The Fiat CR.42 in the Hungarian Air Force

Fiat CR.42 from the Hungarian Air Force's Arrow squadron (with late squadron insignia).

The first foreign customer of the CR.42 was the Magyar Királyi Honvéd Légierö (MKHL - Royal Hungary Air Arm), which placed orders for 18 aircraft during the summer of 1938. The Hungarians were aware that the CR.42 was conceptually outdated, but considered the rapid re-equipment of their fighter component vital and the Italian government had expressed its willingness to forgo delivery positions in order to expedite the re-equipment of Hungarian units.
Between 16 June and 20 November 1939, the CR.42s arrived in Hungary and 1. vadász ezred (1st Fighter Regiment) began conversion from the Fiat CR.32. First squadron equipped with the fighter was 1/3. ‘Kőr ász’ vadászszázad (‘Heart of Ace’ squadron), which also suffered the first fatal accident when szakaszvezető Béla Simon crashed at Mátyásföld with V.207 on 4 October 1939.
In November 1939, Hungary ordered an additional 50 CR.42s from Italy, which arrived between 10 February and 30 June 1940. 1. vadász ezred’s two two-squadron component groups, the 1./I osztály (Fighter Group) at Mátyásföld (later to Kolozsvár-Szamosfalva where it was renumbered to 2/II. osztály) and the 1./II osztály at Mátyásföld, Budapest, had received their full complement of fighters by the late spring of 1940. In 1942, the Hungarians and the Italians bartered a captured Yugoslavian S.79 against two more CR.42s, thus MKHL used a total of 70 CR 42.

Fiat CR.42 V.256 of 1/6 "Kőr ász" vadászszázad after a landing accident.

April 1941
Hungary used their new fighter for the first time during the Yugoslavian campaign in April 1941, they flew a number of sweeps into Yugoslav airspace during the assault. However, some concern was expressed when it was discovered that the CR.42s were incapable of intercepting the Yugoslav Blenheims that attacked Pécs and Szeged.

Fiat CR.42 V.239 of 2/4 Arrow squadron.

June 1941
Nevertheless when a special Air Force Brigade was formed less than two months later to accompany the Hungarian Fast Corps that was to participate in the assault on the Soviet Union to be launched in June (Hungary declared war on Soviet Union on 27 June), the principal fighter element was provided by the 12 CR.42s of the 1/3. ‘Kőr ász’ vadászszázad of the 1./II osztály.

27 June 1941
At around 08:00, the MKHL made its first air attack against Soviet targets, when around 30 bombers comprising Junkers Ju 86s of 4/3. and 4/4. bombázószázad (Bomber Squadron) and one squadron of Caproni Ca.135s of 3/5. bombázószázad attacked targets in Stanislav (now Ivano-Frankovsk). They were escorted by 9 CR 42s of the 2/3. ‘Ricsi’ vadászszázad of the 2./II osztály led by százados vitéz Aladár Szobránczy. After the bombers had done their work, the escorting fighters strafed targets of opportunity in the area. Őrmester (Sergeant) Arpád Kertész was lost in dense clouds and when he finally broke through, he sighted a reconnaissance machine. When he flew towards it, it opened fire so he identified it as a Russian reconnaissance aircraft (probably a Polikarpov R-5). After a short exchange of fire, the reconnaissance aircraft burst into flames. He turned back towards his base flying on his instruments but after a while, his fuel ran low and he decided to land. Fortunately, when he landed he found himself among Rumanians. However, it took him more than a week to squeeze some petrol out of them. At last, they gave him some but it was still so little that he had to return to his unit via his pre-war base in Hungary.
During the same mission, the fighter squadron lost CR 42 V.217, when zászlós László Kázár was shot down by antiaircraft fire. He made a forced landing and after setting fire to his personal mount for two years, he managed to return after 16 days spent hiding behind enemy lines, with the help of local Ukrainian anti-Communist guerrillas.

