have been carried in the haversack to my collection:imageThis mask is contemporaneous with the British S6 mask, being first manufactured in 1960, but is far less sophisticated. It is clearly closely based on the earlier British lightweight respirator from the Second World War, just updated for the Cold War. Looking at the mask we can clearly see the similarities, with the same side mounted canister, general shape of the mask and the screw fitting for a microphone seen in the post war British lightweight respirator:imageUpdates have been made however, with the head harness being made of more modern man-made materials:imageThe ‘snout’ of the respirator boasts a distinctive piece of silver mesh:imageThis is also visible on the inside of the mask:imageAbove this is a distinctive triangular shape, moulded into the rubber:imageThe facepiece of this mask is marked as being made in 1970 by ‘GTR’, General Tire and Rubber:imageThere were two manufacturers of this mask, the other being ‘Baron’. This respirator is a ‘Normal’ size- other smaller and larger sizes would have been produced in limited numbers for those with odd shaped faces. The canister for this mask uses a 60mm thread and is mounted on the side of the mask:imageA piece of tape around this section has a date of June 1971:imageThe canister itself is made of pressed metal with a large screw thread on the top allowing it to be changed relatively easily by the wearer.imageThese masks were used throughout the 1970s and were only phased out of Canadian service in 1989. Amazingly export sales of the mask continued into the early 1990s, by which time the design was decidedly obsolete.

1950s Canadian Respirator Case

A couple of weeks ago the blog covered the 64 pattern Canadian respirator haversack here. Tonight we are looking at its immediate predecessor, the 51 pattern haversack:Technically this is not actually part of the 51 pattern web set, but it is closely associated with it as it was introduced at the same time as the rest of the webbing. The similarities between this and the later design are quite clear, with a similar side opening haversack, with a large press-stud secured pocket to the front:The big difference to note is the very different material the haversack is made from, rather than the plasticised finish of the later design, this haversack is a generation earlier and made from green canvas and cotton webbing. This would be far harder to decontaminate following a nuclear or chemical incident but reflects the available technology of the 1950s when it was produced, compared to that of a decade later. The haversack was worn on the left hip, with the opening facing forward. This is secured with a metal quick release buckle and a webbing chape:Note the little webbing channel for the tab to be stored away in when the haversack is fastened. When it is undone the haversack opens with a large gusseted opening to allow the mask to be taken in and out easily:Again like the later design, a small pocket is attached to the closed end of the haversack, with another quick release tab to open it with:The back of the haversack has a complicated array of different straps and fasteners attached to it:These are to allow the wearer to either attach it to the belt of his webbing set, or to sling it over his shoulder, a second strap then going around the wearer’s waist to prevent it from flapping about if the user needs to run.

For the early 1950s date this haversack is a modern and well thought out design. Its biggest flaw is not down to the design, but rather the materials available at the period which would have made it difficult to decontaminate.

General Service Respirator (GSR)

The S10 respirator used by the British Army was a very good design for its day and served well for many years, and indeed is still serving for many. It was not without its problems however and in 2010 a new and radically different design of respirator was introduced and slowly rolled out to troops. The new respirator was titled the ‘GSR’ or ‘General Service Respirator’ and is one of the most advanced designs issued to soldiers anywhere in the world:imageCompared to its predecessor the GSR was designed to allow troops to wear it for a maximum of 24 hours rather than the 4 hours of the S10. It also has a single full face visor rather than individual eyepieces for better visibility and to make it less claustrophobic and most importantly of all, twin filters to allow them to be more easily changed in a CBRN environment. Each filter is a small lozenge shape:imageThese fit either side of the mask with a locking system:imageThe filters can be turned upwards to allow the wearer to use optics and weapons, and as the mask works on one canister and has automatic valves the user can keep breathing normally whilst changing canisters- a marked improvement over other designs. The front of the mask has a removable cover allowing access to the speech diaphragm:imageThe mask is much easier to breathe through than the S10, as proved by the world record London marathon time for running in a respirator achieved by Lance Corporal Andy McMahon who took 3 hours and 28 minutes to complete it wearing a GSR and canisters. He remarked I am very impressed with the new GSR: compared to the old respirator it is almost as if you are running without one. No doubt he found the long straw built in to allow the user to drink from a water bottle very helpful on his run:imageA set of adjustable straps allow the mask to be fitted to the individual carefully:imageThese have locking bars to ensure the mask doesn’t become loose over time. The face seal of the mask is made from a soft comfortable rubber and the drinking straw protrudes into the main mask, tucking out the way when not in use:imageEach mask comes with a card history sheet so the user can record what has been done to it, settings etc. This just slots in a plastic wallet and is carried in the haversack:imageThe following diagram comes from the CBRN aide-memoire and helpfully shows all the features of the GSR:skm_c45817022208230One of those involved in the trials process made the following observations:

We are just starting conversion to GSR, feed back is generally pretty good. There has been a lot of work over the last two years to get the GSR fit for service. I think the non deforming visor is a bit of a mangling of the need for the former in the haversack. In order for the system to work the GSR needs to be kept in good shape, hence the former. Pros: Breathing resistance is much lower, easier dills due to twin canister set, better visibility and less isolation. Not been on the ranges, but it should be better. Cons: its a bit front heavy, but you get used to it and the first generation haversack is huge. However there is a new one on its way in MTP.

The British Army ordered 309,228 masks from the manufacturer’s Scott Safety, the last being delivered in 2015. The mask was well received with Air Commodore Andy hall remarking: The GSR is a superb piece of equipment, offering unprecedented levels of protection as well as being practical and, so far as is possible for a respirator, comfortable.