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Summary: Training film, using Australian troops, on the use of the small box respirator, Western Front, November 1916.
Description: I. (Reel 1) The opening shows a demonstration by a group of soldiers of the correct methods of carrying, wearing, cleaning and removing the gasmask, including running at the double while wearing it. They test the fit of their gasmasks by entering a room full of tear gas. One soldier in close-up then repeats the full drill. A similar drill is shown for the horse respirator. This is followed by an acted scene in the school's training trenches showing precautions to be taken if the wind is dangerous for a gas attack. In the trench an officer inspects the gasmasks and an NCO tests the Strombos warning horn, the Vermorel sprayer to lay the gas, the Ayrton fans to clear the gas out of dugouts and the bottom of trenches, and the blanket 'door' of a gas-proof dugout. II. (Reel 2) The rest of the film is an acted gas attack in the training trenches, with smoke substituting for gas. The sentry gives the gas alert, soldiers come to the fire-step in their gasmasks but there is one casualty from a badly-fitting mask. A fatigue party responds to the gas alert. After the attack the gas is cleared using Ayrton fans and rifles cleaned. At the film's end there are two further demonstrations as troops enter a gas-filled chamber, first with full head cover and then without respirators, to demonstrate the temporary effects of tear gas.
Production Details: War Office (Production sponsor)
McDowell, J B (Production individual)
Personalities, Units and Organisations: Australian Army, Australian Imperial Force, 5th Division, Gas School (regiment/service)
British Army, Australian Imperial Force, Div 5, Gas School (regiment/service)
Keywords: equipment, British - personal: gasmask (small box respirator) & [Australian] (object name)
equipment, British - personal: gasmask (horse) (object name)
equipment, British - damage control: Vermorel sprayer (object name)
equipment, British - damage control: Ayrton fan (object name)
weapons, British - CBW: gas (asphyxiating) (object name)
training, Australian military - weapons (object name)
combat [simulated], Australian - gas: [+] (object name)
Australian 5th Division Gas School, Ribecourt, Nord, France (geography)
Physical Characteristics: Colour format: B&W
Sound format: Silent
Soundtrack language: None
Title language: English
Subtitle language: English
Technical Details: Format: 35mm
Number of items/reels/tapes: 2
Footage: 1872 ft; Running time: 32 mins
Notes: Production: according to the AWRS(Film) Papers this film was made by British cameramen and at the request of the British War Office, but at the Australian 5th Division Gas School since no British gas training unit was able, or prepared, to make the same facilities open to the cameramen. The dopesheet, prepared in 1922 after conversations with McDowell, contradicts the Australian version by saying that the dates of filming were 2-11 February 1917.
Summary: the use of any form of gas would have corroded the cameras, and it is most probable that some type of smoke was used.
Remarks: given that for technical reasons film of a genuine gas attack could not be obtained, the demonstration in this film is an excellent substitute, and surprisingly realistic by the standards of the time.