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As the Germans had used gas warfare in World War one, it was assumed that they would drop poison gas onto British civilians in World War Two.
So every precaution that could be taken against a gas attack was taken, and the cost of it all astounds me!
In practice a gas attack never came.
A gas detector was a large square board painted green, on top of a pole. To me it looked something like a large bird table. Gas sensitive paint on the board would change from yellowish green to red in the presence of mustard gas.
Gas detectors were located outside observation posts, which were underground bunkers dug very deep into the ground, probably over twelve feet or so deep, and manned by the ARP and the Home Guard who reported on the numbers and direction of enemy planes overhead,
Gas detection paint was also applied to the tops of Post Office pillar boxes to alert the public to a gas attack.
In Edmonton one of the observation posts was in Pymmes Park and another at the Cambridge Roundabout.
As a child, I remember dustbin lids painted with gas detection paint fixed to the walls of the houses in our neighbourhood. I was told that they would change colour in the event of a gas attack and that I should immediately put on my gas mask.
If the Germans had dropped gas, I suspect that the effects would have had a fairly short range, as the noise of the wooden 'clackers' designed to warn of a gas attack must have had a fairly short range.
There was a great deal of publicity about how to recognise and cope in a gas attack. For example:
Even before the war started in 1939, a leaflet on how to store and use a gas mask was distributed to the public.
Yet in spite of what Peter Johnson writes in the box on the right, when I went out shopping with my mother and in my first year of school - which was the last year of the war - I never saw anyone carrying their gas mask. I was of course younger than him. The reason, which I only found out after drafting this page was that the requirement was relaxed after a couple of years. I don't know why.
Everyone always carried their gas mask in its brown cardboard box and shoulder bag when out in public. If anyone failed to do so, they would be stopped by the police or ARP and reported.
When we went to bed our gas mask had to be within reaching distance in the dark.
Lessons were giving at school on how to put on a gas mask as quickly and correctly as possible, even with one's eyes closed. This was to simulate putting it on in the dark.
Warning posters publicised the danger.
Cigarette cards featured what to do in a gas emergency.
The cigarette card picture below shows how to put on a gas mask. On the back of the cigarette card are the following instructions - but note that although everyone used the term 'gas mask', the official name was 'respirator'.