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Different types of canisters, from left to right: example produced with wood and oilcloth, example produced with vulcanized fiber, example produced with alluminium

The Polivalente Z was the first domestic full-face mask used by the Italian army during the first world war.

Mask overview[]

Internal part of the polivalente Z

The mask was made of multiple layers of lint soaked in blocking substances, which were sewn and riveted between themselves, making them able to fit a soldier's face with an air-tight seal. Those layers, which acted as the filter, were covered by a coating of grey-green waxed canvas. The eye pieces where made of mica and tended to break easily, reason why in later production they had some metal strengthening. The mask was wore using a three point harness made of an elastic material.

Development[]

Italian soldier wearing the polivalente Z

After the introduction of the Tipo ad imbuto over the Camician-Pesci, some problems where solved while others were not: it didn't last very long, it irritated the skin and did not protect the whole face. Since 1915, many designs where tried, but the italian General Staff's negligence held back the research. Meanwhile, the french M2 was used because of the better protective ability against phosgene.

In 1917 Edward Harrison invented the small box respirator, which was adopted by all allied forces. The cost was very high compared to previous designs the Army used, circa 1 £ for each mask. When the filter ran out, the mask was shipped back to England, where the filter would be replaced and then the kit would be sold again for the same price as before. Because of that high price, many soldiers were equipped with the cheaper Polivalente Z, competent enough to be able to protect from all gasses used in the war, even if for a short period.

The kit[]

Polivalente Z with its full kit

polivalente Z with the classic text visible

The mask came in a box made of metal or canvas covered wood that featured the very well known text: "Chi si leva la maschera muore, tenetela sempre con voi", that means "whoever takes off the mask dies, always keep it with you". Usually in the box there was a pamphlet explaining how to use the mask.

Instruction pamphlet of the polivalente Z