Poison Gas: Public Fears



Figure 1.-- Despite the international conventions outlawing poison gas, there was widespread fear in Europe that it would be used. Many military and political leaders assumed that it would be and this time used on civilans. When the War finally broke out, aerial gas attacks in cities was condidered to be just a matter of time. This is a drill in Britain, we think in London. Notice the school boy on the bike who is taking his mask out of the box to put it on.

Despite the international conventions outlawing poison gas, there was widespread fear in Europe that it would be used. Many military and political leaders assumed that it would be and this time used on civilans. Advances in aviation brought the fear that gas would be used against civilian populations. Gas had been used against military targets in World War I. The great fear as Europe moved yoward war was that gs would be used agaunst civilians. One of the limitations of gas usage in World War I was the difficulty of delivering gas on enemy targets with the danger of your own forced being affected. Aerial delivery resolved this limitation to some extent. We note numerous images from the 1930s of both soldiers and civilians learning how to use gas masks. After the Germans created the Luftwaffe and developed a fleet of modern, albeit limited range, bombers, European countries were terrified at what the Germans night do to cities, especially after the Germans demonstrated their new planes in the Spanish Civil War. The film production of H.G. Wells' "Things to Come" (1936) is a good example about the widely held horrors of war a poison gas. The terrible debilitating impact of exposure to poison gas made it especially terrifying to civilians. Numerous images from the 1930s show both soldiers and civilians learning how to use gas masks. Here we see a Bulgarian class in 1935 on the previous page. We are not sure just how widespread such classes were in Europe. Gas masks were produced in large numbers in several countries. This was especially true in Britain which gave considerable emphasis on civil defense as they were convinced that the NAZIs would use chemical weapons when war broke out. When War finally broke out, masks were issued to civilians. The children were shown in school how to use them. When the British evacuated the children at the outbreak of war, every one including the children carried a gas mask and already knew how to use it. Here we see a British drill.







HBC






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Created: 5:21 AM 7/17/2011
Last updated: 5:21 AM 7/17/2011