The Penna respirator, sometimes referred to just as Penna mask, was the first domestic design gas mask adopted by the Italian army after the Great War, succeeding the English SBR. The mask was named after Lorenzo Penna, the Generale del Genio (military engineering general) who founded the S.C.M. (Servizio Chimico Militare, chemical military service).
Mask overview EditThe Penna mask's face piece was made of a two layers rubber, green and textured on the outside and beige on the inside. The head harness had six straps. The "Triplex" eye pieces were made of three layers, two glass ones and a cellulose one that tended to become orange over time. Inside the mask there was a sponge bridge that acted like an oral-nasal cup, separating the face piece in two parts and preventing fogging while wearing the mask. To even further prevent fogging, anti-fogging lenses could be put using eye clips. The intake-outtake piece was connected to the mask at the bottom and tended not to point straight forward but to bend to one side because of the soft rubber; it was a pipe with three holes: one for the hose, one for the connection to the mask and the third was for the exhale valve, an aluminum disc with two complementary thin rubber discs kept still by a lid and sealed with a rubber ring; inside there was an inhale valve to allow longer duration of the filter. The filter itself was attached through a pleated hose to the aforementioned piece and itself was stored in its bag.
Filter EditThe original Penna mask was provided with a large box filter coulored green. During later use and especially after 1933, the mask was connected to an M.33 filter or more rarely an M.31 filter.
Kit EditThe mask came in satchel made usually of green and rarely of brown cloth: it had two sections, one for the mask and the other for the filter and hose. The filter section had holes to allow air flow. Inside the side pocket, there were a pair of anti-fogging lenses, specifically made for this mask. The main strap had a special buckle to be shortened when the mask was in use; the small string on the side of the satchel helped keeping the aforementioned firmly onto the wearer's chest.
The 1933 upgrade Edit
In 1933 the Penna respirators were upgraded with a new 5-points elastic head harness, which would become standard in italian military masks. To switch to the new set-up, the masks were deprived of the old harness by ungluing the 4 lower straps and by cutting the rubber where the two upper straps were held. This process was executed to almost all masks, making Penna respirators with the original setup extremely rare. Some Penna masks are found with the more modern eye pieces, but that wasn't a standard procedure. The main use to the newly upgraded Penna respirators was to train soldiers in the use of gas masks, and they were issued with their old bag and an M.33 filter. On rare cases, Penna masks were used for second line duties, like terrestrial navy units, and in even rarer cases they were used by Italian soldiers or native rebels during the Spanish civil war.