Black Veil Respirator

The Black Veil Respirator was an early British gas mask designed by John Scott Haldane and introduced in May 1915.


The German army used chlorine as a poison gas for the first time against Allied troops at the Second Battle of Ypres on 22 April 1915.[1] As an immediate response, the British began issuing cotton wool wrapped in muslin to its troops by 3 May.[2] This was followed by the Black Veil Respirator, invented by John Scott Haldane. The Black Veil was a cotton pad soaked in an absorbent solution which was secured over the mouth using black cotton veiling.[3] The mask was treated in a solution of sodium hyposulphate, sodium carbonate, glycerine and water.[3] The solution retained sufficient moisture so that it was unnecessary to dip the mask in a solution prior to use, so long as it was stored in its purpose-built waterproof satchel. The veiling could be drawn up to cover the eyes, providing some protection against lachrymatory agents, however the mask itself still only provided limited protection against chlorine gas.[4]

First issued on 20 May 1915, the Black Veil had a pouch for the pad to sit in and a string to hold the mask in to the face, and was thus an improvement to the hand-held cloth. It was however of fragile construction, required training to use effectively and largely immobilized men as they were concerned about their mask coming loose.[5] The Black Veil Respirator was soon replaced by the British Smoke Hood, an over the head canvas hood treated with chlorine-absorbing chemicals, invented by Cluny MacPherson.[6][7] Following the introduction of the British Smoke Hood, the Black Veil was relegated to an emergency backup.


  1. "Second Battle of Ypres Begins". Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  2. Cook 1998, p. 8.
  3. Wetherell & Mathers 2007, p. 157.
  4. Spiers 2017, p. 156.
  5. Cook 1998, pp. 9-10.
  6. Victor Lefebure (1923). The Riddle of the Rhine: Chemical Strategy in Peace and War. The Chemical Foundation Inc. ISBN 0-585-23269-5.
  7. "Macpherson Gas Hood . Accession #980.222". The Rooms Provincial Museum Archives (St. John’s, NL). Retrieved August 5, 2017.


  • Cook, Tim (1998). "Through Clouded Eyes:Gas Masks and the Canadian Corps i n the First World War". Material History Review (Spring ed.). 47: 4–18.
  • Spiers, Edward M. (2017), "The Gas War, 1915-1918: If not a War Winner, Hardly a Failure.", in Friedrich, Bretislav; Hoffmann, Dieter; Renn, Jürgen; Schmaltz, Florian; Wolf, Martin Chemical Warfare: Research, Deployment, Consequences (eds.), One Hundred Years of, Springer, pp. 153–178, ISBN 978-3319516639
  • Wetherell, Anthony; Mathers, George (2007), "Respiratory Protection", in Marrs, Timothy; Maynard, Robert; Sidell, Frederick (eds.), Chemical Warfare Agents: Toxicology and Treatment, New York: Wiley, pp. 157–174, ISBN 978-0470013595
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.