Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Air Marshal Sir Patrick Hunter 'Paddy' Dunn KBE CB DFC, RAF no. 34018

31 December 1912 – 17 June 2004

'Paddy' Dunn in an 80 Squadron Gladiator in Egypt.

‘Paddy’ Dunn was born in Glasgow on 31 December 1912. He was educated at Loretto and Glasgow University before joining the RAF on a short service commission in March 1933.

After training at 5 FTS, Scotland, he attended the flying-boat and general reconnaissance course at Calshot in 1934, and was then posted to 201 Squadron, flying Saro Londons until April 1937. He then attended CFS on an instructors' course, following which he joined 500 "County of Kent" Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force, as a Flight Lieutenant flying instructor.

In 1938 he served as No 4 pilot in the Wellesley-equipped Long Range Development Unit. He then returned to CFS as instructor of instructors, during which period he won an acrobatic competition.

In 1939 he married Diana Ledward-Smith with which he had two daughters.

In August 1939 he was sent out to the Middle East, joining the HQ Staff until 5 July 1940, when he took command of 80 Squadron after Squadron Leader R. C. Jonas (with effect from 8 July).

At 17:00 on 8 August, Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli (CO of the 10o Gruppo) took off from El Adem T3 airfield with 15 other aircraft from the 9o and 10o Gruppi to patrol along the Egyptian border and to give indirect cover to five SM 79 bombers and a single reconnaissance Ro.37, which were out to patrol the same area. The five SM 79s were a formation from the 44a Squadriglia, 35o Gruppo, led by Capitano Giuseppe Pagliacci, which were out to bomb enemy vehicles and aircraft in the Bir El Chreigat area.
Participating pilots were Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis (CO 91a Squadriglia), Tenente Enzo Martissa (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Aldo Rosa (91a Squadriglia), Tenente Giovanni Guiducci (CO 90a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini (90a Squadriglia), Capitano Luigi Monti (CO 84aSquadriglia), Tenente Vittorio Pezzè (CO 73a Squadriglia), Tenente Valerio De Campo (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Carlo Battaglia (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Alvaro Querci (73a Squadriglia), Maresciallo Norino Renzi (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Antonio Valle (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Santo Gino (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Lido Poli (73a Squadriglia).
Immediately after take-off, Romagnoli started to climb, keeping the sun in the back. At 2500 meters over Gabr Saleh (around 65 kilometres south-east of El Adem and 35 kilometres east of Bir El Gobi, well inside the Italian territory) when the Italian formation was still climbing, Tenente Pezzè saw two formations of Gloster Gladiators higher and, after giving the alarm to the gruppo commander, tried to attack the enemy fighters frontally and from below.
Then, completely unseen by Pezzè and the other Italian pilots a third formation of Glosters attacked the 73a Squadriglia formation from above (the surviving Italian pilots estimated that each British formation was nine planes strong so, after the combat, they assessed that they fought against 27 enemy fighters for fifteen minutes).
The Gloster Gladiators were from 80 Squadron (‘C’ Flight had arrived at Sidi Barrani during the day, led by the commanding officer, Squadron Leader Dunn). At 17:40, 14 Gladiators from the Squadron flew an offensive patrol in the neighbourhood of El Gobi since it had been reported by observers that large formations of CR.42s had been patrolling a triangle between El Adem, Sidi Omar and El Gobi fairly regularly twice a day at about 07:00 and 18:15 and it was decided to attempt to destroy a portion of this patrol. The mission had been suggested by Squadron Leader Dunn to the HQ as a reprisal and to re-establish “the moral superiority already gained previously by other Squadrons” after the gruelling engagement on 4 August. Tactics had been carefully discussed by Dunn and his Flight Commanders on the agreed assumption that if the engagement could be controlled for the initial two minutes, a decided advantage would be with the side in control. To do this, it was arranged (as it was expected to be seen as soon as, or even before being able to see the Italians) that a Sub-Flight of the formation (Sub-Flight one) should fly low (at 8,000 feet) and slightly in front to act as bait. These three Gladiators were flown (after that lots had been drawn) by Dunn (leader) (Gladiator K8009), Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes (K7916) and Pilot Officer 'Heimar' Stuckey (K8022). The rest of the formation, divided in three Sub-Flights of three fighters with an independent aircraft between the lower Sub-Flights, would be stepped at 10,000, 12,000 and 14,000 feet. The independent machine was that of Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan (K7903), who attacked with Sub-Flight one. It seems that Pilot Officer Anthony Hugh Cholmeley flew a fourteenth Gladiator but that he was forced to turn back early, probably with engine problems.
Sub-Flight two included Flight Lieutenant Ralph Evers-Swindell (leader) (L8010), Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower (K8011) and Flying Officer P. T. Dowding (K7912). Sub-Flight three included Pilot Officer Harold Sykes (leader) (K8003), Sergeant Donald Gregory (K8051) and Flying Officer Sidney Linnard (K8017). Sub-Flight four at 14,000 feet included Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle (leader) (K7971), Flying Officer Greg Graham (L8008) and Flight Sergeant Sidney Richens (K7892). The plan was for Sub-Flight one to engage (or being engaged) by the Italians, do what it could until Sub-Flights two, three and four would be ordered to enter the combat on seeing the trend, the overall control being given to Sub-Flight four. All formations flew in a broad vic and it was the first time that the 80 Squadron operated at full operational strength.
Just after 18:00, the Squadron crossed the frontier south of Sidi Omar, and immediately changed course to head north towards Bir Taieb el Esem. At 18:25, as they were approaching Bir el Gobi, a formation of CR.42 flying in echelons was spotted by Flight Lieutenant Pattle. The Fiats were flying approximately parallel but reciprocal to the course of the British formation and they were at 2 o’clock and slightly (500 feet) below the lower Sub-Flight. With a careful turning on the right, ordered by radio, Pattle put the 80 Squadron’s formation behind the Italian one, up-sun and between it and its base at El Adem, then a full boast and throttle stern chase began to catch up with the fast cruising (in fact climbing) Italian fighters. Pilots in the lower Sub-Flights now began to see their opponents, dead ahead and lower. The ideal attack position! Squadron Leader Dunn counted 18 of them in four formations of seven, five, three and three; he was very close to the truth but later Sub-Flight four reported that an additional Italian formation of nine planes was present and it was incorrectly assessed that the Italians were 27, flying in nine sections of three aircraft. After an unobserved astern chase Sub-Flight one engaged the starboard flank of three aircraft and shot down all of them (they were probably part of the 73a Squadriglia). Squadron Leader Dunn later reported:

“(…) I followed my first target down, who rolled over slowly on to his back with smoke coming out: Observed P/O. Stuckey’s (No. 3 on my left) quarry in much the same condition and gave him a burst of my own, then pulled up and across the rear of the formation of 18 that was beginning to peel-off.”
Flying Officer Stuckey experienced a very successful combat:
“(…) our C.O. led the first Flight and attacked the right hand enemy flight.
I was No. 3 of the C.O.’s Flight and managed to get in a long burst with full deflection as my opposite aircraft stall turned out of his formation. (later the C.O. said that he followed this aircraft down giving it bursts and saw it crash.
Immediately after I attacked No. 3 aircraft of the farthest flight and gave it a short burst before that flight broke up as well.”
The third CR.42 of the section probably fell victim to Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan. Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes confirmed the shooting down of all three Italian CR.42s of the section. Wykeham-Barnes seems to have claimed the first Italian aircraft, witnessed by Flight Lieutenant Evers-Swindell.
After the attack of this Sub-Flight, the Italian fighters started to break and Pattle ordered down the other two sections, while a wild low-altitude dogfight was beginning. Squadron Leader Dunn continued his report:
“(…) A C.R.42 did a steep diving turn away from his formation and I was easily able to give him a full deflection shot for about 8 seconds, he continued in a dive with smoke issuing from him but as the formation of 18 was approaching around about me with advantage of number and height, it was impossible to pursue him. I claimed it definitely shot down and consider it to be one of the five observed on the ground by Sub 4 before entering. Then followed a long period of loose play in which numerous targets offered themselves.
At the same time large numbers of enemy aircraft attacked me, chiefly from straight ahead and beam but not driving home determinedly. In one of them I throttled back and stall turned on the attacker’s tail before he was quite past me, he then rolled on to his back and dived down in the second half of a loop. I followed and gave this aircraft what I thought was an effective burst with the result that he did not recover and continued down with bluish smoke issuing from him.
The other flights had by now entered and attacked their opponents, and the number of enemy aircraft thinned down. Two or three enemy aircraft were still about ; I pulled up steeply to avoid one in particular who was dangerously near to my tail, having chased me down in the dive from the port quarter. In the ensuing black-out I have little knowledge of what he did but at the top of what was the first half of something like a rocket loop, I found myself going in the opposite direction with the aircraft climbing rapidly past me on my left and below, he then appeared ahead of me and did a slow roll, unfortunately, I was too surprised and failed to get him in my sight, whereupon he half rolled and dived out; another stall turn brought me on his tail, but he did a rapid dive, turned to the left and streamed off like a homing rabbit - next stop El Adem.
I engaged one more enemy aircraft but my guns failed to fire (after 300 rounds approx.) I tried to clear them but was only able to get one more short burst. I left the fight, gained height at 12,000 feet and returned to witness a dog-fight between three aircraft two of which were Gladiators. I then set off home and picked up two other Gladiators.”
In the end, Dunn was credited with two confirmed victories and 1 probable and reported that the Sub-Flight gained five confirmed victories and two unconfirmed.
Pilot Officer Stuckey was now in the middle of a whirling dogfight:
“I was then attacked from about 2 o’clock by the two flights that had already broken; I pulled away and down from them, and as I came up in a climbing turn saw a CR 42 following one of our Gladiators in a loop. While it was going up I gave it a long burst and saw it fall away and dive, the pilot jumped almost as soon as I attacked him. Another 42 came straight towards me while I was circling the parachute but I made a quick turn in the opposite direction and he passed just under my port wings. I then saw a 42 with a Gladiator on its’ tail and as I flew in on a beam attack the 42 flick rolled two or three times and continued doing so in a dive. I followed it all the way in a steep turn and dive giving a lot of short bursts and saw it crash. I was then at only about 3,000’ and when I had climbed to about 5,000’ joined in a dog-fight that ended when the 42 dived away and headed for Bir El Essem.”
Form 541 of 80 Squadron ORB credited Stuckey only with a single confirmed victory, probably his first victim was credited to his Commanding Officer who finished it off while of the last biplane he saw hitting the ground he wrote “(…) seen to crash but believed hit before I attacked it”. However, it seems that he later was credited with two destroyed and one probable.
Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan (RAF no. 590381) overshot and was cut to pieces by the fire of a couple of CR.42s and killed. Form 541 credited him with a confirmed individual victory, obviously the third CR.42 of the first section.
The second and third Sub-Flights were in the meantime joining combat. Finding the Italians already alerted they fared slightly less well than the first Sub-Flight. Flight Lieutenant Evers-Swindell led his Sub-Flight into the centre formation of nine Italian aircraft, which were already scattered all over the sky:
“(…) I saw the leading formation attack the right hand formation of 9 E.A: so I put my sub flight into line astern expecting the E.A. to break up which they did as soon the first machine was shot down by No.2 of the leading formation. I led my sub flight into the centre formation of nine E.A. which by then were scattered all over the sky. I did a diving quarter attack on an E.A. up to about 50 feet, it turned over on its back and went down in a steep spiral. I was then attacked head on by another E.A. after this I looked down and saw the first one crash in flames. The pilot still in the cockpit. I managed to manoeuvre myself on to the tail of a third and after having given him a longish burst, saw him go down in the same way as the first, but was unable to follow him down as an explosive bullet took away one of my port flying wires and another burst on the starboard side of the instrument panel. I got in two more quick burst on two different E.A. but don’t think I did any damage. My engine then started to pour out smoke and soon afterwards cut out. I glided down in a series of steep turns and found no E.A. following. I looked round and saw nine a/c burning on the ground and one pilot coming down by parachute. I glided for about three miles and at about 200 feet the engine seized up I did not have time to inspect the engine so set the aircraft on fire (…).”
Evers-Swindell was credited of two unconfirmed victories. Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower was able to claim a probable, he reported:
“(…) I picked out a CR 42 flying in left hand turn ahead of me. I dropped in behind and fired three long bursts at close range – I last saw the aircraft diving vertically downwards. At this moment another C.R 42 fired a burst into my machine damaging the engine. I got away from him and, as there were no more enemy machines in sight, made for home (…)”
Flying Officer Dowding also claimed a probable:
“(…) Before we had reached them they had already been broken up before we joined amongst them.
I then saw a CR.42 coming towards me on port beam, it pulled its nose up and did a half roll to the left. I got my sights on to it, as it started to pull its nose up, and followed it round as it did the half roll, giving it a longish burst. It went into a spin, and went down a long way until I lost sight of it.
When I looked again there was an aircraft burning on the ground at approximately the position where the one went down, but I cannot say for certain whether it was the same as the one I saw go down.
I also saw at least four other aircraft burning on the ground, and three people descending by parachutes (…)”
Pilot Officer Sykes led his Sub-Flight into the right flank of the Italian formation:
“(…) I was leading sub 3 flight and putting the flight into echelon right turned on to their right flank. The enemy aircraft suddenly reeled of from their echelon formation probably owing to the fact that the leading flight had come into firing range and had opened fire. A general dog fight then commenced, I engaged a CR.42 which commenced a steep climbing turn, I commenced firing at the beginning of the climb and continued until I saw him fall and commence a flay spiral. I saw fragments or splinters falling from the centre section or the cockpit and saw the aircraft drop about 4-5000 feet and then engaged another which I followed in a steep turn firing all the time. This enemy aircraft went into a spin suddenly and saw one of our own aircraft follow it down. There were no more enemy aircraft in sight. During the action I saw several parachute open and several aircraft burning. I landed back on our aerodrome at 1915. One aircraft in my flight was forced to return just before the action because all its guns stopped.”
Sykes was credited with two unconfirmed victories. The returning aircraft was flown by Sergeant Gregory, who had had tested his gun before the attack, but found them all jammed and had been forced to withdraw. Flying Officer Linnard was more successful:
“(…) We were given R/T instructions by the top flight to enter the fight.
I slipped under my leader to the left and found myself in a mass of milling aircraft. I went to attack a CR.42 which was on a Gladiator’s tail when another CR.42 passed in front of me. I gave him deflection burst and got on to his tail – he pulled up in a loop. I followed him around giving him bursts and when he was upside down in the loop he baled out dropping past me, his parachute opening just below me. My range would be about 50 yards or less. I got on to another CR.42 and practically the same thing happened as before except that I did not get him and my engine cut as I was following him in the loop when I was in the vertical position. I saw the enemy aircraft diving past me but I was so close to him that he could not fire at me. I pushed my nose down and got my engine started and then saw a CR.42 diving down on me from vertically above but he did not hit me. I then saw a CR.42 practically head-on. I gave him a burst at very close range. The enemy aircraft turned over to the right on its back and went into a flat spin. I was at about 4,000 feet at this time. I watched the aircraft spin for about 1000 feet and then heard gunfire which I thought was from behind but there were no enemy aircraft within range of me. I then looked for the spinning aircraft but all I saw was an aircraft in flames on the ground beneath me. Another CR.42 dived past going very fast. I gave him a quick burst and saw some black smoke coming from him, but he kept straight on diving as fast as he could go towards Bir-el-Gobi. I did not follow him down. I then turned back towards where the fight had been but saw only one aircraft a Gladiator (P/O. Stuckey). We hung around a bit and then made for home. I caught up with F/Lt. Pattle and F/O. Graham and returned with them. I landed at 1910. I sustained no damage to self or aircraft except for one Fabric panel torn out.
I saw altogether 6 aircraft burning on ground and 4 parachutes dropping.”
Linnard was credited with two confirmed victories.
Finally, Flight Lieutenant Pattle, after having masterfully conducted the action, joined the fray:
“(…) I saw no’s 2 and 3 sections engage and before I brought my section into the fight I saw five crashed aircraft on the ground , three of which were in flames.
My own section then engaged those E.A. who were attempting to reach their own base and immediately became engaged in separate combats.
I engaged a CR 42 and, after a short skirmish, get into position immediately behind him. On firing two short bursts at about 50 yards range the E.A. fell into a spin and burst into flames on striking the ground. The pilot did not abandon his aircraft.
I then attacked 3 E.A. immediately below me. This action was indecisive as after a few minutes they broke away by diving vertically for the ground and pulling out at very low altitude.
Whilst searching for other E.A. I saw two more aircraft crash and burst into flames. Owing to the widespread area and the number of aircraft engaged it was impossible to confirm what types of aircraft were involved in these crashes or who shot them down.
The sky seemed clear of 42s’ although several Gladiators were still in the vicinity. I was about to turn for our base when a 42 attacked me from below. With the advantage of height I dived astern of him and after a short burst he spun into the ground into flames. As before the pilot didn’t abandon his aircraft. Flying Officer Graham confirms both my combats which ended decisively.
Seeing no further sign of Enemy Aircraft over the area, I turned towards our base. On my way home F/O Graham and P/O Linnard joined me in formation and my section landed at 19.10 hrs.”
Pattle’s two claims were confirmed by Flying Officer Graham, who claimed one victory (later downgraded to a probable). Flight Sergeant Richens claimed one probable while confirming Graham’s claim.
The British pilots returned with a multitude of claims. Because the large number of aircraft involved there is some confusion regarding these claims but it seems that they claimed 13 to 16 confirmed victories and 1 to 7 probables. Victories were claimed by Dunn (who also claimed one of the probables), Stuckey (who also claimed one of the probables), Evers-Swindell, Pattle, Linnard and Sykes, all six pilots claiming two destroyed each, while Wykeham-Barnes and Vaughan claimed one destroyed each. Additional probables were claimed by Dowding, Flower, Graham and Richens. This giving a total of 14 victories and 6 probables. All in exchange for two Gladiators shot down with Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan, who was killed, and Fight Lieutenant Evers-Swindell, who reported:
“(…) set the aircraft on fire. First removing the water bottle and Very pistol. I walked for three hours away from the sun and then lay down to sleep. I slept till about 01.00 hours finding dense fog and myself wet through. I then dug a hole in some soft sand and buried my self. There I stayed till daylight. At about 06.30 next morning when the fog started to lift I started to walk into the sun until 15.00hrs. when I saw three armoured cars on the horizon. I fired three very light cartridges, the next thing I remember I was lying in the shade of the armoured car the crew told me I was about five miles from the wire.”
He had been picked up by three armoured cars of the 11th Hussars.
It seems that the 73a Squadriglia suffered most from the surprise attack, losing five aircraft when Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari and Sergente Antonio Valle baled out (possibly shot down by Sykes and Linnard), Sottotenente Querci and Sergente Santo Gino force-landed and Maresciallo Norino Renzi failed to return. Sergente Lido Poli was hit early in the fight, being severely wounded in the left arm. Despite this, he continued to fight, claiming to have shot down one Gladiator before force-landing close to an infantry unit at the outskirts of T3 airfield. A patrol from the army immediately took him back to El Adem. Then he was send to the navy hospital of Tobruk where his arm was amputated. For this courageous display, he was awarded the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare. The official citation of his award stated that he “shared in the destruction of five enemy fighters”. His aircraft was recovered lightly damaged as also stated in the same citation: “he succeeded in landing his plane without damage”, forced only by the loss of blood caused by his wound.
Sergente Maggiore Dallari and Sergente Valle were recovered by the 2a Divisione Libica (Libyan Division) and were back at base on the following days, while Querci’s and Gino’s fighters were recovered and sent to the SRAM of El Adem on 15 August.
Sergente Rosa was slightly wounded and baled out while Tenente Martissa force-landed wounded.

