Another image of Corpo Aero Italiano in Belgium. © Archive D'Amico-Valentini
Image kindly via Ferdinando D'Amico.
Click on the image to see it in full size.
One of the least well documented episodes of the Battle of Britain concerns the activities of Corpo Aereo Italiano (CAI) when during the late stage of the battle the Regia Aeronautica was instructed to establish a force in Belgium to assist in operations against the British. It is not easy to see what the Italian high Command hoped this would achieve other than to boost home moral. Participation of the Regia Aeronautica at the end of the Battle of Britain was viewed as a political necessity - yet it was unwanted by the German High Command.
Formed by the transfer of existing unit CAI came into being on 10 September 1940, under the aegis of 1a Squadra Aerea di Milano. Generale sa (Air Marshal) Rino Corso-Fougier was made Air Officer Commanding. He was reputed to be a brilliant officer and pilot, but his only recent war experience was the short-lived campaign when Italy invaded the south of France.
There were three Stormi (roughly a RAF Wing). Two of these were bombers and were the striking force, self-protection being provided by the fighter Stormo. With the transport element (twelve Caproni 133Ts, one Savoia-Marchetti S.75, with nine Ca164s for communications) a force of some two hundred aircraft.
18o Gruppo CT was re-assigned from 3o Stormo after having taken part in the attack on southern France and equipped with new aircraft. 20o Gruppo CT was re-assigned from 51o Stormo and was initially equipped with 45 Fiat G.50bis.
During the preparation stage, details were particularly taken care of in order to make a good impression on the German ally. A number of modifications were made to the equipment and a special grey-blue uniform was created for the troop, eliminating knickerbockers and puttees of World War 1 vintage.
Order of Battle
Corpo Aereo Italiano - commanded by Generale sa A Corso-Fougier
13o Stormo BT
Commanded by Colonnello Carlo de Capoa and based at Melsbroeck equipped with Fiat BR.20Ms and compromising:
11o Gruppo commanded by Maggiore Giuseppe Aini and split into 1a and 4a Squadriglia
43o Gruppo commanded by Maggiore Giulio Monteleone and split into 3a and 5a Squadriglia
43o Stormo BT
Commanded by Colonello Luigi Questa and based at Chièvres, equipped with Fiat BR.20Ms and compromising:
98o Gruppo commanded by Maggiore Giuseppe Tenti and split into 240a and 241a Squadriglia
99o Gruppo commanded by Maggiore Gian Battista Ciccu and split into 242a and 243a Squadriglia.
56o Stormo CT
Commanded by Colonnello Umberto Chiesa and compromising:
18o Gruppo (known as 18./JG 56 by Luftwaffe) commanded by Maggiore Ferruccio Vosilla and split into 83a, 85a and 95a Squadriglia, based at Ursel and equipped with Fiat CR.42s
20o Gruppo (known as 20./JG 56 by Luftwaffe) commanded by Maggiore Mario Bonzano and split into 351a, 352a and 353a Squadriglia, based first at Ursel and then later at Maldegem and equipped with Fiat G.50bis.
Commanded by Capitano Perelli Cippo, at Melsbroeck and equipped with Cant Z.1007bis for tactical reconnaissance.
After the arrival of the force in Belgium Field Marshal Kesselring presented Generale Corso-Fougier with a Fiesler Storch for his personal use. Apart from the military aircraft a Ju 52/3m I-BIZI was loaned by the Ala Littorio as courier between Force headquarters and the Stato Maggiore in Rome.
The bomber element left the airfields of San Damanio di Piacenza and Cameri di Novara on the morning of the 27 September, flying in formation through the autumn weather, over the plains of Lombardy and Piedmont. On the northeast course, they approached the Alps under 7/10ths cloud, steadily increasing altitude before levelling for the crossing. Over the mountains, the weather deteriorated further with 8/10ths strato-cumulus being at its worst in the region of Innsbruck.
40 bombers of the 43o Stormo had taken off from Cameri di Novara (north-western Italy) but only 30 arrived at Chiévres four hours later.
One bomber crash-landed (unknown place) due to engine breakdown while flying over the Alps (pilot wounded, aircraft heavily damaged, crew jumped apparently safe).
One bomber landed at Gablingen (Goblingen?)) due to an engine breakdown (no further info).
One bomber fell in the area of München (Wasserberg) (bad visibility and icing on the wings) and was lost (pilots wounded and three crewmembers dead).
Six bombers landed safely in various German airports (four at Nürnberg, one at München and one at Ergoding (Ergelding?)).
One bomber crash-landed while landing at Ergoding (Ergelding?) and was written off (crew apparently safe).
37 bombers of the 13o Stormo took off from San Damanio di Piacenza but only 30 arrived at Melsbroek.
One bomber landed at Augsburg due to engine breakdown (aircraft and crew apparently safe).
One bomber landed in a field near Spa due to engine breakdown (aircraft fate unknown and crew apparently safe).
Two bombers were forced to land due to excessive consumption of lubricant. One was safe at Frankfurt, the other went out of the boundaries of the airstrip when landing at Evère and was written off (crew wounded).
Three bombers safely landed at Anversa, they too had used too much lubricant.
In contrast, and unexpectedly, the fighters of 56o Stormo seem to have transferred without a great deal of trouble although bad weather hampered the transfer. The 20o Gruppo C.T. brought with them 45 Fiat G.50bis and six Caproni Ca.133s. Each Squadriglia flew in five groups of three aircraft with two Ca.133s bring in the rest of the pilots and some of the crew of the squadriglia. Under Maggiore Mario Bonzano, the Gruppo flew from Roma-Ciampino on 22 September to Treviso. In Treviso they were forced to stay on the ground due to fog and only on 6 October could the Gruppo fly on to Bolzano. Eleven days later they flew over the Alps and landed in Munich. The next two stages saw the Gruppo flying to Frankfurt, first, and then to its final base at Maldegem airfield. Only one Fiat G.50bis was left behind having to force-land with carburation problems. The 18o Gruppo led by Commandante Vosilla reached Ursel after a comparatively short and uneventful flight. The Cant Z.1007s of 172a Squadriglia flew a different course via Monaco to Frankfurt and on to Melsbroeck.
On 22 October the CAI was finally complete in Belgium. The Generale sa Corso Fougier installed his HQ in Petite Espinette of Rhode-St-Genesis (between Brussels and Waterloo) and the technical services were established on the aerodrome of Evere.
Once established in their new bases the units had less than a month to become accustomed to strange airfields and language, northern weather conditions and integration into the Luftwaffe structure. 2nd Fliegerkorps was to be the controlling formation and to facilitate control and communications 13o Stormo was designated KG13; 43o Stormo - KG43; 18o Gruppo - 18/JG56; 20o Gruppo - 20/JG56 and 172a Squadriglia - 1(F)172.
Zone of operations allocated to the Italians was bounded by the parallels 53oN and 01oE. The worthwhile targets were along the coast between the Thames and Harwich including the estuaries of the Orwell and Stour. In fact there is a single unconfirmed report of only one inland attack and that on Canterbury.
Contrary to wartime propaganda by the Italian news media the bombing carried out by the CAI was comparatively ineffectual and expensive in crews and aircraft. This was due to a number of factors, perhaps the most important being the lack of experience and training, which would have enabled the crews to cope with the difficult meteorological conditions, but additionally much of the equipment was inadequate. The Regia Aeronautica’s aircraft had been most advanced in the period 1937/1938, but there had been insufficient development from that time. As an example only three G.50bis were fitted with radios and all G.50bis lacked adequate instruments for instrumental navigation. The absolute lack of instrumental flying training for the crews limited the fighters to only daylight patrols and bomber escort missions.
A few days after arrival the Italian’s funny cork-stripped life-vests (nicknamed “sausages”) were replaced with German-supplied inflatable rubber vests fitted with a fluorescing bag to facilitate being located on the sea.
The arrival of the Italian task force in Belgium resulted in that the exiled Belgian government in London declared war on Italy.
The airfields in Belgium received codenames. Known names are “Dedalo” (Melsbroeck) and “Icaro” (Chièvres).
