In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

World War 2: Gas mask drill for primary school children


Gas masks were issued to all children as a precaution against attack by gas bombs.

The masks came in cardboard boxes, with a strap for carrying them on the shoulder.

Children were instructed to keep their masks with them at all times and were the key item of luggage for evacuees.

Gas mask drill was a daily feature of life at school.

The routine for the drill was: i) remove mask from box; ii) put mask on face; iii) check the mask is fitting correctly; iv) breathe normally.

Many wartime children have subsequently admitted that they struggled to take the drill seriously and that their masks were frequently the source of games and much fun.

This recording dates from 1941 and features a teacher instructing her infants to put their gas masks on (...prior to getting their knitting out and listening to a story..!)


Now put your books down...and get your gasmasks out. Quietly. Now take them carefully out of their boxes - no, no, Isobel, don't drag at show her how to do it, Margaret, will you. Now they're all out, are they? I want you to put them on...and let's see if everyone can get it right this time. Wait a minute. Remember, chin in, right in first, before you begin to pull the straps over your head. No don't rush at it Rosalie, take your time. There you are you see, you'll have to begin all over again. Come here and I'll help you. Now, now put your chin, no, no...put your chin right in. Push! There you are...that's more comfortable, isn't it? Now, is everybody ready? I'll tell you what I want you to do. I want you to get your knitting out and settle down comfortably at your desks, then I want to see just how long you can sit there with your gasmasks on. And when you're quite quiet, I'm going to read you a story. Settle down, everybody. Ready? Well, 'Once upon a time, there was a king...'

Programmes to download

Programmes to download at any time

Download programmes

A collection of programmes to download as mp3 files at any time. Includes dance and music.



Current podcasts

See all School Radio and other Learning podcasts available from the BBC Podcast Directory.

Contact us

Contact us

Contact us

We are always pleased to receive your feedback, suggestions and pupils' work.

Jarvis Cocker recalls Singing Together

Jarvis Cocker remembers Singing Together

Archive on 4

Join Jarvis Cocker on Radio 4 to remember the long-running School Radio series 'Singing Together'.

Curriculum for Excellence

100 years since World War 1

WW1 Performance Pack

WW1 Performance Pack

Commemorate 100 years since WW1 by staging our specially-written play 'Archie Dobson's War'.

Private Peaceful - listen now!

Click to listen to Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

Private Peaceful

All 13 episodes of Michael Morpurgo's moving WW1 story are available to listen to online.

Teacher's notes

Teacher's Notes

Online Teacher's Notes

Notes to support the programmes including details of all the series content.