Maresciallo Norino Renzi was born on 22 January 1912 in Russi (Ravenna). He joined the Regia Aeronautica in 1929. He was assigned to the 4o Stormo and received his military pilot’s license on 25 December 1930. He served with this unit until his death on 8 August 1940. Pre-war he was part of 4o Stormo’s aerobatics group.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at Associazione Culturale 4o Stormo di Gorizia.

Martissa, who was initially missing, had force-landed his CR.42 with a hundred bullet holes in it, only 15 kilometres from El Adem. The wounded pilot claimed the individual destruction of two Gladiators (not confirmed in the official documents of his unit but later credited to him by post-war studies). In fact, Martissa was awarded with a third Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (in as many months) for this action. The official motivation of the award stated that he: ”shared in the destruction of five enemy planes together with other pilots”. He survived his ordeal by drinking dewdrops at dawn but after two days, he was becoming to expect the worst. One of the bullets, which had hit his aircraft, had pierced the griffin's head of Squadriglia's badge on the port wheel cover and Martissa wrote with a knife on the white background disc of the badge:

“You, little griffin, have been struck in the head. I would have suffered less if I had been likewise! I'm not mortally wounded, but I shall pass away, since I can't walk for 10-20 km to reach a track. And it will be by hunger and thirst.”
Martissa was found on 10 August by the XXII Compagnia Bersaglieri Motociclisti, led by Tenente Domenico Raspini, which was patrolling 80 km south of Tobruk. Raspini recalled:
"We saw an aircraft in the desert. We approached and found Tenente Martissa under a wing, with a leg almost torn off by an explosive bullet from a British fighter. We rescued him. He told us that if we didn't come [to save him], he'd shoot himself in the head with his gun, because he was dying of thirst.
We rescued the pilot and left the aircraft."

MM4306, flown by Tenente Enzo Martissa on 8 August, when it later served with the 84a Squadriglia of the 10o Gruppo.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at Associazione Culturale 4o Stormo di Gorizia.

The Fiat CR.42 flown by Martissa (MM4306) was recovered and, in September 1940, assigned to the 84a Squadriglia of the 10o Gruppo as “84-4”.
Tenente Guiducci was also awarded with a Medaglia d’argento al Valor militare for this combat.
The Italians totally lost four aircraft while four more force-landed (it seems that all were later recovered). In return the Italian pilots claimed five Gladiators (three shared amongst the pilots of 10o Gruppo and two shared by the surviving 73a Squadriglia pilots) and two probables (the 90a Squadriglia’s Diary reported six victories). Remembering the combat for the press, the Italian leader (obviously Maggiore Romagnoli) recalled that even if the attack of the Gladiators was possibly the deadliest he had ever seen, the reaction of his pilots was ”miraculously immediate”. He had just heard the first bullets whistling around him when his right wingman already was breaking with a zoom. Then he saw in his gunsight, the belly of a Gladiator and shot this down (most likely Flight Sergeant Vaughan, who had overshot during the first bounce).
For this exploit, 80 Squadron received the Press honours as well as written congratulations from the RAF HQ Middle East. Dunn and his pilots had exploited the strong points of the Gladiator over the CR.42 to the maximum extent especially the radio equipment, which had permitted a coordinated attack, being also crucial for obtaining the initial surprise and the Gladiators superior low altitude overall performances.
During the combat, the Gladiator demonstrated another interesting characteristic: a markedly superior horizontal manoeuvrability over its opponent. On regard of this point, it is interesting to report the impressions of Flying Officer Stuckey and Flying Officer Linnard.

“With trimming gear slightly back, found I could easily out manoeuvre a/c attacking from rear. No blacking out.”
“No difficulty in keeping astern of enemy aircraft. Enemy invariably looped for evasive action.”
After this combat, morale, particularly among the 9o Gruppo’s pilots suffering their first African experiences, fell considerably. The 73a Squadriglia was considered the top gun unit of 4o Stormo, its pilots (notably among them Enrico Dallari, Renzi, Valerio De Campo and Vittorio Pezzè) were mostly part of the last Italian aerobatic team, which had performed with great success in Berlin Staaken on 23 June 1939, in honour of the returning Condor Legion’s pilots. However, this air battle demonstrated clearly, even in a pure biplane dogfight, that good tactics and sound flight discipline, enhanced by R/T communications were better than the pure aerobatic skill. However, despite this heavy beating, operations for the 9o Gruppo restarted the next day.

