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Knights of the Air: Fulco Ruffo di Calabria

Fulco Ruffo di Calabria, Italian WWI ace #5 (20 victories), is a true Prince of the Skies.

He was born in Naples on August 12, 1884. His parents were Don Beniamino Tristano Ruffo di Calabria, 5th Duke of Guardia Lombarda, and Laura Mosselmann du Chenoy, a Belgian noblewoman.
He joined the 11th Foggia Light Cavalry Regiment when aged 20, and went on to serve in Africa. In 1914, he transferred to the Servizio Aeronautico (Italian Air Service). He won two Bronze awards of the Medal for Military Valor while still a two-seater pilot. He was assigned to 70a Squadriglia as a fighter pilot.

There he won his first victory on August 23, 1916, and had a second go unconfirmed. By September 16, he was scoring for his new unit and ran his score with them to four confirmed and four unconfirmed by February 28, 1917. He then switched to flying a Nieuport for 91a Squadriglia, the famous "Aces' Squadron". He served with other highest-scoring aces of the Servizio Aeronautico: Count Francesco Baracca, Silvio Scaroni, Pier Ruggiero Piccio (Flavio Baracchini, Italian Ace #4 who scored 21 victories, served with 81st Squadron).

Ruffo di Calabria with other legendary pilots of "The Aces Squadron".
From left: Gastone Novelli (8 victories), Ferruccio Ranza (17), Fulco Ruffo di Calabria (20), Bartolomeo Costantini and Francesco Baracca:

His personal emblem was a black skull and crossbones painted on the fuselage of his plane. This is the first version, painted on his Nieuport Ni.17:

Fulco climbing in his Nieuport Ni.17 for a mission:

He flew Nieuport 11, Nieuport 17, and SPAD VII (below) airplanes.

In the end, he shot down twenty enemy airplanes, making him the fifth highest scoring Italian flying ace of World War I.

Ruffo di Calabria (centre with the cap on) poses with the pilots of the 91st Squadriglia beside his Spad XIII.
Three of his 20 victories were scored while flying the Spad XIII:

After the death of Francesco Baracca in June 1918, Fulco assumed command of the 91a Squadriglia. He relinquished command after suffering a nervous breakdown. Successfully recovered, he was handed command of 10th Gruppo, on 23 October 1918, but was shot down by artillery fire within a week near Marano, a few days before the Dual Monarchy's final defeat.

The Spad VII with Fulco Ruffo's markings preserved at the historical museum of the Italian Air Force, Vigna di Valle, Bracciano, Rome (Copyright © 2005 Sebastiano Minniti, www.minniti.info):

Di Calabria remained in the military, though without any assignments. He eventually did arise to the rank of tenente-colonnello by 1942. However, his main activity was management of his family estates. Don Fulco was made, by decree of 15-3-1928, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, in the Kingdom of Italy. By inheritance he was also the 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda and 17th Count of Sinopoli. He died on August 23, 1946 in Ronchi de Apuania aged 62. By virtue of her marriage to Prince Albert in 1959, Ruffo di Calabria's daughter Paola became Queen of Belgium (1993):

Info & Images: Wiki (EN), finn.it

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