"The devastating effects of poison gas on soldiers during the First World War led the British government to undertake extensive research to ensure future protection of soldiers and civilians alike. In 1939 gas masks were distributed to 38 million British civilians in preparation for possible gas attacks. The requirement to carry a gas mask at all times was often neglected by the British public. A contemporary joke was that the only people in London carrying gas masks were German spies. Manufacturers sought to add to their appeal by producing fashionable bags specially designed to carry them."
[Scanned from Accessorize!: 250 Objects of Fashion & Desire]