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Historical Gas Mask Photos From WWII Britain Show Life During Wartime

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During World War II, Germany pummeled Britain for months on end with heavy bombing raids in a 1940-41 campaign termed the "Blitz" -- meaning lightning in German.

Fearing German planes would drop gas bombs, authorities issued millions of gas masks to British men, women and children. The masks had to be carried at all times, and quickly pulled out during regular gas drills.

This being Britain, wearing a clunky gas mask apparently did not stop people getting on with both chores and hobbies. As the government urged in a poster campaign, it was time to Keep Calm and Carry On.

  • Children in London wear their gas masks as they skip in the park at their temporary homes on the south coast of England, circa 1940. (General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
  • A warden gives directions to a mother and her two children during a World War II gas drill in Southend on Marcy 29, 1941. (Eric Harlow/Keystone/Getty Images)
  • A mother cradles her newborn baby in bed, shortly after giving birth in 1941. The mother is wearing her civilian respirator, while the baby is encased in a baby gas helmet, which buckles up around the baby's bottom. The mother is demonstrating how the bellows on her baby's gas mask are pumped to supply the baby with air. (Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer/ IWM via Getty Images)
  • A horde of children wearing gas masks carry out a practice evacuation of a school in Kingston, Greater London, after a canister of tear gas was discharged on June 9, 1941. (Parker/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
  • A young music hall dancer wears a gas mask and helmet in February, 1940 (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
  • A family wearing their gas masks to the shops during a gas drill in Richmond, Surrey, May 31, 1941. The drill involved a canister of tear gas to simulate a gas attack. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
  • British artist Albert Perry at work with some of his pupils during their daily one hour gas mask practice, August 19, 1941. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)
  • A gas exercise for civilians, using tear gas, was held in Kingston-On-Thames in 1941. (Keystone/Getty Images)
  • A family use respirators at the Empire Pool, Wembley, London on August 21, 1938. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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