Gasmaske (Gas Masks) und
Bereitschaftsbüchsen (Gas Mask Canisters)
Gas masks became standard issue to German troops from August 1915 through the end of the war. There were different patterns, the early first pattern was made of rubberized canvas and was called the Gummimaske. There were several patterns of Gummismasken as the Germans learned lessons through use and experience, as well as adapting to material shortages.
The Bereitschaftsbüchsen (Readiness can or carry can) for the Gummimaske was a short, circular sheet iron can with a press-fit lid. There were wire loops tack-welded to the exterior of the can for the attachment of a fabric shoulder strap. In the bottom of the can was an instruction card on how to use the mask. The Germans did not include exhalation valve in their masks, so condensation was a big problem. Early masks included extra material in the sides of the mask so the soldier could push a finger in and wipe the inside of the lenses, but this increased the air volume in the mask which increased the difficulty of the soldier exhaling air out of the mask through the filter, so the Germans developed a cellulose filter that was placed inside the mask against the mask's lens that inhibited the development of moisture build-up, but these had a limited lifespan. Therefore the soldier carried multiple sets of these "Klarscheiben" and these were stored in a wire "cage" in the lid of the Bereitschaftsbüchsen.
The Germans realized that the rubber fabrics ended up having a permeability to certain gases, so later, as the war took its toll on the supply of imported materials, Germany developed and manufactured the Lederschutzmaske (which today is the type most commonly found by collectors). Made of chrome-tanned sheepskin, the Ledeschutzmaske was superior to protecting against the various gases being used — unfortunately it was inferior to the Gummimaske in terms of fit - the Ledeschutzmaske was hard to fit properly to the face. This was especially true if the man had a beard.
By late 1917, the Lederschutzmaske was the predominant front-line gas mask, and if at all possible, is the preferred gas mask for use at Newville in IR63. Currently, the only approved reproduction is sold by IMA International Military Antiques, Inc. This mask will need work to be acceptable at Newville, you will receive instructions on what you will need to do.
The Bereitschaftsbüchsen of the Lederschutzemasken was
slightly taller that that of the Gummimaske, and the lid now closed with a wire bail draw-latch. The use of the
Klarscheiben continued, and the spares were now contained in a small lidded compartment
in the can's lid. Carry straps were still made from fabric, but later in the war straps were also made from papercloth.
Each member shall carry a proper WWI German gas mask with the appropriate canister.
In 1918, the leather mask was improved and began to see use just a couple of months before the end of the war. It was very similar to the previous model but with an improved head harness and the addition of an exhalation valve. The valve eliminated the build up of humidity and the special lenses were no longer required - thus the "spider" reinforcements were eliminated.
The carry can remained nearly identical the the M.1917 version, although the compartment in the lid was eliminated.
This model of mask is very rare, and therefore can fetch a very high price as a collectible. If you stumble across one inexpensively, we highly recommend that you not use it for reenactment, you could sell it and buy quite a few reproductions.
Stofftasche für Atemeinsatz
(Gas Mask Spare Filter Carrier - [Optional])
Later in the war, enlisted men carried an extra gas mask filter cartridge in a cloth bag that hung from the equipment belt. The bag was designed to carry the filter cartridge, either by itself or in its original issue shipping can. The can was lacquered, lined with cardboard, and sealed with adhesive tape. The filter itself was factory sealed to keep out dirt and moisture, a tin screw top on the gas mask end and a brown paper cover with a metal pull tab on the other.
If you are using an original gas mask, it is a good idea to remove and disassemble the filter and clean out the interior as they occasionally still have traces of poison gases such as Phosgene in them. If you happen to breath in this gas residue, it still can damage your lungs even after all these years! Also, asbestos was used as one of the filter components and should therefore be removed.
By Herrn Kasimir Heska
Reprinted from the IR63 Die Frontsoldat
Translation from the original text by Dr. Donald Crosby
This article was taken from an original German (probably Reichswehr??) article. The text was translated using Alta-Vista's Internet translation website and then corrected by Dr. Donald Crosby and his Kamerad, Wally Derickson. In each step, the original German text is presented first with the English translation following.
1. Die rechte Hand bringt die Gasmaske vor die Mitte des Körpers; T-Stuck zwischen Zeigenfinger and Daumen (Daumen oben), linkes Augenglas dem Korper zugekehrt. Atemeinsatz nach unten.
1. The right hand brings the gas mask before the center of the body; T-fitting between index finger and thumb (thumb above), left eyepiece facing the body. Filter downward.
2. Die linke Hand erfaßt die Maske; Daumen
dicht unter dem linken, die übringen Finger
under dem rechten Augenglas.
2. The left hand holds the mask; left thumb
closely under the left eyepiece,the other
fingers under the right eyepiece.
3. Die rechte Hand schlägt das Bandgestell so weit über die Maskeauf den linken Handrucken hinüber, bis das T-Stück glatt au fliegt.
3. The right hand moves the tape rack the over the mask onto the top of the left hand until the T-fitting sits smoothly.
4. Die rechte Hand zieht das T Stück auf das rechte
Augenglas, wo es unter leichtem Druck mit dem
linkers Zeigefinger festgehalten wird.
4. The right hand pulls the T-fitting onto the right
eyepiece, where it is held under light pressure
with the left index finger.
5. Die rechte Handlegt das Stirnband von oben über den Maskenrand hinweg and die Kopfbänder seitlich um die Maske auf das linke Augenglas, wo sie mit dem linken Daumen festgehalten werden.
5. The right hand puts the front tape from above past the mask edge and the head straps laterally around the mask onto the left eyepiece,
6. Die rechte Hand erfaßt die Maske am Kinnteil
(Finger innen, Daumen außen). Die linke Hand klappt
das Oberteil der Maske so auf das Kinnteil, daß das
rechte Augenglas nach oben zeigt; Trageband (bei der
Maske 18 ouch Festbinde- und Nackenband) hängt frei
6. The right hand holds the mask at the chin Section
(finger inside, thumb outside. The left hand folds the
upper section of the mask in such a way onto the chin
section that the right eyepiece shows upward; the carrying
strap (in the case of Mask 18 also the lashing and neck
strap) hangs down freely.
7. Die linke Hand steckt die Maske so in die Bereitschafts- büchse daß Trageband auf dem Boden der Bereitschaftsbüchse zu liegen kommt, das Kinnteil gegen denKorper des Mannes gerichtet and das T des T-Stückes von ihm zu lesen ist. Die rechte hand klappt den Deckel der Bereitschaftsbüchse zu, die linke Hand schließt den Flaschenverschluß.
7. The left hand puts the mask into the canister so that the carrying strap is at the bottom, the chin section faces toward the body of the wearer; and the "T" of the T-fitting is visible. The right hand closes the cover to of the readiness can, the left hand secures the latch of the carrying bag.