Operations commenced on 24 October with a night bombing raid on Felixstowe and Harwich, twelve BR.20Ms of 13o Stormo and six from 43o Stormo taking part. The first aircraft, flown by Capitano Bassi of 43o Gruppo, took-off at 20:35 and was quickly followed by the ones flown by Capitano Gastaldi and Tenente Albertini.
At 20:50 MM21928 (5-8) of 5a Squadriglia flown by Capitano Carlo Pagani took-off. A few minutes later this aircraft crashed close to the church at Houtem, killing Pagani together with his crew; Co-pilot Maresciallo Giovanni Favia, Tenente Arrigo Vardabasso, Flight Engineer Sergente Paolo Biziocchi, Flight Engineer Sergente Aldo del Monte and Air gunner Sergente Paride Astesati.
Ten of the aircraft from 13o Stormo managed to locate Harwich and dropped their bombs from an altitude of 5000 to 5500 meters.
When returning MM21895 (Capitano Francesco Bassi) of 3a Squadriglia and MM22624 (Tenente M. Pesso) became lost. Bassi’s crew baled out near Cambrai and Pesso’s between Namur and Charleroi, while his aircraft (MM22624) crashed in Lustin. The evacuation of the two aircraft went well and only the radio operator 1o Avieri Armando Paolini was wounded in a foot.
During the return, a third bomber flown by Capitano Ugo Machieraldo (CO of the 240a Squadriglia) had to force-land at Lille-Epinoy and the aircraft was damaged. The remaining eight aircraft from 13o Stormo landed at Melsbroeck between 23:50 and 00:35.
For the 22% loss of aircraft or seriously damaged, the bombing results were poor.
Ramsgate was attacked on 27 October.
On 29 October (the last day within the official limit of the Battle of Britain) saw a change in strategy - a daylight raid with a large fighter escort on Ramsgate Harbour. Fifteen bombers from 43o Stormo with Maggiore Giuseppe Tenti as leader with an escort of 39 Fiat CR.42s and 34 Fiat G.50bis plus a gruppe of Bf 109E and Fs were briefed and took off. Three of the bombers were forced to abort due to engine troubles and two of them returned prematurely to Chièvres while the third was forced to land at Ostend-Stene (MM21904 of 242a Squadriglia with the crew Sottotenente Biagetti, Tenente Pier Antonio Poggi, 1o Avieri Ovidio Podda, Avieri Sc. Zarillo, 1o Avieri Bay and Avieri Sala).
The attack was performed at a relatively low level as if performing the Italian equivalent of the Hendon airshow, in formation wingtip to wingtip. All of the Italian were gaily painted pale green and bright blue, camouflage for a more exotic climate than Britain’s in late October, and made them stand out like peacocks among the ‘eagles’. The anti-aircraft gunners were as puzzled as everyone else by this strange sight in the sky, and it was a few minutes before fire was opened. The Italian armada then turned right in one formation, content to have over-flown enemy soil in order to provide Milan newspapers with appropriate propaganda and departed over Ramsgate - upon which 75 bombs were scattered at 17.45. During the attack five of the bombers were damaged and some of the aircrew injured. This would appear to have been as a result of AA fire. One aircraft of 243a Squadriglia (243-3) was so badly damaged that it needed to force-land as soon as it reached Belgium. While approaching the machine-gunner 1o Avieri Giuseppe Monti panicked and tried to parachute but the aircraft was unfortunately at a too low altitude and he was crushed to death near Courtrai when he hit the ground before his parachute deployed. The aircraft made a perfect belly landing close to the mill at Kuurne with four crew-members, Maggiore Corrado Ferretti (commander of 241a Squadriglia), Capitano Romualdo Montobbio (pilot), Mechanic Luigi Bussi and 1o Avieri Paolo Autrello, slightly injured while Sergente Giuseppe Valitutti was uninjured. The rest of the aircraft all returned safely to Chièvres.
During the afternoon on 1 November 26 Fiat G.50s of the 20o Gruppo flew a sweep over Canterbury, meeting violent anti-aircraft fire near Folkestone, while 39 Fiat CR.42s of the 18o Gruppo swept over Ramsgate, Canterbury and Dover. No combats were recorded.
On the night of 5/6 November a night raid was flown by the ‘Chianti part’, as Fighter Command now had begun to call them, when thirteen BR.20s of 13o Stormo attacked Harwich and Ipswich without losses although one of the bombers returned with battle damage. Local newspapers unkindly reported that the bombers sounded like ‘rattling tin cans’ when they found out that Italians were responsible for keeping them awake!
In the afternoon on 8 November 22 Fiat G.50s of the 20o Gruppo flew an offensive patrol between Dungeness, Folkestone, Canterbury and Margate. They reported a combat with four RAF fighters, but didn’t submit any claims. Squadron Leader B. J. E. Lane (Spitfire Mk.II P7377) was bounced at this time by a reported Hurricane and made an emergency landing with Category 2 damage. It is possible that the Italian aircraft inflicted this damage, but it is also possible that Oberleutnant Hahn of I/JG77 who claimed a Spitfire destroyed at an unknown time inflicted this damage.
On the night of 10/11 November five Fiat BR.20Ms of the 43o Stormo made individual attacks on targets in the Ramsgate area.
November 11 (the same day half the Italian battle fleet was knocked out at Taranto by British naval aircraft) saw the largest operation mounted by the force. Although only ten BR.20Ms from 99o Gruppo (four from the 242a and and six from the 243a Squadriglia) led by Tenente Colonnello Gian Battista Ciccu were involved the fighter force escorting was 42 CR.42s, 46 G.50s and supporting Bf 109s. Again, the bad weather became an important factor, causing the G.50s and Bf 109s to abort shortly after take off and return to base, leaving only the CR.42s as escort.
The BR.20Ms took off around midday, each of them loaded with three 250 kg bombs. They took the route Bruges-Ostend-Harwich and approached Harwich at 14.40 at 3.700 meters. The bombers formation was:
Tenente Colonnello Gian Battista Ciccu (CO 99o Gruppo)
Sottotenente Raffaele Foa
Capitano Tullio Mussolini
Tenente Giuseppe Magi
Tenente Fiorenzo Marini
Capitano Nicola Volpe (CO 242a Squadriglia)
Tenente Antonio Farini
Sottotenente Antonio Romeo
Sergente Maggiore Celestino Rubagotti
Tenente Pier Antonio Poggi
Tenente Ezio Squazzini
Avieri Sc. Lino Bettio
1o Avieri Vittorio Lanfaloni
1o Avieri Felice Agnetti
Capitano Agostino Rabino (CO 243a Squadriglia)
Tenente Nello Raimondo
Tenente Luigi Gnecchi
Sottotenente Delo Lombardi
Tenente Alessandro Citterio
Sottotenente Angelo Cattaneo
Sottotenente Ernesto Bianchi
Sergente Maggiore Guido Buatier
1o Avieri Ovidio Podda
1o Avieri Oreste Campioli
Sottotenente Pietro Appiani
Sergente Giuliano Rigolone
1o Avieri Motorista Emanuele De Gaspari
1o Avieri Armando Paolini
1o Avieri Elvino Cerrosi
Avieri Sc. Mario Pensa
When the Italian bombers approached the English coast they were spotted by British radar and Hurricanes from 17 and 257 Squadrons were scrambled shortly after 13.30, whilst Hurricanes from 46 Squadron, already airborne patrolling a convoy off Foulness, were also vectored to intercept Bandits over the Thames Estuary by Fighter Control. The latter formation was slightly delayed while the investigated a formation which proved to be friendly and were forced to made a wide circle before attacking. Elements 249 Squadron were also on a convoy patrol patrolling the same convoy off Foulness.
Flight Lieutenant H. Peter Blatchford (in Hurricane V6962), leading 257 Squadron, sighted nine bombers flying in a tight ‘vic’ formation some 10 miles east of Harwich. These were heading west-north-west at 12,000 feet, and Blatchford climbed the squadron to 15,000 feet before leading them down in a beam attack on the starboard side BR.20 formation. 46 Squadron, meanwhile, was fast approaching from the port side and attacked almost simultaneously. As they did so they were attacked from above and behind by between 20 and 30 CR.42s.
