Gas Mask MK V (British) : Lieutenant H R Syme, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve

Place Europe: United Kingdom, England, Greater London, London
Accession Number REL35405
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Personal Equipment
Physical description Alloy, Cotton stockinette, Elastic, Glass safety, Metal, Rubber, Steel
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made 1941
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Respirator, anti-gas, MK V Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) crewman variant. This variant was also favoured by air crews in Bomber Command. The rubber facemask is moulded black rubber which has been stiffened around the eye pieces and mouth. The eye piece rims are alloy and are screwed into position. The eye pieces are splinter proof glass and seal against a rubber ring which is attached to the inner eye piece frame forming an air tight seal. On the left side of the face mask there is a sealed rubber protrusion which can accomodate a communications device if required. Behind the eyepiece on the left side of the face mask is a raised circle with 'B.T.R. / 7/40' in raised detail within. On the right side of the face mask is a raised rectangle with 'NORMAL' in raised detail within. The metal covering for the mouth piece is olive green in colour. Stamped on the front is 'V / WHB 1939'.

The elasticised harness for the head is a Number 4 Mark III, the ends of which have been riveted to the facemask. The straps are adjustable. A rubber cross piece has the elastic straps threaded through it. Printed on the leather cross piece at the back in white is '[broad arrow symbol] / No 4. [next part obscured] / Z 8/ [number obscured] / PAT NO. 2884[obscured]505080'.

The corrigated rubber tube is covered by an olive coloured stockinette and is longer than the standard tube. This gave freer movement to the vehicle crews. In the middle of the tube, a piece of 25 mm cotton webbing has been wrapped around the stockinette and sewn into place. At the end of the webbing is a brass eyelet. A piece of string would be threaded through the eyelet for attachment to a uniform, keeping the tube from getting in the way of the person using it.

The canister at the end of the tube is dull red in colour and contains the chemical agents to neutralise gas. Stamped on top of the canister in black is a '[broad arrow symbol]' On the other side at the top is 'Z 1/9/41 / A T'. This marking has been punched into the metal from the under side. On the bottom of the canister also stamped from the under side is 'U 6 / E VI'. Stamped into the metal from the top is 'NO 4A / MB / 1941'.

History / Summary

Associated with the service of Lieutenant Hugh Randall Syme, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR). Syme was born on 28 February 1903 at Kew, Melbourne. His father, John Herbert, was a journalist, and his son settled into the family business (they published 'The Age' newspaper) as assistant manager before the war. As a keen amateur sailor, the 6 foot tall Syme was accepted in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR) as part of the Yachtsman Scheme (whereby the Australian Naval Board provided personnel to the Admiralty via the RANVR).

He passed a navigation test and was appointed a probationary sub-lieutenant on 1 September 1940. Syme was soon mobilised to England and trained at HMS King Alfred. He was among the first group of Australians to be chosen to serve in the Rendering Mines Safe section and they received specialist training and were posted to HMS Vernon where the section was based.

Syme was promoted to lieutenant in mid December 1940. German bombing and air raids ensured the team had plenty of practice disarming unexploded mines and bombs. Syme rapidly developed a reputation for bravery, being awarded the George Cross and George Medal and bar for a string of successful mine recoveries. He is only one of eight people who have been awarded both the George Cross and George Medals for gallantry.

In January 1943 Syme returned to Australia following the deaths of his father and uncle, becoming temporary trustee of the family business. Despite his desire to return England, the RAN decided to keep him in Australia and utilise his expertise, setting him up in April 1943 at HMAS Cerberus as Commanding Officer of a bomb-disposal section. Little was asked of the section and Syme departed in December 1944, returning to the family business. In 1946 he was appointed general manager of 'The Age'. Syme returned to uniform briefly as part of Australia's Coronation Contingent in 1953. In 1948, Syme formed David Syme & Co. Ltd. He oversaw the company's entry into television in 1956 and was general manager until 1963. Syme was then director of the company until his death on 11 November 1965.