Count Francesco Baracca – Italy’s No.1 Ace 1888 / 1918 Pt 2
The Nieuport 11 single seat fighter, armed with 2 lewis guns entered Italian service in April 1916. And on the 7th of April flying this aircraft, Baracca scored his 1st victory, holing the fuel tank of a Hansa Brandenberg C1 and wounding both of the crew. This was Italy’s first aerial victory of the war. This 1st victory featured his favourite manoeuvre, which was to zoom in unseen behind and below an enemy and then fire at close range.
It was a little later that Baracca, now flying a Nieuport 17 adopted as his personal emblem, the black prancing horse in tribute to his former cavalry regiment. This prompted some of the Tabloids to dub him, ‘Cavalier of the Skies’ flying the Nieuport 17 and then from March 1917, The Spad VII, he scored both individually, and in combination with other Italian aces.
Baracca’s second victory was an Austrian Lohner over Gorizia on April 1916, after his third victory he was transferred to 70a Squadriglia. Promoted to Capitano, Baracca remained with this unit until with 9 victories, he was transferred to The newly-formed 91st Squadriglia, known as the ‘Squadron of the Aces’ on 1st May 1917. By that time his ever increasing list of victories had made him nationally famous. Whilst he had initially dodged the responsibilities and paperwork that went with command, he finally settled in to heading the squadron.
Baracca’s friend and Ace Fulco Ruffio di Calabria, came close to ending Baracca’s career, and life in June 1917, Fulco burst out of a cloud firing in a head-on pass at a enemy aircraft barely missing Baracca’s aircraft. Later on the ground Baracca assured his companion, ‘Dear Fulco, next time if you want to shoot me down, aim a couple of metres to the right, now lets go for a drink and not talk about it any more.’
To Be Continued …………
(C) Damian Grange 2018