Gas masks for babies, 1940

From the Imperial War Museum in London, a couple of incredible photos of nurses testing out infant gas-masks: "Three nurses carry babies cocooned in baby gas respirators down the corridor of a London hospital during a gas drill. Note the carrying handle on the respirator used to carry the baby by the nurse in the foreground."



  1. Left-arm claw isn’t, but it looks scary. As if the babies were to take up a weapon, maybe a grenade, and rush the enemy.

      1. Actually that’s the air pump to push air through the filter.  Somebody needs to be pumping that up and down pretty much continously to be pumping fresh air into the “mask” so that the baby doesn’t asphyxiate.

      1. Bonus link: Can you see “The Scarfolk Nurse”?

    1. The nurse on the foreground has loose shoelaces.

      …which was the style at the time.

    2.  If it was staged then I would expect everything to look perfect. Imperfections are a sign of it not being staged.

  2. I can’t imagine that the infant getting the “gootchy goo” treatment from the middle nurse is feeling particularly comforted by it.

  3.  I doubt any of these babies is Ringo Starr, John Hurt, Angela Carter, Patrick Stewart or Tom Jones, but they’d be being babies at the same sort of time.

    1. Yeah, I was thinking along the same lines. Can’t wait to face these guys as enemies in the next Bioshock installment. 

  4. I’m a little surprised that they went with a semi-body-shaped design(note exposed legs) rather than a bag/pod that would enclose the bassinet. Not only would that have been less sewing, Blister Agents(like WWI classic mustard gas, and various others) attack skin directly and their effects make diaper rash look like the warm caress of the first breezes of spring…

    1. I’m glad you pointed it out as the blister agents were one of several things that crossed my mind when I saw this. The next  being unless there is some internal gasket that I can’t see I don’t know how those things seal.  I didn’t realize at first the filter required a pump and once someone pointed that out the looseness of the fasteners on the outside made more sense.

      The fact that the nurses put their uniform hats back on after donning the masks definitely adds to the photo-op feel. I can’t imagine anyone doing that in a real situation or a serious training drill.

      Handle is a nice touch. Definitely accentuates the forearm muscles when you can carry a baby around bent armed like that.

    1.  The nurse “on point” is definitely projecting a combination of “Rosie the riveter / we can do it” and “Don’t F’ with us”.

  5. The most disturbing moment of my entire time in Israel (including the times when missiles were coming at us in the south) was the day that we received our family’s gas masks and chemical warfare protection kits. 

    Each kit comes with a needle full of some sort of antidote and instructions on how you pound that thing into a person who has been exposed to the gas. 

    The infant gas mask, for children birth to age 2, is in fact a suit that encases the child. They cannot eat or snuggle or play in that thing. All they can do is breathe, and if you ever have to use it, you had better just remind yourself that you are glad that your kid is going to survive, even though they’ll probably be screaming in terror and discomfort inside that thing. ugh *shiver*
    These pictures remind me of that. It’s an awful thing. 

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