German gas equipment - Part 1

The use of poison gas was pioneered by the French Army, with the first recorded attack being carried out in August 1914. Tear gas was used and was intended as more of an irritant to enemy troops than a killer.

Poisonous Chlorine gas was first used by the Germans during the second battle of Ypres in April 1915. When deployed against the unsuspecting French the effects were rapid and devastating allowing the Germans to advance unhindered and the take the French positions with little or no casualties on their part.

As the war progressed, so did the development by all sides of more deadly gasses such as Phosgene and Mustard, and to combat this Armies quickly had to adapt and develop a means of protecting the troops on the ground. Basic gas masks were conceived and issued, one rudimentary solution to the effects of Chlorine gas was to soak a cloth in urine and place over the nose and mouth - although it's effectiveness is somewhat disputed.

The Word War 1 German GM17 LederschützmaskeThe Germans developed masks made from both a rubberised fabric, as seen on the GM-15 'Gummimaske' and also in leather, known as the 'Lederschützmaske' issued in both a GM-17 and GM-18 version as seen in the picture below. Both covered the face of the wearer and featured large eye pieces and a filter at the 'snout' which was filled with chemicals that filtered out the bad air.

As you will see, the basic principal of the German Gas mask and carrying tin were now in place and set to develop into the masks that have become familiar to us due to their use in World War II.

The Geneva Protocol of 1925 pushed for for the outlawing of poisonous gas, but by the start of WWII the main protagonists still had large stockpiles kept as a deterrent, and thus had to factor in the use of gas in any future campaigns.

In detail - the carrying tin, replacement lenses and lense compartment, the 1918 dated GM17 'Lederschützmaske'', 1918 dated filter and internal view.


 

Gas masks of World War II

The Gas equipment that every German soldier during World War 2 was expected to carry.
The Gas equipment that every German soldier during World War 2 was expected to carry about their person.

The German Armies development of masks had been on-going since the early days of gas warfare and during the mid 1920's the Reichswehr began development in earnest resulting in the Gasmaske 30, which was issued in 1930 to be subsequently followed by the Gasmaske 38 in 1938.


The Gasmaske 30 'S-Maske'.

The GM30 or 'Schutzmaske' was first issued to troops in 1930. The mask was produced in a rubberised canvas with a soft suede leather frame which fitted around the wearers face.

Rear view of the strapping arrangements of the GM30 and the mask as it would be worn with a combat helmet.
Rear view of the strapping arrangements of the GM30 and the mask as it would be worn with a combat helmet.

The elasticated straps fitted over the head and were tightened by means of sliding the web straps through metal buckles until the mask was as tight as the user could stand it - ensuring a good air tight seal. Another strap would be placed around the users neck and if the mask was not in use it would rest on the chest should they need it in a hurry.

Profile and front view of the GM30. This model has been fitted with the 'Auer F' filter with instruction label still intact.
Profile and front view of the GM30. This model has been fitted with the 'Auer F' filter with instruction label still intact.
Note the number '2' printed between the eyes indication the size.


As illustrated above, the mask came in 3 sizes, which was usually indicated by a number printed on the front of the mask between the eye pieces.

They were:

Size 1 - Large
Size 2 - Medium
Size 3 - Small

The metal alloy eye socket frames made from both brass (on earlier models) or in cheaper grey Ferrous metal (on later models) housed the Celluloid eye pieces, which could easy be replaced should they become damaged in any way. Replacement lenses were carried in the top of the gas mask carrying tin, but this will be discussed later in the article.

The snout, also made from metal had a screw thread, into which the filter was inserted, and beneath that the discharge valve could also be found.

Internal and birds eye view of the GM30 showing the suede leather liner.
Internal and birds eye view of the GM30 showing the suede leather liner.

 

The Gasmaske 38 'S-Maske'

As a result of improvements and possibly with Germany (by now on a war footing) needing to cut down on materials and production time, the Model 38 was introduced into service in 1938. Although the fundamentals of the design of the mask were carried over from the M30, the new mask was moulded solely out of rubber and featured cheaper Aluminium fittings which were prone to breaking.

Rear view of the strapping arrangements of the GM38 and the mask as it would be worn with a combat helmet.
Rear view of the strapping arrangements of the GM38 and the mask as it would be worn with a combat helmet.

It again features a size indication number in the same place that it could be found on the GM30, but this time it was embossed into the rubber. Covering the number, in the picture below, you can see the carrying tab which was first found on the the second model of the GM30.

As you can see from the pictures, the mask once again featured the elasticated straps which were placed over the head, but the straps and fittings are of a lower quality than can be found on the GM30.

 

Profile and front view of the GM38. This model has been fitted with the Fe41 filter .
Profile and front view of the GM38. This model has been fitted with the Fe41 filter .

The GM38 masks were produced in both green and black rubber and both the GM30 and GM38 masks can often be found with tan, green or (in the case of this example) painted blue metal parts.

There appears to be some confusion over why they should be painted in this way, but many believe that the paint was to help reduce the magnetic properties of the Ferrous metal which had a high iron content and interfered with communications equipment and radio transmissions.

 

Internal and birds eye view of the GM38 showing the aluminium fittings and new strapping arrangements.
Internal and birds eye view of the GM38 showing the aluminum fittings and new strapping arrangements.

 

Filters

Throughout the war there were 4 types of filter in use some of which are illustrated in the picture below. They were the Fe37, the Fe37 'R', the Fe41 and the Fe42. The 'Fe' stood for 'Filter Einsatz' and the number showing the year it came into service.

Shown in detail are the Fe37, the Auer' F (civillian version of the Fe37), the Fe41 and Fe42 WW2 german gas mask filters

Shown in detail are the Fe37, the Auer F (civillian version of the Fe37), the Fe41 and Fe42 filters

When not in use, the filter could be carried attached to the mask in the gas mask tin, or carried in the simple canvas pouch shown in the picture. To seal the filter from dirt and moisture a Bakelite cap was screwed onto the end or (in this case) an earlier war metal screw top cap.

When not in use, the filter could be carried attached the the mask in the gas mask tin, or carried in the simple canvas pouch shown in the picture. To seal the filter from dirt and moisture a Bakelite cap was screwed onto the end or in this case an earlier war metal screw top cap.


Onto part 2, gas equipment >


Submitted by Neil Barlow

All pictures from authors own collection except GM17 & Fe42 filter courtesy of Paul Hinckley.

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