Peter Blatchford first attacked the rear BR.20 to the starboard side, seeing no effect from his fire and passing across to the port side, where he delivered two rear-quarter attacks on the rear left bomber. This aircraft looped violently and dived vertically towards the sea, disintegrating before hitting the water. His second opponent was also probably attacked by Pilot Officer K. Pniak (in Hurricane V7292) of 257 Squadron, who attacked one bomber that began to smoke and burn and then turned onto its back before it dived into the sea 10 miles east of Harwich after one man had baled out. He then attacked another, which glided in towards the coast, trailing smoke.
Meanwhile Pilot Officer Kay of 257 Squadron attacked the extreme right-hand aircraft, which had broken away upwards, trailing smoke. This was given a burst by Pilot Officer S. E. Andrews of 257 Squadron and dived into the sea. Kay then attacked another with Pniak. It broke formation and headed for the coast. Flight Lieutenant L. M. Gaunce (in Hurricane V6928) of 46 Squadron had also attacked the first bomber, noting that it was then attacked by two more Hurricanes (Kay and Andrews), and indeed was also probably engaged by Pilot Officers G. North and P. A. Mortimer of 257 Squadron and by Sergeant R. J. Parrott of 46 Squadron.
North, after making an unsuccessful beam attack on one aircraft, made a stern pass on another, which fell away, diving towards the coast. He chased it, expended all his ammunition, saw four bombs fall away and the undercarriage drop. Mortimer, who had previously made a head-on attack, hitting one aircraft before engaging North’s opponent, then attacked this bomber. The bomber then caught fire and dived into the sea. One man baled out but pulled his parachute release too early and his canopy caught on the tail unit.
Sergeant Parrott saw a BR.20 heading for the coast pursued by a Hurricane that was obviously out of ammunition (North). He made two firing passes under fire from the rear gunner and on the second attack the bomber’s engines burst into flames and it dived into the sea.
Meanwhile, the aircraft previously attacked by both Pniak and North came under attack from three 46 Squadron pilots; Pilot Officer G. Leggett had already attacked one BR.20, from which one of the crew had baled out before it crashed into the sea, and now he joined forces with Pilot Officer Hedley and Sergeant N. Walker to chase another in over the English coast heading towards Ipswich. After several attacks the BR.20 circled, losing height, and finally crashed into a wood some 10 miles east of the town.
The last claims against the Italian bombers came from Sergeant S. E. Lucas of 257 Squadron who reported that he had disabled one bomber by putting one engine out of action. Pilot Officer B. Davey of 257 Squadron attacked the bomber on the extreme right, attacking from underneath and using up all his ammunition. He saw black smoke belch from both engines. This bomber was then attacked by a Hurricane from 46 Squadron.
Spitfires of 41 Squadron had also been scrambled, but although they arrived too late to take part in the main battle, they were the first to sight the CR.42s. The Spitfire (Spitfire Mk.II P7322) flown by Flying Officer E. P. Wells was attacked, but he evaded and claimed one CR.42 damaged east of Ofordness before the biplane fighters disappeared. This event apparently delayed the Italians from interfering with the initial attack by 257 and 46 Squadrons. While the Hurricanes were ripping into the BR.20s, the Italian fighter pilots had appeared above. Peter Blatchford was turning to attack the bombers again, but saw many fighters. He engaged one, opened fire and it “waffled extensively”, but he was unable to conclude this combat as he was then caught up in a dogfight with others. He found that he could turn with the agile biplane, but quickly ran out of ammunition and rammed the Italian fighter, striking the upper mainplane with his propeller. The CR.42 at once fell away. Blatchford headed for base, but saw a Hurricane coming under attack from three CR.42s in line astern. He made a dummy head-on attack on each, causing them to break away and head east. On his return, Blatchford found that nine inches had been lost from two propeller blades and that they were also splashed with blood.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Lucas of 257 Squadron, breaking away from his attack on the bombers, saw enemy fighters below and behind. He turned and took one in a head-on attack, seeing it go down in a spin. He was then attacked by four more and quickly climbed into cloud, but saw his opponent crash into the sea. In fact it is likely that the aircraft he saw was not his opponent, but that of Flight Lieutenant Gaunce of 46 Squadron, who had seen a CR42 appear beside him whilst the rest of the 46 Squadron Hurricane pilots were still shooting at the bombers. He turned and opened fire at close range. The CR.42 dived and Gaunce followed spinning and manoeuvring violently with his throttle closed in order to stay above. He then lost sight of his adversary and pulled up, engaging two more and firing a deflection burst at one of them. He then saw another pair, one of which he chased with closed throttle, opening fire at 150 yards. The CR.42 took no evasive action, but continued straight on, losing height. He lost sight of it, but then approached another CR.42 from the side. After a full deflection burst from 80 yards, it burst into flames and dived into the sea 15 miles east of Ofordness.
Pilot Officer Karel Mrazek, a pre-war Czech Air Force pilot, of 46 Squadron was flying with the intercepting force when he experienced partial engine failure in his Hurricane (V7610) and fell behind the formation. He then sighted a number of twin-engined bombers flying in five sections of three, and identified them as Fiat BR.20s. He wrote:
"the Italians veered eastwards towards Southend then making off on a slanting dive for Margate, the Straits and Calais. As they turned away I saw three BR.20s go down in flames followed by their crews in parachutes.The first CR.42 fell into the sea 4 miles from Ofordness and the second 3 miles from Ofordness. After the first claim he also noticed another CR.42 crash into the sea nearby, apparently the one attacked by Gaunce. After the combat he had to put the Hurricane’s nose down and re-cross the coast to land at Rochester with empty tanks and ten bullet holes in his wings and fuselage. He claimed one destroyed and one damaged.
At that moment I saw about thirty to forty unknown biplanes which I realised was a gaggle of CR.42s, supposedly protecting the bombers - as they (the CR.42s) crossed my path without seeing me, I gave the second a short burst at full deflection - it went down like a fireball. The other turned to fight - due to its great manoeuvrability it kept getting on my tail, but after a series of successive bursts I saw it begin to smoke and flame."
Flight Lieutenant M. Burnett of 46 Squadron had not engaged the bombers, but had climbed above as 257 Squadron attacked. Then a large formation of CR.42s appeared from cloud to the south. He took one of the leading pair, opened fire, and as he closed turned his guns on the other, firing until his ammunition was gone. He saw strikes on the fuselage of his second opponent, which broke left in a step turn, leaving the others in a gentle dive.
Pilot Officer Hedley of 46 Squadron saw a CR.42 about to dive or spin and opened fire, but as it went down another Hurricane hurtled down and destroyed it.
Finally, Sergeant L. D. Barnes of 257 Squadron, who sighted approximately ten groups of CR.42s in sections of four, attacked one group, using up his ammunition. His opponent at once dived past the vertical, but the other three out-turned the Hurricane, which took one bullet through the wing before he shook them off and returned to base.
This was not the end of the story, for 249 Squadron also had Hurricanes airborne on convoy patrol duties. Wing Commander F. V. Beamish sighted one of the returning CR.42s and claimed a ‘probable’ 20-30 miles east of Southwold, while Flight Lieutenant Robert A. Barton attacked an aircraft identified as a Junkers Ju86P, which he claimed “went into the sea like a torch”. This could have been one of the BR.20s - although Luftwaffe lost several other aircraft this day. It is more probable that this was Focke-Wulf Fw58 (3551 ‘0J + AK’) of Stab III/JG51, flown by Unteroffizier Karl Nispel + 1 crew. This had been sent out to seek three shot-down fighter pilots from the morning’s operations over the Thames Estuary and did not return.
