Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Lieutenant Anthony Nugent Young, RN

Anthony Young was born in 1916 and was from London.

In January 1938, Sub Lieutenant Young was granted a temporary commission as a Flying Officer to the RAF.

Young was a Swordfish pilot of 824 Squadron operating from HMS Eagle in the Mediterranean during the early part of the Second World War. He was also one of the pilots aboard who were trained as a fighter pilot by Commander Charles Keighly-Peach to use the four Sea Gladiator which provided the fighter cover of the carrier.

During the morning on 17 August, the Mediterranean Fleet was out for a raid in support of the Army. The battleships HMS Warspite, HMS Ramilles and HMS Malaya, supported by the cruiser HMS Kent and three flotillas of destroyers bombarded Bardia harbour and Fort Capuzzo, starting at 06:45 and continuing for 22 minutes. As the vessels headed back towards Alexandria a series of bombing attacks were launched against them by the Regia Aeronautica.
The RAF and the FAA provided escort for the fleet. HMS Eagle's Fighter Flight of three Sea Gladiators had been flown to Sidi Barrani airfield in Libya, and from here patrolled over the Fleet. 'B' and 'C' Flights of 80 Squadron provided air support with flights of four Gladiators over the ships from dawn to dusk. ‘A’ Flight of 112 Squadron was positioned at Z Landing Ground (Matruh West) while ‘C’ Flight of 112 Squadron was based at Y LG about 18 kilometres further west and they also took part in the covering missions.
The attacks on the Royal Navy began when, at 10:40 five SM 79s were seen at 12,000 feet, heading in from the north-east. Over the fleet there were, on standing patrol, at least the Gladiators of ‘A’ Flight 112 Squadron (probably six of them), the three Sea Gladiators of HMS Eagle’s Fighter Flight and a single Hurricane from ‘A’ Flight 80 Squadron flown by Flying Officer John Lapsley (P2641). They intercepted the Italian bombers and altogether claimed six of them; one by Flight Lieutenant Lloyd Schwab, one by Pilot Officer Peter Wickham, (both from 112 Squadron) and three by Lapsley. Two Sea Gladiators flown by Lieutenant (A) Kenneth Keith (N5513) and Lieutenant Young (N5567) attacked several formations. Young attacked one in company with a 112 Squadron Gladiator flown by an unknown pilot. Keith joined the attack and the port wing of the bomber burst into flames, two members of the crew bailing out before the Savoia crashed into the sea. Commander Charles Keighly-Peach (N5517) became separated, and realizing the futility of chasing the fleeing bombers alone, headed back over the Fleet in time to see to more formations attacking (totally 25 SM 79s were counted). He made three attacks on one bomber, seeing numerous pieces fall off and it went into a shallow dive. One man baled out, but as the aircraft lost height rapidly, it disappeared into cloud. He attacked another twice but without result.
The Italians lost four bombers and claimed seven Gladiators shot down in return (it seems that all the seven claims were submitted by the gunners aboard the Savoia bombers, two of them by 10o Stormo gunners). In fact only the Gladiator of Pilot Officer Richard Acworth was seriously damaged when he attacked an SM 79s, but although wounded himself Acworth was able to fly back to base where he crash-landed and the aircraft was written-off.
In 1942, Joseph Fraser remembered:

“During August, the Squadron’s C.O. Slim Somerville was still non-operational, recovering from extensive burns which he had received getting out of a Gladiator on fire while practicing aerobatics at Helwan. The Flights were commanded by F/Lt C. H. Fry and Algy Schwab, the latter had just been posted in Wally Williams place as O.C. “A” Flight. A number of patrols were carried out during August between Sollum and Mersa Matruh and a couple more victories were credited to the Squadron. F/O Acworth was badly injured by shrapnel in the leg during a dog-fight off Sidi Barrani but he managed to get his aircraft back to Gerawla, landing downwind and finishing up at the opening of the medical tent. The medical officer was infuriated at this demonstration, until he realized Acky was unable to get out of the cockpit and that it had saved him carrying Acky some hundreds of yards. A dozen or more splinters were taken out of Acky’s leg, two weeks sick leave in Alex. and he was back in the cockpit again.”
John Lapsley told a newspaper about this combat:
“I arrived just as five S 79’s had dropped their bombs, all well astern of the fleet, and were making off. One immediately went down in flames – evidently hit by anti-aircraft fire from the battleships. I picked on the leader and gave him about eight short bursts. He fell away, obviously in difficulties. Actually he landed his aircraft in our lines – there were six hundred bullet holes in it [probably ’56-9’ flown by Tenente Lauchard of the 56a Squadriglia].
Then I picked on another and had just got a second burst into him he went up in flames. I was about one hundred yards away and the planes were much too close for comfort so I swerved away just as the crew of the S 79 ‘baled out’.
The third remaining S 79 by this time was quite close to the coast and he was diving like mad for a cloud. I gave him three or four long bursts, and with one engine smoking he disappeared. I think he went into ‘the drink’.
These Italian aircraft seem to be built of ply-wood. At any rate you have to dodge the pieces that come flying back at you when you fire your guns.
There didn’t seem to be much more doing, so I came home. Even then I had some ammunition left.”
Italian units participating in the attack were the 10o Stormo with ten aircraft and the 15o and the 33o Stormi with another 16 aircraft. The Italians arrived over the target in consecutive waves. There is a lack of details of the attack of the 15o and the 33o Stormi but they suffered no losses even if it seems that the bombers from the 15o Stormo were intercepted by the British fighters. Primo Aviere Antonio Trevigni of the 53a Squadriglia, 47o Gruppo, although seriously wounded in both legs, kept firing against them until his aircraft was able to escape, claiming two victories in the process. Trevigni was awarded with a Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare but was never able to recover and finally died in an Italian hospital on 23 October 1942.
The 10o Stormo aircraft were a first group of five Savoias of the 58a Squadriglia and a second group under the command of Capitano Musch and composed of four aircraft of the 56a Squadriglia and one of the 57a Squadriglia. The 58a Squadriglia took off from Derna N1 at 07:55 and arrived over the Royal Navy ships at around 10:00 where they unloaded forty 100 kilos bombs. A group of seven Gladiators tried to intercept after the bombing but was left behind while AA was reported as extremely intense and precise.
The second group led by Capitano Musch arrived over the fleet just to find all the enemy fighters already alerted and ready for the interception. Attacked by the Gladiators and Lapsley’s Hurricane the first to go down was aircraft ‘57-7’ flown by Tenente Visentin, and Sottotenente Sartore (crew; Maresciallo Fasce, Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Pian, Aviere Armiere Vitolo, Aviere Scelto Motorista Innocenti). It was shot down while losing height rapidly to force-land after having been damaged when it was attacked by several Gladiators. The crew was all killed. The second aircraft to go down was the aircraft of Sottotenente Mussi of the 56a Squadriglia with the loss of the crew. The third to be shot down was ’56-9’ flown by Tenente Arturo Lauchard of the 56a Squadriglia, which was seriously damaged. With all the crew dead inside the second pilot Tenente Vittorio Cèard (Lauchard was wounded) made a forced landing on a beach. The beach was in Egyptian territory and the two pilots were taken prisoners. The plane of Lauchard was later recovered and, taken to Alexandria, was exposed as a war prize on Ismailia Square. Lauchard left a realistic narration of his capture where he told that he was transported to the airport of Sidi Barrani where he was taken to the Officer’s Mess where an Intelligence Officer examined him. Lauchard told him only his name and rank and the amused British Officer showed him a chart where all the units of Regia Aeronautica were recorded with airbase, number of planes and names of the crew chiefs. There his name already was, written on a tag that the Intelligence Officer removed. Later the RAF officers offered a drink to him and he met a young Flight Lieutenant that around ten days before had been shot down by Italian fighters and obliged to bale out. The British pilot told Lauchard that while descending in his parachute an Italian fighter pointed on him but instead of opening fire he passed near him weaving with his arm. It seems that the pilot was almost surely Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle.
The two surviving Savoias ran for home but only Capitano Musch arrived back at Derna, with the aircraft damaged and a wounded crewman (Primo Aviere Motorista Falzoni). The other SM 79 flown by Sottotenente Venosta and Marsciallo Breda was almost shot down by the fighters when a cloud saved them. They were however obliged to force-land at T3 where the plane was written off as a consequence of the damage suffered. The 10o Stormo’s records reported that three of their numbers were shot down by a single Hurricane that, hidden inside the Gladiator formation, attacked with quick passes of its guns but always remaining out of range of the Italian return fire.

Ten days later on 27 August 1940, Young unfortunately was killed when his 824 Squadron Swordfish crashed at the Fleet Air Station at Dekheila, Alexandria.

On 11 September, he was posthumously mentioned in despatches.

At the time of his death, Young had claimed one shared victory, this one being claimed while flying Gloster Sea Gladiator.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  17/08/40 10:40- 1/3 S.79 (a) Shared destroyed Sea Gladiator N5567 Bardia-Alexandria HMS Eagle

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed.
(a) RAF and FAA claimed six S.79s and 1 probable for one damaged Gladiator. The 10o Stormo aircraft lost three S.79s and got two more damaged.

Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Fleet Air Arm Aircraft, 1939-1945 - Ray Sturtivant, kindly provided by Mark E. Horan
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The London Gazette
Additional information kindly provided by Mark E. Horan and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 17 April 2011