On 19 August he left to form 274 Squadron on the first Hurricanes in Egypt with nine of the pilots from A Flight (the Hurricane Flight) of 80 Squadron. Among these pilots were Peter Wykeham-Barnes, Evers-Swindell and John Lapsley.
The first six operational Hurricanes were P2544, P2638, P2639, P2641, P2643 and P2651, while L1669 were used mainly for conversion and training duties.

At around noon on 9 December, the second mission of the day by the 13a Divisione Aerea (the third S.79 mission by the Va Squadra Aerea) ended in tragedy.
Five S.79s of the 45o Gruppo, 14o Stormo under Capitano Profumi and three S.79s of the 44o Gruppo under Capitano Cialente that had taken off from Tmini, were intercepted reportedly by Spitfires, Hurricanes and Glosters before releasing their bombs at 12:30. The enemy fighters concentrated particularly against the “arrow” of Capitano Profumi, which desperately tried to fight back by closing formation to the maximum possible extent. The first to go down was the aircraft of Sottotenente Fortunato Del Dotto (co-pilot Sergente Maggiore Ragusa, Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Giusto Adori, Aviere Scelto Motorista Alfio Giuffrida and Aviere Scelto Armiere Giuseppe Speranza) of the 22a Squadriglia; the crew were all killed with the exception of Ragusa, who survived wounded. The second to be lost was also an aircraft from the 22a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Sergio Sartof, a very experienced pilot, who tried to maintain formation even with the aircraft in flames until it exploded in mid-air with the loss of whole crew (Sergente Franco Martinato, Primo Aviere Motorista Salvatore Bongiorno, Primo Aviere Armiere Enrico Saggese and Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Barbieri). Tenente Toni’s aircraft barely made it back to Amseat were it force-landed at around 13:00 in such bad condition that it was written off. Inside the battered S.79, Primo Aviere Armiere Salvatore Nicoletti, Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Francesco Orecchio and Aviere Scelto Montatore Michele Tortorella had died while the co-pilot Sergente Collini and Primo Aviere motorista Fornasari were wounded. The two surviving S.79s (Capitano Profumi and Tenente Zegrini, who was wounded) landed at Gambut with four wounded in their crews. Sartof was posthumously decorated with the Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare for his activity over the sector during the June-December period. The returning crews of the 45o Gruppo were credited with six enemy fighters shot down by their return fire and three more damaged.
They had been in combat with six Hurricanes of 274 Squadron, which had taken off around 11:35. The Hurricanes were flown by Squadron Leader Dunn (P3723), Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (P2638), Flying Officer Ernest ‘Imshi’ Mason (P3722), Pilot Officer P. H. Preston (P3720), Pilot Officer Stanley Godden (N2624) and Flight Sergeant Thomas Morris (V7300). The Hurricanes were stepped up in flights of three at between 13.500 and 16.000 feet. The S.79s were discovered at 2 o’clock slightly below the Hurricanes and approx five miles away. They were identified as five in a shallow vic and attacked from astern and above between 12:28 and 12:30. Godden claimed one S.79 shot down near Bir Zigdin El Hamra. One more was claimed near Sofafi while the remaining three were claimed damaged; these four were shared by Dunn, Wykeham-Barnes, Mason, Preston and Morris. On 15 December, news arrived from the Army that a third S.79 was shot down during this particular operation and one of the shared damaged bombers was consequently upgraded to a confirmed.
Pilot Officer Godden reported:

[The enemy] returned fire and altered course by medium turn to left one E a/c on inside of turn broke formation and dropped its bombs. Two enemy a/c shot down and remaining three badly damaged. My own aircraft received […] damage by particles of E a/c which exploded in front of me. Return fire from E a/c exceptionally poor. I saw second enemy a/c exploded on the ground.”
Flying Officer Preston reported:
[The enemy] turned for home, result of engagement 2 (for formation).”
Squadron Leader Dunn reported:
[The enemy] altered course in medium turn. One E a/c broke formation. Two E a/c definitely shot down and remainder damaged. Nil casualties to our a/c but one Hurricane hit by bullets. (We showed) lack of coherence in attack which should disappear with experience. Several our fighters (Gladiators) were in engagement but did not join in chase.”
Pilot Officer Mason reported:
[The enemy] put nose down and turned. 2 E a/c shot down (for formation) no Hurricanes damaged. Shot at 4 a/c in turn. No result observed. When bombs were jettisoned, small bombs ? with parachute attached seen to drift.”
Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes reported:
[The enemy] jettisoned bombs and turned west diving at full speed. Enemy engaged. I shot at 4 a/c in turn from 200 yards range without apparent effect. I could see my bullets striking E a/c when out of ammo. I followed the enemy and saw Pilot Officer Godden attack the left hand bomber which exploded in midair. One parachutist seen descending with torn parachute.”
Flight Sergeant Morris reported:
[The enemy] jettisoned bombs, turned left and flew on. One E a/c exploded in flight. One E a/c seen diving steeply. A/c at which I had fired must have been extensively damaged as I saw incendiaries entering just under cockpit and particles of wood were also coming off.”
The 274 Squadron Hurricanes all had returned by 13:20 without losses.
The identity of the Gladiators reported by the Italian crews and 274 Squadron remains unknown but they were probably aircraft from 112 Squadron.

In the afternoon on the same day, SM 79s were out to bomb British troops at the Sidi Barrani - Bir Enba area. They were to be escorted by 19 CR.42s of the 9o Gruppo led by Maggiore Ernesto Botto, which had taken off from El Adem at 14:55. The fighters included seven from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo (CO), Tenente Giulio Reiner, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, Sergente Maggiore Guglielmo Biffani, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Valle and Sergente Santo Gino) seven from the 97a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO), Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Riccardo Vaccari, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Angelo Golino and Sergente Alcide Leoni) and four from the 96a Squadriglia (Tenente Aldo Gon and Sergente Giuseppe Tomasi together with two unknown pilots).
More Italian fighters were up to escort the bombers and at 15:10, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella of the 366a, 151o Gruppo, attached to a formation of nine CR.42s of the 368a Squadriglia (Capitano Bruno Locatelli, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Ernesto De Bellis, Sottotenente Furio Lauri, Sergente Maggiore Annibale Ricotti, Tenente Orfeo Paroli, Sergente Piero Hosquet, Sergente Stefano Fiore, Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi) were out to escorted Italian bombers in the Bir Enba area.
The rendezvous with the bombers over A3 failed and after 20 minutes, the fighters of the 9o Gruppo arrived and together they proceeded towards the front on a free sweep. Three SM 79s were discovered and escorted for a while. Over Buq-Buq, a Hurricane strafing along the coastal road was discovered and the SM 79s were left to the 9o Gruppo while the CR.42s of the 151o Gruppo attacked the British fighter. The Hurricane was claimed shot down in flames and credited to the formation (but in fact only Locatelli, Lauri, Paroli and De Bellis fired their guns).
The 151a Gruppo fighters returned to base at 16:50.
Meanwhile the fighters from the 9o Gruppo continued and 30 km south of Bir Enba they spotted some Gladiators at a lower level and dived on them, but suddenly the CR.42s were jumped by a reported two Squadrons of Hurricanes or Spitfires, attacking respectively the 73a Squadriglia and the 96a Squadriglia with the 97a Squadriglia. A large dogfight started and after 20 minutes of combat many claims were submitted by the Italian pilots
Tenente Vaccari fought alone against four Hurricanes, claiming one destroyed (as a Spitfire) and damaging the others before his Fiat was hit in the fuel tank and in the engine. He crash-landed near Sollum, the aircraft turning over and caught fire; he was burned in the face and hands. Sergente Maggiore Salvatore claimed a Spitfire and several damaged before being wounded in his left arm. He managed however to return to base. Sergente Golino was hit in his back, but managed to claim his attacker before being compelled to evade and land at Amseat A3. Sergente Maggiore Biffani (Fiat CR.42 MM5599/73-9) claimed a Hurricane but was at the same shot down by his victim and was captured. He recalled:

