Ernesto Cabruna was born the 2nd of June 1889 in Tortona, the Kingdom of Italy. His family were merchants. Young Cabruna attended technical school until, on the 18th of October 1907, he joined the Carabinieri Reali, Italy’s version of the Military Police. The following year, he performed commendably during the 1908 Messina earthquake. On the 30th of September 1911 he was promoted to Vice – Brigadiere. From April 1912 to May 1913 he was transferred to Tripolitania, Libya. He later took part in the occupation of Rhodes.
On the 31st of January 1915, Cabruna was promoted to Brigadiere. In October 1915 he was posted to the 10th company of the Turin and Allievi ( Cadets ) Legion. On the 15th of May 1915 whilst stationed near Asiago, he rescued victims of an Austro – Hungarian bombing raid, while under fire. his valour was rewarded with a Bronze Medal for Military Valour. In July 1916, Cabruna returned to Torino for pilot’s training. He was granted two licenses for the Maurice Farman 14, awarded on the 6th of October and the 16th of November 1916. He was posted to 29a Sqadriglia on the 28th of December 1916. He would fly reconnaissance missions while so assigned.
Ernesto Cabruna, flew his first combat sortie on the 2nd of January 1917. On the 31st of May 1917, he was promoted to Maresciallo. After completing training on Nieuport fighters, he was assigned to a fighter squadron, 84a Squadriglia. on the 21st of September 1917, he was transferred to another fighter Squadron, 80a Squadriglia. He scored his first aerial victory on the 26th of October, and another on the 5th of December. By the end of 1917, Cabruna merited a Silver award of the Medal for Military Valour.
On the 26th of January 1918, he was transferred to another fighter Squadron, 77a Sqadriglia. Their Squadron insignia was a red heart on a white circle, aft of this Cabruna added his own marking, the coat of arms of his native city of Tortona. He would score a victory with his new Squadron on the 12th of March 1918. On the 29th of March he broke away from his unit and singlehandedly attacked 11 enemy aircraft. Cabruna fired several bursts of machine gun fire into a red fighter, which exited in an abrupt dive. this daring feat was captured on the cover of a leading Italian magazine, Domenica del Corriere, the illustration was by Achille Beltrame. Although existing Austro – Hungarian losses failed to support it, Cabruna was credited with the victory.
On the 4th of April 1918, he was commissioned in to the Officer’s ranks in a battlefield promotion. On the 15th of June 1918, the number of enemy aircraft was 30, but Cabruna once again plunged into solo combat and downed his fifth victim to become an ace. He shot down two more in June, before hitting a dry spell. On the 26th of September 1918 he crashed an Ansaldo A.1.Balilla in a landing accident breaking his collarbone. The new aircraft had broken an oil line, spurting oil blinded Cabruna, and he was fortunate to survive the crash landing.
He was sidelined for two days, then returned to combat duty for Italy’s final offensive, the battle of Vittorio Veneto. He claimed to have shot down two enemy aircraft on the 25th of October for his final aerial victories. On the 2nd of November he strafed two enemy aircraft on the airfield at Aiello and destroyed them. The following day the Austro – Hungarians surrendered. Cabruna was awarded the Gold Medal for Military Valour for his later exploits. The Bongiovanni commission of 1919 conformed eight of the nine victories that Cabruna had claimed, seven enemy aircraft and a observation balloon.
(C) Damian Grange 2020