Express & Star

Gas masks rush in Wolverhampton as war threat loomed

Here they come. It was the PPE of its day, and although the threat was not that of pandemic, it was equally deadly – the prospect of war.

Volunteers assembling Wolverhampton's gas masks

And as the gas masks arrived in Wolverhampton in September 1938 there was a big scramble to assemble and distribute them, as our archive pictures from the time show.

The first instalment is unloaded.

The backdrop was the Munich Crisis in which Hitler was demanding a land grab of part of Czechoslovakia which posed the question to Britain and France of whether they were ready to go to war over the issue.

In Britain there were air raid drills and work was done on building shelters and trenches. There was a big fear, based on the experience of the Great War, that gas would be used as a weapon, and precautions were taken to protect the population.

Wolverhampton's first instalment of gas masks arrived on Monday, September 26, 1938, and they were speedily put together during the night by volunteers toiling in fitting and distribution centres.

A police patrol car fitted with a loudspeaker toured the town streets broadcasting the message: "Police calling! Police calling! Volunteers to assemble gas masks required immediately. Please go to the depot at Raglan Street."