Thursday, June 23, 2016

A visit to Florence, the birthplace of ace Giulio Lega

Since I’m on a short vacation in Italy, and more specifically Florence, it seemed a good idea to spend an evening after a nice dinner to write a paragraph or so about a First World War ace from this lovely city: Giulio Lega.

Lega was born in Florence on November 12, 1892. He studied medicine when the war broke out in Europe, but he was accepted for officer’s training in 1915 as Italy joined the conflict. Giulio Lega was a tall man for his time , and he was selected as an “extended infantryman” with the Grenadiers of the 2o Reggimento.

Giulio Lega fought with his regiment at the Fourth Battle of the Isonzo between November 10 and December 2, 1915. The fighting was bitter and inconclusive, but on November 20, Lega was awarded the War Merit Cross for valor. Lega continued fighting in north-eastern Italy, and he was awarded the Bronze Medal for Military Valor after close-combat fighting that month. The medal was awarded on the battlefield on May 30, 1916.

That summer, Lega volunteered to be trained as an aviator. He qualified as a pilot on September 1, 1916, and he was given his pilot’s license on November 1, 1916. Lega finished up his pilot’s training on January 30, 1917, and he was posted to the 21a Squadriglia, a reconnaissance unit, where he qualified on Savoia-Pomilio SP.2 two-seaters on February 14, 1917. He was also promoted to Tenente. Lega continued serving as a reconnaissance pilot between May and November of 1917, and he was awarded the Silver Medal for Military Valor for his service. He remained with the 21a Squadriglia until it was withdrawn after the Battle of Capporetto, after which he was selected for fighter pilot training.
 Savoia-Pomilio SP. 2

On November 16, 1917, Lega began fighter pilot training at Malpensa outside Milan after which he went for gunnery training. He passed on December 27, but only with a “mediocre” rating. Lega’s next posting would be with the 76a Squadriglia, and he would fly in all 46 combat sorties with the squadron. His first victory came near Col d’Asiago on March 17, a victory he shared with two other Italian pilots, and on March 25 he split his second victory over Montello with pilots Fanti and RetinĂ². The final Austro-Hungarian offensive led to a bout of activity, and a third shared victory came over Passagno on June 24 against a Hansa-Brandenburg C.I from Flik 2d. The next day, June 25, saw even more action around 1030 as Lega shot down an unidentified enemy scout over Mareno di Piave together with Tenente Silvio Scaroni and Sergente Romolo Ticconi, both of whom were aces. Lega finished off the scrap by shooting down an Albatros D.III, once again together with Scaroni and Ticconi. This action earned Lega the Silver Medal for Valor. In July of 1918, Lega was transferred to the 81a Squadriglia, and he served with this unit up to the end of the war.

While flying with the 76a Squadriglia, Lega flew a silver dope-colored Hanriot armed with two Vickers machine guns instead of one. This reduced the maneuverability of the Hanriot, but apparently not enough to have several skilled Italian pilots choose this option for increased firepower. The personal aircraft of Lega was adorned with a flaming red grenade to honor his initial service as a grenadier in the 2o Reggimento.

Following the end of the First World War, Lega graduated from the University of Bologna in July of 1920. He remained in the Air Force Reserves and served with the Servizi Aerei Speciali  during the Second World War. He spent much of his subsequent career with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, and when he died on 11 July 1973, he was still a medical consultant to the Italian parliament.