War and Children

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Slipdigit, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  3. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    These were the precautions against gas attack which the British Home Office prepared the civilian population for, from as early as 1938.The respirators issued for infants and children were indeed as shown and were popularly known as "Micky Mouse" gas masks and were red in colour.Babies had the respirator which were of black material and totally sealed off the baby and were known as "Incubators" unlike the IWM photograph type which does not show total sealing.These respirators for babies required a second person to pump air into the respirator, a task which everyone in a household, including older siblings were trained for.

    Adults were issued with a normal type face respirator and there was considerable concern in the early part of the war that the Germans would use gas.Everyone was expected to take their own respirator with them during absences from their home.Those in the forces were subject to a charge if found without their respirator in their possession.This mandatory requirement was eased as the war went on when it became apparent that Hitler would not use gas for fear of retaliation

    I would add that these precautions were not seen by US citizens and in Great Britain, there was the added danger of being bombed.However the danger to British chidren from the facets of war was far removed from those children on the continent and the Eastern front caught up in warfare and subject to occupation by a brutal enemy.

    They were all truly veterans of war.
  4. marcus69x

    marcus69x I love WW2 meah!!!

    A brilliant Idea on behalf of the americans. marcus
  5. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    Didn´t get one of those just a bog standard one. Mum bought me a decent container though,not one of the cardboard ones. Also remember getting told off at school when I turned up without it.
  6. ChrisM

    ChrisM Member

    I had a coloured Mickey Mouse one and was forced to put it on to try it when I was three or four. Ghastly thing. Horrible smell of rubber and, far worse, the feeling that you couldn't breathe. Fortunately, by some miracle, it never had to be used in anger although it was taken everywhere in its little leatherette case for a long period. I wonder what happened to it. I still have an adult's one which looks equally uninviting.

  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    To those of you who had one of these things:
    Did you really understand at the time what they were for?
  8. kfz

    kfz Very Senior Member

    Aerial Bombing of children, I cant comprehend what that must have been like. No wonder 'the bomber will always get through' mentality of the 30's was so hard to dislodge. When you read modern historical texts where they pore scorn on the continued faith of the bomber, have they really thought about what it actually does. They are right of course it doesnt work because its just so effective it achieves the opposite effect. Its madness.

  9. 4th wilts

    4th wilts Discharged

    my nans house was blown up while she was in the nissan shelter in the back garden,30yds away,and they were waiting for the gas with their masks on.yours,lee.
  10. read46

    read46 Junior Member

    Didn´t get one of those just a bog standard one. Mum bought me a decent container though,not one of the cardboard ones. Also remember getting told off at school when I turned up without it.

    I taught in a large Primary School in Blackpool Lancashire and during the early 1970's. Two of us were tasked to clear out a rather large sort of attic store room by the headteacher.
    It really was an 'Aladin's cave', a real living museum.
    Amongst many other things we unearthered a large cardboard box containing childrens gas masks, each in a brown cardboard box container.
    I often wonder what happened to them and really wish that one had accidentally slipped out and found it's way into the boot of my Morris Minor.
  11. ChrisM

    ChrisM Member

    To those of you who had one of these things:
    Did you really understand at the time what they were for?

    An interesting question, Jeff. As one slides gracefully into decrepitude one starts to try to remember such things. It’s difficult. It all went on for a long time, in my case from the age of three-and-a-half until just past my ninth birthday, and in that period awareness of the world around one obviously grew significantly. In my case it all took place on the outskirts of Birmingham.

    But as best I remember, when I was being forced into my Mickey Mouse mask I was dimly aware that this was a necessity and that it would enable me to breathe, if and when - although I couldn’t really see how as the thing seemed to be suffocating me. Gas was a concept which was not wholly alien. My mother’s stove ran on "gas", town gas. I knew that that was dangerous – not only could it blow you up but you most certainly did not breathe it in. In fact the smell of it was unpleasant and was furthermore always the cause of parental panic when detected. So it was not really a surprise that one should need protection in case the Germans decided to inflict it or something similar upon me. After my unpleasant first experience with the mask – which could even have been before the outbreak of war – there must have been practice puttings-on at home and school, but I don’t remember them and so the terrors of the thing must have abated by then.