RAF made following claims after this combat:
Flight Lieutenant H. Peter Blatchford - 1 BR.20 destroyed (his first claim), 1/4 BR.20 shared destroyed and two CR.42s damaged
Pilot Officer North - Two ½ shared BR.20s destroyed
Pilot Officer Davey - ½ BR.20 destroyed
Pilot Officer Mortimer - ½ BR.20 destroyed
Pilot Officer Karol Pniak - 1 BR.20 destroyed (his seventh and last claim) and ½ BR.20 shared destroyed
Pilot Officer Andrews - ½ BR.20 destroyed
Pilot Officer Kay - Two ½ shared BR.20 destroyed
Sergeant Lucas - 1 BR.20 damaged and 1 CR.42 destroyed
Sergeant Barnes - 1 CR.42 probably destroyed
Flight Lieutenant Lionel Manley Gaunce - ½ BR.20 destroyed, 1 CR.42 destroyed (his fifth claim) and 1 CR.42 probably destroyed
Pilot Officer Leggett - 1/3 BR.20 destroyed
Pilot Officer Karel Mrazek - 2 CR.42 destroyed
Sergeant Parrott - 1 BR.20 destroyed
Pilot Officer Hedley - 1/3 BR.20 destroyed
Sergeant Norman McDonald Walker - 1/3 BR.20 destroyed
Flight Lieutenant Norman Whitmore Burnett - 1 CR.42 probably destroyed
(Revenge met both Walker and Burnett when they later were killed by the Regia Aeronautica over Malta. Burnett was shot down by MC.200s from 7o Gruppo on 11 June 1941, probably by Tenente Cibin or Sergente Domenico Facchini. Walker was shot down the day after, on 12 June, by a CR.42 of 74a Squadriglia flown by Maresciallo Germano Gasperoni)
Wing Commander F. Victor Beamish - 1 CR.42 probably destroyed
Flying Officer Edward Preston Wells - 1 CR.42 damaged
9 BR.20 destroyed, 1 BR.20 damaged
5 CR.42 destroyed, 4 CR.42s probably destroyed, 3 CR.42 damaged
In return, the Italian fighters claimed nine enemy fighters. One Hurricane was credited to Giuseppe Ruzzin, who fired on a climbing Hurricane. He reported that it was his and fell away with along trail of smoke and was credited with a victory. Defending gunners in the bombers also claimed one additional Hurricane.
As usual, with this kind of large air combats, these claims are exaggerated for CAI lost three fighters and three bombers while RAF didn’t suffer any losses and only 2 Hurricanes were slightly damaged.
During combat over the Suffolk coast, the 99o Gruppo lost three BR.20Ms. The two aircraft flown by Sottotenente Enzio Squazzini (242-3/MM22267) and Sottotenente Ernesto Bianchi (243-10/MM22620) ditched in the North Sea; two men were seen to bale out from one of the bombers. The third (243-2/MM22621) flown by Sottotenente Pietro Appiani was pursued by the 46 Squadron trio (Leggett, Hedley and Walker - Pniak was also probably part of this claim) and crashed in Tangham Forest, Bromswell, near Woodbridge. The radio-operator 1o Avieri Armando Paolini had been killed in the air and the co-pilot Sergente Pilota Giuliano Rigolone and the flight engineer 1o Avieri Motorista Emmanuelle De Gasperi were wounded (Rigolone later died of his wounds). The pilot Sottotenente Appiani, Degasperi and the unit’s photographer Avieri Sc. Mario Pensa were taken prisoner. The sixth in the aircrew, 1o Avieri Elvino Cerrosi (front air gunner and bombardier), survived the crash without any wounds and became a POW. MM22621 was later removed to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough for evaluation. 257 Squadron personnel visited the wreckage first however and ‘liberated’ two crests, a bayonet sheath and a steel helmet to serve as squadron trophies. The Aldeburgh lifeboat was sent out after the crews from MM22267 and MM22620 but only found an Italian parachute. A German He59 also looked for survivors but it was shot down 20m off the Naze. No survivors were found.
In the course of aerial combat 18o Gruppo C.T. lost three CR.42s. 46 and 257 Squadrons shot down two. Sergente Enzo Panicchi of 83a Squadriglia was killed when MM6978 was shot down into the sea apparently by Gaunce. Sergente Antonio Lazzari of the 85a Squadriglia crashed with MM6976 (‘16’) near Corton Railway Station and was taken prisoner.
The third, MM5701/95-13 flown by Sergente Pietro Salvadori of 95a Squadriglia force-landed due to engine problems on a beach near the Orfordness lighthouse and he was also taken prisoner. This last aircraft was made serviceable by the RAF and flown on evaluation trails as BT474 and is now on exhibition in the Battle of Britain Museum, Hendon.
The British interrogation of Salvadori revealed a lot of details. He told that even before the combat started his aircraft had got a broken oil duct, which meant that the aircraft couldn’t stay in formation. The engine started to overheat and he was forced to make an emergency landing on the beach. This landing was successful and the aircraft didn’t sustain any large damage. Shortly after the landing a Hurricane flew over him and he waved at it, at which the Hurricane responded by waggling his wings. The British interrogation also revealed that Salvadori had a very weak moral and didn’t want to fight any more. He was really happy to have left the war and was very dissatisfied with the Italian officers. He also didn’t like the Belgian weather and appreciated neither the Germans, nor their food.
Evidence from bomber wreckage revealed an extraordinarily large crew of six, all wearing tin hats and armed with rifles and bayonets.
A further reference to this day’s operations is in a letter from the Chief Constable of Suffolk dated June 16, 1971:
"At 1345 hours on November 11, 1940 two formations of Italian bombers escorted by fighters were intercepted by the RAF off the Suffolk coast. Approximately eight German and seven Italian aircraft were brought down in the sea, and three aircraft made forced landings in Suffolk, including a Fiat CR.42 biplane - the pilot was arrested and taken to force headquarters at Ipswich.Apart from loses already mentioned other aircraft, both fighter and bomber, were damaged in combat. Four BR.20s force-landed either on the Dunes at Dunquerque or at Antwerp-Deurne airfield. One of the aircraft, which landed at Bray-Dunes, was 243-6/MM22628 flown by Tenente Luigi Gnechi with a dead radio-operator aboard. The other three damaged BR.20Ms were 242-4/MM22626, 243-4/MM21914 and 243-9/MM21879.
There was an officer Tenente P. Appian in a very smart uniform and a number of men whose dress varied. The officer, who spoke English, had flown a bomber at 14,000 ft he said that the effect of the lack of oxygen had made them partly lose their senses.
The men were apprehensive of the treatment they were to get. They were told (before flying) that their biplanes could manoeuvre while the Hurricanes could not."
"They might have found better employment defending their fleet at Taranto."After this combat the Italian fighter pilots felt that the reducing of the two 12.7mm guns to one 12.7mm and one 7.7mm in order to save weight and increase manoeuvrability had not helped.
News Chronicle 12th. November 1940Image kindly provided by Edward McManus
ITALIAN AIRMEN CAPTURED IN BRITAIN.
Italian airmen who were brought down by the R.A.F. in a battle over Britain were brought to London on their way to a prison camp.
These exclusive N.C. pictures were taken in the train. Each man travelled with guard in a separate compartment. They are shown eating sandwiches and smoking. One man, surlier than the rest, scowled at the photographer and turned away as he took his picture. But the pilot [censored], smiled as he was photographed.
After the ambitious effort of the 11th, the next sortie was on the night of 17/18 November and was a small-scale night raid on Harwich by six BR.20s of 43o Stormo without losses.
On 18 November two CR.42s (Tenente Specker and Maresciallo Giuseppe Ruzzin) were detached to Vlissingen on night fighter and reconnaissance duties.
At 10:10 on 20 November a lone BR.20M of the 13o Stormo set out to attack Norwich, but aborted due to the bad weather.
Next attack came as twelve BR.20s of 13o Stormo took off between 23:30 and 00:45 on the night of 20/21 November. Seven 250kg and seventy 100kg HE bombs being dropped.
One aircraft was lost when 5a Squadriglia BR.20M MM22257 failed to return, the crew last being heard radioing that they were attacked by a night fighter. The bodies of Tenente Sergio Paoli and Sergente Maggiore Gino Rildani were later washed ashore at Wassenaar, without ‘chutes but with lifejackets. The remainder of the crew, Sottotenente Umberto Fonda, 1o Avieri Motorista Erasmo Lesignoli, 1o Avieri Marconista Amelio Brunetti and 1o Avieri Armiere Raffaele Giampieretti were reported missing.
