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WW2 History

A child's Mickey Mouse Gas Mask on display in The Devil's Porridge Museum.

WW2 Gas Masks

By Collections blog

One of the gas masks which we have on display within the Museum is a kids Mickey Mouse gas mask from WW2. These masks were desinged to look like Mickey Mouse to appeal more to children and to encourage them to wear them. Children were asked to keep their masks within reach at all times, which meant they had to take them to school stored in a box with string on it to go over the child’s shoulder, they also had to keep them next to their bed at night and when they were doing general activities in the event of a sudden German gas attack. Kids were sometimes told to wear the masks in class while they were at school, presumably to get the children more used to wearing them so they wouldn’t struggle or refuse to put them on in the event of a gas attack. 10 million of these masks were made and distributed in 1938 in the event of the outbreak of war.


On display with the Childs Mickey Mouse gas mask is a gas mask for babies which is designed to cover the top half of the child and strap around them like a nappy which allows means only their legs are exposed. These gas masks were issued to every child up to 2 years old in 1938 when all citizens were issued a gas mask in the event of an outbreak of war. These gas masks were tied securely which made it air-tight, and had a big visor so that the child could see out of it. These gas masks were fitted with an asbestos filter which absorbed poisonous gas, attached to this was a rubber tube with a handle which was used to pump air into the mask which would be used by the child’s parent or any other adult present. Many paretn doubted these masks as they were very skeptical about putting their child in a completey air tight mask. There were also reports that during demonstrations babies fell asleep and became unnaturally still inside the masks. It is likely that the pump didnt push enought air into the mask and the babies came close to suffocating, luckily this was never put to the test.


These two gas masks were made safe by a professional from Kadec Asbestos Management with some of the other gas masks we had kept in the Museums store cupboard. This was kindly funded by Museums Galleries Scotland and allows us to better our Museum collection by making the gas masks we have in our possession safe for public viewing and for staff who work with the objects.


Some of the museum's team with Easter hats on.

Easter on the Ration

By News

Everyone is familiar with the Easter tradition of chocolate eggs but what happens when chocolate and other sweet treats are rationed?


During World War Two, in an attempt to reduce the strain placed upon the merchant fleet and other vessels supplying Britain with food from around the world, rationing was introduced effecting all aspects of life in Britain. Cloths were rationed as was petrol, wood and other raw materials and fuel required for the war effort were also short in supply and subject to rationing, all of which came into force January 8th, 1940 just a few months after the outbreak of war.


However, food is probably the first thing people think of when rationing is mentioned, and all sorts of both essential and non-essential items were added to the ration list. Some food items were not rationed such as potatoes and carrots. Other fruit and vegetables that could be grown in Britain were also not subject to rationing although they did become scarce and harder to find in the shops.


But what about sweets and chocolate eggs for Easter? The rationing of sweets and chocolate began in July 1942. Even before chocolate rationing came into force Cadbury’s had ceased production of their ‘Dairy Milk’ as the government had banned the use of fresh milk in manufacturing in 1941, instead they produced ‘Ration Chocolate’ which was a poor substitute and definitely did not come in the form of an Easter egg! Shops sold carrot lollies and other vegetables on a stick as a replacement Easter treat.


The stringent rules of rationing began to be loosened in 1948 but it was not until 1953 that the rationing of sweets and chocolate was finally over. As well as sweets and chocolate: eggs, cream, butter, cheese, margarine and cooking fats were all taken off the rationed list almost a decade after the end of World War Two.


To celebrate the end of rationing one sweet shop in Clapham common gave 800 children 150lbs of lollipops during their midday break from school; and another London factory opened its doors to hand out free sweets to all comers. It was not just school children that delighted in the end of the restrictions, many adults queued on their lunch breaks to be able to get boiled sweets and boxes of chocolates to take home.

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