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Gas mask clip artMAKE A MODEL GAS MASK

Why did people carry gas masks with them in Australia in World War Two?

On 19 February 1942 Darwin was bombed for the first time by the Japanese. An invasion seemed likely and people prepared themselves for the possibility of bombing raids on all Australian cities. Air raid shelters were built in all cities and towns and gas masks were issued just in case the Japanese used chemical weapons. Although the Japanese bombed or shelled places as far south as Learmonth in Western Australia and Sydney in New South Wales, no chemical weapons were used and the Australian population never needed to use the gas masks. You can read about the development of the gas mask and view some pictures at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_mask

Why did people fear that chemical weapons might be used in World War Two?

Chemical weapons were used in Europe in World War One and people feared they would be used again in World War Two. In September 1917 the German Army first began using chemical weapons against the opposing British, French and other allied forces. Mustard gas was the most deadly of all the poisonous chemicals used during the war. It was almost odourless (could not be smelt easily) and took 12 hours to take effect. It was so powerful that only small amounts needed to be added to weapons like high explosive shells to have devastating effects.

What was it like to be a victim of mustard gas poisoning?

Your skin blistered, your eyes became very sore and you began to vomit. The gas caused you to have internal and external bleeding and attacked your bronchial tubes (which you use for breathing). You would experience extreme pain and probably have to be strapped to your bed. It would take you four or five weeks to die. If you survived, your lungs would be permanently damaged making it difficult for you to lead a normal life afterwards. You can find out more information about mustard gas and view some photographs at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_weapons_in_World_War_I

Photograph of a gas mask and cloth shoulder bag issued to people in Australia during World War 2The photograph opposite shows a gas mask which was issued to people in Australia during World War Two, along with the cloth shoulder bag that the mask was carried in.

Now that you know about why gas masks were important to people in World War Two, gather your cardboard, bubble wrap and elastic and follow the steps below to make a model gas mask.

How to make a model gas mask

Materials - You will need the following to make your mask:

  • black or olive green cardex (cardboard) - you will need one piece A3 size
  • cellophane (any colour)
  • bubble wrap
  • hat or shirring elastic
  • sticky tape
  • scissors

Step 1: Mask outline

  • Download the mask outline and print it.
  • Cut around the mask outline and cut out the mouth/nose hole and eye holes.
  • Trace the outline, mouth/nose hole and eye holes onto cardex using a pencil
  • Cut out mask. (See picture opposite.)
Gas mask outline

Step 2: Cellophane for eye holes

  • Cut two circles of cellophane each with a radius of 4.75cm.
  • Sticky tape cellophane over the back of each eye hole.
    (See picture opposite.)
Gas mask outline with cellophane over the eye holes

Step 3: Cardex for nose filter

  • Cut a rectangular piece of cardex 30cm long by 5.5cm wide.
    (See picture opposite.)
  • Make into a cylinder, overlapping by approximately 3cm.
    (See picture opposite.)
  • Sticky tape together. (See picture opposite)
    The nose piece should fit the mouth/nose hole, not be bigger or smaller than it.
Rectangular cardex to form the nose piece

Nose piece cardex formed into a cylinder

Step 4: Completing the filter and attaching it to the mask

  • Cut two circles of bubblewrap each with a radius of 5.25cm.
  • Put small pieces of sticky tape around the edge of the bubblewrap circles. (See picture A opposite.)
  • Place the nose piece cylinder in the middle of one of the bubblewrap circles (see picture B opposite) and gently pull the sticky tape up the sides of the nose piece. Repeat this procedure at the other end of the nose piece.
  • Place the completed nose piece on the front of the gas mask over the mouth/nose hole. and sticky tape in place. It looks neater to have the sticky tape on the back of the mask.
  • Picture C opposite shows the front of the mask with the nose piece in place.

Bubblewrap filter showing sticky tape around its edge.  Bubblewrap filter in place below nose piece cylinder

Front of mask with nose piece in place

Step 5: Attaching the elastic

  • Cut a piece of elastic 15 cm long. Sticky tape the elastic to the back of the mask halfway up the edge of the eye holes.
    (See picture opposite showing the back of the mask with elastic attached.)
Back of mask, showing elastic in place
Now try on your mask. We hope you had fun making it and that you learnt a little about why gas masks were around in World War Two in Australia.