V.264 of “Kőr Ász” Vadászszázad.
© Chris Banyai-Riepl
Image kindly provided by Chris Banyai-Riepl
(This image first appeared at The Aviation Profiles of Bob Pearson & Chris Banyai-Riepl and Internet Modeler).

29 June 1941
Three pilots of the 2/3. "Richie" vadászszázad had claimed a SB bomber each, from a seven-aircraft formation that attempted to attack Csap (today Chop, Ukraine) at 11:25.
Despite poor weather conditions over the sub-Carpathian region on this day, Hungarian aircraft did undertake several combat missions. 25 Ju86K-2 and Ca.135bis bombers, escorted by Fiat CR.42s, targeted Striy. This was the last action of a two-day strategic bombing offensive against Soviet rear area targets, in retaliation of the bombing of Kassa. While returning from the mission, Fiat CR.42 V.245, of the 2/3. "Richie" vadászszázad, flown by föhadnagy László Pottyondy force-landed near Tiszavásár. The aircraft was 50% damaged, but the pilot escaped uninjured.

8 July 1941
The 2/3. vadászszázad moved from their Hungarian advanced base at Bustyaháza to a captured Russian airfield some 8km from of Kolomea.
The same day, the 2/4. ‘Repülö tör’ vadászszázad of the 2./II vadászosztály suffered the loss of a whole section when three CR.42s (V.253, V.254 and V.255) crashed due to bad weather encountered over the Carpathian Mountains. The section leader, hadnagy Pál Irányi, suffered severe head injuries when his aircraft hit a tree, but he recovered and eventually became an ace pilot. One of his men, Szakaszvezetö Antal Nébli hit the ground violently north-east of Dora and was killed instantly. The third pilot, Szakaszvezetö Endre Bajcsy baled out of his doomed aircraft and broke his hip when he came down on rough terrain.

10 July 1941
During the day Hadnagy Vámos’ section provided air cover for advancing units of the Hungarian Fast Corps. There were no enemy aircraft in the air but, not wishing to return without firing their guns, the three Fiats attacked and dispersed a retreating Soviet column in the Smotricz area. Almost immediately, five Soviet I-16s appeared and, in the ensuing dogfight, Vámos shot down one of them. The section severely damaged another and sent the other three fleeing eastward.

On the same day, the Hungarian közelfelderítö-század (with nine Heinkel He46s) and the 2/3. "Richie" vadászszázad (with nine CR.42s) moved to Yezierzany landing ground.

