British Gas Masks: Children--School

British World War II gas masks:

Figure 1.--Here nursery school children are learning go play in their gas masks, probably in 1939. This looks like a government photo designed to show that younger children could learn to wear them. A close examinanition suggests that the children were not to happy with the masls.

Parents were expected to teach the children how to put on and wear the masks. Some but not all parents did a good job at this. The children were required to take the masks to school with them. The teachers also helped teach the children how to fit and use the masks. Children at school practiced putting on using the masks so they would be prepared if a gas attack ever came. Here the approach varied somewhat according to the age of the children. The effort was most complicated for the younger children. The children not only had to learn how to put them on quickly, but to get used to wearing them. Most English children began school at age 6 years. There were also some younger children in nursery school. The primary children were drilled over and over until they became very accimplished at it. These drills are something that the children would remember for the rest of their lives. A British reader describes what may have went on at school. "Back to the gas masks. First an explanation on how to fix it. Next fitting it and then lots of practice by the children fixing it. I think a timed game would have been organised once the little ones knew how to put it on. Once on the boys would have made horrible noises and scared one another and the girls, playing monsters." I am not entirely sure about this. At the time I think teachers wre more serious. I am not sure that playing around would have been permitted. Another reader tells us, "We did have 'Gas mask Drill' and races to see who would win. This was a diversion when we were in the shelter at school during raids or 'mock' raids."


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Created: 1:38 AM 7/30/2010
Last updated: 1:38 AM 7/30/2010