Market Lavington Museum

A WW2 baby’s gas mask

During the 1939-1945 war, there was a fear that the Germans might attack with poison gas, so everyone in the UK was issued with a gas mask. At Market Lavington Museum, we have an example of the type of respirator issued to babies and children under two years old.

This one was supplied for local baby, Timothy Gye. In the case of a gas attack, the baby or toddler would be put in the apparatus, with its face behind the visor, its body enclosed in the rubberised canvas and its legs dangling below.

A hand pump was attached to the tubing at the side to provide air to the baby, which was passed through a filter on the side of the mask.

Fortunately, there was never a need to use the gas masks. The child’s safety could have been compromised by a lack of air, unless the hand pump was used nonstop throughout the attack, and the filter was made of asbestos, which is now known to cause lethal lung damage through asbestosis.

Gas masks in museum collections have to receive treatment from qualified conservators to remove the asbestos and respirators of any design should not be tried on.