12 July 1941
During they day, alezredes (Lieutenant Colonel) Béla Orosz, commander of the air contingent attached to the Fast corps, ordered százados Aladár Szobránczy, commander of 2/3. vadászszázad, to provide escort for two short-range reconnaissance squadrons, which were to bomb an enemy transport assembly point west of Zwanczyk. Szobránczy, föhadnagy László Pottyondy, hadnagy Gyözö Vámos (CR.42 V.265), szakaszvezetö Péter Soós and szakaszvezetö János Balogh took off at 10:00 and soon joined the formation of WM 21 Sólyom aircraft of the VIIth and Xth közelfelderítö-század. On the way to the target, Szobránczy caught sight of three twin-engined Soviet bombers. As the Fiats dived on them, seven Soviet I-16s appeared suddenly and engaged the Hungarian biplanes. Szobránczy selected a Soviet fighter and soon saw his tracers penetrating the cockpit. The machine began to trail thick smoke and hit the ground west of Zvanchyk. Pottyondy also attacked an I-16 but, at the same time, he was jumped by another I-16. He noticed with satisfaction that Soós took over his victim-to-be and he was able to concentrate on his attacker. Despite the Soviet machine’s advantage of altitude, thanks to the superb manoeuvrability of the CR.42, Pottyondy managed to get behind the Russian and his bullets tore pieces of the fuselage. The Russian pilot steadied his plane only to fly into the machine gun fire of the oncoming Vámos. The two machines raced towards each other and in the next second, they collided head-on. Pottyondy saw two parachutes floating downward but he was immediately attacked by another I-16. It took some time to get behind this opponent but he finally did it. The bullets hit the tail and then moved forward on to the section between the engine and the cockpit. Pottyondy knew that he finally had got his first victory out of three chances since smoke poured out from the I-16s engine as the Fiat’s machine guns kept pounding the fuselage. Finally, it spun towards the earth near Dunayevtsy, out of control. Meanwhile the WM 21 Sólyoms had completed their task and turned for home. Despite being fired upon by effective ground fire, all but one Sólyoms returned, although two of them had to be later written off due to the amount of combat damage received in the low-level attack. The exception was the WM 21 of hadnagy Ferenc Málnássy (pilot) and zászlós Pál Mónucz (observer), which was posted missing at noon. It turned out that they force-landed east of Zvanchyk and eventually returned to base.
Pottyondy and Balogh, who also had shot down an I-16, were the last to leave the area yet they were the first back in Kolomea. Soon Soós arrived and also reported an air victory. On the return, he had got low on fuel and had to land to refuel at another airfield. However Vámos, who they know had bailed out after the collision, and Szobránczy were still missing. After shooting down his opponent and watching Vámos’ collision, Szobránczy had decided to try to find him. Circling around the parachute, he noticed that Vámos hung motionless. When his body hit the top of threes, a Russian patrol appeared at the edge of the wood. Szobránczy sent the Russians running with a few well-aimed bursts. Looking around he saw a meadow along the south-east edge of the forest and put the Fiat down. The machine came to a halt after about 250 feet and the undercarriage sank into the soft ground. A group of horsemen appeared galloping towards him and Szobránczy draw his pistol but, to his great relief, it was not needed for they were Hungarian hussars who had watched his landing. Szobránczy detailed a hussar to guard the plane, mounted the hussars horse and began to search for Vámos. They found the parachute quickly, but it took ninety minutes to find the pilot, who they found sleeping in an abandoned forester hut! The happy Vámos explained that he lost consciousness upon the impact and did not remember pulling the ripcord. He came to when he hit the foliage. At the edge of the forest, he was fired on, so he went farther into the woods until he saw the hut where, exhausted, he fell into a deep sleep. In the meantime, a Hungarian armoured unit reached the scene and then towed the Fiat on to solid ground. Szobránczy landed back at Kolomea at 19:00 and the unit could claim five victories during the day with no losses of pilots.
According to some sources was the I-16, which collided with Vámos credited as an unconfirmed to Pottyondy, who fired at this aircraft before the collision.

Twelve CR.42s of the 1/3. "Kőr ász" vadászszázad, under the command of százados László Tomor, redeployed to Kolomea (Kolomiya), and were immediately engaged in combat operations.

middle of July 1941
A few days later the 2/3. “Richie” vadászszázad was pulled back to Hungary. They had claimed 7 victories during this short period but was to be back on the Eastern Front during 1944-45 flying Bf109s under Százados Pottyondy to further distinguish themselves.

Fiat CR.42 V.261.

Colour profile of the aircraft above - V.261 of 1/6 “Kőr Ász” Vadászszázad.
© Chris Banyai-Riepl
Image kindly provided by Chris Banyai-Riepl
(This image first appeared at The Aviation Profiles of Bob Pearson & Chris Banyai-Riepl and Internet Modeler).

Meanwhile, the CR.42s of the 1/3. vadászszázad were accompanying the Air Force Brigade deeper into the Soviet Union.

14-19 July 1941
Between the 14 and 19 July, they flew several reconnaissance and escort sorties.

20 July 1941
On this day, the 12 Fiats moved to Bar were the unit shared the airfield with a German reconnaissance unit and a Slovakian Avia squadron.

