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.
We are nearing the end of our review of the Canadian 64 pattern webbing set, but there are still a couple of nice pieces to go and tonight we are looking at the respirator case:Canada had adopted an updated respirator in the 1950s known as the C2, and this was further improved in the early 1960s to become the C3. These respirators were stored in a specialist pouch that was slung on the left hip as part of the actual webbing set, with cotton webbing versions issued with the 51 pattern, and an updated plasticised cotton version being introduced as part of the 64 pattern set. The respirator case is a large bag, with a side opening to allow the mask to be placed inside. The opening is sealed by rolling it up and attaching a piece of Velcro as a fastener:The webbing tab allows the user to easily open it, even when wearing NBC gloves. A large pocket is provided on the front of the haversack for gloves, spare canisters, decontamination equipment etc:This is secured with two metal press studs. A second pocket is fitted to the opposite edge to the haversack’s main opening:This is far smaller and has internal dividers to allow it to carry anti-nerve agent epipens, again a cotton tab is provided for easy access when wearing gloves. As with the rest of the items of the 64 pattern webbing set, the method of attachment to fasten the haversack to the belt is woefully inadequate, here consisting of two Velcroed loops:Markings consist of a single stamping on the bag that indicate the haversack dates from November 1982 and was made by ‘Manta’:The use of plasticised cotton was actually far more appropriate for this component than the earlier cotton version, being much easier to decontaminate on a potential Cold War nuclear battlefield.
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:Compared 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:These fit either side of the mask with a locking system:The 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:The 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:A set of adjustable straps allow the mask to be fitted to the individual carefully:These 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:Each 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:The following diagram comes from the CBRN aide-memoire and helpfully shows all the features of the GSR:One 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.
Amongst the many items of personal NBC equipment issued to British troops is a small wrist watch type personal dosimeter used to record the levels of radiation the wearer is exposed to. This personal dosimeter is officially called a ‘Radiacmeter Personal Locket Dosimeter’ and it uses a radiophotoluminescent glass and pin diode in a lead lined nylon wrist locket:The dosimeter doesn’t have any way of being read by the wearer, and requires a separate dosimeter reader. The dosimeter is worn on the wrist, over the NBC smock and gloves, and is secured with a nylon strap and metal buckle:As it can’t be zeroed after reading, it needs to be worn by the same person at all times to get an accurate reading, therefore a unique serial number is inscribed on the back:The instrument measures from 0-1000 Roentgens and indicates the total absorbed radiation of the soldier. As with most modern equipment a unique NSN number is embossed on the front:These personal dosimeters were issued in sealed packets, only to be opened and worn when required. They are also worn by those involved in MoD jobs where radiation might be encountered and the following guidance is given to wearers on their use:
The individual wearing the dosimeter must:
Wear it properly in the radiation area;
Store it in a low background area, remote from any known sources of ionising radiation when not being worn;
Not shield it in any way. Pens, rulers or other metallic objects may shield the dosimeter;
Not immerse the dosimeter in any liquid. Particular care is to be taken to remove dosimeters from clothing before laundering. Divers are to wrap their dosimeter in two plastic bags and wear the dosimeter inside their wet suit;
Keep the dosimeter away from high temperatures, e.g. pipes and radiators;
Not share the dosimeter with anyone else;
Not damage the dosimeter or holder in any way;
Not carry the dosimeter in close proximity to luminised watches or other luminised articles;
Return the dosimeter promptly at the correct time, ensuring that a replacement is available before giving up the old one, if necessary;
Notify the supervisor, RSO or RPS immediately, if it is lost or mislaid, especially in a radiation area (even if it is later found) as the employer may need to estimate the individual’s dose;
Ensure that the dosimeter is not worn inadvertently during medical/dental X-ray examinations.
When the S6 respirator was initially introduced it was issued in a canvas wedge shaped bag, we looked at here. This haversack had a number of problems- it was too small and the material made it very hard to decontaminate. A new, larger, Mk 2 haversack was introduced as part of the 1972 trials set of webbing and was one of the few pieces that made it into general use. The haversack is made from butyl-nylon that could be scrubbed down to remove chemical and radiological particles more easily:This haversack has a large box flap, secured with a press stud:Underneath the flap, this stud is reinforced by two strips of Velcro:On one side of the haversack is a pocket to hold the DKP1 decontamination kit:The opposite side has a pressed metal disc used to wrap a securing cord around to hold the haversack close to the body when its worn with the shoulder strap rather than the belt loop:The rear of the haversack has a strap and hook for slinging the bag over the shoulder and a large belt loop for attaching it to the 1958 pattern webbng set:An army training manual of the period explained:
- The respirator haversack is attached to the belt on the right side by slipping the belt through the loop on the haversack.
