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:Both are tin metal boxes, with a rubber inlet valve on the rear:The front has a green tin grill through which air would pass when assembled on a mask and used:Inside the canister was a particulate filter and a layer of charcoal:The 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:To 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:
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:The details of the contents are printed onto the front of the tin in black letters:The 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.
- Attention is drawn to War Clothing Regulations, 1941, para.27, which forbids the use of blacking on boots.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:-
- Remove all mud and dirt from the boot with a damp cloth and then wipe dry.
- Apply dubbin evenly over the whole of the upper of the boot including the tongue.
- Work well in with the hands, paying particular attention to the seams and to the join of the upper and the welt.
- Boots referred to in para. 3 above will not be polished in any circumstances.
- Dubbin will not be carried in the respirator haversack…
Opening the tin reveals the dubbin:Dubbin 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.
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:This 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:Updates have been made however, with the head harness being made of more modern man-made materials:The ‘snout’ of the respirator boasts a distinctive piece of silver mesh:This is also visible on the inside of the mask:Above this is a distinctive triangular shape, moulded into the rubber:The facepiece of this mask is marked as being made in 1970 by ‘GTR’, General Tire and Rubber:There 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:A piece of tape around this section has a date of June 1971:The 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.These 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.