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Industries – Mining – Mines Rescue Breathing Apparatus

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The ‘Proto’ breathing apparatus was an incredibly heavy piece of equipment worn by mines rescue workers. It supplied them with clean air to breathe as they searched underground for trapped or missing miners.

This Proto breathing apparatus was designed by German company, Siebe Gorman at the beginning of the 20th century. Intended for use in mines rescue, it was used extensively during WW1 to rescue tunnellers and engineers caught up in gas explosions.

In the early days of the war, rescue attempts by unprotected men resulted in multiple casualties as they attempted to save their comrades. Existing equipment was hopelessly outdated, but this was quickly recognised and soon the most modern self-contained breathing apparatus was being used: the ‘Proto’.

Many thousands of ‘Proto men’ were taught behind the lines of the Western Front to use the equipment. By 1916 there were five special establishments training Tunnellers in the use of the apparatus and rescue techniques. Each Tunnelling Company had its Proto men on permanent standby in a specially equipped dugout located in or close to the tunnel system.