There were 3 types of gas mask bags worn during the GPW. They were the M1928, M1936 and M1940. This is a brief overview of the individual models and how troops used them. The gas mask bag was always worn on the left hip over the equipment belt. The integeral waistbelt is NOT to be worn but stored unless ordered by an officer during a battle.
The M1928 gas mask bag was the smallest bag out of the 3. It has distinctive cut off corners not seen on the other 2 variants. The original pattern is closed by 2 brass press-studs near the corners of the flap but the economy model as introduced at the start of the war had a single closure, usually a button and loop, in the centre. Original pattern were made in a webbing called brezentov (as imaged) whilst the economy pattern were made of plain cotton weaves.
This design was loosely based off the British WW1 SBR Gas Mask Bag.
The M1936 gas mask bag was the largest out of the 3. It has 2 distinctive smaller compartments on the exterior to house anti-gas equipment. All examples are closed with a leather strap and pronged buckle. They also seem to suggest production was stopped in favour for the other 2 models when the GPW began, probably due to it consuming the most material to make. As such, there was no ‘economy’ variant of this gas mask bag made. They seem to be seen only during the early war period.
The M1940 gas mask bag was the most common gas mask bag throughout the war. Due to the close proximity from its year of introduction to the start of the war, most originals are of the economy variant. The original pattern had a leather closure similar to the one seen on the M1936 bag.
Notes for all types of gas masks
The economy pattern for the M1928 and M1940 were introduced in 1942 (sic?). Before that, the original patterns for all 3 gas masks were of better construction and quality.
- proper closure mechanisms
- bent spring coil to prevent fouling of filter intake
- knit webbing shoulder strap with metal slider buckle
- knit webbing waiststrap with sprung clip and metal slider buckle to hook onto metal d-ring
- made in original spec. fabric
- closure mechanisms in all forms depending on availability in factory. all sorts of buttons were used and could be attached by rope loop, webbing loop, fabric loop, buttonhole in flap etc…
- metal coil replaced by wooden blocks to prevent intake fouling
- folded fabric shoulderstrap. adjustment via toggle and loops
- folded fabric or hemp cord waist strap. tied to a cotton loop on the other side via a knot
- made in any medium weight cotton fabric available that suits the subdued colour range (including grey-blue)
For storing personal kit
Although most bags really did contain the soldier’s personal gas mask during the early part of the war, as the war dragged on the scarcity of actually using it meant soldiers often chucked the contents away and used it to store their own personal kit. In fact many soldiers substituted the gas mask bag for the meshok and many photos show soldiers only wearing the gas mask bag to carry essential items inaddition to belted equipment into battle.
suggested contents for a gas mask bag:
- spare underwear
- spare footwraps
- extra rations/ food
- pocketknife, can opener
- ID papers and related documents
- candle or torch
- lighter or matches
- smoking items (cigarette tin, pipe, machorka pouch)
- shaving kit, small mirror
- oral hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpowder)
- reading articles to pass time
- pen and paper for letters
- spare bootlace
- sewing pouch
- spare ammunition (bullet packets, clips, grenades etc…)
- family photos
- dressing/bandage packet