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Repairing Track After Mustard Gas Attack

With the horrific effects of gas warfare still fresh in the memory, rubberised men – like extras from a 1950s British sci fi movie – prepare for more, with 1940s attention to detail.

Industry sponsored film 1939 45 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


Yet another example of the meticulous preparations made by Britain for any kind of attack from the Nazis, as the Phoney War gives way to the Blitz. In this case railway personnel combine military and medical expertise in dealing with a crater on a railway line caused by an enemy mustard bomb. Covered from head to foot in plastic, and rubber, with matching gas masks, these men take every precaution to avoid the treacherous vapour, cleaning anything that might be contaminated.

This is one of a large collection of British Rail, and some pre- British Rail, films inherited by the track renewals company Fastline in 1996, and passed on to Fastline Photography when they folded in 2010. This training film, with a realistic demonstration of how to deal with a mustard bomb attack, gives a scenario that fortunately was never faced. Every adult and child was issued with a gas mask on the outbreak of war, with a legal requirement to carry it at all times. Although mustard gas was heavily used in World War One, and by the Italians in Abyssinia just a few years earlier, it seems fear of retaliation prevented its use in this war. Yet it seems that in 1941 the threat was still perceived to be real.