Saturday, 23 February 2019

More details on Chavez first Alpine flight 23.9.1910

Insubrica Historica has already reported the formidable and unlucky adventure of Jorge Chavez, the French-Peruvian pilot that successfully managed to cross the Alps, flying from Brig/Wallis to Domodossola/Italy. We have recently come across to an old newspaper article published by The Guardian and The Observer on Sept. 24, 1910, entitled "Flight Over the Alps : M. Chavez's feat Airman's Unfortunate Descent".

A brief article which sheds however some further lights to the tragic adventure of Mr. Chavez. Chavez pioneering flight was part of an air race called "Transalpina". There were at least other five pilots that attempted on the same day to cross the Alps: Aubrun, Cattaneo, Paillette, Weymann and Wiencziers. It is not that easy to find further details on these participants.  Surprisingly many of these adventurers had a career in the aviation that spanned many decades. 

The pilot Aubrun could not be identified for the moment. Cattaneo was most likely Bartolomeo Cattaneo (Grosio 1883-Sao Paolo 1949). Better known in Spanish-speaking countries as Bartolomé Cattáneo. In 1910 he was the first Italian pilot, and sixth in the world, to receive a civil pilot's license and the first to cross the Río de la Plata - between Argentina und Uruguay - by plane. During the First World War he enlisted as a flight instructor with the rank of lieutenant. With the birth of the first Brazilian commercial airline in 1933, Cattaneo was entrusted with the San Paolo-Riberão Preto line, for which he served until his retirement.

The other participant was most likely Marcel Paillette, born on 17 April 1884 in Le Havre and deceased in 1965 in Argentina. Paillette was a French pioneer pilot, who after the unsuccessful attempts of flying over the Alps, continued a brilliant aeronautical career in Argentina, considered still today as one of the forefather of Argentinean Air Force.

Weymann was most likely Charles Terres Weymann (Port au Prince, Haiti 2 August 1889 – Paris 1976) was a Haitian-born early aeroplane racing pilot and businessman. During World War I he flew for Nieuport as a test pilot and was awarded the rank of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. Weymann tried before and after the war many businesses in the car and aviation industry, albeit without much success.

The last pilot was the German adventurer Eugen Hubert Walter Wiencziers (1880-1917). He was a German Engineer and Pilot. After having unsuccessfully attempted the crossing of the Alps, Wiencziers continued his career in the aviation field. He was test-pilot during the First World War, and died while testing a prototype of the manufacturer Pfalz-Flugzeugwerke. 

According to the Guardian article, Chavez sustained heavy injuries at both legs, with no injuries at the chest and head. The Reuter correspondent cited in the article, was confident that Mr. Chavez would have been able to survive. Apparently while at the Hospital, Chavez was able to release some interviews, putting more light to his flight.

Seriously injured, although apparently not in danger of death, four days later Chávez died at the San Biagio Hospital in Domodossola, in a way that was not entirely clear. His last words were: "Arriba, siempre arriba" (in English "Higher. Always Higher"). 

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Sunday, 17 February 2019

Insubrica Historica on Amazon Online Europe (Germany, England and Italy)

Minusio, 17.2.2019. Insubrica History has successfully passed the checks and controls for selling books online in Europe. We are delighted to announce that the publication on the SS-Polizei in Ossola and Lago Maggiore is now available on the three following Amazon online bookshops:
Amazon Italia: ordina seguendo questo link
Amazon Deutschland: bestellen Sie hier
Amazon UK: order here
You can always also pass your order directly on our website, by clicking here.
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Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Conference: Stragi e deportazioni nazifasciste - Per la giustizia e contro l'ambiguità

The research conducted by Insubrica Historica on the region of Ossola and Lake Maggiore has much in common with the war crimes committed during the period of 1943-1945, mostly by German troops - but also by Fascist military units. We have already reported in the previous articles (here and here) the activities of the Waffen-SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler against the Jewish population on the shores of Lake Maggiore.

It is a particular chapter in the Italian history - and even in Ossola - that has been long forgotten. Only by the 1990s with the discovery of the Armoire of Shame (in Italian: Armadio della Vergogna) most of the crimes have resurfaced. 

Recently there has been even much discussion about the compensation claims that the Italian government expects from the German side. This conference, which will be organized by a very good friend of Insubrica Historica, will aim to bring some light into this obscure and forgotten aspect of the Second World War in Italy. 

Wright us an email if you happen to be in Rome Thursday 7. March 2019 and would like to attend this conference.
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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The February 2019 visit to Leicester

Last week Insubrica Historica travelled to Leicester, England. 

It was very nice to be back after that much time, the last time that I visited Leicester was in 2003. 

