British pattern gas mask Respirator bag : Lieutenant H N Matthews, 2 Battalion AIF

Place Europe: France
Accession Number RELAWM13511
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Personal Equipment
Physical description Brass, Canvas, Cardboard, Cotton drill, Leather, Metal, String
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1917-1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

British pattern gas mask respirator bag. On the inside of the flap are stamped in black ink some manufacturers markings featuring illegible numbers and digits and a government broad arrow. A central rectangular stamping has a manufacturers title 'Weston & ?' with the number '1917' below.

The inside of the bag is divided by a canvas flap into two different sized compartments for the respirator and mask. Inside the smaller compartment base is a natural metal spacing coil. All surfaces on the exterior of the bag are heavily soiled. On the front of the bag is a large stain. Handwritten in black ink on the front of the bag is 'H.MATTHEWS.'. The bag still has all of its original brass fittings and buttons.

Several objects are contained in the bag, including a circular piece of metal with a small retaining pin through the middle and a broken metal tube of 'glasso anti-dimming composition' complete with opened cardboard container and a square piece of used denim for applying the composition to the lenses of the gas mask. Printed on one side of the cardboard container is 'GLASSO ANTI DIMMING COMPOSITION - Directions for Use. Wipe the inner surface of the eyepieces of the Box Respirator or Sponge Goggles until clean and dry. Apply a little of the composition from the tube to the cleaned surface, rub it in with the finger and then polish gently with a soft rag until the eyepiece is clear. Do not use the mask material for polishing'. On the other side is printed 'The composition is to be applied to eyepieces of Box Respirators or Sponge Goggles once weekly, or each time that the Respirator or Goggles have been worn'.

History / Summary

This gas mask respirator bag was carried in France by Lieutenant Henry Nicholls Matthews. Matthews was born on 12 July 1894 in Young, NSW. Before enlisting for the AIF, he worked as a railway clerk in Prospect a western district of Sydney. He had prior military service to joining the AIF, serving with the 20th Infantry in the Australian Military Forces (militia).

Matthews enlisted on 20 February 1916 with the 2nd Battalion. He underwent officer training at Duntroon, Canberra until October. In 1917 he applied for a commission in the AIF and was made a second lieutenant in May. He left Sydney on 19 December 1917 sailing aboard HMAT A38 Ulysses, and attended the School of Instruction for Infantry officers at Candahar Barracks from 1 April to the 4 May 1918. On 1 September 1918 Matthews was promoted to lieutenant.

In June 1918 he embarked for France, where he joined his battalion. The battalion had returned to the Somme Valley and helped stop the German spring offensive in March and April. The battalion subsequently participated in the Allies' own offensive, launched to the east of Amiens on 8 August 1918. Matthews returned to Australia on 30 April 1919. When not in an area near the frontline the respirator and bag were slung across the shoulder of the wearer. When moving into a forward area it was worn at the 'ready' position, centrally located on the middle of the chest with the flap folding away from the wearer.