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There was another potential danger that had to be considered and guarded against, poison gas! That was used on the battlefield in the First World War so the chances were that it could be used again, against civilians this time. Thus everyone had to be issued with a gas-mask.
It wasn’t simply a case of collecting these from the depot or other, because each one had to be fitted individually. There must have been an organisation behind the scenes, because we were informed by out Air-raid Warden when and where to go, to have our masks fitted. Our venue was St. Salvador’s church hall in Church Street. Not the small hall, but a large hall, which was upstairs. I think we duly went along there at the stipulated time and were measured by a warden “fitter” for which size of mask we would need. Mum and Dad both needed ‘large’ and my sister and I were considered ‘medium’.
We were duly shown how to put on the masks by holding them by the straps and putting our chin in first, then pulling the straps over our heads. Once this was done the straps were adjusted accordingly then held in place by small safety pins. Younger children were issued with what was termed ‘Mickey Mouse’ masks, which were red in colour, instead of the normal black rubber ones and had ‘goggles’, instead of a vision and a smaller type of nozzle. Very small babies needed to be enclosed in a bag tied at the bottom with tapes. At some time later, for some reason, the masks must have been considered inadequate protection and an extra filter had to be added to the nozzle. In the case of schoolchildren, this was done by the teacher in class, by means of sticky tape.
We were all given instructions that for our own safety we had to carry gas-masks with us everywhere we went. I can remember seeing the notices at the pay desks at cinemas, “There is no need to ask, You must have a mask”, you weren’t allowed in without one. They were carried by means of a length of string slung over your shoulder which was attached to the plain cardboard box containing the mask or ‘respirator’ to give it its official name.
Air-raid wardens had more elaborate ones similar to, if not the same as, policemen and the armed forces, which were carried in bags by their side, by means of shoulder straps. These gentlemen were also obliged to carry steel helmets emblazoned with the appropriate name of initial letters of whatever branch they were associated with. These were usually carried attached to the bag containing the respirator.