Gasmasks, barrage balloons, sandbags and wardens’ rattles 1938

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Ednamay, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. Ednamay

    Ednamay wanderer

    On Sunday evening I had a cold shiver of deja vu. I was watching Upstairs, Downstairs when the story reached the Munich Crisis.
    One evening I remember being taken to the local garage to be registered and have my gasmask fitted and issued. It was all very strange because, at 7 years old, I was not allowed out that late and I was impressed by the street lamps.
    Next day, on my way to school, I passed several large heaps of shingle on various streets, all ready for people to use their pillow slips to make sandbags. No one did.
    Then, passing the local park, I saw my first barrage balloon, serviced by soldiers in khaki - unusual in Portsmouth, most things were serviced by sailors in blue. As I watched, I heard this rattle as a man passed on a bicycle, waving his rattle enthusiastically, at which signal the soldiers raced to the balloon and relaxed its tethers, allowing it to float upwards and face the wind.
    When war was declared a year later, it seemed like an anti-climax.
    Edna
     
  2. PeterG

    PeterG Senior Member

    Hi Edna
    I bet you soon got rid of the cardboard gasmask box and got a fancy one. I still remember mine, it was a cylindrical yellow tin with a green lid. I remember that pretty quickly there were all sorts of variations on sale. :)
     
  3. Driver-op

    Driver-op WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Are you sure the balloons were manned by soldiers? Usually it was the RAF, later the WRAF took over.
    There were special gas masks for babies, the child was placed inside and the mother had to use a hand pump at the side. Don't ever remember seeing the pram contraption.
    One other thing, sand bags were, to my memory, always laid neatly. Some of those piled against important buildings were given a cement wash to preserve them.
    Jim
     
  4. Ednamay

    Ednamay wanderer

    Hi Edna
    I bet you soon got rid of the cardboard gasmask box and got a fancy one. I still remember mine, it was a cylindrical yellow tin with a green lid. I remember that pretty quickly there were all sorts of variations on sale. :)

    Yes, Peter, I did get a tin but it was the same shape as the cardboard box - which did not wear very well - and the tins were noisy, banging against everything as we passed, so most of us girls knitted covers in whatever coloured wool we could beg from our mothers!

    Edna
     
  5. Ednamay

    Ednamay wanderer

    Are you sure the balloons were manned by soldiers? Usually it was the RAF, later the WRAF took over.
    There were special gas masks for babies, the child was placed inside and the mother had to use a hand pump at the side. Don't ever remember seeing the pram contraption.
    One other thing, sand bags were, to my memory, always laid neatly. Some of those piled against important buildings were given a cement wash to preserve them.
    Jim

    Yes, certainly soldiers and, later, some ATS joined them.

    I certainly remember those awful gasmasks for babies, our neighbour had a tiny who used to scream every time he saw it, so she had to hide it away. I never saw, or even heard of, a pram; perhaps someone else has?

    We were not given sandbags, just huge piles of shingle along one side of the road and instructions on how to fill and seal your pillow-slip sandbag. No one could afford to use their precious pillow cases for sandbags, so the shingle piles stood for years until some of the wardens got hold of proper bags and persuaded the local boys to help fill them.

    I wasn't taken around town, so I don't know what happened in other parts of the city. I did later see bags piled properly by the entrance to the Food Office when we went to get our ration books - and couldn't have them if we didn't produce the requisite identity cards for the family; we were sent home to fetch them.

    Edna
     
  6. ARPCDHG

    ARPCDHG Member

    I don't understand why soldiers and ATS would man barrage balloons as Balloon Command was part of the RAF.

    The anti-gas pram in Upstairs Downstairs was copied from a famous pre-war press photo. See:

    Gas proof pram, 1938. Mary Evans Picture Library

    It was a one-off invention and were not mass-produced probably due to their cost, cumbersome shape and the fact the govt introduced the baby's respirator helmet.

    There was a fair bit of 'artistic license' in that episode of Upstairs Downstairs. The government didn't announce at the cinema that they had put asbestos in the gas mask filters and when letters were painted on tin hats, they were the branch of the ARP services e.g W for Warden, R for Rescue etc rather than the general 'ARP' you always see painted on helmets in the TV dramas. There were one or two other historical bloopers in it but it was OK.

    Thought the monkey killing part was a bit gratuitous and not really necessary, to be honest!
     
  7. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Thinking about barrage balloons.................

    In August '44 my unit, as part of 78 Div, spent a month in Egypt resting & re-equipping and subsequently we were shipped back to Italy on the US Shop "SS Homer Lee".

    All the ships in the convoy had their own individual barrage balloon and I remember being bemused that they were brought out to each ship already inflated, as my diary reminds me.

    Sunday 3rd. September 1944
    Ship sailed out of Alexandria at 9.30 am. Balloon was brought out to us by motor boat, already inflated! Convoy formed up about 5 miles out. Our present course N.W.


    Ron
     
  8. Vitesse

    Vitesse Senior Member

    There were special gas masks for babies, the child was placed inside and the mother had to use a hand pump at the side. Don't ever remember seeing the pram contraption.

    Jim
    At the time of Munich, official advice on protecting babies in the event of gas attacks was to wrap them in a blanket and take them to the nearest gas-proof shelter as the gas mask for babies had not yet been produced. The first were issued on March 13th 1939 in Holborn and general distribution started shortly afterwards.
     
  9. Ednamay

    Ednamay wanderer

     
  10. Driver-op

    Driver-op WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Thanks for that trip down memory lane. One thing these wartime plays never get right is the fact we had to endure 100% blackout. 'Put that light out' was a familiar cry in the dark! But you could see the Milky Way though - haven't seen that for a long time.

    Jim
     
  11. ARPCDHG

    ARPCDHG Member

    As someone who was born 30 years after the end of the war (!) can I ask anyone here who lived through the war a question about crime?

    With the blackout, no CCTV cameras etc it must have been a great opportunity for criminals.

    Do you think there was more, less, or the same amount of crime then than nowadays?
    Did you feel more safe going out at night in the blackout, even though there was a a war on, than at night today?

    If so, it is a sad indictment of society today.

    Just a thought, as we often hear about 'the good ol' days' and I wondered if it was true or nostalgia.

    Thanks

    Austin
     
  12. PeterG

    PeterG Senior Member

  13. Ednamay

    Ednamay wanderer

    Thanks for that trip down memory lane. One thing these wartime plays never get right is the fact we had to endure 100% blackout. 'Put that light out' was a familiar cry in the dark! But you could see the Milky Way though - haven't seen that for a long time.

    Jim

    I didn't see the Milky Way until my mother and I were evacuated to her cousin in the country, and we used to walk back home (no late bus) after visiting the cinema in the neighbouring town.

    Edna
     

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