Giovanni Sabelli - History of World War I - WW1 - The Great War

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Giovanni Sabelli Information

Giovanni Sabelli

Nickname: Il Bulgaro
Place of birth: Napoli, Italy
Place of death: Bainsizza, Austro-Hungary (presently Slovenia)
Allegiance: Italy
Service/branch: Aviation
Rank: Tenente
Unit: Sez Dif Albania, 2a Squadriglia Caccia/71a Squadriglia, 91a Squadriglia Aviatik
Awards: 2 awards of Silver Medal of Military Valor

Tenente Giovanni Sabelli was an Italian World War I flying ace credited with five aerial victories. At the start of World War I, he was already an experienced combat pilot.

Early life

Giovanni Sabelli was born into a wealthy family. He studied engineering in New York. Sabelli was a pilot even before World War I, having learned to fly at Brooklands, England in 1912. He was awarded his pilot's certificate by the Royal Aero Club on 30 January 1912. During the First Balkan War, he volunteered to fly combat for the Bulgarians against the Turks.

Flying career

He joined the Italian air service when Italy entered World War I. Although already a licensed pilot and a combat veteran, he had to pass new flying examinations to fly for his country. He "snapped in" with the Adriatic Defense Flight before being sent to France to train on Nieuport 11s on 15 October 1915. He returned to Italy to fly combat for a while, being posted on 1 February 1916 to 2a Squadriglia Caccia, but without scoring any aerial victories, but winning a Silver Medal of Military Valor. He then served as a Nieuport test pilot for a short spell. His next assignment was command of a Nieuport Defence Section in Albania. Being eager to score victories, he wished to return to the fighting in Italy; he mentioned this to Francesco Baracca. On 23 March 1917, Baracca alerted Sabelli that his return to Italy was imminent. When the orders came through in April, Sabelli managed a return surface journey from Albania to Italy in only 22 hours. He rejoined his old unit, now denoted as 71a Squadriglia. He would spend only a few days there.

On 9 May 1917, he was assigned to 91a Squadriglia at the request of Baracca, who was amassing a squadron of the best Italian fighter pilots. Sabelli had an insignia of a ladder painted on his Spad. In company with Michele Allasia, Sabelli scored his first victory on 10 August 1917, shooting down a Hansa-Brandenburg C.I trailing leader's streamers. On 6 September, Sabelli launched such an impetuous attack on a Hansa-Brandenburg C.I that he nearly collided with Barraca; the Austro-Hungarian plane crashlanded with the observer dead and the pilot wounded, for Sabelli's second triumph. On 17 September, he singlehandedly shot down another C.I. On 23 September, his best friend Ferruccio Ranza joined him in killing an Austro-Hungarian crew from Flik 35. On 29 September, he finished his string of five, joining Giorgio Pessi and Cosimo Rizzotto in killing another Austro-Hungarian air crew. He was awarded another Silver Medal.

Death in action

On 25 October 1917, he was flying as a wingman to Pier Piccio near the Battle of Caporetto when Piccio attacked an enemy two-seater. Piccio's guns jammed, and Sabelli took his place as the shooter. An enemy patrol surprised Sabelli from behind and shot him down trailing smoke. Sabelli's body was never found. Ferruccio Ranza adopted Sabelli's ladder insignia, having it painted on his own Spad VII in remembrance of his friend.

Sources of information

Italian Aces of World War 1. Paolo Varriale. Osprey Pub Co, 2009. ISBN 97818460341268.
Nieuport Aces of World War 1. Norman Franks. Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 9781855329614.

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Source: WikiPedia

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