Capitano Paolo Arcangeletti
1 March 1912 – December 1996
Image kindly provided by Eugenio Costigliolo.
Paolo Arcangeletti was born on 1 March 1912.
He received his permanent commission on 5 October 1936.
He took command of the 84a Squadriglia of the 4o Stormo C.T. on 13 April 1937, when the previous commander Capitano Ernesto Botto went to Spain to take part in the Civil War.
On 1 May 1937, Tenente Roberto Fassi took command of the 84a Squadriglia, 4o Stormo, after Tenente Arcangeletti.
On 10 June 1937, Tenente Arcangeletti took command of the 96a Squadriglia after Capitano Marco Minio Paluello.
On 8 July 1937, Sottotenente Vittorio Pezzè took command of the 96a Squadriglia after Tenente Arcangeletti.
Arcangeletti volunteered for service in Spain in July 1937.
He served with the XXIII Gruppo and the 31a Squadriglia of the VI Gruppo. The 31a Squadriglia was commanded by Capitano Borgogno and the VI Gruppo was commanded by Maggiore Leotta.
At around noon on 20 August 1937, he claimed a ’Curtiss’ (I-15) over Selaya on the Santander front.
On 12 October, the Republican Air Force intervened heavily to support International battalions and tanks in an attempt to break through the enemy lines at Fuentes del Ebro.
At 07:30, nine CR.32s of the 31a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Borgogno) and nine of the 32a Squadriglia (Capitano Ernesto Botto), VI Gruppo, took off from Alfàmen to patrol the area over Fuentes del Ebro. Each Squadriglia was split in two, so the four patrols were led respectively by Borgogno, Tenente Alessio Neri (31a Squadriglia) at 3,500 meters while Botto (“white 3” NC 623) and Tenente Edoardo Molinari (32a Squadriglia) flew at 5,000 meters.
Over Mediana at 07:55, they spotted Republican fighters escorting R-Z light bombers that were seen to retire without bombing because of CR.32s presence. The Republican escort consisted of 13 I-15s from the 1a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 26 (commanded by Kapitan Antonov) and 19 I-16s from 2a and 6a Escuadrillas of Grupo No 21 (led by Starshii Leitenants Pleshchenko and Gusev). Borgogno waved the wings to warn his pilots and then climbed to 4,000 meters to gain an advantage. The Republicans were to pass unaware below them, but over Lerida, before Borgogno could order the attack, a pilot (Sergente Rigolli, “first wingman” of Neri’s patrol) suddenly dived on them, followed by the three of his patrol. Soon the I-15s turned into them. Borgogno had no other choice than to intervene to help his pilots. In the fray, two CR.32s flown by Sottotenente Francis Leoncini (31a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Ugo Corsi (32a Squadriglia) collided, and both pilots parachuted. Sottotenente Roberto Boschetto (“Boscarelli”) was hit and made an emergency landing with his damaged fighter. A “Curtiss” was destroyed and another was damaged. Then, Tenente Neri also was shot down and parachuted.
Botto, meanwhile, kept cool enough to stay above and watch the “Ratas”. As the CR.32s were overwhelming the I-15s, the I-16s dived to intervene, but at this point Botto jumped them from 5,000 meters. Botto destroyed a “Rata” over Mediana and dispersed the others, before being hit at his right thighbone by an explosive bullet. He nevertheless managed to reach Saragossa-Sanjurjo and land but the limb had to be amputated. In the combat, Arcangeletti claimed two additional I-16s while Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Rigolli was shot down and killed. Two more CR.32s returned to base badly damaged. Overclaiming was heavy and the pilots from 31a and 32a Squadriglie claimed four I-15s and nine I-16s.
It seems that two I-16s of 6a/21 were lost (both flown by Russian pilots), one was shot down with the loss of the pilot while the other crash-landed. One I-15 of 1a/26 piloted by a Spanish pilot, crash-landed in friendly territory. Two I-16s and one I-15 returned damaged.
Boschetto, Leoncini and Corsi were captured and returned home after the war. Neri, who tried to defend himself by shooting at his captors with his handgun, was captured, prosecuted and executed on 16 October 1937. Botto, Neri and Rigolli were decorated with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare (Italy's highest military award) after this combat, the last two of them posthumously.
After the combat on 12 October 1937, when Capitano Ernesto Botto lost his leg, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Benassi created the famous ‘Gamba di Ferro’ badge, which was adopted by the whole VI Gruppo depicting an iron leg over an axe.
During the winter of 1937-38 he served in 32a Squadriglia of the VI Gruppo.
Arcangeletti is also credited with a number of shared victories during the Spanish Civil War.
