Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Bat with Two Engines?

   The Savoia Marchetti S.81 bis.
   The picture above the headlines portrays the S. 81 bis, an almost unknown version of the Savoia Marchetti S.81 Pipistrello (Bat), a very important, ubiquitous  Italian bomber that fought in the Ethiopian campaign, in the Spanish Civil War and in all the theaters of the Second World War in which the Regia Aeronautica was engaged (and, later, even with the Luftwaffe).

The S.81 prototype

At or around the end of 1934 and the beginning of 1935, when the production of the Savoia Marchetti S. 73B (Belgium) airliner for SABENA began, the S.73's were advertised as derivatives of the S. 81 Pipistrello bomber which, meanwhile, had reached the flight test stage of its development; but the three-engined S. 73 airliner did not derive from the bomber at all. In fact, as late as September of 1934, the 18 passenger airliner version of the S.81 was still referred to as the S. 73C (Civile, that is, commercial).

Aguelock (in today's Mali), 1937. A Touareg is guarding a Belgian SABENA's S.73 that is being refuelled, before continuing on the "King Albert Route" to Black Africa.  

Actually, without a doubt, the variant of the S.81 that featured the highest number of modifications, with respect to the Pipistrello, was the S.81 bis, which was another of the many Italian attempts to transform a three-engine aircraft into a twin (the most famous one is probably the S.M. 79B). 
The only S.81 bis that was ever built was propelled by two 840 hp (kW 618), V 12, liquid cooled  Isotta Fraschini Asso XI RC, and it featured a windowed bow which housed the station of the bombardier. 
Since the empty weight and the payload had remained basically the same, the airplane suffered from the scarce power of the two engines, which was about 20% lower than the power of its trimotor progenitor; and in fact the S.81 bis was never able to reach an airspeed higher than 185 knots. As a result, the two engine Bat was terminated.

1938. A CSA's S.73 in Prague-Ruzyne

This was the much - edited translation of a couple of paragraphs of an article from the July-August 1978 issue of the Italian aviation magazine "Aerei." The picture of the Touareg came from the book "Dai Wright all'avvento del jet," di Nino Arena, Edizioni Bizzarri, Roma, 1976.

Leonardo Pavese


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Red Who Happened To Be Black


By Marco Respinti (translated by L. Pavese)

Good confessors tell the sinners, who are determined to change, that a long period of abstinence is equivalent to a second virginity. Maybe that’s the reason why the “canonization,” while he was still living, of Nelson Mandela made everybody forget his true origins. But that’s why good journalists exist.
Nelson Mandela’s real name was Rolihlahla Dalibhunga, and he was a prince of the cadet branch of the xhosa speaking line of Thembus. He was born on July 18, 1918 on the shore of the river Mbashe, in the district of Umtata, in Tembuland, capital of Transkei (the former Bantustan), in the south-eastern Republic of South Africa, which has been  independent since 1979. The family moved to Qunu, where many still think he was born, when his father lost his succession rights to the throne and fell out of favor with the colonial authorities. In elementary school, a methodist pastor, who was fascinated by the hero of the battle of Trafalgar and could not pronounce the name “Rolihlahla,” rechristened him Nelson. For the record, Rolihlahla means troublemaker. The last name Mandela was the first name of a son of one of Nelson’s ancestors, King Ngubengcuka, that had been passed on as a surname.
In 1940, when he was twenty-two years old, he and his cousin Justice rebelled against the marriage arranged by the Thembu chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who had raised him like a son. But Nelson eventually would have three wives, (his father had four, and he was a son of the third one), the most famous one of whom was Winnie Madikizela, who was very very much involved with the 1980’s and 1990’s bloodbaths of Soweto and vicinities. Winnie was such an extremist that even Nelson one day would eventually opt for a second virginity in democratic clothes and repudiate her.
Nelson joined the ANC in 1942, and befriended Yossel Mashel “Joe” Slovo, the future leader of the South African Communist Party. In 1952, Mandela became the president of the Transvaal chapter of the organization, and in 1961 he created Umkhonto we Sizwe (“The Lance of the Nation”), the armed branch of the ANC. People in the streets began to get hurt. Blacks who did not feel represented by the ANC or by the Communist Party ended up with a burning tire around their necks. 

