Former Avon Rubber workers who helped develop a respiratory mask used by the Ministry of Defence for more than 20 years were invited to the firm’s headquarters in Semington on Wednesday.

The millionth S10 Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) mask was presented to General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue, Defence Equipment and Support’s Chief of Defence Material, by David Evans, non executive director of Avon Rubber at the factory in Hampton Park West.

Among those watching the presentation were four former workers involved with the development of the mask before it was introduced into service in the MoD in 1986.

They included Trowbridge man Cyril Angell, who was first employed by Avon in September 1939 aged 16 and was involved in developing the S10, along with other Avon masks and equipment, throughout a career spanning six decades.

Chairman of Avon Rubber Sir Richard Needham said: “We are delighted and honoured to welcome Sir Kevin to our plant here in Melksham.

“Sir Kevin’s visit is in recognition of the major part Avon and its employees play in protecting the UK’s soldiers against the historical, current and future threat, and goes to prove how highly thought of and reliable Avon’s respirators really are in the heat of battle.”

Following the presentation of the milestone mask, which was spray painted gold, the General was taken for a tour of the facility.

The four former workers, David Pike, Brian Davis, Bob Gough and Mr Angell, who had all helped develop the S10, were also shown round the present-day factory.

Since the S10’s introduction more than 20 years ago the US Department of Defence has also awarded Avon Protection (part of Avon Rubber) in Melksham a $100million contract to build and supply the Joint Service General Purpose Mask (JSGPM) for its troops.

Staff reunited for presentation -

FOUR workers who had a hand in producing the S10 mask were at the factory to see how their ideas and designs have developed over the years.

Cyril Angell, 86, from Trowbridge , Bob Gough, 66, from Westbury, Brian Davis from Bratton and David Pike, 74, from Salisbury all worked for the company when the mask was still in the pipeline.

Mr Angell, of Silver Street Lane, received an MBE in July 1986 for his work on the S10 mask, as well as other respiratory products.

He said: “I first started at Avon on September 2, 1939 when I was 16. It was a Saturday and the day before the Second World War was declared.

“There was an advertisement in the Wiltshire Times for a lab assistant and I went along for an interview and started the next day.

“I actually ended up painting and blacking out all the windows for three weeks as my first job because of the news of the war.”

Mr Angell worked for Avon Rubber from 1939 until 1942, when he served in the army. When he returned from service in 1947 he returned to the firm and stayed there until his retirement in 1988.

Speaking about the presentation of the millionth mask, the grandfather-of-two, said: “It is brilliant, I have met so many people. I am very proud to have been involved in this.”