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By September 1939 nearly everybody in the country had been issued
with a gas mask (38 million). People were instructed to carry their
gas masks at all times in case of attack. Adults had masks that looked
like a pig-snout and the children's were soon given nicknames such
as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Even babies had gas masks that they
could be placed inside.
There was a genuine fear that the Germans would use gas, probably
launched from aeroplanes or boats. Gas had been used on the battlefields
during the First World War with terrible results but had not been
used on civilian populations. Lots of work places had tests where
members of staff had to wear a mask while working for 15 minutes or
more and schools held frequent practices.
In the end gas was never used against the British, so the effectiveness
of the preparations was never tested.