The racial problem in South Africa had been huge at least since 1948, the year in which the Nasionale Party (the Afrikaan nationalist party) had impose the apartheid regime; but it was clear that the communist character of the ANC was not the solution but part of the problem. It was a big problem, for example, for the Inkatha Freedom Party, led by the Zulu King Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who was very black and also a sworn enemy of communism and of the ANC. On the other hand, Comrade Slovo was of white Lithuanian origin.
On May 5, 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested in Howick, Natal, and sentenced to five years in jail for minor crimes.  In his wake he had already left a series of attacks that, from the 19th to the 21st of March 1960, had killed 86 people and wounded 424. All the attacks had been attributed to the ANC and to its separatist wing, the Pan African Congress. Then, on July 11, 1963, in Rivonia, near Johannesburg, the police discovered the clandestine headquarters of the Lance of the Nation. Mandela was under pressure again, and finally he was convicted of conspiracy. One hundred and seventy-three witnesses were heard at the trial, but it was Nelson Mandela himself who openly admitted that his organization was pursuing its goals through violent means. Moreover, he confessed to have personally planned sabotages and to have set up military training camps abroad, including one in Algeria that he had personally supervised. After all, he had also theorized the armed class struggle in several manuals (such as one entitled “How To Be A Good Communist”),  in political writings about “dialectic materialism,” that emerged during the Rivonia trial, and in the pamphlet entitled “Operation Mayibuye” (“Return”), where he cited the precedent of the communist guerrilla war in Cuba, which had won and survived. In one of the texts seized by the police and presented in the courtroom, Mandela described in detail the path of honor to be followed in the name of Marxism-Leninism, for which it was necessary to procure, among other things: 210,000 hand grenades, 48,000 of the infamous anti-personnel mines and 1500 detonators for as many bombs.
On August 23, 1985, in an unsigned interview published by the Italian daily La Stampa, Mandela laid it all out: “The white man must be totally defeated and wiped off the face of the earth, before the communist world can be realized.” Mandela spent 26 and a half years in jail, from June 1964 to February 11, 1990. Later, as a free man, he rose to the presidency of the good old ANC, and on March 10, 1994, he became the democratic and acclaimed president of the new post-racial South Africa. One of his ministers was the ever-present white and red Joe Slovo.
Inspired by Karl Marx and by the priests of the Liberation Theology, Mandela has been compared to the Mahatma Gandhi (who began his career in South Africa as well, and was also an admirer of the philosopher from Treviri). In his land he was venerated as “Mandiba,” an honorary title of the elder members of his clan, that became a world renowned nickname. In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, notwithstanding his past as a communist guerrilla fighter, his siding with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, his friendship with Yasser Arafat (an anti-semite, a terrorist and also a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994), Fidel Castro, and Muammar Gaddafi; and even if, in an August 23, 1985 John Lofton interview in The Washington Post, he had declared: “there is no alternative to violent revolution; there is no space for peaceful confrontation.” Apartheid was disgusting; racial segregation was too; racism even worse. But could that be that Nelson Mandela just happened to be black?
The article appeared originally on the Italian daily l'intraprendente, and was translated and published here with their permission. Marco Respinti is an Italian author and the director of the Russell Kirk Center. Your comments to the article will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, L. Pavese.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Die Italiaanse Korps

The Italian volunteers for the Boer cause.  
By Alberto Rosselli (Translated by L. Pavese)

December 25, 1899, Austral Africa. 

In a clearing near the city of Dundee, in Southern Transvaal, a tall and bearded officer of the Boer army wearing a worn broad-brimmed hat and carrying a Mauser rifle is reviewing a curious-looking unit, consisting of three hundred soldiers, dressed and armed in the most varied and colorful ways.
The officer is haranguing the soldiers, inciting them to fight the British oppressor who is bent on wiping out the Boer state’s freedom dream. At first sight, the scene would not be an incongruous one because, a few weeks before, the  Boer president Paul Kruger had begun the mobilization of the Afrikaners against Her Majesty’s army.  This unit, however, had been formed by Italians residing in the Transvaal who were determined to give their contribution (together with German, Austrian, Irish, French and American volunteers) to the cause of the African Dutch, whom Queen Victoria had promised to eradicate from the land of gold and diamonds.

A map that shows Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, which was created by Great Britain after it annexed the Orange Free State.

At the head of the Italian legion (or, as General Piet Joubert called it, “Die Italiaanse Korps” or the “Italian Scouts”) was a thirty-four-year old Piedmontese fighter and war correspondent, Giuseppe Camillo Pietro Ricchiardi, born in Alba and already a veteran of many campaigns in the Philippines, Siam, and  China, behind a sword as well as his typewriter.
The war between the Boers and Great Britain had broken out only a couple of months before (on October 10, 1899), and in Colenso, by that December, Ricchiardi already had had the chance to show off his worth as a fighter. At the beginning of November, near Chievelrey, he had led a victorious assault against a British armoured train and captured several enemy soldiers and officers, among whom there was a young reporter by the name of  Winston Spencer Leonard Churchill, who had been attached to the South African Light Horse Colonial Regiment.
General Louis Botha had tasked Captain Ricchiardi, who already led a small group of 50 Italian volunteers, with organizing in Johannesburg a volunteer battalion formed almost entirely by Italian miners, cooks, hunters, farmers, ranchers and explorers; and the former Second Lieutenant of the 4th Cavalry Regiment “Genoa” had not waited to be asked twice. Thanks to his charisma, his persuasive eloquence, his looks that resembled the figure of a Garibaldian leader, and the help of First Lieutenant, Count Pecci and Major Caldara, Ricchiardi was able in record time to gather and train in the use of weapons about 280 compatriots.
In January 1900, Ricchiardi was promoted Feldcornet (Major) and was given permission to appoint his own curious and almost entirely Italian and aristocratic staff, consisting of Captain Edgardo Rossegger, from Trieste, the Genoese-Dutch-Italian Giobatta Van Ameringen, and the Lieutenants (and Barons) Von Carlsberg, Paratico di Lantieri and Von der Lippe. Lieutenant and reporter Eugenio Boccalone (from Genoa), Corporals Rizzola (from Cesena), and Carmelo and Francesco Degiovanni (from Catania) completed the group.

A group of volunteers: Colonel Ricchiardi is the second one standing, from the left. Major Caldara is the first from the left, sitting.


Ricchiardi, who was a gourmand, had  also inserted in the staff the chief mule driver Silvio Sella, who, notwithstanding his name (sella means saddle in Italian) and his job, happened to be also the best chef in Johannesburg.
On January 24, 1900, during the bloody and famous battle of Spionkop, the members of the Italian legion covered themselves with glory, charging with bayonets a large British unit and causing it to flee. The following month, the Italian Brigade (as the Britons called it) took part in more fights and, because of its extraordinary maneuvering capability and aggressiveness, was mentioned several times in the war bulletins from Pretoria. In May, following the addition of many fresh French volunteers, the “Italian Legion” changed its name to the “Latin Brigade,” reaching a force of 2000 men.
On September 1st, 1900, Ricchiardi (who by now was known as the African Garibaldi) was promoted to Colonel and commander in chief of all the foreign volunteer units (the German Legion, the Austrian Corps, the International Irish Brigade, the American Explorer Group and the French Corps); but the Italians remained the hard core of the Latin Brigade.
When the Autumn of 1900 was approaching, horse mounted patrols of legionnaires specialized in sapping actions behind the British lines, harassing the enemy units. After blowing up an ammunition depot, the commandos led by the Genoese Giovanni Carcioffo left the following jeering message for Lord Roberts, the commander in chief of the British army: “We will be back again to see you. Tell your soldiers not to sleep so much! The Italian Legion!”
But notwithstanding the heroism of the Boer army and its international allies, the war was turning in favor of Great Britain. The Britons by then were enjoying an overwhelming, to say the least, superiority in terms of number and equipment. At the beginning of Fall of 1900, President Kruger, after having thanked and praised the Legion, ordered it to disband, but not before he had regularly compensated the troops. A few days later, all the volunteers crossed the border into Mozambique, heading to Lourenço Marquez (Maputo), where a steamer was waiting for them. Only a small group of diehards (not more than twenty and all Italian) remained behind in Boer land. Their names are unknown. They would fight till the end in the area of Komatipoort (in northern Transvaal) beside their Boer brothers.

President Paul Kruger

Colonel Ricchiardi and the other Italian and foreign veterans (386 out of the original 2000) landed in Trieste on October 31, 1900, welcomed by a small crowd and a reporter from the daily newspaper “Il Piccolo,” who described the scene as follows: “I meet Colonel Ricchiardi aboard the steamer Stirya. Notwithstanding the suffering, he’s still young: he’s a splendid type of gentleman-soldier...Before ordering his men to disembark, he asks a boy to play the Boer national anthem, one last time, with the harmonica...all the volunteers uncovered their heads and followed... A solemn and sad song rose from the bridge and it ended with a thunderous Hurray for Kruger! Hurray for the free Transvaal!”

The epic of the “Italian Legion” was over.

Alberto Rosselli is an Italian historian and an author who also contributes to several daily newspapers. He edits the Italian magazine Storia Verità (appropriately called the "non politically-correct history magazine"), from which this article was taken and translated with his permission.

Mr. Rosselli is also the author of an interesting book about the Turkish Air Force in the First World War, entitled "Le Aquile della Mezzaluna" (The Eagles of the Crescent"), whose cover you can see below:

I hope you enjoyed the article and your comments, as usual, will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, (and many thanks to J.J.P. for reviewing the English text).

Leonardo Pavese