On 20 October 1939, he was promoted to Capitano.
During the Greek campaign, he initially served as commander over 354a Squadriglia (equipped with Fiat G.50bis), before becoming commander over 395a Squadriglia (Fiat G.50bis) and then 393a Squadriglia of the 160o Gruppo (Fiat CR.42s)
On 19 November 1940, 'B' Flight of 80 Squadron, which recently had arrived to Greece to reinforce the Greek fighter forces, flew up to Trikkala during the morning. After refueling, nine Gladiators took off at 14:10, led by three Greek PZL P.24s (23 Mira), for an offensive patrol over the Koritza area. Squadron Leader William Hickey led the Gladiators.
When they neared the Italian airfield at Koritza the PZLs were obliged to turn back due to their short range. The Gladiators flew over Koritza were Italian anti-aircraft opened up. Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle, who were leading the second section, sighted four Fiat CR.42s climbing towards them from the starboard beam.
It had been arranged beforehand that the Gladiators would not use their radiotelephones unless it was absolutely essential, because they had discovered in the desert that the CR.42s used a similar wavelength; by listening in to the Gladiators, the Italians received prior information of an attack. Pattle warned Hickey of the presence of the CR.42s simply by diving past the Commanding Officer's section and pointing his Gladiator towards the Italian aircraft. Hickey acknowledged that he understood by waggling his wing and Pattle withdrew to his position at the head of his section.
As Hickey’s section dived towards the four CR.42s, Pattle noticed a second group of two more CR.42s and took his section, consisting of Pilot Officer 'Heimar' Stuckey and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, to engage these. Pattle went for the leading CR.42, which attempted to evade the attack by diving steeply and slipping from side to side. Pattle followed, closing in rapidly, but he didn't fire until the CR.42 straightened out and thereby offered a steadier target. From 100 yards astern, he lined up the CR.42 in his sight and opened fire. The CR.42 steepened its dive; the pilot had apparently been hit, because he fell forward over the control column. Pattle pulled away, as the CR.42 went straight down to crash about two miles west of Koritza, bursting into flames on striking the ground. Stuckey, following close behind Pattle's Gladiator, smiled and gave a thumbs-up signal to Pattle signifying confirmation of the victory.
The two Gladiators, now completely alone, climbed up to 15,000 feet immediately over the airfield, and saw a dogfight in progress a few miles to the north. Heading in that direction, they were soon engaged by five CR.42s and two G.50s. One of the G.50s came at Pattle in a head-on attack, but broke away much too early, the tracers passing yards below the Gladiator. A CR.42 had a go next, but Pattle quickly snap-rolled, up and over the Italian aircraft, and came down perfectly in position fifty yards behind the CR.42. A short burst and the cockpit of the CR.42 became a mass of flames and it fell away burning furiously. After this combat he noticed that his air pressure were so low that he couldn't fire his guns and he soon returned to base.
Totally in this combat the British pilots claimed nine and two probables shot down. Apart from Pattle's two CR.42s, Stuckey claimed one G.50, which crashed, and one CR.42, Flight Lieutenant Greg Graham claimed one G.50 and one CR.42, Pilot Officer Samuel Cooper claimed one shared CR.42 with Pilot Officer William Vale, who also claimed one additional CR.42, Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one G.50 and finally Flying Officer Sidney Linnard claimed two CR.42s as probables.
Pilot Officer Stuckey was hit in the combat by CR.42s and wounded in the right shoulder and leg. He was saved from being finished off by Squadron Leader Hickey, who managed to driving away the CR.42s and then escort him back to Trikkala from where he would be dispatched to the Greek Red Cross hospital in Athens.
Pilot Officer Vale reported:
"Nine Gladiators and three PZLs took off from Trikkala in four flights of three aircraft to carry out an offensive patrol over Koritza. I was flying in the second flight as No.2 to F/Lt Pattle. We arrived over the area at approximately 1440 hours and after patrolling for about five minutes two CR42s were seen approaching our formation at 14,000 feet from starboard ahead. The signal for line astern was given by the flight leader, who immediately attacked the enemy aircraft, which broke formation. F/Lt Pattle engaged one CR42 and after a shot dogfight shot it down out of control, with smoke coming from the engine.80 Squadron had been involved in combat with Fiat CR.42s of 160o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which were patrolling over this area, and with G.50bis from 24o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which were escorting bombers in the same area.
