Category Archives: NBC

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 none 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. Pro’s: 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. Con’s: 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.

British Army Personal Wrist Watch Dosimeter

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 ‘Raadiacmeter Personal Locket Dosimeter’ and it uses a radiophotoluminescent glass and pin diode in a lead lined nylon wrist locket:imageThe 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:imageAs 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:imageThe 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:imageThese 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 dosemeter 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 dosemeter;

Not immerse the dosemeter in any liquid. Particular care is to be taken to remove dosemeters from clothing before laundering. Divers are to wrap their dosemeter in two plastic bags and wear the dosemeter inside their wet suit;

Keep the dosemeter away from high temperatures, e.g. pipes and radiators;

Not share the dosemeter with anyone else;

Not damage the dosemeter or holder in any way;

Not carry the dosemeter in close proximity to luminised watches or other luminised articles;

Return the dosemeter 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 dosemeter is not worn inadvertently during medical/dental X-ray examinations.

NBC Haversack Mk2

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:imageThis haversack has a large box flap, secured with a press stud:imageUnderneath the flap, this stud is reinforced by two strips of Velcro:imageOn one side of the haversack is a pocket to hold the DKP1 decontamination kit:imageThe 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:imageThe 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:imageAn 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:imageTwo 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:imageThe mask fits over this, face down:imageA set of pockets across the front holds the other items:imageThe 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

NBC Training Combi-Pens

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:imageSprung blunt plastic prongs are fitted to one end to simulate a needle:imageNote 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:imageAs can be seen instructions for use are printed on the label:

  1. Pull out grey safety cap and retain
  2. Place black end on thigh and press hard until injector functions, count five slowly and withdraw
  3. Flick yellow cap off grey safety and swallow tablet inside.
  4. If nerve agent poisoning symptoms persist, repeat dose at 15 minute intervals. Maximum dose 3 injections. image

The grey cap is removable from the end of these combi-pens to simulate the real examples:imageDespite 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.

S6 Respirator Haversack Mk 1

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’:imageThis 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:imageAnd press studs:imageIt 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:imageIn 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:imageUnder the flap are two loops to hold securely NBC sundries:imageNote the original owner’s name and number marked in pen inside the haversack:imageAnd the manufacturer’s stamp indicating it was made in 1971:imageInside the haversack is a loop at the base for an anti-dimming kit and a pocket for a spare filter:imageThis 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.

British Army Dosimeter QF4A

Whilst the initial explosion is the part of nuclear warfare that is most recognisable top the general public, it is often the fall out that follows that would be most dangerous to the majority of soldiers fighting in the area. Radiation builds up slowly and often short exposures do not cause any great harm, but the longer a soldier is exposed the greater danger he is in. As radiation occurs at different intensities and a soldier can go in and out of it over a length of time a device is needed that can record accumulated exposure. This device is called a dosimeter and comes in two man varieties, a watch type dosimeter worn on the wrist and a pen dosimeter placed in a pocket. This example in my collection is a pen dosimeter, still sealed in its polythene storage packet, with a maintenance log attached:imageThe dosimeter is housed in an aluminium cylinder, with an embossed label around one end:imageThe card attached to the packet shows the maintenance history of the device, the first date being 1969:imageThe last time the device was serviced was in 1988:imageThis dosimeter, a quartz fibre dosimeter, worked by holding a static electrical charge. As this was exposed to radiation the charge decayed at a measurable rate, speeding up or slowing down in accordance to the level of radiation. The dosimeter recorded radiation at levels from 0-150 roentgens. I haven’t opened my dosimeter, but a search online found a picture of the dosimeter removed from the storage tin:dosimeterThe dosimeter had to be inserted into a special machine to read off the levels of radiation, this was usually a Stephan Type 1548 self-contained charger and reader:readerThis design of dosimeter has largely been replaced now due to a number of inherent weaknesses with the design:

  • Low accuracy: Because of the analog mechanical design, accuracy is around 15%, less than other dosimeters.
  • Reading errors: Since it can only be read manually it is prone to human reading errors.
  • Small dynamic range: The range of the device is limited by the charge on the electrode. Once the charge is gone the device stops recording exposure. So unexpected large radiation doses can quickly saturate devices designed to monitor the more usual low level exposures.
  • Susceptibility to moisture: the charging terminal is sealed with a cap, but if this should be removed during use dampness can accelerate the leakage of the charge, imitating the effect of radiation exposure. Deliberate falsification is possible, by breathing onto the exposed terminal.

NBC Detector Papers

Since the early 1970s soldiers have been issued with small sealed packets containing booklets of detector papers. These papers are designed to be stuck to the soldier’s uniform and change colour in the presence of chemical agents, warning him of the dangers around him. Two different sets of detector papers are available:imageThe most common has a blue spine to the booklet and consists of ‘one colour detector paper’:imageAlso available is a more sophisticated type of paper that can detect and identify a greater variety of chemical agents, this comes in a book with a green spine:imageThe NBC guidebook ‘Survive to Fight’ from 1983 explained the use of the detector paper:

You are issued with 1 colour detector paper as part of your NBC IPE. It is your personal chemical detector which is why you wear it in a prominent position on your suit. It is possible the paper will detect the liquid chemical agent before you experience, see or hear any other indication you are under attack by chemical agents. The paper is grey in colour and any type of liquid chemical agent will cause the paper to turn navy blue.

Newer papers are now being introduced as explained in the latest CBRNDC aide memoire:

Currently One Colour Detector Paper indicates BLUE, it is planned that future stock will indicate RED:IMG_4801The change to a red indicating colour will bring it into line with other NATO countries so preventing potential confusion when on joint operations. These new books will have a red spine. The indicator patches can be seen attached to NBC suits on exercises, as small dark grey squares:391px-Soldier_Wearing_Full_Individual_Protection_Equiptment_And_Detector_Paper_MOD_45150761Here they can be seen on the knees, wrists and upper arms. I have tried to find out any information on the three colour detector paper, such as which three colours it changes to and what each represents, but information seems to be sparse and as ever if readers can help please get in contact.