This loss can't be verified any corresponding RAF claims.
On the 23 November a fighter sweep was flown by 29 CR.42s of the 18o Gruppo led by Maggiore Ferruccio Vosilla with Sottotenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri as his wingman. The course was Dunquerque - Margate - Eastchurch - Folkestone - Calais while 24 G.50s of the 20o Gruppo covered them, operating a little further inland. At 11:40, 12 Spitfires Mk.IIs (P7550, P7597, P7311, P7496, P7529, P7388, P7289, P7543, P7389, P7449, P7528, and P7324) from 603 Squadron were scrambled from Hornchurch and headed south. Off Folkestone 603 Squadron spotted the Italian CR.42s travelling west and the Spitfires hit them from astern. The CR.42s were badly bounced and two of them were lost when MM5694 of the 83a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Guido Mazza and MM5665 of the 95a Squadriglia flown by Sergente Maggiore Giacomo Grillo were shot down into the sea and reported missing. On return to base Sergente Maggiore F. Campanile and Sergente P. Melano of the 83a Squadriglia had to force-land and both pilots were slightly injured. Later it was found out that Campanile had, due to the lack of armour plating, been saved by his parachute pack, which had stopped several machinegun bullets. During the combat Tenente Giulio Cesare Giuntella’s CR.42 was hit several times but he returned claiming hits on a Spitfire. Maresciallo Felice Sozzi of the 83a Squadriglia (83-15) attacked and chased off a Spitfire on the tail of Sergente Maggiore Luigi Gorrini’s aircraft, who in his turn were attacking other British Spitfires. Sozzi was however hit in return by two other Spitfires, who attacked him from behind. He was seriously wounded with three bullets in his lungs but he succeeded despite pain and a damaged aircraft, to return for an emergency landing on a Belgian beach. He survived his ordeal and recovered to receive the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare “in the field”.
603 Squadron claimed seven shot down and two probables. CR42s were claimed destroyed by Pilot Officer Archie L. Winskill (Spitfire Mk.II P7389)(his first two claims) and Sergeant A. S. Darling, who claimed two apiece and by Pilot Officers Ronald Berry (his 9th claim), B. R. MacNamara and Flying Officer Colin Pinckney (Spitfire Mk.II P7529)(his third claim). Berry also claimed a probable, as did Flying Officer John C. Boulter (Spitfire Mk.II P7597)(his last claim before being killed in an accident on 17 February 1941), while Pilot Officer F. David S. Scott-Malden (Spitfire P7278 (?) ‘D’) claimed two damaged when he saw strikes on these.
Squadron Leader George Denholm, CO 603 Squadron, described the combat:
The Italians looked quite toy-like in their brightly-coloured camouflage, and I remember thinking that it seemed almost a shame to shoot down such pretty machines. I must have been wrong, for the pilot who saw six going down at the same time said afterwards that it was a glorious sight. But I must say this about the Eye-ties: they showed fight in a way the Germans have never done with our squadron.Denholm chased one Fiat halfway across the Channel, but had to let it limp home as his own engine started to splutter.
On 25 November 25 Fiat CR.42s of the 18o Gruppo flew out from Calais and made landfall at Margate. Over Eastchurch, the bad weather deteriorated and the formation aborted the patrol without sighting any British aircraft.
In the early hours on the night of 27/28 November six BR.20Ms of the 13o Stormo raided Ipswich without loss.
Around noon on 28 November 23 Fiat G.50s of 20o Gruppo, accompanied by a small formation of Bf 109s and followed by 24 Fiat CR.42s of 18o Gruppo flew an offensive patrol over Ashford, Maidstone and Dungeness, but were not engaged by British fighters.
A further night raid was made on Harwich, Ipswich, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth on the 29th, ten of 13o Stormo’s aircraft taking off between 17:45 and 18:30 hours. 41 x 100kg and 20 x 50kg HE bombs being dropped. They met strong AA fire and later, when MM21908 of 3a Squadriglia came in to land at base, presumably because of combat damage, it hit some workers houses at Diegem-Lo, burning out and killing Tenente Talete Rebuscini, Tenente Luigi Dal Forno, Maresciallo Elvio Romito, Avieri Giacomo Columbano, 1o Avieri Giuseppe Maruelli and 1o Avieri Mario Cini. They were all buiried at Evere on 1 December. Several civilians were also killed in the crash.
On the night of 5/6 December twelve BR.20Ms of the 13o Stormo attacked Ipswich.
On the night of 13/14 December seventeen BR.20Ms of 13o and 43o Stormos carried out nuisance raids on the east cost together with bombers from KG2. On of the BR.20Ms was hit by gunfire near Harwich.
The Ursel base was attacked for the first and only time on 19 December by a Bristol Blenheim.
On the night of 21/22 December six BR.20Ms of 13o and 43o Stormos again raided Harwich. One of the bombers returned with battle damage attributed to a British night-fighter, although no British claim was submitted for a combat in this area during this night.
Last time the CAI appeared over British skies during 1940 was on the night of 22/23 December when six BR.20Ms of the 43o Gruppo made individual attacks on Harwich without losses.
The bomber effort of the CAI ended with a touch of farce when a single BR.20M flown by the CO of 240a Squadriglia took off to bomb London. Almost inevitably, the crew became lost and bailed out near Abbeville.
Four BR.20Ms from the 13o Stormo took off from Melsbroek on the late afternoon on 2 January 1941 in order to fly a mission against Ipswich harbour. They were to operate separately. Two however experienced technical problems (failures at the landing gear retraction system on both) while still over Belgium and they returned to base. The remaining two bombers were disturbed by searchlights and by intense AAA. One night-fighter was observed and it seems that no bombs were dropped. According to other sources the target was Harwich harbour which according to the same source was successfully bombed.
A further bombing mission with eigth BR.20M from the 13o Stormo was planned on 9 January 1941, with the same target. Two aircraft took off at 19:00 but the mission was suspended and the aircraft were recalled.
By January 1941, all of the BR.20Ms and CR.42s that remained were flown back to Italy, leaving only the G.50s in Belgium, in yet another token gesture of support for the Luftwaffe.
13o and 43o Stormis flew home to take part in the Greek and Yugoslavian campaigns while 18o Gruppo moved to Libya.
After the main CAI units had left for Italy, 352a and 353a Squadriglias remained for patrols along the Dutch, Belgian and French coasts as far as Calais (353a Squadriglia moved to Desvres, France on 1 March), until 15 April 1941.
Some of the Italian pilots were checked out on the Bf 109E at Maldegem (at least one of them was borrowed from II/JG54) during this time. One of these pilots was the pre-war well-known pilot and ace-to-be Capitano Furio Niclot Doglio (he was later killed over Malta on 27 July 1942 by George Beurling of 249 Squadron after having claimed 7 victories). More of the pilots were allowed to fly the Bf 109Es at JG51’s training unit, based at Cazaux, France. The Italian pilots were so impressed with the German fighter that they asked their commander to order 100 of them for the Regia Aeronautica. The Germans however declined to supply this amount but did offer to equip one Gruppo but this was rejected by the Italian higher command.
On 3 April 1941 Sergente Maggiore Pilota Remo Meneghini of 353a Squadriglia died in a flight accident during one uneventful patrol.
The crash site of this G.50 seems to be the village of Crémarest, very close to Desvres airfield.
At 11:45 on 13 April Tenente Mario Roncalli of the 352a Squadriglia was scrambled from Ursel. He intercepted an enemy aircraft at 300 meters altitude above the Eastern Flanders. However, he aborted the interception to return to base but due some unknown cause he lost control of the aircraft and it crashed into the ground, killing the pilot. This was C.A.I.’s last operational loss. No reports of RAF activities in the area have been possible to find.
The remains of Roncalli were recovered and he was buried close to Steenbrugge. Roncalli was one of 352a Squadriglia’s best pilots and he had flown the Bf 109E for the first time two weeks earlier.
On 16 April 20o Gruppo took off from their base to fly back to Italy and further on to Libya.
During their six months in Belgium the G.50s of 20o Gruppo flew 662 sorties, but, extraordinarily, never encountered any enemy aircraft! They actually only sighted enemy aircraft twice!