The other CR42 was engage by No.1 Flight. I tried to regain my flight but finally attached myself to two Gladiators in formation, which I found out to be No.1 Flight led by S/Ldr Hickey. We carried on the patrol at about 10,000 feet over Koritza, where we met fairly accurate AA fire. ‘Tally-ho!’ was then given when three CR42s in formation were seen at about 6,000 feet. The formation split up and I dived on a CR42 which was attempting to escape to the north. I carried out a quarter attack and then slid in to an astern position, which I held while the enemy pilot did evasive tactics. He then carried out a manoeuvre which appeared to be a downward roll and I noticed that smoke was coming from his engine. I carried on firing in short bursts until he went between two hills through a small cloud. I followed over the cloud but no enemy aircraft appeared and so I went below into the valley and saw wreckage in a copse – at the same time getting fired at by enemy troops.
I climbed up immediately and at 6,000 feet saw a shiny monoplane with radial engine diving down. I gave chase but was out-distanced and so gave up after firing a short burst at about 400 yards. I gained altitude and observed a Gladiator and a CR42 in a dogfight very low down over the hill, and also noticed that the enemy pilot was attempting to lead the Gladiator over a group of enemy ground forces. I waited until the Gladiator pilot had manoeuvred into an astern attack and then carried out a quarter attack. I noticed that first white smoke and then black was coming from the engine of the e/a before I opened fire. I carried out quarter attacks until the other Gladiator pilot pulled away and then slid into an astern attack.
I remained in that position until very low over the main road and then the CR42 turned over and slid into the side of a hill. The aircraft did not burst into flames. While pulling up I fired at the enemy ground troops. I gained altitude and waggled my wings for the other Gladiator pilot to join me and then found the other pilot was P/O Cooper, who had apparently run out of ammunition. I then set course for home and finally landed at Eleusis, where I refuelled, before proceeding to the base aerodrome. I inspected my aeroplane and found that I had one bullet hole in my tail plane, which had done no damage. In each encounter with CR42s I found that both pilots used the downward roll manoeuvre at high speed for evasive action."
At 10:30 on 21 December 1940, 80 Squadron took off from Yanina for the front in Greece. They were led by Squadron Leader William Hickey and flew in three sections. The first comprised four aircraft and was led by Hickey, the second of three was led by Flight Lieutenant ’Pat’ Pattle and the third trio was led by Flying Officer Sidney Linnard.
Near Argyrokastron three enemy trimotor bombers were seen. They were identified as S.79s, and then three more aircraft with twin tails were seen, recognized in this case as Fiat BR.20s. All six were in fact Cant Z.1007bis aircraft from the 47o Stormo B.T. from Grottaglie. The Italian bombers were attacked by the Gladiators and Pattle believed that he had hit one.
At this moment however 15 CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo appeared on the scene. Maggiore Oscar Molinari, the Gruppo commander, was leading these Italian aircraft on an offensive reconnaissance over Yanina, Paramythia and Zitsa. Seeing the bombers under attack by an estimated 20 Gladiators, the Italian attacked, joined by six other CR.42s from the 150o Gruppo led by Capitano Luigi Corsini so that 80 Squadron pilots assessed the number of their opponents at 54!
After 25 minutes, the air battle broke up and eight of the British pilots returned to claim eight confirmed and three probables. Pilot Officer ’Bill’ Vale claimed three, one of them in flames (according to Pattle this was the fighter that shot down Flight Lieutenant Ripley). Vale’s own aircraft was riddled by explosive bullets during the combat. Vale reported:
‘At 1050, ten Gladiators took off from Yannina on an offensive patrol, flying in three flights of four, three, and three aircraft. I was flying in No.3 in the third flight led by F/O Linnard.Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one CR.42 during the combat, which blew up and another, which spun down (later downgraded to a probable). Sergeant Donald Gregory claimed another two, again one in flames, but his own aircraft was badly shot up with the engine and the undercarriage damaged by a series of frontal attacks from a CR.42s that had also wounded him in the right eye and was barely able to save himself from a “desperate position”. He however managed to return to Yanina and reproted:
On reaching the patrol line “Tally-ho!” was immediately given for three bombers seen going from west to east. The leading flight led by S/L Hickey immediately went into action. At the same moment three more bombers were seen approaching from our port beam. The leader of the second flight, F/L Pattle, immediately turned left and carried out a head-on attack, and my flight leader followed.
I was able to get in a short burst before breaking away. On turning to follow, I observed a large formation of CR42s diving down from above. We immediately climbed to attack and a general dogfight started. I singled out one enemy aircraft who tried to dive away and dived down firing a burst at long range. He pulled up and I got in a full deflection shot from underneath and noticed flames coming from underneath his engine. The enemy aircraft went down out of control and finally hit the ground in flames. I then noticed a single Gladiator low down in a valley being attacked by five CR42s. I dived down and engaged two of them and managed to get behind one and fire a long burst until it suddenly spun out of control and crashed into the valley.