22 July 1941
Százados László Tomor, squadron CO of the 1/3. vadászszázad took off from Bar airfield with four other CR.42s to reconnoitre the area between Braclav, Bersady, Tulchyn and Dzhurin. During this mission, they attacked and strafed enemy columns and armour. Ground fire was intense and only one Fiat escaped unscathed, because the aircraft lacked armour protection and thus were vulnerable to ground fire. Százados Tomor was wounded in five different places, and received the most punishment; nevertheless, he returned to base.

end July-August 1941
The vadászszázad moved to Sutyska, Annopol and Berschad during the next few days and flew escort and patrol missions from these airfields.

5 August 1941
During the day, it was reported to the Hungarian headquarters that a multi-engined Soviet aircraft had landed in the village of Podvysokoye, possibly with the order to rescue some high-ranking officers or commissars of the surrounded Soviet army in the Uman pocket. Six CR.42s of the 1/3. vadászszázad took of and százados László Tomor lead the first section, while hadnagy János ‘Hanzi’ Pettendi led the second. Another pilot who took part in this mission was szakaszvezetö Lajos Göcsei. They circled around the village at 6000 feet, but they couldn’t locate the target. Tomor spotted a building, which looked like a command post; thus he decided to investigate. He dived steeply, followed by the others. The antiaircraft batteries remained silent, reluctant to disclose their location too soon. As his Fiat zoomed downward, Tomor suddenly sighted a well-camouflaged three-engined machine standing next to a house at the village’s perimeter. A few jerks on the stick, slight adjustments, then he pressed the firing button. Now the defences opened up. But it was too late. The tracers found their mark and the big transport went up in flames. All the Hungarian CR.42s sent at least one long burst into the burning aircraft. However the antiaircraft fire was heavy and every one of the fighters received hits and only two being able to return to base. Two pilots were missing but luckily Göcsei soon rang and reported that his rudder had been shot off and he had made an emergency landing at Anapol (80km west of Rovno). However, there was no news from Pettendi, a famous sporting airman. Despite the ensuing aerial search and inquiries made through intelligence channels, no trace of him was ever found thus making him the squadrons first and only pilot killed in combat during this tour of duty.

8 August 1941
Few more sorties were flown before the unit moved to Pervomaysk on 8 August.

11 August 1941
During the day two sections of the squadron and the Reggiane Re2000 flight, which was attached to the squadron for testing of this fighter under combat conditions, took of under the command of Százados Tomor to escort Fõhadnagy Szakonyi’s Caproni Ca135 detachment. The mission was to destroy the important bridge over the river Bug at Nikolayev since this bridge was the last remaining escape route of the encircled Soviet army. The bridge was however strongly defended by antiaircraft batteries and fighters. On the way to the target the antiaircraft fire was heavy. Most of the bombers were hit but yet they destroyed the bridge and severely damaged the railway station. On the return flight Soviet I-16s attacked the Hungarian aircraft. During the ensuing combat Tomor, Szakaszvezetö Göcsei, Zászlós Kun, Zászlós Márton Szõnyi and Zászlós Baranyai each claimed victories. This was the 1/3. "Kőr ász" vadászszázad first five claims during the Second World War and all CR.42s were hit but none were lost. The Re2000s claimed 2 more Soviet fighters, but had lost a pilot. One crippled Caproni claimed 3 and another Caproni claimed 1 additional Soviet fighter.

13 August 1941
Zászlós Olveczky flew an escort mission during the day when a Heinkel He46 of the I. Short Range Reconnaissance vadászszázad was ordered to attack a ship from the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, which had sailed up north in the Bug Estuary. The mission was a success and the ship was by one 10-kg bomb and it retreated out in the Black Sea.

19 August 1941
During the following days the unit flew escort, reconnaissance and patrol missions before moving to Krivoy Rog on 19 August.

26 August 1941
During the next days the vadászszázad flew several sorties over the industrial centre of Dniepropetrovsk. On this day Hadnagy Albert Seres’ section flew a sortie over the city and was engaged in combat with Soviet I-16s. Seres and Zászlós Szõnyi claimed two I-16s each while Zászlós Baranyai claimed a fifth I-16. Baranyai’s aircraft was damaged during this combat and he wounded himself but he managed to bring back his fighter and was himself patched up by the medics and flew again the next day.