"In the afternoon of 9 December we were flying between Mersa Matruh and Buq-Buq, when my wingman, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, warned me that we had enemies behind us. I alerted Botto by shooting a burst [Note that the CR.42 had no radio during this period], then I realized they were near my tail, so I made a 180-degree turn and I saw them pass: they were three Hurricanes. I climbed almost vertically and saw the 73a Squadriglia in front, the three Hurricanes behind it and 96a and 97a Squadriglia behind them, all in a vertical line that went down to the ground. Then I discovered a Hurricane that was breaking off from the combat, clearly he had seen the other Italian fighters on its tail. I continued to climb, now I was the highest fighter of them all, then I dived down at full throttle [towards the escaping Hurricane]. I arrived near it and then I reduced speed and put the revolutions between 1850 and 2250 because otherwise I would had cut my propeller as happened to Gon and others, because the airscrew went out of gear and the round was fired when it passed in front of the gun (…) . When I closed to it, I opened fire. I aimed and saw the explosive bullets that exploded on the wing. Why didn’t anything happen? Was there no fuel at all? I fired at the other wing but it was the same, the bullets exploded but nothing happened. I fired into the engine, nothing happened. I saw the tracers very well, and after all, it wasn’t the first time I was shooting. At Gorizia I used to hit the target balloon with ten rounds only. In the meantime, I was losing speed and falling behind, O.K. Goodbye! It passed and turned towards me again -so I hadn’t caused any damage to it- , and I did the same. We found ourselves face to face at a distance of around 500-600 metres. I started firing and saw my tracers hitting it, then its wings lit up and in the same moment my plane caught fire, it was just an instant. My plane was severely damaged and while I was trying to land I saw the Hurricane that dived into the ground and exploded. I saw no parachute. I force-landed among British MTs and was immediately taken prisoner. I went back home after 63 months of POW!"
Additional Hurricanes were claimed by Botto, Sergente Dallari, Sergente Valle and an unknown pilot of the 73a Squadriglia (it is possible that this was a shared claim). It seems possible that also Sergente Maggiore Perotti claimed a victory (this claim is disallowed in the 97a Squadriglia diary, who only credits him with some Spitfires damaged).
Sergente Gino claimed a probable before his aircraft was badly damaged and he made an emergency landing near the frontline. Additional probables were claimed by Sottotenente De Campo and Reiner. Sergente Alcide Leoni together with other pilots claimed several damaged fighters. Capitano Larsimont Pergameni was attacked but was able to evade without claiming any hits on any enemy aircraft. Tenente Viglione was soon hit by a Hurricane, but manoeuvred to shoot at and damage it; however he was hit again in the engine by another enemy fighter, so he had to made an emergency landing near Buq-Buq.
Totally the Italian pilots claimed seven shot down (
Biffani’s claim was not initially credited since he was taken POW) and three probables (it’s possible that some of the probables were claimed as shared). The Gruppo’s Diary reduced these claims to four confirmed and three probables.
Totally during the combat one Fiat was shot down (Biffani POW) and three CR.42s carried out emergency landings (Viglione, Vaccari and Gino). Three pilots were wounded; Vaccari, Golino and Salvatore. Both Reiner’s and Valle’s aircraft returned lightly damaged while Tenente Aldo Gon and Sergente Giuseppe Tomasi landed at Amseat due to lack of fuel.
It seems that they had clashed with fighter from at least two RAF Squadrons. 12 Hurricanes from 33 Squadron had taken off with 10 minutes intervals to ground strafe the enemy’s rear areas, concentrating on troops and motor transports. They reportedly caused much damage before they were intercepted by three formations of CR.42s. During the day, 33 Squadron’s pilots claimed three Italian fighters and reported another going down out of control. One of the Squadron’s Hurricanes had to force-land but the pilot was saved (this was probably claimed by the 151o Gruppo pilots). Considering that one of the claims should relate to the loss of Sergente Francesco Nanin in the morning then the other two are probably connected with this specific engagement. It is also known that Flying Officer Vernon Woodward shot down two of the Fiats claimed by his unit, one of them in flames, and damaged a third.
The second Squadron was five Hurricanes (Squadron Leader Dunn (P3723), Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (V7293), Flying Officer Thomas Patterson (P3720), Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (V7300) and Pilot Officer Ernest ‘Imshi’ Mason (P3722)) from 274 Squadron, which had taken off at 15:00. They were flying in two vics at 15,000 feet when they spotted 27 CR.42s in tight vics (four main formations of 8, 7, 6 and 6 aircraft) over the Sidi Barrani-Sofafi area at 16:08. The Italian fighters were discovered at 9 o’clock, 10-12 miles away and stepped so that they were slightly above and 2000 feet below. The RAF pilots succeeded in approaching unobserved and then delivered a multiple direction attack followed by a general dogfight. The Hurricane pilots reporting five confirmed victories and three probables for one Hurricane damaged. In the unit’s ORBs Form 541 victories were claimed by Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes (plus one probable), Squadron Leader Dunn (plus two probables), Flying Officer Patterson, Flight Lieutenant Lapsley and Pilot Officer Mason. However, in the unit’s ORB Form 540, the number of confirmed victories raises to six with three more CR 42s severely damaged; the identity of the claimant of this last victory, however remained unknown even if the CFRs of the action would suggest Squadron Leader Dunn.
Squadron Leader Dunn (he delivered an aster attack) reported:
“The enemy engaged in dogfight. Claim one E a/c for certain (saw it hit the ground). Attacked two in tight vic and was at 200 yards point blank range and fell certain must have killed pilots. Got another good and point blank deflection shot at another. Closed from optimum to point blank range at first. Must (?) have shot down the first two but could not spare time to confirm. 3rd point blank deflection shot likely and fourth adversary saw it hit the ground (claim 1 confirmed and 2 others which I feel certain about but must go down as unconfirmed).”
Flight Lieutenant Lapsley (he delivered a head-on attack) reported:
“The enemy fired back. 1 CR 42 shot down and seen to hit the ground without burning. Several other machines were shot at individually. They can out manoeuvre a Hurricane but one can get away and then come back.”
Pilot Officer Mason (he was discovered during the approach and had to dogfight from the beginning) reported:
“The enemy tried to turn inside me. 1 CR 42 shot at short range from above into cockpit. Aircraft turned (unreadable) with sparks from it. Followed it down until attacked by others CR 42s. Using 15o flap climb (unreadable) but not quite equal to 42. Speed on level far superior. Possible when attacked from above to turn and deliver short head on burst.”
Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes reported:
“The enemy dog fought, during dogfight damaged two enemy and sent one down out of control but could not see it crash as another was in my tail. The enemy fairly aggressive.”
Flying Officer Patterson (he delivered a quarter attack from port side) reported:
“The enemy started a general dogfight. 1 CR 42 shot down and seen to burn out on the ground”.
The 274 Squadron Hurricanes all had landed at 17:00.
It is also highly likely that 112 Squadron’s Gladiators were present. They were up, patrolling the Bir Enba area, and were noted and attacked by 9o Gruppo’s pilots. The Squadron flew at least two patrols during the day but the unit’s ORB don’t report any engagement.
The escorted bombers were three SM 79s of the 29o Gruppo (one of 11a Squadriglia and two of 63a Squadriglia) commanded by Colonnello Mario Aramu that attacked at around 16:40 while the RAF fighters were busy with the CR.42s of 9o Gruppo. Aramu noted the combat between Italian and Commonwealth fighters and claime an effective bombing from 3000 metres coming back at Gambut at 17:50 while the other formation were four SM 79s of the 6a Squadriglia, 44o Gruppo, commanded by Maggiore Andrea Bosi who had taken off at 14:25 from Tmini M2. Before the mission Bosi had received order not to press home his attack (but to turn back) in case he failed the rendezvous with the escorting fighters over Sollum, so when the rendezvous with the escort failed he turned back and landed at Tmini M2 at 16:40. His were the bombers that were discovered by 9o Gruppo flying back towards Libya.

