Mike and his wife, Nicola, moved to Little Cambridge some forty years ago, and when they moved in they found a ‘baby’s gas mask’ in a box in the attic. It was still in its packaging, and there was also a very detailed instruction leaflet in the box, together with a copy of the Daily Express dated 27 May 1940.
One of the Group meetings focused on wartime memories, and Mike brought the gas mask along and demonstrated how it was meant to have been used.
Click here to see a short film of this demonstration.
Mike also shared some of his childhood memories of the period with us:
We lived in Tucton, a small village approximately five miles east of Bournemouth, but also twenty-five miles west of Southampton Docks, which was a prime target for German bombers. Inevitably, a bomber having bombs on board and under fire from our own aircraft, would jettison any remaining bombs to lighten their load, and consequently some fell on to the nearest town, one of which landed on Barclays Bank.
We also watched the occasional ‘dog fight’ high in the sky but we, as kids, were ushered indoors in case anything should ‘drop’ on us as the pilots fought above us.
We also had a Morrison shelter in the front room, which was draped with a heavy brocade cloth to make it look like a table. Occasionally we were required to rush down stairs in the night to sleep under this table until the all clear sounded. It was a bit spooky, with the rumble of planes overhead, a siren going, no lights in the house, and all the window panes crisscrossed with 2” wide tape to protect against broken glass.
The ‘baby gas mask’ – or ‘Protective Helmet’ – we found would have been issued in 1939, and as a newspaper dated May1940 was also in the box with the gas mask, I guess the original owner would have had a baby of approximately one or two years of age; any child of 2-4 years would have been issued with a “small child’s ” respirator. We believe that the child was Carol Waites.