Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Carlo Albertini

9 March 1916 - 5 August 1997

Carlo Albertini flying over the Alps in CR.42 MM4314 from the 366 Squadriglia.
Image kindly provided by Federico Albertini.

Carlo Albertini was born in Candelo (Biella) in Piedmont on 9 March 1916.

He probably joined the Regia Aeronautica in 1935 and on receiving his wings he was promoted to Sottotenente di complemento.

He was posted to the 366a Squadriglia, 151o Gruppo.
This Gruppo was the first to receive the Fiat CR.42, in March 1939.

Sottotenente Carlo Albertini commanded 366a Squadriglia, 151o Gruppo, from 7 June 1940 to 31 August 1940.

In the middle of September, Sottotenente Albertini of the 366a Squadriglia, 151o Gruppo, and Maresciallo Giorgio Di Giulio were assigned to the 91a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo.

In September 1940, Sottotenente Carlo Albertini served in the 91a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo C.T. This unit was stationed in North Africa and equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 14 September, the 4o Stormo continued to protect the ground forces. A mixed formation of 23 CR.42s from the 9o Gruppo commanded by Maggiore Ernesto Botto with 15 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo as high cover, took off at 10:25. At 11:00, over Sollum some 10o Gruppo pilots discovered a formation of four Bristol Blenheims. They attacked and claimed one shot down in flames. The bomber was credited as a shared to the whole formation from the 10o Gruppo (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Tenente Franco Lucchini and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti of the 90a Squadriglia and Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sottotenente Albertini and Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli of the 91a Squadriglia and Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili, Tenente Paolo Berti and Sergente Domenico Santonocito of the 84a Squadriglia).
Sottotenente Albertini later told that that the Blenheim had been left behind by its squadron and he fired at it all the rounds he had, but he could not destroy it. At the beginning, the bomber returned fire, but after being hit several times, they stopped and no sign of life could be noticed. He followed the bomber for a while, once finished his rounds, but nothing happened, and the Blenheim continued on the same route.
This clam can’t be verified with RAF records. The only known British actions for the day were a couple of afternoon bomber raids. Four Blenheims of 55 Squadron with others from 211 Squadron were ordered to attack Italian troops in the Sollum area in the first afternoon. The 55 Squadron quartet came back at 16:45 without suffering losses. Its pilots reported slight and ineffective AA fire and the presence of Italian fighters (but no interception occurred). Eight machines of 211 Squadron led by Gordon-Finalyson also attacked, claiming many hits in the target area. However, no Italian fighters were seen and all the bombers were back at around 17:10.

Sottotenente Albertini returned to the 366a Squadriglia from the 91a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo on 27 October.

After some days of inactivity due to the incessantly blowing Ghibli wind, a big coordinated Italian action against Mersa Matruh was planned for 31 October. It was planned to use at least 50 SM 79s from the 9o Stormo, 14o Stormo and 33o Gruppo with an escort of 40 CR.42s from the 2o Stormo and 151o Gruppo to attack the British base and its different targets.
At 10:10, Menastir M was attacked by British bombers reported as ten Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys (in fact seven Blenheims from 55 Squadron and three from 84 Squadron). The bombers arrived from a northerly direction completely undetected and hit the parking area of the 93a Squadriglia with many small and medium calibre bombs launched from 3000 metres. The Squadriglia HQ hut was completely destroyed by a direct hit while four CR.42s were lightly damaged by splinters (RS) and one was heavily damaged (RD). The heavy damaged CR.42 was immediately taken to the S.R.A.M. of El Adem (according to other sources the RD Fiats were three and the RS Fiats were two). Luckily no losses were suffered by the personnel of 8o Gruppo.
At 10:15 (09:40 according with other sources), while the 9o Stormo formation was taxiing on Gambut airstrip, a formation of seven Blenheims from 211 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Gordon-Finlayson and two others from 84 Squadron suddenly appeared overhead. The British bombers had managed to approach undetected by gliding down from 3000 metres with turned off engines and bombed with extreme precision, destroying three bombers while three others remained RD and many others were less seriously damaged. Heavy were also the losses among 9o Stormo’s personnel, with two dead among 63a Squadriglia (Sergente Armiere Carlo Marchi and Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Eugenio Bonino).
Three fighters of the resident 82a Squadriglia scrambled after the bombers had turned on their Mercury engines. They were flown by Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Maggiore Dante Davico and Sergente Nino Campanini but they were unable to intercept.
Three fighters of the 78a Squadriglia also scrambled at 10:00. These were flown by Tenente Ippolito Lalatta, Sottotenente Luigi Cannepele and Sergente Ernesto Taddia. These were also unsuccessful and they landed back at base at 10:45.
Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi and Sottotenente Albertini of the 366a Squadriglia scrambled from the nearby Amseat A3 for the British bombers. While in pursuit an enemy fighter, identified as a Hurricane, crossed the path of Albertini, who spent 420 rounds on it. The aircraft escaped smoking heavily and Albertini, who landed at 10:45, was credited with a probable victory.
At 10:25, three CR.42s from 92a Squadriglia, 8o Gruppo, scrambled from Menastir M. The three fighters were flown by Sottotenente Luigi Uguccioni Sergente, Mario Veronesi and Sergente Marcello Mosele. Veronesi intercepted a Hurricane which he claimed damaged with 150 rounds of ammunition. The three aircraft returned to base at 10:45.
It seems that both scrambles from 366a and 92a Squadriglie had been involved in combat with Hurricanes escorting the British bombers and in fact, 80 Squadron had put up eight Gladiators and two Hurricanes between 9.00 and 11.00 to patrol off Bardia at 15,000 feet and to cover bombers attacking Menastir and a target 38 miles west of Bardia (Gambut). The returning pilots didn’t report any encounter with Italian aircraft while returning 211 Squadron crews reported that an Italian CR.42 tried to follow them but after firing two bursts from 500 yards was set upon by a Gladiator and a Hurricane and last seen diving towards the ground with smoke trailing from it.

He later served in Rhodes (Rodi), probably with the 161o Gruppo.

In 1942 he moved back to Italy, possibly to Crotone with convoy escort duties. He was there when he married and stayed there May-September 1942.

Later he took part in the final struggles in North Africa. While fleeing from North Africa in early May 1943 he later retold that only two fighters were left. Stripping the aircraft from all excesses, Albertini flew with an extra passenger while the other fighters carried two passengers. Included was also all the mail and the messages from the personnel that couldn't leave by air. He retold that the squadron commander summoned them all on the airfield and said something like:

"We have 2 planes that must reach Italy before the English arrive. We can fit 5 men in them: one will be Carlo Albertini, because he is father of a boy that was born a few days ago [on 6 May], while the other 4 will be drawn lots..."
While crossing the sea between Libya and Sicily, they crossed an English convoy and they had to fly at a few meters above the water to avoid to be hit by the AA artillery, passing right between the ships. Only Albertini's fighter reached Sicily.

After the armistice on 8 September 1943, he didn't want to continue fighting and hid in order not to be forced to fight again.

Albertini ended the war with 1 shared biplane victory. At this time he held the rank of Tenente di complemento.
During the war he had been decorated with the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare and the Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare

After the war, he tried to be part of a newly created civil air company without success. Some of his former mates could get in, but he could not.
He finally established his own company, a wool spinning company.

Carlo Albertini passed away on 5 August 1997.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  14/09/40 11:00- 1/15 Blenheim (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 91a Squadriglia
  31/10/40 -10:45 1 Hurricane (b) Probable Fiat CR.42   Amseat area 366a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed, 1 probable destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed.
(a) This claim can’t be verified with RAF records.
(b) Probably claimed in combat with Hurricane from 80 Squadron, which didn’t report any losses.

55 Squadron Operations Record Book
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Additional information kindly provided by Ian Acworth, Federico Albertini and Ludovico Slongo

Last modified 20 June 2011