Story of Some Sticks

Something not often seen in detail. This is the Italian Fascist symbol cut from the fuselage of an unnamed Italian Regia Aeronautica aircraft during World War Two and kept as a trophy by an RAAF airman, and previously on display at the RAAF Museum Point Cook. (Excuse the lighting hot spots in the image.)

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Captured trophies like this date to the earliest days of air combat and right to modern conflict wrecks being souvenired, and sit within a much bigger, far longer term martial and social tradition exemplified by Ancient Rome’s Triumphs and ‘capturing the enemy’s flag‘. All of these effectively managed a clash between some of the finest art of a state’s capability and very rough, vernacular activities.

This fits in that tradition – it’s a piece of aluminium aircraft skinning that has been hacked out like an old can-opener has been used, and the rivets holding it to the frame popped out (some staying in the skin, some in the frame it was pulled from) to roughly wrench it from the aircraft. It’s a piece of the enemy’s hide.

This contrasts against the beautifully painted (it may be a decal, but the ageing and patina seems to indicate otherwise) Italian Fascist roundel, featuring the actual Fasces, or bundle of rods bound around an axe, only the blade of which is visible (altogether a symbol signifying Roman unity making strength and power) that the term ‘fascism’ comes from. The lion’s head decoration is both of far greater detail than aircraft markings of this scale are every normally depicted, and oddly seem to show a mix of puzzlement and surprise on its face!

Fiat-CR-42-Falco-45-over-Ravenna-Italy-01The marking seen here in situ below the cockpit on the fuselage of a Fiat CR.42 biplane fighter, over Ravenna, Italy.

A side note is that exactly like their Axis partner’s German Nazi Swastika, it is a party symbol, as used in a one party state dictatorship, rather than a conventional marking of a national level, above party level symbolism. As an artwork or decoration it demonstrates the fascist principle of establishing only one party, which then is merged with the national state.

It is the most artistic element of an Italian Fascist Regina Aeronautica aircraft’s markings (the royal House of Savoy marking on the tail would perhaps be its equal, and to explain here’s a lighthearted guide to Italian Fascist aircraft markings by my friend Barry Munden). Thus an obvious target for being taken as a trophy – showing that even reprehensible totalitarian ultra-nationalist state can produce beautiful art.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

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