A Hucknall decontamination squad in gas masks and protective clothing during World War II.

Image ID: 42484

A Hucknall decontamination squad in gas masks and protective clothing during World War II.

Courtesy of Harry Smith


This photograph is taken in the old Hucknall Urban District Council depot on Watnall road. It shows an area adjacent to the main stables located on the boundary with the Central garage premises at the rear of the depot. This area is now occupied by the Safeway supermarket. The picture shows a gas decontamination squad with their 'hi-tech' equipment; rubber masks, shovels and dustbins!. The British government believed that some form of poison gas would be used on the civilian population during the Second World War. It was therefore decided to issue a gas masks to everyone living in Britain. Thousands lined up patiently to be measured for gas-masks, only to find out that because of the haste with which the masks were manufactured the parts which were supposed to intercept gas had been inadvertently left out. However, this problem was soon overcome and by 1940 the government had issued 38 million gas masks. Adult gas masks were black whereas children had 'Micky Mouse' masks with red rubber pieces and bright eye piece rims. There were also gas helmets for babies into which mothers would have to pump air with a bellows. Air Raid Wardens wore gas masks with a long hose and a speaking box which was attached to his belt. The tin canister at the end of the mask contained charcoal which soaked up poisons such as mustard gas. The government recruited qualified chemists and formed them into local Gas Identification Squads. To help them in their work the tops of Post Office pillar boxes were given a coating of gas detector paint. The government also published leaflets that helped the public to identify the various types of poisons that might be dropped by the Luftwaffe. The government threatened to punish people not carrying gas masks. However, a study at the beginning of the war suggested that only about 75 per cent of people in London were obeying this rule. By the beginning of 1940 almost no one bothered to carry their gasmask with them. The government now announced that Air Raid Wardens would be carrying out monthly inspections of gas masks. If a person was found to have lost the gas mask they were forced to pay for its replacement.

Date: 1939 - 1945

Organisation Reference: NCCC001100


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