Known aviators in the Corpo Aereo Italiano (CAI)
|Edoardo Agnello||Capitano||Pilot||243a Squadriglia||CO of the 243a Squadriglia.|
|Felice Agnetti||1o Avieri||Aircrew||242a Squadriglia||KIA on 11 November when 242-3/MM22267 was shot down by enemy fighters.|
|Giuseppe Aini||Maggiore||CO||11o Gruppo||CO of the 11o Gruppo.|
|Romolo Alciati||Sergente Maggiore Mont.||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Aldo Alessandrini||Capitano||Pilot||351a Squadriglia||CO of the 351a Squadriglia.|
|Salvatore Aliperta||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Giovanni Andreini||Avieri Sc. Mont.||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Giulio Anelli||Capitano||Pilot||85a Squadriglia||CO of the 85a Squadriglia.
Usually flew 85-5 (see picture on top of this page)
|Enrico Angelini||Capitano||Pilot||1a Squadriglia||CO of the 1a Squadriglia.|
|Pietro Appiani||Sottotenente||Pilot||243a Squadriglia||Crashed with BR.20M 243-2/MM22621 on 11 November 1940 in Tangham Forest, Bromswell, near Woodbridge after combat. He and two or three of the crew were taken POW (the other two of the crew were killed).|
|Ramolo Artina||Tenente||Pilot||95a Squadriglia||Overturned on landing with MM5703 (95-14) on 11 November 1940 when returning from combat. Pilot safe.|
|Paride Astesati||Sergente||Air gunner||5a Squadriglia||Took part in the French campaign.
KIFA on 24 October 1940 when BR.20M MM21928 (5-8) crashed during take-off from Melsbroeck.
|Paolo Autrello||1o Avieri||Aircrew||243a Squadriglia||Wounded after forced-landing near Kuurne, Belgium with BR.20M 243-3 on 29 October 1940.|
|Bruno Baldacci||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Domenico Baliva||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Mario Barbina||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Vittorio Bariletta||Tenente||Pilot||95a Squadriglia|
|Lanfranco Baschiera||Sottotenente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Francesco Bassi||Capitano||Pilot||3a Squadriglia||CO of the 3a Squadriglia.
Baled out of BR.20M MM21895 together with crew on 24 October 1940 after becoming lost.
|Bay||1o Avieri||Aircrew||242a Squadriglia||Force-landed with BR.20M MM21904 on 29 October 1940.|
|Adalberto Bedeschi||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Lino Bettio||Avieri Sc.||Aircrew||242a Squadriglia||KIA on 11 November when 242-3/MM22267 was shot down by enemy fighters.|
|Biagetti||Sottotenente||Pilot||242a Squadriglia||Force-landed with BR.20M MM21904 on 29 October 1940.|
|Ernesto Bianchi||Sottotenente||Pilot||243a Squadriglia||Shot down by enemy fighters and KIA while flying BR.20M 243-10/MM22620 on 11 November 1940.|
|Pietro Bianchi||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Paolo Biziocchi||Sergente||Flight engineer||5a Squadriglia||Took part in the French campaign.
KIFA on 24 October 1940 when BR.20M MM21928 (5-8) crashed during take-off from Melsbroeck.
|Otello Bonelli||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Mario Bonzano||Maggiore||Pilot||20o Gruppo||CO 20o Gruppo.
Led the first operational use of the Fiat G.50 in the Spanish Civil War.
|Luigi Borgogno||Capitano||Pilot||352a Squadriglia||CO of the 352a Squadriglia.|
|Dino Bossi||Tenente||Pilot||5a Squadriglia||Made a forced-landing with Fiat BR.20M MM22630 (5-10 ‘Maledetta’) close to Spa on the units transfer from their Italian base to Belgium.|
|Franco Bordoni-Bisleri||Sottotenente||Pilot||83a Squadriglia||Damaged aircraft when landing short on fuel after combat on 11 November 1940.|
|Mario Bovio||Capitano||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Umberto Brugnoli||Sergente Maggiore Motorista||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Amelio Brunetti||1o Avieri Marconista||Aircrew||5a Squadriglia||MIA when BR.20M MM22257 was shot down by an enemy night fighter on 20/21 November 1940.|
|Brunolena||Sottotenente||Pilot||18o Gruppo||Crashed an aircraft after combat on 11 November 1940.|
|Guido Buatier||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||243a Squadriglia||KIA on 11 November when 243-10/MM22620 was shot down by enemy fighters.|
|Luigi Bussi||Mechanic||Aircrew||243a Squadriglia||Wounded after forced-landing near Kuurne, Belgium with BR.20M 243-3 on 29 October 1940.|
|Eligio Cagna||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Giuseppe Calamai||Tenente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Gino Callieri||Capitano||Pilot||351a Squadriglia||CO of 351a Squadriglia.|
|F. Campanile||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||83a Squadriglia||Wounded on 23 November 1940 when making a forced landing back at base after combat.|
|Oreste Campioli||1o Avieri||Aircrew||243a Squadriglia||KIA on 11 November when 243-10/MM22620 was shot down by enemy fighters.|
|Carlo de Capoa||Colonnello||CO||13o Stormo B.T.||CO of the 13o Stormo B.T.|
|Ersio Caponigro||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Giovanbattista Caracciolo Carafa||Tenente||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Gennaro Carlucci||Sergente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Luigi Caroli||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Luigi Catena||Sergente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Angelo Cattaneo||Sottotenente||Pilot||243a Squadriglia|
|Cavallar||Sergente||Pilot||85a Squadriglia||Crash-landed with 85-12 in October 1940.|
|Corrado Ceccacci||Tenente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Elvino Cerrosi||1o Avieri||Aircrew||243a Squadriglia||Front air gunner and bombardier. POW when BR.20M 243-2/MM22621 was shot down by enemy fighters on 11 November 1940. After a few months, he was sent together with other Italians POWs, to a prisoner's camp in the Unites States where he remained until the end of the war. Cerrosi returned to Italy in 1946 and continued to serve in the new Italian Air Force until his retirement. Cerrosi passed away in October 2005.|
|Umberto Chiesa||Colonnello||CO||56o Stormo C.T.||CO of the 56o Stormo C.T.|
|Gian Battista Ciccu||Tenente Colonnello||CO||99o Gruppo||CO of the 99o Gruppo.|
|Mario Cifonelli||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Mario Cini||1o Avieri||Aircrew||1a Squadriglia||KIA on 29 November 1940 when BR.20M MM21908 crashed when trying to land back at base after mission. The aircraft was probably damaged after combat and hit some workers houses at Diegem-Lo, burning out and killing the crew.|
|Pirelli Cippo||Capitano||CO||179a Squadriglia|
|Alessandro Citterio||Tenente||Pilot||243a Squadriglia|
|Giacomo Columbano||Avieri||Aircrew||1a Squadriglia||KIA on 29 November 1940 when BR.20M MM21908 crashed when trying to land back at base after mission. The aircraft was probably damaged after combat and hit some workers houses at Diegem-Lo, burning out and killing the crew.|
|Rocco Conte||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Aldo Conti||Sottotenente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Bruno Corsi||Sergente||Pilot||18o Gruppo|
|Rino Corso-Fougier||Generale sa||Air Officer Commanding||CAI|
|Carlo Cugnasca||Tenente||Pilot||351a Squadriglia||KIA on 14 April 1941 over Tobruk.|
|Luigi Dal Forno||Tenente||Aircrew||1a Squadriglia||KIA on 29 November 1940 when BR.20M MM21908 crashed when trying to land back at base after mission. The aircraft was probably damaged after combat and crashed in some workers houses at Diegem-Lo, burning out and killing the crew.|
|Emmanuelle De Gasperi||1o Avieri Motorista||Flight engineer||243a Squadriglia||POW when BR.20M 243-2/MM22621 was shot down by enemy fighters on 11 November 1940.|
|Giampiero Del Prete||Tenente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Renato De Silvestri||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Ezio Dell’Acqua||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Gino Domenici||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Severino Fabris||1o Avieri Mont.||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Stefano Faga||Sergente Maggiore Motorista||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Francesco Fagiolo||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Angelo Fanello||Tenente||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Antonio Farini||Tenente||Pilot||242a Squadriglia|
|Giovanni Favia||Maresciallo||Co-pilot||5a Squadriglia||Veteran from the Spanish Civil War.
