Gas Masks

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Allied troops were given gas masks to protect against chlorine gas attacks. However, the masks could not protect them against mustard gas used later in the war, which burned the skin, caused severe breathing problems, and could cause blindness.

Mr. MacLeod gives a good comparison between the original respirator and newer gas masks used by Canadian soldiers.

Transcript

The gas officer would always, when you had your staff parade in the morning, he would test your, he would look at your respirators and you had to have that ticket, the little ticket. Every time you used your respirator you were supposed to mark how long you had it on, if you used it. If you hadn't used it then you wouldn't mark anything on this. I don't remember ever putting my gas mask on. I remember one night, some of our fellas put them on when we come to a dead horse, that was the only reason. I don't remember the... I remember the old one, the one that this was a respirator, you know, one that you clamped on your head with an elastic. The old one we had first, you pulled it over your head like a balaclava. Galldarn thing damn near choked you. And you had a breather in your mouth. You breathed through you mouth. You inhaled through your nose and respired through your mouth. You respired through this heavily, heavy material. It was something like flannelette, wool serge would probably better describe it. It was soaked in some chemical. The chemical was pretty near as bad as the gas. The chemical was terrible. Well then they got this, the improved type. The ones with the goggles on. And you had two goggles here on to look out, two glasses to look out and with your breath it didn't take long before the glasses were steamed up and you couldn't see where you were going. Oh, they were a nuisance, but that was the first gas mask that came in.

Images

Caption: Two soldiers wearing gas masks. One is adjusting the others mask.

(Credit: VAC2000.144)

Caption: Tanks advancing. Prisoners bring in wounded wearing gas masks. Battle of Amiens

(Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-002951)

Caption: Two soldiers wearing gas masks examining a Lee Enfield rifle

(Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001027)

Caption: Gas helmet drill, 92nd Highlanders, August 15, 1916

(Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-022718)

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