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"Stewart and Cusmanich" Topic

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Bozkashi Jones28 Feb 2023 9:21 a.m. PST

The air war during the Paraguayan Revolution of 1922 attracted all manner of adventurers, mercenaries and patriots. Two such men, one a Paraguayan national loyal to the government of President Eusebio Ayala, the other his English friend yearning for adventure, Sergeant Francisco Cusmanich and Captain Sydney Stewart.

Cusmanich had been running a flying school when war broke out. The son of a Croatian immigrant, he seems to have long been fascinated by aviation; in 1920 the Paraguayan government sent him to be trained as a military pilot at the Escuela de Aviación Militar (School of Military Aviation) in Argentina, even though at that time the Paraguayan military had no aeroplanes. Cusmanich's restless nature made it difficult for him to conform to military life, he left his training and drifted to Europe where he trained near Paris, only to again leave before qualifying. It was in Spain where he finally finished his studies and became a pilot.

Unable to find a meaningful occupation, Cusmanich eventually settled in Buenos Aires where he started a flying school, having bought a British surplus Armstrong Whitworth FK.8. It was in Buenos Aires that he met Stewart, a member of the British Aviation Mission. Many countries leading in the field of aircraft design had set up missions in South America, hoping to find new markets for their aircraft, but according to his Commanding Officer, Stewart found civilian flying dull after his experience in the Great War.

When war broke out Cusmanich answered the government's clarion call. Calling on his friend, Stewart, the two crated up the FK.8 and shipped it by rail, river steamer and rail again to Asunción, where it became the first aircraft of the Paraguayan armed forces.

Once reassembled, Stewart and Cusmanich began offensive sorties. The first was dropping propaganda leaflets over rebel positions in Paragari, and when these were ignored they dropped bombs instead.

The pair continued their sorties, leafleting, bombing and strafing supply trains. On one occasion, though, they machine-gunned railway wagons they assumed to contain vital rebel supplies; they didn't: they contained loyalist prisoners captured in the fighting. On 8 July 1922 they flew a mission to bomb the rebel HQ at Paraguari in company with another fascinating character, the Italian Sergeant Nicola Bo. Almost immediately, Bo's Spad XX developed technical problems and he had to turn back, leaving Stewart and Cusmanich to continue alone.

Francisco Cusmanich, seated in one of the loyalists' Ansaldo SV.10s holding a Thompson Submachinegun which was the observer's primary weapon. The pilot is Nicola Bo, who I will also write about in a future post.

Over Pirayú they were met by fierce fire from the ground. Stewart took evasive action, but the lumbering FK.8 was hit, flames engulfed the aeroplane and Cusmanich leapt from the cockpit, too low for his parachute to deploy. The aircraft came down near the railway station, where the bodies of Capt. Sydney Stewart and Sgt. Francisco Cusmanich were recovered, whether by the loyalists or rebels is unclear, and they were taken to Asunción by train where they were buried with full military honours.

The FK.8 is 1/288 from the Reduced Aircraft Factory on Shapeways, Vallejo paints over a white rattlecan primer and decals from flightdeckdecals2400.

More photos on my blog, here: link

And more on the Paraguay Project here: link

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2023 7:33 p.m. PST

Pretty amazing. You could make a game just about moving their crated up airplane along the table.

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