Film ID: YFA 5621 Video of YFA_5621 Repairing Track After Mustard Gas Attack REPAIRING TRACK AFTER MUSTARD GAS ATTACK c.1940 Visitor TabsDescription This is a training film by the London Midland and Scottish Railway, with a realistic demonstration of how to deal with a mustard bomb attack on the railway. Intertitle – There are two dangers from Mustard Gas. The liquid burns and blisters the skin wherever it touches, and the vapour that is given off burns the skin and attacks the lungs if breathed. Oil skin, gumboots and gloves give protection against contact with the liquid, whilst the respirator and special form of overall suit guard against vapour risk. The District Engineer and his staff accompanied by a Gas Safety Officer (GSO) arrive to determine the exact extent of the contamination and to decide on the method of working. You will see the GSO exploring the site for signs of contamination. He uses a prodding stick on the end of which pieces of detecting paper are fixed. Men in protective clothing survey the damaged rail and area. One of them places the stick against a rail and tears a piece of paper off the end. He holds it up to show to the camera and tears off another strip. Intertitle – “Gas Danger” boards are set up to mark the extent of the dangerous area. Men should not enter this area unless wearing a respirator and protective clothing. A man inserts the “Gas Danger” sign into the ground, which also has written on it, “LMS Air Raid Protection”. Intertitle – A smoky fire is lit near the crater to show the wind direction and indicate the spread of the mustard vapour. A man puts a match to some material which gives off a lot of smoke. A diagram is shown indicating the crater and wind direction, followed by another diagram with the same features, only this time on a larger scale and showing the position of the ARP unit. Intertitle – The engineer’s repair gang and the S&T engineer’s men are brought to the scene in a Northampton ARP unit attached to the ballast train. A train of coaches and wagons arrives. Intertitle – During the journey, the men change into their protective clothing, assisted by the dressing staff who accompany the train. Inside one of the carriages the men change into their protective clothing, helped by some other men, of plastic leggings and coats, gumboots, gauntlets, gas mask, and plastic hood which wraps around the head and neck. Intertitle – Each man is given a number and his equipment is marked accordingly. The number is written on the forehead, the back and on the boots. Intertitle – The men emerge full dressed from the ARP unit as soon as it arrives. Each wears the overall suit underneath oilskin clothing of which several types are on trial. The men get out of the carriage and make their way to the site. Intertitle – You will see the heavy anti-gas suit. It gives good protection, but is difficult to work in when the weather is hot. One of the men displays the suit for the camera. Intertitle – The next man wears a light anti-gas suit consisting of short coat and leggings. This too is shown for the camera. Intertitle – Finally, there is a man wearing an anti-gas cape and leggings. This equipment is reasonably cool to work in, but the cape is too full and liable to tear. This too is displayed to the camera. Tools are carried on a special tool van and arranged so that they can be handed out with the minimum of delay. The tools, including wheel barrows, are handed out from the wagons. Intertitle – In a moment you will see two of the decontamination squad, dressed in long black oilskin coats, place a tray of bleach a short distance outside the contaminated area. This is shown. Intertitle – All men coming from the contaminated area must pass through this tray to prevent the spread of the liquid mustard. They also keep to the path marked “dirty”. The “Dirty” sign is seen in the ground with an arrow. Intertitle – Men wheel up the tongs for handling the sleepers and rails while others shovel out ashes from the end of the wagon into the crater. A group of the men push wheelbarrows to the site, some empty, some with tools in. We then see the ashes being shovelled out of the wagon and onto the contaminated area. Intertitle – Notice that hoods are worn by men working in the high vapour concentration near the crater. Again the men are shown shovelling. Intertitle – Next you see S&T men preparing to fix a temporary line on the nearest pole unaffected by the explosion. A man goes up a pole on a ladder and attaches a line. Reel Two Intertitle – Another shift continues to work on the track. Here is a badly twisted and heavily contaminated rail being lifted away and placed downwind of the crater. The men pick up the rail and lift it to one side, along with several sleepers, while the shovelling continues. Intertitle – S&T men decontaminate the point rodding by brushing over with bleach cream. A man applies the cream out of a bucket to the rodding with a brush. Intertitle – The damaged point rodding is then straightened. Two men straighten the rodding by wedging it under a rail. Intertitle – Other men proceed to erect the telegraph pole blown down by the HE bomb. This pole is heavily contaminated with mustard and has been brushed over with