Generale di Brigata Aerea Alfredo Balsamo
Alfredo Balsamo born on 15 October 1915 in Catania.
He became a pilot in 1933 on the Caproni Ca.100. Other early aircraft he flew were the Breda Ba.25 and the Fiat BR.3.
Before the war he flew the Cant Z.501 and the Savoia SM.79.
When the war started on 10 June 1940 he was serving as a Sottotenente with the 216a Squadriglia, 53o Gruppo, 34o Stormo B.T. This unit was equipped with Savoia S.79s and been based at Fontanrossa, Sicily, since early June.
During the afternoon on 22 June 1940 he was flying as co-pilot in a lone S.79 from the 216a Squadriglia, on a reconnaissance to Malta. Tenente Francesco Solimene flew the aircraft.
The aircraft was intercepted by Gladiators from the island and one of the pilots, Flight Lieutenant George Burges (Gladiator N5519) of Hal Far Fighter Flight recalled:
"'Timber' Woods and I were on the 1600 hours to dusk watch when the alarm went off. We took off and climbed as hard as we could go, as was the custom. We did not attempt to maintain close formation because if one aircraft could climb faster than the other, then the additional height gained might be an advantage. Ground control as usual gave us the position and course of the enemy. The enemy turned out to be a single SM79 presumably on a photographic sortie. It came right down the centre of the island from Gozo, and on this occasion we were 2,000-3,000 feet above it. 'Timber' went in first but I did not see any result. I managed to get right behind it and shot off the port engine. I was told this happened right over Sliema and Valetta and caused quite a stir in the population. The aircraft caught fire and crashed in the sea off Kalafrana."The pilot and Balsamo managed to escape from the burning Savoia (MM22068). Unfortunately the rest of the crew were killed when the aircraft exploded right after that the pilots had bailed out. The Destroyer HMS Diamond picked up Solimene after an hour in the sea and the same vessel picked up Balsamo eight hours later, bringing them both back to become prisoners.
He was kept as a POW in Malta together with Solimene before being transferred to Egypt.
In Egypt he was transferred first to Alexandria, then to Geneifa and later to Ismailia, near Great Amaro Lake.
Later he was transferred to India and Ammednagar near Bombay. Later still he was moved to Rangar and in 1941 to Yol in Kangra Valley in Punjab (actual Pakistan) at 26th POW Camp, 3rd Wing.
Balsamo returned home on 26 April 1946 when he arrived to Naples harbour with all others Italian POWs.
After his return he continued to serve in the Italian Air Force where he served in the Rescue Wing.
While serving in this wing he took part in several rescues flying a Cant Z.506.
He retired as a Generale di Brigata Aerea.
Alfredo Balsamo passed away on 9 October 1994.
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Most information and all images kindly provided by Liana Balsamo