27 August 1941
Next day Fõhadnagy Ujszászy’s section was first over Dniepropetrovsk. The section surprised Soviet fighters taking off. During the combat Ujszászy and Törzsörmester (Staff Sergeant) Szobránci claimed two I-17s each while Zászlós Szénási claimed a fifth. The section claimed 5 victories in this combat and in the evening the German intelligence confirmed the destruction of at least 5, possibly 6 aircraft.

During a second patrol over Dniepropetrovsk Hadnagy Seres and Zászlós Baranyai claimed two more fighters.

Also during the day Zászlós Szõnyi claimed an additional Soviet aircraft but he was himself shot down and taken POW.

2 September 1941
During the day Százados Tomor strafed Soviet ground forces at the Dniepropetrovsk bridgehead together with eight more pilots with great success.

5 September 1941
This was repeated three days later with even more success against soviet forces on the Zaporoshye Island, which was the subject of bitter fighting.

6-17 September 1941
During the next twelve six bomber escort missions were flown in the same area.

20 September 1941
On this day Százados Tomor led five fighters to help an encircled German regiment east of Nikopol. They strafed the enemy and while they were doing so the Germans launched a counter-attack and broke out of the ring.

22 September 1941
During this day five Soviet bombers attacked the airfield the vadászszázad was operating from (during a soccer match!). The unit didn’t suffer any losses but the Reconnaissance vadászszázad, which they shared airfield with, had two men killed and 15 wounded.

10 October 1941
The reconnaissance, escort and patrol missions continued and on this day the vadászszázad moved to Dniepropetrovsk. One section was transferred to Golubovka and the other to Losovaya. However the front moved so rapidly eastward that it was not possible to fly sorties from their bases.

3 November 1941
During this day the fighter, bomber and reconnaissance vadászszázads and the mobile workshop were ordered to assemble at Dnieprodshershinsk

15 November 1941
Few more missions were flown and on 15 November the unit was told to prepare themselves for the return to Hungary. The Fiat CR.42s - and indeed the Ju86s and He46s - were not considered suitable for the Russian winter. No combat aircraft of the Magyar Királyi Légierö saw service in Russia between December 1941 and May 1942.

19 November 1941
On this day the vadászszázad left the front but they were forced to land at Vinnitsa due to bad weather and they were grounded there for five days.

26 November 1941
During this day the last biplane fighters was retired from combat service in the Magyar Királyi Légierö when the last ones crossed the Carpathians and set course for their home base at Mátyösfáld.
The 1/3. vadászszázad claimed 18 and 1 probable victories during 114 missions and 447 individual combat sorties. They lost two pilots and two aircraft. Hadnagy Pettendi was killed in action and Zászlós Szõnyi was taken POW.

The CR.42s of the 1/3. vadászszázad was relegated to training role in which they were shortly to be joined by those of the remainder of the 1./II Osztály and of the 2./II Osztály.

Image kindly via Dénes Bernád.