Took part in the French campaign.
KIFA on 24 October 1940 when BR.20M MM21928 (5-8) crashed during take-off from Melsbroeck.
|Giovanni Ferrari||Maresciallo||Pilot||95a Squadriglia|
|Corrado Ferretti||Maggiore||CO||241a Squadriglia||CO of the 241a Squadriglia.
Wounded after forced-landing near Kuurne, Belgium with BR.20M 243-3 on 29 October 1940.
|Guido Fibbia||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||95a Squadriglia|
|Raffaele Foa||Sottotenente||Pilot||242a Squadriglia|
|Umberto Fonda||Sottotenente||Pilot||5a Squadriglia||MIA when BR.20M MM22257 was shot down by an enemy night fighter on 20/21 November 1940.|
|Derio Formini||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Luigi Gaggi||Sergente Maggiore Motorista||Mechanic||351a Squadriglia|
|Giacomo Galante||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||351a Squadriglia|
|Artidoro Galetti||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Vittorio Galfetti||Tenente||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Pietro Garfagnoli||Tenente||Pilot||18o Gruppo|
|Aldo Giambottini||Avieri Sc. Motorista||Mechanic||351a Squadriglia|
|Raffaele Giampieretti||1o Avieri Armiere||Aircrew||5a Squadriglia||MIA when BR.20M MM22257 was shot down by an enemy night fighter on 20/21 November 1940.|
|Gino Gigante||Avieri Sc. Motorista||Mechanic||351a Squadriglia|
|Eugenio Giunta||Maresciallo||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Giulio Cesare Giuntella||Tenente||Pilot||85a Squadriglia||Aircraft damaged in combat on 23 November 1940|
|Luigi Gnechi||Tenente||Pilot||243a Squadriglia||Made an emergency landing at Bray-Dunes on 11 November 1940 with BR.20M 243-6/MM22628 after combat with a dead radio-operator aboard.|
|Luigi Gorrini||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||85a Squadriglia|
|Giacomo Grillo||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||95a Squadriglia||MIA on 23 November 1940 when MM5665 was bounced by Spitfires from 603 Squadron off Folkestone and shot down into the sea.|
|Carlo Grisetti||Avieri Sc. Motorista||Mechanic||351a Squadriglia|
|Pietro Guerci||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Maurizio Iannucci||Maresciallo||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Vittorio Lanfaloni||1o Avieri||Aircrew||242a Squadriglia||KIA on 11 November when 242-3/MM22267 was shot down by enemy fighters.|
|Antonio Lazzari||Sergente||Pilot||85a Squadriglia||POW on 11 November 1940 when CR.42 MM6976 (‘16’) crashed with near Corton Railway Station after combat.|
|Erasmo Lesignoli||1o Avieri Motorista||Aircrew||5a Squadriglia||MIA when BR.20M MM22257 was shot down by an enemy night fighter on 20/21 November 1940.|
|Giovanni Libri||Sergente Maggiore Motorista||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Gino Lodi||Capitano||Pilot||95a Squadriglia||CO of the 95a Squadriglia.|
|Gualtiero Lolli||Sergente||Pilot||83a Squadriglia|
|Delo Lombardi||Sottotenente||Pilot||243a Squadriglia|
|Dino Lombardi||Tenente||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Felice Longhi||Maresciallo||Pilot||95a Squadriglia|
|Ugo Machieraldo||Capitano||Pilot||240a Squadriglia||CO of the 240a Squadriglia .
Force-land a BR.20M at Lille-Epinoy on 24 October 1940.
|Giuseppe Magi||Tenente||Pilot||242a Squadriglia|
|Willy Malagola||Sergente||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Donato Mancini||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Angelo Marinelli||Maresciallo||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Fiorenzo Marini||Tenente||Pilot||242a Squadriglia|
|Giuseppe Maruelli||1o Avieri||Aircrew||1a Squadriglia||KIA on 29 November 1940 when BR.20M MM21908 crashed when trying to land back at base after mission. The aircraft was probably damaged after combat and hit some workers houses at Diegem-Lo, burning out and killing the crew.|
|Guido Mazza||Tenente||Pilot||83a Squadriglia||MIA on 23 November 1940 when CR.42 MM5694 was bounced by Spitfires from 603 Squadron off Folkestone and shot down into the sea.|
|P. Melano||Sergente||Pilot||83a Squadriglia||Wounded on 23 November 1940 when making a forced landing back at base after combat.|
|Remo Meneghini||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||353a Squadriglia||KIFA on 3 April 1941.|
|Remo Mengoni||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||351a Squadriglia|
|Vittorio Merlo||Tenente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Fabio Minozzi||Sottotenente||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Oreste Minuto||Tenente||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Giuseppe Mirrione||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Edoardo Molinari||Capitano||Pilot||83a Squadriglia||CO of the 83a Squadriglia.|
|Serafino Molinari||Tenente||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Aldo del Monte||Sergente||Flight engineer||5a Squadriglia||Veteran from the Spanish Civil War.
Took part in the French campaign.
KIFA on 24 October 1940 when BR.20M MM21928 (5-8) crashed during take-off from Melsbroeck.
|Mario Montefusco||Tenente||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Giulio Monteleone||Maggiore||CO||43o Gruppo||CO of the 43o Gruppo.|
|Giuseppe Monti||1o Avieri||Air gunner||243a Squadriglia||Killed after an unsuccessful parachute-jump from BR.20M 243-3 near Courtrai on 29 October 1940.|
|Romualdo Montobbio||Capitano||Pilot||243a Squadriglia||CO of the 243a Squadriglia.
Wounded after forced-landing near Kuurne, Belgium with BR.20M 243-3 on 29 October 1940.
|Morellato||Pilot||85a Squadriglia||KIA later in the war during an bombing attack on Habu Haggag, North Africa.|
|Nicola Moscati||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Tullio Mussolini||Capitano||Pilot||242a Squadriglia|
|Furio Niclot Doglio||Capitano||Pilot||353a Squadriglia||KIA over Malta on 27 July 1942 by George Beurling of 249 Squadron after having claimed 7 victories.|
|Giorgio Oberweger||Sottotenente||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Alighiero Oggiano||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Ferdinando Paci||Avieri Sc. Motorista||Mechanic||351a Squadriglia|
|Tommaso Pacini||Sergente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Carlo Pagani||Capitano||Pilot||5a Squadriglia||CO of 5a Squadriglia.
Born in 1907 and was from Ferrare.
He served in the Regia Aeronautica from 1931 and had flew the BR.20 since 1938.
Took part in the French campaign.
KIFA on 24 October 1940 when BR.20M MM21928 (5-8) crashed during take-off from Melsbroeck.
|Enzo Panicchi||Sergente||Pilot||83a Squadriglia||KIA on 11 November 1940 when CR.42 MM6978 was shot down into the sea apparently by Flight Lieutenant Lionel Manley Gaunce of 46 Squadron.|
|Sergio Paoli||Tenente||Pilot||5a Squadriglia||MIA when BR.20M MM22257 was shot down by an enemy night fighter on 20/21 November 1940. The body was washed ashore at Wassenaar, without parachute but with lifejacket.|
|Armando Paolini||1o Avieri||Radio-operator||5a Squadriglia
|Baled out of a BR.20M MM22624 on 24 October 1940 over Belgium after that the aircraft became lost. He was wounded in a foot.
KIA when BR.20M 243-2/MM22621 was shot down by enemy fighters on 11 November 1940.
|Sergio Parma||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Francesco Pecchiari||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Mario Pensa||Avieri Sc.||Photographer||43o Stomo B.T.||POW when BR.20M 243-2/MM22621 was shot down by enemy fighters on 11 November 1940.|
|M. Pesso||Tenente||Pilot||5a Squadriglia||Baled out of BR.20M MM22624 between Namur and Charleroi together with his crew on 24 October 1940 after becoming lost. The aircraft crashed in Lustin.|
|Efisio Pilloni||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||351a Squadriglia|
|Riccardo Piovano||Capitano||CO||4a Squadriglia||CO of the 4a Squadriglia.|
|Ovidio Podda||1o Avieri||Aircrew||243a Squadriglia||Force-landed in BR.20M MM21904 on 29 Ocotber 1940.
