Although gas was not employed by either side in Europe during the Second World War, it's possible use was considered a serious threat and considerable time was spent in anti-gas training, both for civilians and the military. In England, for much of the war it was an offence to not have your gas mask and carrier on your person or within easy reach, except when in barracks or billets. Every Canadian soldier was issued with a gas mask and other protective equipment. The primary piece of protective equipment was the gas mask. Several patterns of mask and carrier were issued. Masks were carried in a haversack which also contained protective cream, decontamination instructions and anti-fog paste for the gas mask eyepieces. The respirator in common use from 1939 to 1943 was the GS (General Service) Respirator. In 1943 a Lightweight Pattern Respirator was issued. Both patterns were used concurrently and well into the 1950's.
The existance of the German nerve agents SARIN, SOMAN and TABUN was not suspected by the Allies. It is fortunate that the Germans were unaware of the Allied lack of defence against these agents, otherwise it is very likely they would have been employed.
This pattern of GS Respirator was normally issued to the Navy. It's long hose (27 inches) allowed it to be used with the haversack slung to the side.
Detail view of the filter canister and markings. The date of manufacture, manufacturer and pattern of canister appears in raised letters on the top of the canister. The Canadian property mark, inspector's mark and date(s) of recharge or inspection are ink stamped on the top of the canister.The identity disc attached to the hose bears the soldier's name and service number. This ensured that if the mask was turned in for recharging, cleaning or maintenance, the proper mask was returned to the soldier.
View of the Mark VI gas mask carrier. The brass loops on either side of the carrier secure a string used to hold the carrier in position when the gas mask is worn in the "Alert" position on the chest.
View of the open Mark VII carrier showing typical markings. The open pocket on the inside right of the carrier holds a tin of anti-fog paste. This carrier differs from the Mark VI in that pockets for instructions and accessories are located inside the carrier.
This civillian Pattern Respirator enabled more freedom of movement for the soldier as the filter cannister was attached directly to the facepiece. It was issued mostly to Police, Civil Defence and Fire personell
A gas detector sleeve was developed to give advance warning of toxic agents in the air. Made of a chemical impregnated paper it changed colour when exposed to gasses. It first saw operational use during the Normandy landings on D-Day, where it was worn by most NCOs.
View of the location and method of wear of the gas detector sleeve.
The gas cape was made of a thin rubberised material. It was printed in a camouflage pattern and was worn like a poncho. It was commonly worn as a light rain cape and was rolled or folded and secured to the webbing when not in use.
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