- Ensure it is situated on the belt as close as possible to the right rear yoke strap.
Under the top flap of the haversack are two elastic loops for holding various items and the manufacturer’s details, NSN code and date, 1993 are printed here:Two different variants of the haversack exist, with different NSN codes, one for the right handed facemask and one for the left handed version:
Haversack Mk 2 for right handed facepiece- A2 8465-99-132-2299
Haversack Mk 2a for left handed facepiece- A2 8465-99-137-1438
Inside the haversack there are a number of pockets for the various components including a large pocket at the base for a spare canister:The mask fits over this, face down:A set of pockets across the front holds the other items:The official stowage for the haversack was:
Spare Canister (Sealed): Internal pocket, right side
Kit Decontamination No1 Mk1 (DKP1): External pocket, left side.
Kit Decontamination No2 Mk1 (DKP2): Internal pocket, front
Detector Paper No2 Mk1 One Colour: Internal pocket, front
Cloth Disinfecting: Internal pocket, front
Combopens: Individual pockets within Internal pocket, front
S6 Respirator: Forehead down, canister over spare canister
Nerve Agent Pre-treatment Set (NAPS): As per Standard Operating Procedures
Auto-injector combi-pens are used to administer drugs to soldiers in the field who may have been exposed to nerve agents. These pens contain a spring loaded needle that allows a man to administer the drugs to himself or his friend through heavy layers of clothing and soldiers are trained in their use as part of their chemical warfare instruction. Obviously real injectors and drugs cannot be used for training, these normally only get issued when troops go into a conflict zone, so training combi pens are used that lack the needle and the drug but allow troops to understand what they need to do if the worst should happen. These are plastic tubes, with a large yellow sticker around giving details of its use:Sprung blunt plastic prongs are fitted to one end to simulate a needle:Note the different shapes to the ends of the two combi-pens, although both have instructions in English, one has a NATO country code of 17 suggesting it might be Dutch rather than British. The sides of the tube are clearly marked as having no drugs or needle:As can be seen instructions for use are printed on the label:
- Pull out grey safety cap and retain
- Place black end on thigh and press hard until injector functions, count five slowly and withdraw
- Flick yellow cap off grey safety and swallow tablet inside.
- If nerve agent poisoning symptoms persist, repeat dose at 15 minute intervals. Maximum dose 3 injections.
The grey cap is removable from the end of these combi-pens to simulate the real examples:Despite these training pens, accidents can happen and the MoD paid one Lance Corporal £10,000 after he was injected with a live combi pen instead of a training one during an NBC exercise in 2004. Real combi-pens were issued in the First Gulf War, as were tablets called NAPS that were taken to prevent nerve agent poisoning in the first place, as explained by one veteran:
I suppose like most vets I was just issued mine and told to keep them with me at all times. The NAPS were kept in my top pocket and the spares were kept in my day-sack on top of my 432. COMBI pens were again just kept in our respirator sack.
The S6 respirator we looked at here, came with at least three separate patterns of haversack during its service life; the earliest of which, the Mk1, is the subject of tonight’s blog post. This haversack is made of a dark green cotton in a distinctive ‘wedge shape’:This cotton material was to prove difficult to decontaminate following an NBC incident so was later replaced with nylon based materials that were easier to clean. The haversack is attached to the body by a cross strap, that is adjustable with buckles:And press studs:It was imagined that the mask could be worn slung by the side when not needed and on the chest for immediate action, much like the wartime service respirator. The haversack is prevented from ‘bouncing’ around by the use of a piece of string as a steadying strap, that is passed around the body and wrapped around a metal disc to hold it tight:In reality this was rarely ever done, as explained by one old squaddie:
In theory the strap goes around the neck and there should be a cord stashed in a pocket on the R.H side that passes around the body and fastens onto the round “catch” on the left. The case is then resting on the chest…In practice if you wore it as per the book the first time you dived for cover you got a VERY sore chest…. So it usually got hung off the 58 pattern belt – on the left if I recall.
The flap of the haversack is secured by two press studs and a quick release fastener of the same design as that used on 58 pattern webbing:Under the flap are two loops to hold securely NBC sundries:Note the original owner’s name and number marked in pen inside the haversack:And the manufacturer’s stamp indicating it was made in 1971:Inside the haversack is a loop at the base for an anti-dimming kit and a pocket for a spare filter:This haversack is one of three different S6 haversacks in my collection, the other patterns will be considered in due course. It is interesting to note that this is the smallest of all the haversacks and it is very difficult to get all the required pieces of equipment in- later cases were far better designed, presumably based on the experience with the Mk 1.