bleach cream. The men are shown struggling to erect the pole using ladders and chains. Intertitle – It will be seen that the S&T men have rubber gloves to facilitate detail work with the fingers. The rodding is shown being replaced. Intertitle – Notice the white horse on which tools must be leant to keep them off contaminated ground. This is shown, while the men continue fixing the rodding. Intertitle – The posts carrying in the signal wires are driven in. Notice how the man with the hammer seems to be panting after his efforts and rests for a few moments. A man hammers the posts in, stopping after every few blows. Intertitle – It is dinnertime for the next shift. They return to the ARP unit to be undressed and have a meal. The men returning form a queue to each in turn walk through the decontamination tray and walk along the “dirt” path. Intertitle – Gum boots are removed first by undressers who wear gloves, but protective clothing is taken off in the unit by undressers whose hands are covered with anti-gas ointment No.2. The men have their boots removed outside the wagon. Intertitle – Note the mistakes of the men who allowed their stocking feet to touch the ground, and of the dresser who possibly contaminates the inside of a boot with his glove. More men have their boots removed before walking up the ladder into the coach, all doing it incorrectly. Intertitle – The correct procedure is to swing the feet round like this. This is demonstrated. Inside the undressers scrub their hands and have their clothing removed. Intertitle – Respirators and protective clothing are removed and hung outside the coach on special rails and hooks. The men are shown being undressed and then passing through a curtain with their clothing and masks being passed outside the coach and hung up on hooks attached to the coach. Intertitle – As soon as the men have been undressed they wash their hands, put on whatever of their own clothing they need, and proceed to the next vehicle to eat their dinner. End of Reel Two 31.47 – 32.35 Intertitle – The relaying gang continue their work. Two of the gang, wearing protective clothing, hammer in wooden keys. Intertitle – Damaged rails and sleepers are removed. Note tool rack to prevent tool handles becoming contaminated when not in use. A fishplate between rails is unscrewed and a rail is levered over out of the way. Then sleepers are removed. Intertitle – And new ones put in place. A long line of men push a rail off a wagon onto the ballast. Intertitle – Rail tongs are picked up from a barrow and new rails brought up and placed in position. The men drag the rail over the sleepers with the tongs into position, followed by another one. Intertitle – Rapid progress is now made towards completion of the track. The rails have been attached to the sleepers and keys are banged in. Then ash is shovelled over the ballast. A section of track is jacked up so that ash can be shovelled under the sleepers. A fishplate is attached between two rails. Intertitle – Note that the GSO now allows the men to work without respirators as the contaminated area has been covered with fresh ashes. The men continue working relaying the track. The train is propelled over the line to test it. Intertitle – Their task completed, the men proceed to decontaminate the tools – wooden parts with bleach cream and metal parts with waste moistened with paraffin. Two of the men clean shovels and hammers, one the wooden part, the other the metal part, and return them to the wagon. Intertitle – All waste used for decontamination is immediately burned. One of the men puts a match to some material. Intertitle – The last man to leave the decontaminated area. Their protective clothing is removed and placed in bins to be sent to a decontamination centre. Again we see the men in single file going through the decontamination trough and having their boots removed. The boots are then all placed in a bin which is loaded on a wagon. The train then sets off. Title – The End London Midland and Scottish Railway Company Context Yet another example of the meticulous preparations made by Britain for any kind of attack from the Nazis, as the Phoney War gives way to the Blitz. In this case railway personnel combine military and medical expertise in dealing with a crater on a railway line caused by an enemy mustard bomb. Covered from head to foot in plastic, and rubber, with matching gas masks, these men take every precaution to avoid the treacherous vapour, cleaning anything that might be contaminated. This is one of a large collection of British Rail, and some pre- British Rail, films inherited by the track renewals company Fastline in 1996, and passed on to Fastline Photography when they folded in 2010. This training film, with a realistic demonstration of how to deal with a mustard bomb attack, gives a scenario that fortunately was never faced. Every adult and child was issued with a gas mask on the outbreak of war, with a legal requirement to carry it at all times. Although mustard gas was heavily used in World War I, and by the Italians in Abyssinia just a few years earlier, it seems fear of retaliation prevented its use in this war. Yet it seems that in 1941 the threat was still perceived to be real.