Ayrton Anti-gas Fan
During the First World War 104,000 Ayrton Anti-gas fans were issued to British troops on the Western Front. It 'was in daily use at the Front since May, 1916; principally for clearing-outs, shell-holes, mine craters, etc., of the foul gases that always accumulate in them under shell fire. These can now be cleared in from a few seconds to a few minutes, and can therefore be consolidated immediately after taking instead of having to be left for hours, and sometimes for days, before they can be entered. They are made of waterproof canvas stiffened with cane, with a wooden handle. The blade has a semi-rigid centre, with loose end and side flaps, and the back has an extra very limited hinge in it to enable it to accommodate itself to the varying shapes of the backs of parapets, corners of traverses etc. They are 3 feet 6 inches long, have a blade 15 inches square, weigh less than 1lb., can be folded and carried in the braces behind the pack.' The fan was the outcome of the experiment, begun soon after the first German cloud gas attack, to find 'some obstacle which, when oscillated in the air close to our trenches, would set up currents which would, while sending the noxious gases back towards the enemy, at the same time keep our men well supplied with fresh air from behind.' (Information from original Museum caption). A development model is also held in the collections, see MOD 1110, and in June 1917 Mrs Ayrton devised a mechanically driven fan, see MOD 1108. Mrs Ayrton was the wife of a physicist. She brought her fan before the Inventions Committee and it was rejected. Notwithstanding, a trial for the fan was arranged at Helfaut where 'The fan was found to have no appreciable effect whatever on the gas cloud: in fact, it was actually worse than useless...' (see C. H. Foulkes, 'Gas!': the story of the Special Brigade (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1934), pp. 101-102.
© IWM (FEQ 846) Catalogue Reference: FEQ 846Tags:
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