Indeed much has changed, especially the University premises are hardly recognizable from before. Plenty of new buildings and many more that will be erected in the future. 

I had a wonderful welcoming by Prof. Dr. Alex Korb and Dr. Luca Fenoglio. I'm glad to have both on the team that will assist me in my PhD research regarding Ossola. 

I spent two busy days, with an intervention in Dr. Fenoglio's History class and a presentation at the New History Lab of Leicester.

Thanks again to Anna for the charming reception and most of all for organizing the conference.  
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Saturday, 24 November 2018

A further Morandi viaduct after Genoa also in Insubrica region

Riccardo Morandi (1902-1989) is best known as being the engineer that conceived Morandi Bridge in Genoa. This bridge was part of the Polcevera viaduct on the A10 Autostrada dei Fiori motorway. The bridge, was a major link from Italy to France. The viaduct was built between 1963 and 1967, costing €2 million at that time, and was inaugurated on 4 September 1967. 

On 14 August 2018 at around lunch time, during a torrential rainstorm, a 210-metre section of this bridge collapsed. Apparently the bridge was hit by lightning before it collapsed. Between 30 and 35 cars and three trucks were reported to have fallen from the bridge. 43 people were confirmed dead and 16 injured. 

The same engineer Morandi, at the end of his career designed also the viaduct Stronetta. This work is the last section of the A26 Voltri-Sempione motorway.
In yellow the location of the Viaduct Stronetta
conceived by Riccardo Morandi
It's a sort of long ramp that, after the tunnel of Feriolo, descends, making a sharp curve to the left, to the Piano Grande and Gravellona Toce, the terminus of the highway inaugurated in 1995. 
Viaduct Stronetta

Morandi's original design was prepared in 1984, five years before his death. The works were completed in 1990 and resulted in the construction of a bridge 1,117 meters long, supported by pairs of pylons, placed at regular intervals each of which supports two lanes, which have a particular shape: a stand with four legs. 

Morandi is remembered as a pioneer and innovator in the use of prestressed concrete, a technique for which he registered a patent after the Second World War. In his long career, which has also seen him as a university lecturer, he has designed and taught around the world, designing viaducts in Africa, Venezuela, Sweden, Libya, Ecuador, Colombia and Canada. 
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Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Locarno Airport: Interim Accident Report on Ju-52, the "Where the Eagles Dare" plane that crashed in the Swiss Alps

On 4 August 2018 at 16:10 Junkers JU-52 HB-HOT took off from Locarno Airport, with a crew of 3 and 17 passengers. The final destination was Dübendorf airfield, located next to Zürich. 

About 40 minutes later the airplane flew up a north-northeast course into the basin southwest of Piz Segna (Canton of Grisons). At the northern end of the valley it began a left turn, which turned into a spiral-shaped trajectory down. A few seconds later the aircraft crashed approximately perpendicular to the terrain. 
HB-HOT as it appeared in the 1968
movie "Where the Eagles Dare".
The crash of the Ju-52 remains a mystery even three and a half months after the fatal vertical crash above Flims Grisons. 

For the time being, the interim report that has been just published on Monday 19.11.2018 by the Swiss Transportation Safety Board (SUST), merely states:

"...As of the date of publication of this interim report, there were no indications for pre-existing technical defects that would have caused the accident..." 

There is however the following appeal to the population. The Swiss Safety Investigation Authority (SUST) continues to ask for the assistance of the population. For the investigation of the said accident, SUST asks for the following contributions:

  • Photos and film footage of the Junkers Ju 52/3m HB-HOT airplane which were taken on 4 August 2018 ideally after 16:00.
  • Photos and videos taken in the years 2016 to 2018 during flights with this airplane
  • GPS tracks taken in the years 2016 to 2018 during a flight with any Ju 52/3m of Ju-Air.

Materials may be sent by e-mail with the subject "Accident Ju 52" to Ideally
the submission of information should be made with the location, date and time of the recordings. 

Our prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to the families of this tragic loss.
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Friday, 9 November 2018

German war crimes in the Lago Maggiore region and the roman background of the perpetrators

There is still a less researched chapter in the history of the German and Italian fascists occupation of the Lago Maggiore region, that is the quantification of the war crimes committed during the period 1943-1945.

Then and Now of the SS-Pol.Rgt.15 in Rome.
Former Roman HQ of 5./SS-Pol.Rgt.15,
today at Via Salaria 227. Credits for the SS-Pol.Rgt.15
Fondazione Museo della Shoah, Rome.
Main picture by Google Street View August 2017.

A recent article of Insubrica Historica on the First Battalion of the Panzer-Grenadier Regiment 2 of the Waffen-SS Leibstandarte Division, has brought some light in the activities around Meina and Verbania, during September 1943. In less than 10 days about 50 Jews were brutally killed by members of the Leibstandarte. Even less researched are other war crimes that happened in the same region, mainly committed 12 months later by members of the SS-Polizei Rgt. 15. 