KIA on 11 November when 243-10/MM22620 was shot down by enemy fighters.
|Pier Antonio Poggi||Tenente||Pilot||242a Squadriglia||Force-landed in BR.20M MM21904 on 29 Ocotber 1940.
KIA on 11 November. Probably co-pilot in Sottotenente Enzio Squazzini’s 242-3/MM22267.
|Bruno Pomare’||Sergente Maggiore El.||Mechanic||351a Squadriglia|
|Eugenio Porta||Maresciallo||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Francesco Prigione||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Luigi Questa||Colonnello||CO||43o Stormo B.T.||CO of the 43o Stormo B.T.|
|Agostino Rabino||Capitano||CO||243a Squadriglia|
|Nello Raimondo||Tenente||Pilot||243a Squadriglia|
|Peppo Re||Sottotenente||Pilot||85a Squadriglia||Overturned with 85-4 near Dunderlewe when returning after combat on 11 November 1940.|
|Talete Rebuscini||Tenente||Aircrew||1a Squadriglia||KIA on 29 November 1940 when BR.20M MM21908 crashed when trying to land back at base after mission. The aircraft was probably damaged after combat and crashed in some workers houses at Diegem-Lo, burning out and killing the crew.|
|Giuliano Rigolone||Sergente||Co-pilot||243a Squadriglia||WIA when BR.20M 243-2/MM22621 was shot down by enemy fighters on 11 November 1940. He later died of his wounds.|
|Gino Rildani||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||5a Squadriglia||MIA when BR.20M MM22257 was shot down by an enemy night fighter on 20/21 November 1940. The body was washed ashore at Wassenaar, without parachute but with lifejacket.|
|Bruno Rocca||Maresciallo Motorista||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Antonio Romeo||Sottotenente||Pilot||243a Squadriglia|
|Elvio Romito||Maresciallo||Aircrew||1a Squadriglia||KIA on 29 November 1940 when BR.20M MM21908 crashed when trying to land back at base after mission. The aircraft was probably damaged after combat and crashed in some workers houses at Diegem-Lo, burning out and killing the crew.|
|Mario Roncali||Tenente||Pilot||352a Squadriglia||Born in 1911.
He served in the Regia Aeronautica from 1930.
Took part in the Spanish Civil War.
KIFA on 13 April 1941.
Last C.A.I. pilot to be lost.
|Paolo Rossi||Sergente||Pilot||18o Gruppo|
|Celestino Rubagotti||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||243a Squadriglia|
|Riccardo Roveda||Capitano||Pilot||353a Squadriglia||CO of the 353a Squadriglia.|
|Giuseppe Ruzzin||Maresciallo||Pilot||85a Squadriglia|
|Sala||Avieri||Aircrew||242a Squadriglia||Force-landed with BR.20M MM21904 on 29 October 1940.|
|Pietro Salvadori||Sergente||Pilot||95a Squadriglia||Born in 1917.
Salvadori was a reservist with several hours on sailplanes.
He was called into military service in 1938 and received 100 hours of flight time at various flying schools before being sent to his unit where he received approximately another 100 hours of flying time.
POW on 11 November 1940 when CR.42 MM5701 (‘95-13’) force-landed due to engine problems on a beach near the Orfordness lighthouse. The aircraft was made serviceable by the RAF and flown on evaluation trails as BT474 and is now on exhibition in the Battle of Britain Museum, Hendon.
Salvadori remained in the Italian Air Force post-war to be killed eventually, flying an F-84G Thunderjet of 51o Stormo in April 1953.
|Eugenio Salvi||Tenente||Pilot||95a Squadriglia||Veteran from the Spanish Civil War.|
|Mario Sandini||Maresciallo||Pilot||83a Squadriglia||Crashed as a result of either combat damage or shortage of fuel in MM5676 on 11 November 1940. The aircraft was destroyed when it crashed in a public square in Amesterdam.|
|Vincenzo Sant’Andrea||Tenente||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Angelo Santopadre||Sergente Maggiore Motorista||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Antonio Semeria||1o Avieri R. T.||Mechanic||352a Squadriglia|
|Michele Simonetti||Sergente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Giorgio Solaroli||Sottotenente||Pilot||95a Squadriglia|
|Felice Sozzi||Maresciallo||Pilot||83a Squadriglia||Wounded in combat on 23 November 1940. Received the Medaglia d’argento for this combat.|
|Riccardo Spagnolini||Tenente||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Enzio Squazzini||Sottotenente||Pilot||243a Squadriglia||Shot down by enemy fighters and KIA while flying BR.20M 242-3/MM22267 on 11 November 1940.|
|Felice Squassoni||Sergente||Pilot||85a Squadriglia|
|P. Tacchini||Tenente||Pilot||83a Squadriglia||Landed away from base as a result of either combat damage or shortage of fuel in MM5676 on 11 November 1940. The aircraft was destroyed.|
|Giuseppe Tenti||Maggiore||CO||98o Gruppo||CO of the 98o Gruppo.|
|Luigi Tosello||Avieri Sc. Mont.||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Bruno Trevisan||Tenente||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
|Mario Tronconi||1o Avieri Motorista||Mechanic||353a Squadriglia|
|Giuseppe Valitutti||Sergente||Aircrew||243a Squadriglia||Force-landed with BR.20M 243-3 on 29 October 1940.|
|Arrigo Vardabasso||Tenente||Aircrew||5a Squadriglia||Born in 1914 and was from Beie d' Istra.
He had flew in the BR.20 since 1936 and was a veteran from the Spanish Civil War.
Took part in the French campaign.
KIFA on 24 October 1940 when BR.20M MM21928 (5-8) crashed during take-off from Melsbroeck.
|Giovanni Vescovi||Sergente||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Francesco Visentin||Sergente Maggiore||Pilot||352a Squadriglia|
|Nicola Volpe||Capitano||CO||242a Squadriglia||CO of the 242a Squadriglia.|
|Ferruccio Vosilla||Maggiore||Pilot||18o Gruppo||CO of the 18o Gruppo.|
|Ferdinando Zanardi||Sergente||Pilot||351a Squadriglia|
|Zarillo||Avieri Sc.||Aircrew||242a Squadriglia||Force-landed with BR.20M MM21904 on 29 October 1940.|
|Mario Zucca||Maresciallo||Pilot||353a Squadriglia|
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Ali d'Aquila - Flaminio Pagani, 1999 Genoa kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Battle of Britain; The Forgotten Months - John Foreman, 1988
Bombe sull’Inghilterra - Giovanni Massimello, Storia militare No. 136, January 2005
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Faisceaux Italiens Sur La Manche - Cynrick De Decker, 1999 Avions no. 79 October 1999 kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
Faisceaux Italiens Sur La Manche (2ème Partie) - Cynrick De Decker, 1999 Avions no. 80 November 1999 kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
FlyPast, February 1989
Eagles High - Peter North, 1990
Furio Niclot Doglio - Un pilota indimenticabile - Giovanni Massimello, 1998
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Il 20o Gruppo Caccia; Dalle origini all'Africa Settentrionale - Daniele Gatti, 2015 IBN Editore, Roma, ISBN 9788875652395.
In cielo e in terra - Franco Pagliano, Longanesi & Co., Milano, 1969 kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Quelli del Gatto Nero - I 60 anni del 51o Stormo 1939-1999 - Nicola Malizia, 1998, Rimini
Spitfire - The History - Eric B. Morgan and Edward Shacklady, 1987
The Battle of Britain - Richard Hough and Denis Richards, 1989
The Battle of the East Coast (1939-1943) – Foynes J. P., 1994, ISBN 0-9521555-2-4
The Fiat CR.42 - Gianni Cattaneo, 1971 Profile Publications, Berkshire
The Greatest Squadron Of Them All: Vol 1 - David Ross