September 25, 2021
In this colorized image from 1938, a mother is walking her baby in a gas-resistant baby buggy (or pram). The pram was designed by FW Mills and was an alternative to the baby gas mask. The lid had a glass panel; there was a gas filter on the top. On the back of the pram, a bulb from a car horn sucked in fresh air and expelled the stale. Thus, the buggy was properly ventilated. The woman herself is also wearing a gas mask.
In World War I, chlorine and mustard gas were used as a form of chemical warfare, resulting in 88,000 dead and 1,200,000 injured. This was only 20 years before the start of World War II, and so it was part of the collective memory. This, coupled with the bombing of Guernica, helped to induce terror in Great Britain.
The Fear Was Real
On April 26, 1937, the Nazi German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion and the Fascist Italian Aviazione Legionaria bombed Guernica in Spain, and although the number of people who died is disputed and the number of casualties were not high, it did create fear in Britain of what could happen if Nazi bombers got through. The widespread fear in Britain was that the Nazis would drop poison gas bombs and the government started to plan for tens of thousands of deaths in London. Liddell Hart, one of the government advisors, told them to plan for 250,000 deaths in the first week of the war. Thus, every British civilian was issued a gas mask, or “general civilian respirator.” In total, they issued more than 35 million of them.