    Awareness of the risk of gas attack was always there. In my case there was a constant reminder just over the road from where we lived. On the grass verge there was a little post, about three feet high. On the top of it was a square of flat wood, slightly angled but mainly pointing upwards. It was painted a strange, dull colour, a sort of greyish-green, I think. I was told by my father that if this thing’s colour ever changed that would mean that we were under attack with gas. I was constantly aware of this strange device and it was there throughout the war but I cannot say it dominated my thoughts.

    I think a child of that age was already conscious of the horrors around in the world and this awareness was fuelled by many factors, not least an active imagination. One was just so lucky that one encountered few of them first-hand, especially when one compares one's mild experience with that of millions of other children in Europe and Asia and a large number elsewhere in Great Britain. Even to me the world seemed a very alien and threatening place. I was quite clear that the aim of every single German was to ensure my demise, by gas, bullet or bomb and they would later be joined by the entire Japanese population who would probably arrange it with even greater cruelty. And violence was everywhere in the background. I once asked my father if I could go to work with him one morning. "Good Lord, no", he replied. "I would be shot!" Such was the world in which I was living that I accepted this comment literally and worried about it for a long, long time. During that period I was waiting one day with my mother to meet him outside the factory gates and noticed that the Works Police were all armed. This confirmed my fears and shook me significantly, to the extent of being cross-examined by my mother about whether I was feeling ill.

    Because of my father’s Home Guard involvement I was exposed to quite a lot of military equipment and weaponry at home. Somehow this was different, not really threatening, just interesting and exciting, even though it was all very much a part of the dreadful things which were going on. I wrote a bit of rubbish about it once, here, and also about my feelings during the bombing, within this page. But that’s drifting off-topic and away from gas masks.…..

    Slipdigit, Owen and von Poop like this.
  12. 4th wilts

    4th wilts Discharged

    britain has been attacked several times in the last century,2 wars,bombings of many cities,i could not give a s##t if bin laden blew a bomb up 100yds away,if you die you die.nobody in my family care either.life is too short to worry about what ifs and terrorists,b######s to them all.lee.
  13. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Great stuff Chris, with a mention of the elusive gas detecting paint, as mentioned in this thread. Don't suppose you can remember the stuff being painted on pillar boxes as mentioned there? Or on any other surfaces than this post across the road from you?

  14. 4th wilts

    4th wilts Discharged

    my nan and other older family members had gas masks etc,but us kids were brought up not to worry about gas,bombs etc,all pragmatic really,its in the pyche of the nation imo.yours,4th wilts
  15. ChrisM

    ChrisM Member

    Yes, Adam, since you mention it I do remember the domed tops of some circular postboxes being of the same colour. An ideal location. But unfortunately I don't recall seeing anything else. It's probably something one wouldn't notice unless one was keeping an eye open for it.

  16. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    Thanks Chris, I appreicate you taking the time to offer your memories and thoughts.
  17. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Cheers Chris, it's a small detail that's intrigued me ever since it came up.
    How does it feel to be a primary source? ;)
  18. ChrisM

    ChrisM Member


  19. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Adam just asked me about this picture from this website.


    Best I can do to explain it is from page 20 & 21 of Tank Rider by Evgeni Bessonov.

    When our 341st school joined the trade school in Decenber 1940 we were transferrd to the 350th school on Bolshaya Pochtovaya street, the Komsomol organization elected me the chairman of voluntary Osviakhim society* (renamed DOSAAF after the war). I would not say that this organisation did a lot of activities in the school , but there were sometimes shooting competetions ...hiking trips in gasmasks ; sometimes even classes and other activities were done in gasmasks.
    * translator of book says Osviakhim was the Society for the Promotion of Aviation and Defence against chemicals.. An educational organization of 1930s, providing basic military education with training against chemical attacks.
  20. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    What an amazing photo, Owen!!

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