Hungarian claims with the Fiat CR.42:
Kill no. Date Number Type Result Pilot Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 27/06/41 1 R-5 Destroyed Árpád Kertész Fiat CR.42   Stanislav area 2/3. vadászszázad
2 29/06/41 1 SB Destroyed   Fiat CR.42   Csap area 2/3. vadászszázad
3 29/06/41 1 SB Destroyed   Fiat CR.42   Csap area 2/3. vadászszázad
4 29/06/41 1 SB Destroyed   Fiat CR.42   Csap area 2/3. vadászszázad
5 10/07/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Gyõzõ Vámos Fiat CR.42   Smotricz area 2/3. vadászszázad
  10/07/41 1 I-16 Shared damaged All the pilots of the section Fiat CR.42   Smotricz area 2/3. vadászszázad
6 12/07/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Aladár Szobránczy Fiat CR.42   W Zwanczyk 2/3. vadászszázad
7 12/07/41 1 I-16 (a) Destroyed Gyõzõ Vámos Fiat CR.42 V-265 W Zwanczyk 2/3. vadászszázad
8 12/07/41 1 I-16 Destroyed László Pottyondy Fiat CR.42   W Zwanczyk 2/3. vadászszázad
9 12/07/41 1 I-16 Destroyed János Balogh Fiat CR.42   W Zwanczyk 2/3. vadászszázad
10 12/07/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Péter Soós Fiat CR.42   W Zwanczyk 2/3. vadászszázad
  05/08/41 1 Soviet a/c Sh. destroyed on the ground All the pilot of the unit Fiat CR.42   Podvishikoye 1/3. vadászszázad
11 11/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed László Tomor Fiat CR.42   Nikolayev area 1/3. vadászszázad
12 11/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Lajos Göcsei Fiat CR.42   Nikolayev area 1/3. vadászszázad
13 11/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Miklós Kun Fiat CR.42   Nikolayev area 1/3. vadászszázad
14 11/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Márton Szõnyi Fiat CR.42   Nikolayev area 1/3. vadászszázad
15 11/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Károly Baranyai Fiat CR.42   Nikolayev area 1/3. vadászszázad
16 26/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Albert Seres Fiat CR.42 V-202 Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
17 26/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Albert Seres Fiat CR.42 V-202 Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
18 26/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Márton Szõnyi Fiat CR.42 V-203 Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
19 26/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Márton Szõnyi Fiat CR.42 V-203 Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
20 26/08/41 1 I-16 Destroyed Károly Baranyai Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
21 27/08/41 1 I-17 Destroyed György Ujszászy Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
22 27/08/41 1 I-17 Destroyed György Ujszászy Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
23 27/08/41 1 I-17 Destroyed Sándor Szobránci Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
24 27/08/41 1 I-17 Destroyed Sándor Szobránci Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
25 27/08/41 1 I-17 Destroyed Ferenc Szénási Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
  27/08/41 1 I-17 Probable   Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
26 27/08/41 1 Soviet fighter Destroyed Albert Seres Fiat CR.42 V-202 Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
27 27/08/41 1 Soviet fighter Destroyed Károly Baranyai Fiat CR.42   Dniepropetrovsk area 1/3. vadászszázad
28 27/08/41 1 I-17 Destroyed Márton Szõnyi Fiat CR.42 V-203 Western Ukraine 1/3. vadászszázad

TOTAL: 28 destroyed, 1 probable, 1 damaged, 1 destroyed on the ground.
(a) Claimed after a collision.

V.249 - This aircraft is thought to have been used as a night fighter.
© Chris Banyai-Riepl
Image kindly provided by Chris Banyai-Riepl
(This image first appeared at The Aviation Profiles of Bob Pearson & Chris Banyai-Riepl and Internet Modeler).

Air Enthusiast/Twenty
A magyar királyi 1. honvéd éjjeli vadász repülõszázad Magyar Repüléstörténeti Társaság Konferencia Közleményei 1999 - Csaba Becze
A magyar légiero teljesítményei a Kárpátoktól a Dnyeperig - Béla Orosz, 1942 Budapest kindly provided by Csaba Becze
Biplane Against The Red Bear - Julius R. Gaal, 1974 Air Combat Spring/1974 kindly provided by Santiago Flores
Harcok az orosz égen Budapest - László Tomor, 1942 kindly provided by Csaba Becze
Elfelejtett Hősök - Csaba Becze, 2006 Puedlo Kiadó, ISBN 963-9673-064
“Kőr ász” Egy vadászrepülő század története 1936-1941 - Csaba Becze, 2007 Puedlo Kiadó, ISBN 978-9639673854
The Fiat CR.42 - Gianni Cattaneo, 1971
Additional information kindly provided by Csaba Becze
Images from Laszlo Jávor, Ferenc Zsák, and Peter Mujzer via Tadeusz P. Dobrowiecki

Last modified 24 February 2009