At 08:00 on 13 December, 274 Squadron started to launch eight Hurricanes, which took off with 15 minutes intervals to ground strafing Italian motor transports and motorised troops on the Bardia-Tobruk road some 30 or more miles beyond Bardia.
Participating pilots were Flying Officer Greenhill (Hurricane P2652) (08:00-11:00), Sergeant Clarke (P3976) (08:15-10:25), Pilot Officer Strong (P5176) (08:30-11:00), Second Lieutenant Talbot (N2627) (09:15-09:30), Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (P2641) (09:15-12:20), Pilot Officer Preston (P3720) (09:35-11:35), Pilot Officer Mason (V7293) (09:50-11:50) and Squadron Leader Dunn (P3723) (10:00-).
Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley claimed a CR.42 at 10:00, 12 miles west of Capuzzo after an unobserved astern diving attack. It was possibly part of a 9o Gruppo formation but the loss has not been possible to verify with Italian records. He reported:

[The enemy] turned back to attack, 1 CR 42 shot down and crashed in flames, ground strafing duties were not carried out owing to remaining 5 enemy aircraft.”
Squadron Leader Dunn was forced to land (unhurt) north of LG E74 (ALG 74?). It is possible that he also had been involved in combat with fighters from the 9o or 151o Gruppi.

At 14:00 on 14 December, eight or nine Hurricanes from 274 Squadron took off with 10 minutes intervals, refuelling at Sidi Barrani aerodrome to carry out an offensive patrol west of Sollum, as information was received that waves of Italian aircraft were attacking British forward troops. Participating pilots were Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (V7300) (14:00-16:00), Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (V7293) (14:00-16:10), Pilot Officer Charles Laubscher (P3720) (14:00-16:00), Squadron Leader Dunn (P5176), Flying Officer C. F. Greenhill (N2627), Pilot Officer Strong (P2652), Pilot Officer Garland (P2627), Flying Officer Lynch (P2556) and probably Pilot Officer Ernest Mason (P3722).
Between 16:05 and 16:08 and 25 miles west of Bardia they met a formation of CR.42s described as three in vic first seen but about nine seen later (or 9-12 eventually engaged). They engaged the Italian formation and returned claiming five of them. Two were claimed by Squadron Leader Dunn, two by Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley and the fifth was credited to Flying Officer Greenhill 30 miles west of Bardia while Pilot Officer Mason claimed one probable.
Flying Officer Greenhill reported that he was flying at 12,000 feet in vic with two other Hurricanes and saw the CR.42s at 3 o’clock 12 miles away and 2,000 feet below when in a position 30 miles west of Bardia. He delivered an astern attack:

[The enemy engaged] in dogfight, 1 CR 42 shot down and crashed (seen by F/Lt Lapsley) 1 CR 42 damaged our casualties nil. The formation of 3 CR 42 were taken by surprise after which other CR 42s appeared and attempted to engage us but unsuccessfully.”
Flight Lieutenant Lapsley reported that he was flying at 12,000 feet in vic with two other Hurricanes and saw the CR 42s at 3 o’clock 12 miles away and 2,000 feet below when in a position over the Bardia- Tobruk road. He delivered an astern attack:
[The enemy] turned and a dogfight ensued. 2 CR 42s shot down. 1 crashed after initial attack. The others smoked and crashed in flames. Came in and get away tactics used quite successfully. The enemy seemed more determined than in my previous engagements.”
Squadron Leader Dunn reported that he was flying at 12,500 feet in vic with two other Hurricanes and saw the CR 42s at 4 o’clock 8 miles away and 4,000 feet below when in a position over Bardia. He delivered an astern attack:
[The enemy did] the usual action. Five CR 42’s shot down by flight. Self 2. E a/c were not flying in such tight formation and must have been part of a well planned larger formation which I did not see when attacking original target.”
Pilot Officer Mason later wrote:
“…two of us met a CR 42 which attacked head on but I gave him a long burst and he went down in a spin. We didn’t see him smoke or burn or hit the ground so he is unconfirmed. I have also been doing a lot of ground strafing. I fly down a road at nought feet and fire at motors and things. Interesting to fire at the back of a van full of troops. You see your bullets hitting the sand and you just move the cloud of sand up towards and past the lorry. You then see dozens of chaps pile out like nobody’s business. Some run away – some can’t!”
Squadron Leader Dunn’s Hurricane was hit and he force-landed. He returned safely the next day after having riding part of the way back on an Italian motorcycle. Pilot Officer Strong and Flying Officer Greenhill didn’t either land back at base (probably short of fuel), they were however back the next day with their fighter.
The British fighters had run across a formation of ten Fiat CR.42s from the 13o Gruppo, which had taken off from T2 at 15:20 to make a standing patrol over Sidi Azeiz to cover the SM 79s attacking the area. The formation was composed of five fighters from the 77a Squadriglia (Capitano Eduardo Travaglini, Tenente Eduardo Sorvillo, Sottotenente Gianmario Zuccarini, Sottotente Mario Nicoloso and Sergente Renato Gori), one from the 82a Squadriglia (Sergente Filippo Baldin) and four from the 78a Squadriglia (this Squadriglias diary from 14 to 16 December is missing but it seems that Sottotenente Dario Magnabosco was part of this formation).
When they arrived over Sidi Azeiz, the formation was split in into two groups of five. One, under Capitano Travaglini remained at 500 metres to cover closely the Savoias that arrived in subsequent waves. The other group with the same numerical strength and under Tenente Sorvillo climbed to 3500 metres. Pilots in this last formation included Sergente Gori, Sergente Baldin and someone from the 78a Squadriglia. It was this group that was attacked from superior height by a reportedly six Hurricanes. From the description of the returning Italian pilots, it seems that the Hurricanes tried to turn with the Fiat and were quickly outmanoeuvred. After a brief but harsh dogfight, four Hurricanes were claimed with the other two as probables, all without loss to the Italian fighters.
Tenente Sorvillo used 250 rounds of 12,7mm ammunition and 300 rounds of 7,7mm, Sergente Gori used 70 rounds 12,7mm ammunition and 80 rounds of 7,7mm. Sergente Baldin was the only pilot positively credited of an individual victory in the Squadriglie diaries and landed an heavily damaged plane, while according with the official history of 2o Stormo (written post-war) other individuals went to Tenente Sorvillo and Sergente Gori with the other victories shared among the pilots of the high covering section.

At 11:00 on 5 January 1941, 202 Group HQ signalled to 274 Squadron to continue the patrols. In the meantime had Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (V7558) and Pilot Officer Wilson (N2624) already taken off at 10:30 and 10:45 respectively. They were followed by Flying Officer Arthur Weller (P2544), Flying Officer Ernest Mason (P3722), Second Lieutenant Robert Talbot (P3721) and Squadron Leader Dunn (P3723), taking off between 11:00 and 11:30. This group of pilots would experience a lot of action.
At 12:20 alternatively 12:30, Flying Officer Mason and Second Lieutenant Talbot arrived independently but keeping visual touch over Ain el Gazala. Mason, who was flying at 3500 feet, saw two CR.42s in a vic, 2000 feet below him and approached the leader unobserved. He hit him with a burst, seeing him stalling and diving vertically into the ground and bursting out in flames. The no. 2 in the meantime turned away and attempted to make a head on attack. A burst from the eight guns of Mason made him turn over and dive into the deck where the CR.42 burst into flames too. In the meantime, Talbot stayed higher and saw five CR.42s in a scattered formation, which looked as if they were diving on Mason. Unobserved he performed a stern attack on the leader who stalled and dived into the ground. When the two 274 Squadron pilots left the scene, three CR.42s were seen burning on the ground. Mason reported:

”in the afternoon we went there [Gazala airfield] again and circled over the aerodrome. Suddenly I saw two CR42s approaching to land. I dived down and came up behind. I gave the leader a burst and as I shot past him he turned slowly and dived straight in the middle of the aerodrome and exploded. In the meantime the other chap had turned and came for me head on. I gave him a short burst and he did the same thing. This time on the edge of the aerodrome. By then five more, also returning home, had seen me and were diving on me so Bob shot down the leader and they dispersed.”
Mason had shot down Sottotenente Oscar Abello and Sergente Pardino Pardini of the 70a Squadriglia, who were landing on Z1 coming from Benghazi at 11:20 (Italian time). The identity of the fighters attacked by Talbot remains unknown. Sottotenente Abello was a highly respected pilot, already credited with three victories (two of them Hurricanes over Malta). As recognition of his previous activity, he received a posthumous Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
In the meantime, the rest of 274 Squadron formation was intercepting a formation of Italian bombers over the front. First to attack was Pilot Officer Wilson. At 12:40, he was flying at 18,500 feet in the vicinity of Sidi Azeiz when he discovered a formation of at least 3 SM 79s escorted by 20 CR.42s a mile north-east and 1000 feet below. The Fiats flew in scattered vics of three above and on the flanks of the bombers. Wilson intended attacking the bombers diving through the CR.42s but had no opportunity to do so because the fighters on the flanks climbed on observing his approach and then whipped on his tail as he passed through. Wilson was however able to fire a burst on a straggler in centre of the escort formation, definitely hitting it as it lurched off but then seven unobserved CR.42s dived on him and he was unable to observe further effects of his fire. After the attack, he dived in a right hand turn. When the fighters broke off, he turned and gave chase again but was unable to catch up with them because of the loss of height and shortage of petrol. He landed at 13:25, claiming a damaged CR.42.
At 12.45, over Great Gambut, Squadron Leader Dunn and Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes intercepted more enemy aircraft. The 274 Squadron’s CO was flying at 8000 feet, 3000 feet below the Italian formation, which was 15 miles away and he estimated it composing five bombers and ten individually weaving fighters, which looked as if they had been split up by somebody else before (probably Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes). He tried to attack the bombers but after a long chase, the temperature of his engine became excessive, his cockpit filled with smoke and he was forced to fight with an open hood. Being unable to catch up with the SM 79s, he delivered a quarter attack from below and astern on one CR.42, which was separate and about three miles behind the main force. Dunn witnessed the Italian pilot (possibly wounded) baling out while his aircraft burned out on ground. Dunn landed at 14:15.
Wykeham-Barnes in the meantime was flying at 20,000 feet and was only ten miles from the Italian formation, which he reported as composed of five SM 79s and 17 CR.42s weaving behind and above the bombers. He wanted to deliver an astern attack on the bombers but the escort attacked at once with determination, repulsing his intended action so he was forced to turn round and above for an head on attack. The first attack on the SM 79s, which kept close formation, was believed successful because when he came back for a second head on attack the first aircraft had disappeared. Confirmation of this victory was however made difficult by the escort action. The second bomber instead was seen to dive straight into the ground at Bir Sacta(?) south-west of Tobruk. Wykeham-Barnes landed at 13:15 claiming one SM 79 confirmed and one probable (credited as a damaged).
Around the same time, 73 Squadron was active over the same general area with 23 fighters being despatched singly with 15 minutes intervals starting from 06:30 until 13:45. Flight Sergeant Alfred Marshall (V7562/TP-A) claimed his sixth SM 79 some 30 miles south-east of Gambut, watching the crew baling out. His action was witnessed by Pilot Officer Goord (TP-M), who caught another fighter 25 miles south-east of Tobruk, just south of the main road from Bardia. Finally Flight Sergeant Webster (V7551/TP-K) claimed a CR.42 in flames and damaged another ten miles south-east of Gambut. All these victories were achieved between 12:35 and 13:05.
Last victory of the day was claimed by Flight Lieutenant M. L. Beytagh (V7561/TP-X) from 73 Squadron, who claimed a CR.42 near Marsa Es Sahal, just west of Tobruk, at 14:20.
The unlucky Italian units subjected to all these unwelcome attentions were an arrow of five SM 79s from the 34o Stormo commanded by Tenente Saladin and escorted by 17 CR.42s from the 23o Gruppo with six from the 70a Squadriglia (Maggiore Tito Falconi, Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani, Sergente Cesare Sironi, Sergente Ubaldo Marziali and Tenente Marino Commissoli), five from the 74a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Pinna, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sottotenente Milano Pausi and Sergente Emilio Stefani) and six from the 75a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Renato Villa, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Maresciallo Carlo Dentis and Maresciallo Luigi Pasquetti), which had taken off from Z1 at 11:15. The bombers had taken off from Benina at 09:50 to attack the British armoured units south of Sidi Azeiz in the Trigh Capuzzo area and despite the spirited defence offered by the Fiat biplanes some ten Hurricanes piloted by aces like Dunn, Wykeham-Barnes and Marshall where odds too big against them. Three of the Savoias failed to return. Tenente Lino Saladin’s SM 79s was shot down, and even if some crewmembers (Sottotenente Severino Sheimer, Sottotenente Puntatore Antonio Scarparo, Sergente Maggiore Radiotelegrafista Adelchi Lenissa, Primo Aviere Motorista Vito Bellomo and Primo Aviere Armiere Michelangelo Conti) were seen to parachute, they all perished. This bomber was almost certainly the victim of Marshall. Two other bombers force-landed, one of them close to Barce reportedly because of lack of fuel (most probably the victims of Wykeham-Barnes even if the returning pilots from the 23o Gruppo reported that one of the SM 79 had been brought down by the AA reaction). Only two bombers were able to escape back in Benina, landing at 14:45.
The Italian escort also suffered heavily. Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni was wounded but remained in the fight to the last minute before finally landing a heavily damaged fighter at T2. Unfortunately, the CR.42 overturned on landing. Sottotenente Schiroli was killed, falling with his fighter without being able to use his parachute. Finally, after claiming a Hurricane, Sottotenente Marangoni was shot down and parachuted, wounded in the right leg (possibly victim of Squadron Leader Dunn). Unluckily he fell on the wounded leg, completely shattering it, and was taken prisoner a short while after. Some weeks later, a British aircraft throw a message over the Italian lines, which contained a letter written by a British Army Officer (Antony McDonald) to Marangoni’s mother. The British Officer had been wounded close to the place where Marangoni had parachuted and had been recovered in a field hospital together with him. He told that Marangoni died for loss of blood on the first hours of the 6th and described the gallant behaviour maintained by him during his last hours. For this combat and for his precedent activity over Malta, Leopoldo Marangoni received a posthumous Medaglia d’Argento al valor militare “in the field”, which in 1942 was upgraded to the Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
Tenente Mario Pinna, newly appointed commander of the 74a Squadriglia claimed a Hurricane with the use of 380 rounds of ammunition. Sergente Stefani claimed a damaged Hurricane with the use of 350 rounds and damaged Hurricanes were claimed also by Sottotenente De Angelis, Sottotenente Villa and Maresciallo Carmello. After the action, the Italian fighters landed directly at Tmini M2 at 13:35.
The loss of Marangoni, a quite popular person coming from the upper middle-class of Milan and the son of the owner of a small cork processing plant, was particularly felt by his mates. A sport cars driver and a volunteer, he could had avoided to reach the front line in Libya for health problems that arise in September but he decided for an operation and was back in his unit in middle November after a fast recovery. His sister Olga had married the CO of the 10o Gruppo, Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, who in the day following his loss made many low level flights to look for him or at least to obtain information on his fate. His Squadriglia CO Pietro Calistri (who was not present during his last combat) credited him with an individual victory obtained in a frontal attack immediately before being shot down; this was recorded also in the 75a Squadriglia’s Diary. The description of the events given by his friend Marino Commissoli in a letter to Marangoni’s parents was slightly different:
“(…) targets that day were enemy troops close to Bardia. We were seventeen fighters and we escorted five bombers that had to attack the enemy positions. Enemy reaction was very strong and we had to stand three consecutive fights. It was during the second attack, just after leaving the target area over the desert west of Bardia that Leopoldo was surprised by a Hurricane and with him also his wingman. Both left formation. The attack was lightning-swift and they were unable to avoid it, as we were unable to help them or to follow their fate because the enemy’s precision was too high and we had to guard against new attacks. Back at base we hoped that someone of the missing pilots came back, perhaps landing in some advanced landing grounds. Two in fact came back later but we received no news of Leopoldo and his wingman (…) Only later, just before leaving Tripoli we knew his fate (…)”.

