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WW2 British Dog Respirator/Gas Mask

Article about: I've been a bit absent from the forum of late, however I'm now actively getting back into working on my website, so I'll likely be spending a lot of time on the computer, so I'll be able to

  1. #1

    Default WW2 British Dog Respirator/Gas Mask

    I've been a bit absent from the forum of late, however I'm now actively getting back into working on my website, so I'll likely be spending a lot of time on the computer, so I'll be able to take part in and keep track of the discussions on this forum which I am looking forward to getting back into.

    I thought I'd share what is probably the favourite piece in my collection: a Second World War British Dog Gas Mask/Respirator.

    Throughout history, man has went to war alongside animals which have often played a pivotal role in having an advantage against the enemy. As a result, in modern history animals have been provided with various means of protection against enemy weapons and other hazards. In the first half of the last centaury gas was one of the most feared weapons due to its large scale use during the First World War, during which its effects were clearly displayed and become very well known. This led to protection against such weapons becoming paramount for any man, or animal that may be at risk of exposure. Development of protective equipment for animals continued throughout the Post WW1 years and well into WW2 which is where this particular piece falls into place.

    The exhale valve, eyepieces and the filter mount are identical to those on the standard issue Lightweight Respirator. The facepiece itself however is very different and is made from a series of pieces of sheet rubber, which are secured together with glue. It also features a peripheral face seal inside which is quite similar to the neck seal you would find on a drysuit. Behind the face seal are is another piece of sheet rubber with ear holes which would also cover part of the dogs neck. Connected to this are a series of straps which form a suspension system which secure the mask to the dog, it also incorporate a metal ring which allows a lead to be fitted. The only markings are on the exhale valve, which is stamped "B. W.& M (Barringer, Wallis and Manners Ltd) L2 11/1942" and on the filter, which has been hand painted with "Ptn 1/45 No.151 Wt:8 1/2 Ozs." I'm not too sure of when exactly it dates from, but it is certainly no earlier than the date found on the exhale valve. The filter marking 1/45 could perhaps mean January 1945, however a positive confirmation on this is unfortunately impossible.

    Here are some detailed photographs of the respirator.

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    I know this is the second time this exact mask has been shown on this forum, but I thought it was worth sharing a second time round

    Thanks again to Dean O (CampX) for the opportunity to own such a fantastic piece.

    Regards,

    Danny

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    Neat example of a rare piece of canine history!

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    That is a really neat piece friend.

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    Thanks for posting this- you have finally cleared up a mystery that has been bugging me for several months. I was at HMS Excellent on Whale Island in February doing my NBC training and the building I was in had a (poorly displayed) collection of gas masks including one with the canister under the mask which I couldn't for the life of me identify except that it was obviously British- now realise it was one of these.

  5. #5

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    A fascinating bit of History! Well done! A person looks at all these gas masks-for dogs,horses-even infants in cradles, and I always have to wonder just How in the heck did they ever train all these wearers to allow them to be put on and to keep them on. Not a job that I would envy some poor guy having to do!
    William

    "Much that once was, is lost. For none now live who remember it."

  6. #6

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    Thanks very much for the comments guys! At the moment my collection is in storage so this, and the other 170 odd pieces are pretty much hidden away in boxes. Hopefully in the future I'll move somewhere where they can all be displayed properly.

    Quote by Warspite View Post
    Thanks for posting this- you have finally cleared up a mystery that has been bugging me for several months. I was at HMS Excellent on Whale Island in February doing my NBC training and the building I was in had a (poorly displayed) collection of gas masks including one with the canister under the mask which I couldn't for the life of me identify except that it was obviously British- now realise it was one of these.
    Thanks for your comment, I actually know HMS Excellent fairly well. I done my BSSC (Basic Sea Survival Course) and RYA Powerboating courses there. I think I'm actually due back soon for ISSC (Intermediate SSC) so I'll have to take a proper nosey round and see if I can hunt down this display with the dog respirator. There's another display at the base of a stairwell in building with all the classrooms which includes all sorts of other respirators and rebreathers. Again, its all unfortunately rather poorly displayed.

    Regards,

    Danny

  7. #7

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    Danny
    I was there on BSSC as well- had the usual half day NBC talk, but did get issued a Gucci new GSR straight out the box! When you go down to be CSed the instructors point out a door for the heads, if you go in there and then turn to your left there is a wooden display case with a lot of different masks- just try not to snort at some of the attempts at identifying and labelling them...

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    I'll be sure to keep an eye out for the display next time I'm there, I might even make a few enquiries and see if they have any other interesting pieces or archives tucked away somewhere. I've got a website and a book in the works, and have done for several years now. There's a lot of gaps I need to fill before releasing anything publically, maybe the answers to my questions will be there. Although, from what you've said it may be a case of me helping them

    Regards,

    Danny

  9. #9
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    Interesting article from the Guardian newspaper in 2001 that reads like it could match your gas mask.

    Gas masks put Britain's dogs of war off the scent | UK news | The Guardian

    "Final proof, if it was needed, that the English care more about their dogs than perhaps anything else was provided yesterday by the release of confidential state papers showing that secret trials were carried out during the second world war to develop gas masks for the army's war dogs.
    After six months scientists succeeded in developing a mask which was comfortable for the dogs to wear. However, the trials revealed one significant catch - the dogs could not smell anything while wearing the masks, rendering them useless for 90% of their tasks on the battlefield.

    The War Office's chemical weapons research station at Porton Down, Wiltshire, strove from April to October 1944 to protect dogs against gas on the battlefield. The War Office said the masks were needed "in view of the increasing use of dogs for essential duties".

    The dogs, mostly alsatians, retrievers and collies, had been in use since early 1943 to patrol vulnerable points and on messenger duties with troops in the frontline. They worked in pairs, mostly at night, and relied almost entirely on their sense of smell.

    A respirator was developed with a level of protection equal to that of "the human light respirator". It consisted of a rubberised canvas mask with a filter attached to the dog with a body harness. The War Dog Training School chose not to attach the mask to the dog's collar on the grounds that that was used for message carrying.

    When the masks were tried on 120 army dogs most fitted quite well, but War Office papers show that the dogs could not carry the masks on their backs because "of the difficulty of getting through obstacles (hedges, barbed wire, etc)" and so it was decided that the respirator should be carried by their handlers.

    The school at Northaw, Hertfordshire, reported that although the masked dogs were "all quite comfortable" walking and sitting while on patrol, when asked to do anything else they were useless: "Completely confused when asked to work on a/c of the intake of air coming from under the chin, no direct scent can reach the nose, and it appears that if it did the container filter would be faulty. If the filter was removed the dog knew there was someone about, but could get no sense of direction," said the report, which has remained secret for more than 50 years. "Conclusion: Masks invaluable in gas attack when dogs remain out of work, walking or sitting. No value at all for working in."

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    I think you could be right, the dates from the article definitely tie in with the dates found on these respirators.

    Regards,

    Danny

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