British Universities Film & Video Council

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BREATH OF LIFE

Series

Series Name
Mining Review 9th Year

Issue

Issue No.
6
Date Released
Feb 1956
Stories in this Issue:
  1. 1NO SMOKING
  2. 2DO IT YOURSELF
  3. 3BREATH OF LIFE

Story

Story No. within this Issue
3 / 3
Summary
BFI synopsis: new rescue breathing apparatus developed at Mansfield rescue station.
NCB Commentary - The rescue men. Used to the toughest jobs in a tough [illegible]. Ready for anything - at any time.
Rescue superintendent Quin and Divisional Rescue Manager Coulshed of the Mansfield Rescue Station, know this better than most people. They know, too, that the job isn’t made any less arduous by having to hump 40 lbs of breathing gear on your shoulders. Coulshed and Quin are men who have done something about it.
This is the standard liquid air breathing grea - all three stone of it. Coulshed and Quinn started in on the problem of how to make it a bit lighter. Back they went through the history of how this kind of gear was developed. They dug out some of the early models from the rescue station’s own museum. The good points, the bad points, they were all noted down. And then the decision was taken - not only lighten the existing gear, but make it even better. That was 4 1/2 years ago. The work went ahead.
Breathing with rescue gear on has its own peculiar difficulties. Here is normal breathing. You can see that most of our work is done in sucking air into our lungs - on the right hand column. This is how we all breathe - day in, day out. Breathing out is little effort - breathing in we do the work.
Wearing rescue gear it’s just the other way about. There’s little effort in breathing in, but while a rescue man is using up energy he has to work to breathe out stale air - look at the left hand column. All this fundamental work went on as a sideline to normal rescue station routine. If the bells went down, Coulshed and Quinn just dropped the research and got cracking.
A completely new design of breathing apparatus turned out to be the answer to the problem. Coulshed designed while Quinn fabricated - at home, at night, with fresh modifications always coming in.
This first prototype of the new gear was tested in the recruitment room of the rescue station. Coulshed and Quinn gave it a Greek name - the Aerenchion. "All right for you other chaps" said rescue man Billy Allen "but it’s me who’s the first guineapig".
The Aerenchion worked. But the original mouthpiece was nearly to cause disaster. During the first tests something happened that was very wrong indeed. This stuff is raw liquid air - well colder than zero. Breathe in this, and you’d be a walking refrigerator inside seconds.
So - back to the workbench. The air supply unit was striupped, checked, redesigned so that the fault could be eliminated.
Next, the design of a new mouthpiece. Mouths and noses were measured by the hundred. Existing masks were broken up and analysed. The shape of the human face was explored. Even Mrs Quinn came into the project as maker of the new mouthpiece, while her husband worked on into the night at his lathe.
Then at last production models of the Aerenchion were ready for testing. First person to try the grea outside the team was Coulshed’s secretary. If the Aerenchion was light enough for a woman to wear somfortably, then surely at least one of the designer’s objectives had been met.
Off went the first two Aerenchions for ministry testing. Finally uncertainty was over. With official approval behind them, Coulshed and Quinn started trying out the gear on the men who would have to use it. Their reaction - like this. Weight apart - at 30 lbs against 40 lbs the Aerenchion gives rescue men a new mobility and freedom in tight corners.
Sets were given out with orders to "break ‘em down it you can". But with the new gear, rescue men found that you can really take liberties.
And another thing. So much excess air is generated by the Aerenchion that there’s enough over for a rescue man to feed a casualty by his side. Four Coulshed and Quinn the reward is not in satisfying their original determination, but in taking progress always another step forward, in the services of the men who serve the mines.
Keywords
Mining; Safety devices
Locations
Mansfield; England; Nottinghamshire
Written sources
British Film Institute Databases   Used for synopsis
The National Archives COAL 32   /3 Scripts for Mining Review, 1949-1956
Credits:
Production Co.
Documentary Technicians Alliance
Sponsor
National Coal Board

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