Generale Matriciardi again blamed the fighters for their ineffectiveness “it seems clear that bomber protection have to be realized through a single close formation of fighters and bombers” and then criticised the escort believed absent. From the reports from the British pilots and of the losses suffered, this was indeed unfair comments.

On 8 January, Squadron Leader Dunn and Flying Officer Ernest Mason of 274 Squadron received special orders to refuel at Gambut and attack Italian bombers on the ground at Tmini or Martuba. The mission started at 10:00 and ended at 15:45. The two pilots reported that they strafed two S.79s on Gazala and then attacked eleven S.79s on Martuba, setting fire on two of them.
The identity of the S.79s seen on Gazala remains unknown and they were probably already abandoned aircraft but those at Martuba were in fact transport S.81s, two of which were reported written off after a British raid.

Squadron Leader Dunn was awarded the DFC for “outstanding leadership, determination and devotion to duty” on 30 January.

After leading the unit during the very successful First Libyan Campaign, he left on 20 February 1941 to command Amriya airfield.

In April he was promoted Wing Commander and on 12 April he took command of 'B' and 'C' Flights of 70 OTU, which was renamed the Fighter OTU, becoming 71 (ME)OTU in June 1941. 71 (ME)OTU operated first at Ismailia, and then, when bombed out, at Khartoum in the Sudan in September. In October 1941 when a Group Captain arrived to take command, he became CFI.

In December 1941 he was posted to HQ, 203 Group and became SAO of 203 Group for a brief period from 23 February 1942. In March 1942 he was sent back to the UK via West Africa, where he spent four weeks with 204 Squadron flying a few operations on Sunderlands. In London he joined the Staff of the CAS, undertaking several overseas trips with Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard.

In March 1944 he attended 1655 Flight, an OTU preparing him for Mosquito 'Pathfinder' operations, but he was pulled off this as he was not allowed to fly operationally until six months after D-Day due to his CAS job. After a blind landing course, he went to Fighter Command as a staff officer until late 1944, when he was promoted Group Captain at 12 Group, controlling anti-V-2 operations. Just before the war ended he was given command of the Coltishall Fighter Sector.

Dunn ended the war with 2 biplane victories and a total of 6.

Late in 1946 he went to Air Ministry as Deputy Director, Personnel Services, and then later as SSO Malaya. Back in the UK at the end of 1950, he attended the Joint Services Staff College before going to the NATO Defence College in Paris as an instructor.

In January 1953 he returned to Fighter Command as Group Captain Plans, and in December 1954 became Air Commander Ops with the Command. In September 1956 he was AOC and Commandant at the RAF Flying College, Manby. In 1958 he went to Air Ministry as Deputy Air Secretary, becoming an Air Vice-Marshal whilst there. He then became AOC, 1 Group, Bomber Command, undertaking a bomber refresher course, flying Vulcans, until May 1964. Commander in Chief of Flying Training Command followed until August 1966, when he retired from the service as an Air Marshal.

In 1956 he was appointed CB and KBE in 1965.

He started his civilian career by becoming a Director of British Steel. He subsequently went to British Eagle as Deputy Chairman, but when this airline went bankrupt, he became Chairman of Eagle Aircraft Services. His final job for 12 years was as Managing Director of a company operating the Gloucester, Coventry, Cricklewood and Kingston industrial trading estates. Dunn was also to become a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Patrick Dunn passed away on 17 June 2004.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 08/08/40 18:00- 1 CR.42 (a) Destroyed Gladiator I K8009 El Gobi 80 Squadron
2 08/08/40 18:00- 1 CR.42 (a) Destroyed Gladiator I K8009 El Gobi 80 Squadron
  08/08/40 18:00- 1 CR.42 (a) "Doubtful" Gladiator I K8009 El Gobi 80 Squadron
  09/12/40 11:35-13:10 1/5 S.79 (b) Shared destroyed Hurricane I P3723 El Gobi 274 Squadron
  09/12/40 11:35-13:10 1/5 S.79 (b) Shared destroyed Hurricane I P3723 El Gobi 274 Squadron
  09/12/40 11:35-13:10 1/5 S.79 (b) Shared damaged Hurricane I P3723 El Gobi 274 Squadron
  09/12/40 11:35-13:10 1/5 S.79 (b) Shared damaged Hurricane I P3723 El Gobi 274 Squadron
3 09/12/40 16:08-17:00 1 CR.42 (c) Destroyed Hurricane I P3723 Barrani-Sofafi area 274 Squadron
  09/12/40 16:08-17:00 1 CR.42 (c) Probable Hurricane I P3723 Barrani-Sofafi area 274 Squadron
  09/12/40 16:08-17:00 1 CR.42 (c) Probable Hurricane I P3723 Barrani-Sofafi area 274 Squadron
4 14/12/40 16:05- 1 CR.42 (d) Destroyed Hurricane I P5176 25m W Bardia 274 Squadron
5 14/12/40 16:05- 1 CR.42 (d) Destroyed Hurricane I P5176 25m W Bardia 274 Squadron
6 05/01/41 12:45-14:15 1 CR.42 (e) Destroyed Hurricane I P3723 5m SW Gambut 274 Squadron

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed, 1 "doubtful".
TOTAL: 6 and 2 shared destroyed, 2 probable, 1 "doubtful", 2 shared damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with 9o and 10o Gruppi C.T., which lost 4 CR.42s, 4 fighters force-landed (it seems that all were later recovered) and one pilot KIA while claiming 5 and 2 probable Gladiators. 80 Squadron claimed 14 and 6 probably destroyed while losing 2 Gladiators and 1 pilot.
(b) Claimed in combat with S.79s from the 44o and 45o Gruppi, which lost two S.79 and got three more damaged (one was written-off) while claiming six enemy fighters and three more damaged. 274 Squadron claimed three S.79 and two more damaged without losses.
(c) Probably claimed in combat between 9o and 151o Gruppi and 33 and 274 Squadrons. 9o Gruppo claimed eight shot down, three probables and several damaged while losing two CR.42s and four force-landed. The 151o Gruppo claimed one Hurricane without losses. 33 and 274 Squadrons claimed seven or eight CR.42s and three probables while one Hurricane (33 Squadron) had to force-land and a second (274 Squadron) was damaged.
(d) Claimed in combat with CR.42s from the 13o Gruppo C.T. 274 Squadron claimed five and one probable while losing one Hurricane (Squadron Leader Dunn safe). The 13o Gruppo claimed four and two probables with one CR.42 damaged.
(e) Possibly Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni of 75a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo, who DOW.

274 Squadron Operations Record Book
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999, Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Desert Prelude: Operation Compass - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2011 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-61421-18-4
Diario Storico 77a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 78a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 82a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Ernesto Botto, Gamba di Ferro - Ferdinando Pedriali, Storia Militare no. 96 (IX), September 2001 kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Gloster Gladiator - Alex Crawford, 2002 Mushroom Model Publications, ISBN 83-916327-0-9
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Il Savoia Marchetti S.M. 79 nel Secondo Conflitto Mondiale - Bombardamento Terrestre - Ricognizione Strategica - Aviazione Sahariana – Cesare Gori, 2003 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Le Giovani Aquile – Antonino Trizzino, 1972 Longanesi, Milano, (narration by Guglielmo Biffani at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO) kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Desert Air War 1939 – 1945 – Richard Townshend Bickers, 1991 Leo Cooper, London, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Woody - A Fighter Pilot's Album - Hugh A. Halliday, 1987 Canav Books, Toronto, ISBN 0-9690703-8-1
Additional information kindly provided by David LaJuett, Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 17 June 2012