The Italians operations of the SS-Polizei first started in Milan and Rome. Insubrica Historica has planned to spend a weekend in Rome. In order to best prepare for this historical trip, we have created a Google Mashup map that portrays the main sites where the Germans where active in Rome (see below). Just few sites have a direct link with our Insubrica region. Notably the sites of the SS-Polizei - eg. Via Salaria 227 - as well as the Fosse Ardeatine. The massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine is particularly important for Cannobio. The SS Captain that directed the retaliation of August 1944, Hans Clemens, was one of the major protagonists and killers at Fosse Ardeatine. An historical evening planned for 20.3.2019 in Cannobio will bring more light to Clemens and its activities before, during and after the war.

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Saturday, 3 November 2018

Insubrica (Ticinesi) artists and architects in Rome

Insubrica Historica is about to visit Rome this November. It seemed to us obvious that a visit in the Italian capital should have paid also a tribute to Insubrica artists and architects. We have realized a map that attempts to list all the major works by Francesco Borromini (25.9.1599 – 2.8.1667), Carlo Maderno (1556 – 30.1.1629) and Domenico Fontana (1543 – 28.1.1607). These are three personalities that technically could be considered today as being Ticinesi, even if the Canton was created only in 1803.

We will update Insubrica Historica of what we managed to visit during our stay. We are very much thrilled by the vestiges left by these Insubrica personalities. 

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Wednesday, 31 October 2018

A shortest and beautiful train ride: Centovalli Railway

Picture copyright:
Insubrica Historica along with our visit from Munich Alexander, took this past weekend the train journey from Locarno to Domodossola with the Centovalli Railway. We opted for a short stint, boarding the train from Intragna to Camedo and back to Intragna. The railway is the shortest and most beautiful connection between lago Maggiore, the French speaking part of Switzerland and Berne, the capital of Switzerland.

Even if our train ride was slightly more than 30 minutes each way (about 9 km), it was a very panoramic train journey through the picturesque “One Hundred Valleys”. The train passed deep gorges and crevices with glittering cascading waterfalls, as since the early morning of Sunday it was pouring rain on this part of the Swiss alps. The train crossed colourful alpine meadows, several bridges, vineyards and forests of chestnut trees. 

The Domodossola-Locarno railway was born from an initiative mainly due to the then mayor of Locarno avv. Francesco Balli (1852-1924). The construction of the railway began in 1913 by the engineer Giacomo Sutter (1874-1939). The project stalled right at the beginning forced to halt as a consequence of the First World War, but gained momentum following a Convention signed on 12 November 1918 in Rome between the plenipotentiaries Sidney Constantino Baron Sonnino (1847-1922) and Hans von Segesser (1877-1935), representing respectively, the King of Italy and the Federal Council of the Swiss Confederation. 

The railway entered service on 25 November 1923 using for the first section the works of the Locarno-Bignasco railway and the Locarno trams that had the same metric gauge. Since then, it has regularly carried out its task of local connection between the region of Ossola and Locarno at Lake Maggiore. Even in the difficult period of the Partisan Republic of Ossola, it did not interrupt its important function of connection. Despite 1978 disastrous floods, which heavily affected the track in the Italian territories the service continued to perform as per today.

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Monday, 22 October 2018

Presentation Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Panzer Grenadier Regiment In Italy and Lake Maggiore

Pallanza, Villa Giulia, 21.10.2018. Raphael Rues of Insubrica Historica had on sunday the chance to held a presentation at the conference remembering the killing of at least 57 Jews during October 1944 on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Italy.

The conference saw the presence also of Senator for life, Mrs. Liliana Segre (Milan 1930).  In a very vivid testimonial Mrs. Segre recalled her experience of being captured in 1943 and deported in the camp of Birkenau (Auschwitz). 

The presentation about the Leibstandarte was focused on the military activities of the first Battalion of the Second Panzer Grenadier Regiment 2 of the Waffen-SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler commanded by Hans Becker. After a brief introduction regarding the actual Ph.D. project research of Raphael Rues, the presentation reconstructed the various stations of this unit, prior the operations in Italy. A very short video allowed the participants to discover even more details about this unit. 

About 150 persons attended this event, which was organized by Casa della Resistenza (CaRe). Mrs. Ester Giuli Bucchi, archive responsible for CaRe, presented the online database dedicated to the Lake Maggiore massacres in September and October 1943, in which 57 Jews predominantly of Italian, German and Greek nationalities were killed. The operation is considered to be the first German massacre of Jews in Italy during World War II.

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