Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Enea Atti

10 August 1915 – 8 March 1942

Enea Atti was born on 10 August 1915 in the USA.

In November 1940 Atti served in the 363a Squadriglia, 160o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which was equipped with Fiat CR.42s. The unit was at this time operating over Greece.

On the morning on 14 November nine PZL P.24s from 23 Mira at Larissa undertook a patrol during which they were surprised by a pair of 363a Squadriglia CR.42s, led by Tenente Atti. Although the Italians claimed one probable, the Greek fighters were able to scatter and evade their assault. The two Fiat pilots then spotted two Blenheims from 32 Mira on their way to attack Koritza and claimed one of these as a probable also.

On 8 March 1942, ten MC.200s from the 150o Gruppo, led by the 363a Squadriglia CO Capitano Luigi Mariotti, were providing close escort for 12 German Ju 87s in an attack on Tobruk harbour at 16:30 when they were attacked by 12 Kittyhawks (six each from 450 and 3 RAAF Squadrons) led by Flight Lieutenant ‘Nicky’ Barr of 3 RAAF Squadron. German Bf 109s were flying top cover, but for unknown reasons they did not intervene. The 150o Gruppo was hard hit and five MC.200s were lost and three pilots killed with two taken prisoners; Tenente Atti (363a Squadriglia, KIA), Sergente Maggiore Enrico Micheli in MC.200 MM6490 (363a Squadriglia, POW), Sergente Maggiore Leopoldo Ierai in MM5333 (365a Squadriglia, POW), Sergente Raffaele Badalassi in MM5332 (363a Squadriglia, KIA) and Sergente Ugo Rodorigo in MM6661 (363a Squadriglia, KIA). Two badly damaged Macchis, one of them piloted by Tenente Ugo Drago, managed to land safely at Tmimi and Martuba.
The Australians reported that at around 17:00, six Kittyhawks each from 450 and 3 RAAF Squadron, led by Flight Lieutenant ‘Nicky’ Barr (Kittyhawk AK903/CV-L) took off on a freelance patrol over the battle area with the aircraft from 450 RAAF Squadron acting as top cover. Taking part from 3 RAAF Squadron were Flying Officer Peter Giddy (AK876), Pilot Officer Victor Curtis (AK622), Sergeant W. A. Beard (AK623), Flying Officer H. G. Pace (AK712) and Sergeant T. E. Packer (AK898). Pilots from 450 RAAF Squadron were Flying Officer Thompson (895/K), Sergeant F. W. Beste (493/W), Sergeant Raymond Shaw (AK592/DJ-P), Sergeant James (R641), Sergeant Donald McBurnie (AK717/V) and Sergeant Raymond Dyson (AK732/DJ-A).
Enemy aircraft were sighted 15 miles south of Tobruk and contact was made. The enemy were a reportedly 15 Ju 87s in vic formation with a close escort of nine MC.200s and MC.202s in a very tight formation made up of two echelons of five and four aircraft, and two Bf 109s over Tobruk. The Italians mistook the Kittyhawks for friendly fighters and were slaughtered. Initially the 450 RAAF Squadron remained as top cover and 3 RAAF Squadron attacked. Flight Lieutenant Barr claimed his ninth kill during this action when he accounted for a MC.202 northwest of Tobruk, with another claimed as a probable and two damaged MC.200s. Flying Officer Giddy claimed a Ju 87 and a MC.200 15 miles north of Tobruk while Flying Officer Pace claimed a MC.200. Pilot Officer Curtis claimed a Ju 87 and a MC.200 north-west of Tobruk while Sergeant Beard claimed a damaged MC.202.
450 RAAF Squadron reported that the contact was made at 17:25. In the ensuing engagement Sergeant Beste and Sergeant McBurnie each claimed a MC.200 over Tobruk while Sergeant Shaw claimed a MC.202. Sergeant Dyson claimed a probable MC.200 while Flying Officer Thompson claimed a damaged MC.200. It seems that the combat was fought on a low altitude since Sergeant McBurnie lost the wingtip on his Kittyhawk after contact with the sea. Another Kittyhawk (from 450 RAF Squadron with an unknown pilot) was damaged (Cat 1) by machinegun bullets. By 18:25 all the Australian fighters had returned to base.
112 Squadron reported that Flight Lieutenant Gerald Westenra led seven Kittyhawks on a sweep from El Adem to Gazala. At this point Ops (codename 'Blackbird') vectored the formation on some enemy aircraft five miles north-east. Flight Lieutenant Westenra spotted some MC.200s and with his No. 2, Sergeant R. B. Evans, dived to attack them. Flight Lieutenant Westenra claimed to have downed one, which flew into the sea, but as he was about to attack again, 15 Ju 87s appeared out of cloud flying north-west as fast as they could go. Sergeant Evans saw them and attacked one on the extreme port side firing three bursts. The Ju 87 crashed into the sea. Flying Officer Knapik spotted two Bf 109s but because his windscreen then became oiled up he was unable to join in. In the face of lack of opposition, it seems as this formation was the remnants of the one that had been mauled by 450 and 3 RAAF Squadrons. According to the Italians, all of the Ju 87s (Ju 87R-2 WNr 5995 S1+GL of 3./StG 3 was 20% damaged with gunner Unteroffizier Gustav Riegel wounded) managed to escape despite the attention of 112 Squadron.
In the wake of this devastating combat, Generale Rino Corso Fougier, Regia Aeronautica Chief of Staff, praised the 150o Gruppo pilots for their sacrifice which had allowed the Ju 87s to escape. But the Italians demanded better cooperation between their fighters and those flow by the Luftwaffe.

At the time of his death, Atti was credited with 2 shared probable biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  14/11/40 ½ PZL P.24 (a) Shared probable Fiat CR.42   Koritza area 363a Squadriglia
  14/11/40 ½ Blenheim (b) Shared probable Fiat CR.42   Koritza area 363a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 shared probables.
TOTAL: 2 shared probables.
(a) Claimed in combat with PZL P.24s from 23 Mira, which didn't sustain any losses.
(b) Claimed in combat with Blenheims from 32 Mira. Any Greek loss hasn't been possible to verify.

53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Ministero della Difesa
National Archives of Australia
Shark Squadron - The history of 112 Squadron 1917-1975 - Robin Brown, 1994 Crécy Books, ISBN 0-947554-33-5

Last modified 28 August 2016