Auctions | October 30, 2014

Archive of Captain Carlo Montu’s Aviation Heroics at Auction

London—The bullet that shot Italian aviation pioneer, solider and sports executive, Carlo Montu will be offered alongside a fascinating archive that explores his involvement with Italian aviation throughout both world wars and the Italian-Turkish War, for which he was highly decorated for his bravery. These will be sold on Thursday 13th November as part of the Important Books and Manuscripts sale at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions.

On Wednesday 31st January 1912, Captain Carlo Montu and aircraftsman G. Rossi were on a bombing mission over Tobruk. A bullet was shot from the ground by a Turkish infantryman towards the aircraft (apparently flying at an altitude of only 18 feet) wounding Montu and making him the first ever aviation casualty.

The bullet was extracted from Montu, who made a full recovery. He later wore the bullet as a “badge of honour” around his neck and as a lucky charm. 

As well as the first airborne casualty, the war in Libya produced a number of other aviation "firsts"—first aerial reconnaissance mission (October 23rd 1911); first aerial photographs in a conflict zone (January 1912); in September 1912 Montu was captured by the Turks thus making him the first pilot to be captured in war; Turkish troops were the first ever to shoot down an aircraft from the ground; and on November 1st 1912 the first ever aerial bombs were dropped, on Turkish troops from an Etrich Taube monoplane.

The archive also includes letters commenting on Montu's early aviation course (Corso a Mirafiori) and a potted autobiography for the Presidente dei Pionieri dell'Aeronautica, mentioning his war-wounding and listing his numerous initiatives in the field of civil aviation, awards etc. Many later letters, addressed to the Contessa Caproni (plus copies of replies) cover requests for photographs of various other Italian aviation pioneers for Montu's Storia dell'Artigliera. The complete archive is estimated at £4,000-6,000 [Lot 364].

The sale also includes accounts of two of the most important early aviation achievements by one of the great, but little known, pioneers, Francesco de Pinedo (1890-1933). [Lot 363, est. £600-800]                                                                                                                                                  

The sale of Important Books and Manuscripts will be held at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions' saleroom in London’s Mayfair on Thursday 13th November. The full catalogue is available to view and download at