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WW2 - People's War

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Gas masks - 1940

by Guernseymuseum

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03 May 2005


I remember going to the Church School in St Sampson’s just before the occupation with my mother to get a gas mask. We were all agog as children, everyone had one, everyone wanted one! We took them home and put it on but it was awkward. We drilled holes in the case and hung it round our necks with box cord. We had to wear it to school every day. They banged around a bit, which was difficult for a small child to carry to school, and the novelty soon wore off. We got fed up with this, and forgot it and then we got into trouble. Then the girls came in with a hand stitched cover on the box, and they became individualized, graffiti’d in a special way. We had Gas mask drill at school. They stank of rubber but we had to keep it on, the teacher said, “ If Adolf comes and drops gas bombs we will all be dead!” Well Adolf did not need to come, because I was dying with this thing on!

We used to stick our fingers up the side to let fresh air in, and they misted up, so after about 5 minutes half of us were nearly dead and the other half were crying and you couldn’t see anything, so it wasn’t going to solve our war, that wasn’t!

We were told, “You will take shelter in an air raid underneath the stairs.” Well, that didn’t help because we lived in a bungalow!

“You will hear loud bangs, but we will get over it and sing songs.” Well, to this day I hate songs relating to that part of the war, particularly one — ‘Under the spreading chestnut tree’ — now, some of you will know about this, its hilarious, how can you wave your arms about under the stairs? As a child I just did not understand this.

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