I was then attacked by more CR42s who carried out frontal quarter attacks on me with the superior speed that could out-climb me. I carried out one evasive action and noticed that the Gladiator below me was on fire and spinning down out of control [this was Sqn Ldr Hickey’s aircraft]. I dived down towards it and saw the pilot leave the aircraft and use his parachute. I was again fired at by a CR42 from above who carried out his attack and then headed away north. When I again looked down I saw the Gladiator in flames on the ground with the pilot going down in his parachute. At the same time I saw a CR42 dive on the pilot and twin streams coming from behind his aircraft. I dived down and managed to get in a surprise attack as he pulled away from the parachutist. I got on his tail and fired a long burst from a single fuselage gun until he turned over out of control and went straight down to crash in the valley.
As I pulled up another CR42 came down very close to my machine, out of control, and crashed quite near to the burning Gladiator. I gained altitude and saw another Gladiator circling above me, and as I was short of ammunition I joined formation and found the other pilot to be F/S Richens, who had shot the CR42, which went past me. I noticed the position of the crashed Gladiator in respect to Argyrokastron and then returned to base.
On landing I inspected my aircraft and found that my lower and upper starboard mainplanes had been hit twice by explosive bullets, one of which had entered the wing ammunition tank and had exploded inside but had done no apparent damage to the structure of the mainplane. The fuselage was hit in several places but with no structural damage.’
‘Turning round in a stall turn I observed the leader [of the 42s] diving vertically whilst the remaining two had split, No.2 going up, No.3 down. As I had the advantage over the lower aircraft I decided to attack this first. He attempted to come up under me but as I was near to stalling, I had no difficulty in bringing my sight round to get in a deflection shot and then turn astern on him. Followed him down. At the same time I observed the leading aircraft crash on a hill and burst into flames. This dive was very steep, so much so, that I very nearly hit the ground with the 42. When I pulled up sharply out of this dive the third 42 came past and then pulled up underneath me into such a position that we could both get in quick deflection shots.Sergeant Gregory was recommended for an immediate DFM. Pattle and Warrant Officer Sid Richens also claimed one CR.42 each, Pattle reporting that his victim fell in flames, whilst Flying Officers W. B. Price-Owen and F. W. Hosken both claimed probables. However Flight Lieutenant Henry Derek Ripley (RAF no. 70575) in N5854 was seen to be shot down in flames and killed, while Squadron Leader Hickey was spotted bailing out of N5816; sadly his parachute caught fire, and he died from injuries soon after reaching the ground. Greek troops recovered the bodies of both pilots. Of Hickey’s death Vale reported:
This happened three times and each time we missed colliding by inches, so that after each attack I had to find him again. Quite naturally this developed into a head-on attack, the first of which I slid out of. As the following attack was also head-on I became rather worried. I brought him into my sights, fired, ducked down behind my engine for cover, at the same time pulling back on the control column.
Immediately after this my right eye became warm and I found I had lost my sight in this eye. It took me some seconds to get used to this, as I would try to look towards the rear on the right side, but all I saw was the extensive damage to the centre section, starboard lower plane and a flying wire that had broken. I seem to remember at this point that he came at me from below and we had another deflection shot at each other, but as I had seen him so often in this position it may have stuck in my mind. However, I do remember I decided that my position was desperate and I weighed up the ground that was to receive me below. When I was overcome by a wave of determination, possibly due to the fact that when I was hit and saw the blood I turned my oxygen on at full strength. I pulled up in a loop and rolled off the top into a tight turn back into the direction I had come from. I looked at my compass but it seemed blurred. Although I could see the sun, I could not convince myself which direction to fly.
Diving down into the valley seemed to be the only means of escape. I was unable to look behind, as this brought on pain in my eye. At one period my sight was so blurred that I could not decide whether I was being chased by CR42 or if it was AA fire. Fortunately it was the latter. I discovered my position to be ten miles north of Valona at four thousand feet. As I could use only sixteen hundred revolutions due to damage to the rocker arm, causing excessive vibration, it took forty minutes to return to base where a landing was made under difficulties due to damage to eyesight and to undercarriage.’
