Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 42

Continuing the series of passport portraits in my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
 This is Umberto Savoia an officer in the aeronautical section of the Italian Army. In 1908, Wilbur Wright (he of the Wright brothers) sold one of his aeroplanes to the Italian Army who then detailed two officers to fly the machine and thus Umberto Savoia, a talented engineer, was instructed by Wright in the novel technique of flying a heavier than air machine.

When the aircraft crashed a few months later, Savoia managed to repair it with whatever materials came to hand. It would seem that this experience served him well. In 1915, when Italy declared war on Germany to join the allies in the struggle of the Great War, he set up his own Società Anonima Construzioni Aeronautiche Savoia and began building aircraft. The following year he obtained a UK visa from the British Consulate in Turin, crossed France and embarked at Boulogne. He landed at Folkestone and spent twenty days in the UK, 'on a mission in the service of Italian military aviation'. What was he doing here? Was he trying to sell his fighter aircraft to the Royal Flying Corps? I cannot say but by the 1920s, the aircraft of Savoia-Marchetti were winning prizes for speed and performance and in the Second World War presented themselves as formidable opponents to the Allies.

This, then, is the portrait in the first passport of the second pilot of the future Italian Air Force.

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