Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

Gas Masks at Queen Mary School

Federally issued wartime gas masks came with an instruction booklet that stressed the importance of keeping them nearby and in good working condition. It also urged people to practise putting them on: “Wear it at least once a week for as long as an hour at a time. A little discomfort is well worthwhile when you consider that it will save your life if a gas attack comes.” The booklet also noted that “each respirator, when issued, is adjusted to fit only the person to whom it is issued. Therefore, it must never be loaned and [you] should never attempt to use one belonging to someone else.” A separate federal government booklet listed substances that might be used in a potential gas attack, including tear, nose-irritant, lung-irritant, blister, paralysing, and blood-destroying gases, as well as carbon monoxide, nitrous fumes and screening smokes.

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These students are participating in a weekly gas-mask exercise. Since gas had been a weapon in World War I, precautions against it were put in place early during World War II.

This was a class at Queen Mary Elementary School in North Vancouver, located a few blocks north of the wartime shipyards.

Gas masks went on sale to the general public on December 14, 1941, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in the Pacific.

All levels of government, including school districts, participated in wartime safety drills such as this.
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