‘The Gladiator was flat-spinning too. Suddenly the pilot hurled out of the cockpit like a black ant and the white burst of his parachute spreading in a puff … the parachute burst into flames and the sudden black smudge as its slow speed became a lightning streak of charred smoke and the black figure of the Gladiator pilot hurtling two thousand feet down to the black earth.’Linnard’s aircraft (N5834) was also badly hit and he was hit in the left calf by an explosive bullet and was taken to hospital after landing at Yanina. Flight Lieutenant Pattle noted:
‘Enemy fighters used a definite plan of attack. Attacking from superior height they maintained that height by attacking the Gladiators singly and in quick succession and climbing after each attack, the Gladiators, forced to evade, were unable to climb.’And also
‘for fully five minute I was kept on the defensive without being able to fire a shot in return.’In return the 160o Gruppo pilots claimed six Gladiators, two each by Maggiore Molinari and Tenente Edoardo Crainz (in CR.42 ‘394-7’), and one apiece by Tenente Eber Giudici (his aircraft was damaged by enemy fire) and Capitano Arcangeletti. Probables were claimed by Tenente Torquato Testerini, Sergente Maggiore Francesco Penna and Sergente Maggiore Domenico Tufano. The 150o Gruppo pilots claimed two more Gladiators when Capitano Luigi Corsini claimed one Gladiator and a probable while Sergente Maggiore Virgilio Pongiluppi claimed one Gladiator; both pilots were from the 364a Squadriglia. The 47o Stormo gunners claimed one more and a probable. As in the case of the British fighters, actual Italian losses totalled only two aircraft, Tenente Mario Gaetano Carancini and Tenente Mario Frascadore of the 160o Gruppo being lost, while Maggiore Molinari was wounded in the right foot and force-landed near Tepelene in a dry river-bed with a damaged engine (it seems that the aircraft was written off).
In the beginning of November 1941 and at the eve of the British offensive Operation Crusader, Capitano Arcangeletti still served as CO of the 393a Squadriglia, 160o Gruppo C.T. This unit was still equipped with CR.42s and based at Benghazi K2.
Later in the war he served as commander of the 160a Squadriglia.
During the war, he was decorated with three Medaglie d'argento al valor militare, the Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare, Croce al merito di guerra (twice), Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna, Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Albania and Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna.
Archangeletti continued to serve in the Italian Air Force after the war.
Arcangeletti ended the war with at least 4 biplane victories and a total of 5.
He passed away in Rimini, Italy, in December 1996.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|1||20/08/37||noon||1||I-15||Destroyed||Fiat CR.32||Selaya||31a Squadriglia|
|2||12/10/37||07:55-||1||I-16 (a)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.32||Mediana||31a Squadriglia|
|3||12/10/37||07:55-||1||I-16 (a)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.32||Mediana||31a Squadriglia|
|19/11/40||15:25-||1||Gladiator (b)||Probable||Fiat CR.42||Koritza area||393a Squadriglia|
|?||21/12/40||10:30-||1||Gladiator (c)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Argyrokastron area||393a Squadriglia|
Biplane victories: At least 4 destroyed, 1 probable.
TOTAL: 5 destroyed, 1 probable.
(a) Claimed in combat with fighters from 1a/26, 2a/21 and 6a/21, which lost 2 I-16s and 1 I-15, together with two I-16s and an I-15 damaged. 31a and 32a Squadriglie claimed 4 I-15s and 9 I-16s for the loss of 5 CR.32 (2 pilots KIA and 3 POW) and 3 damaged.
(b) Claimed in combat with 80 Squadron, which claimed 6 destroyed and 2 probables CR.42s and 3 G.50bis destroyed with 1 damaged Gladiator. The 160o Gruppo and the 24o Gruppo, lost 3 CR.42s and 1 G.50bis and 1 damaged CR.42 while claiming 1 and 2 probable Gladiators.
(c) The Regia Aeronautica claimed 9 and 5 probables while suffering 2 aircraft lost and 1 one force-landed. The 80 Squadron claimed 8 and 3 probables while suffering 2 aircraft lost and 3 damaged.
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume One – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN 978-1908117076
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Ali in Spagna - Giuseppe Federico Ghergo and Angelo Emiliani, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Ali nella tragedia - Giulio Lazzati, 1970 Mursia, Milan, ISBN 88-425-2132-9, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999
Aviatori Italiani - Franco Pagliano, 1964 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Aviabrigada X - Alfredo Logoluso, 2001 no. 97, 98 and 99 of Storia Militare (October-December 2001), kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Gladiator Ace: Bill 'Cherry' Vale, the RAF's forgotten fighter ace - Brian Cull with Ludovico Slongo and Håkan Gustavsson, 2010 Haynes Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84425-657-0
Guerra di Spagna e Aviazione Italiana - Ferdinando Pedriali, 1992 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 23o Gruppo Caccia - Nicola Malizia, 1974 Bizzarri, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Le giovani aquile – Antonio Trizzino, 1972 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso.