Biplane fighter aces


Sergente Edoardo Azzarone

8 May 1916 - 14 June 1940

Edoardo Azzarone was born in Sasso Marconi on 8 May 1916.

The 8o Gruppo, 2o Stormo C.T., was transferred to Libya in September 1935 and in 1940 was the oldest colonial fighter unit of the Regia Aeronautica and was equipped with Fiat CR.32quater (a tropical version of the classic Fiat design with enlarged oil cooler and other slight improvements that enhanced its low altitude performances).
The 8o Gruppo (92a, 93a and 94a Squadriglie) was commanded by Maggiore Vincenzo La Carruba and started the war based at Tobruk T2 airfield with a full complement of 25 Fiat CR.32quaters.
Pilots in the 93a Squadriglia on 11 June were: Capitano Mario Bacich (CO), Tenente Alberto Argenton, Tenente Gioacchino Bissoli, Sergente Maggiore Italo Bertinelli, Sergente Luigi Di Lorenzo, Sergente Azzarone, Sergente Roberto Lendaro and Sergente Duilio Bernardi. These pilots had eight CR.32quaters available on 11 June. On strength, there were also Tenente Vincenzo Sansone, Sottotenente Alberto Radice, Sergente Orazio Antonicelli and Sergente Ottorino Lancia but they hadn’t left Tripoli. Sergente Armando Angelini was assigned from the 53o Stormo on 9 June but he also remained in Tripoli.

14 June saw the first combats between opposing RAF and Regia Aeronautica fighters over North Africa. This was caused because the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own), joined by elements of 4th Armoured Brigade and 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, assaulted Fort Capuzzo and Fort Maddalena (the two most important Italian frontier posts). The offensive was supported by attacks by Blenheims from 45, 55, 113 and 211 Squadrons. To protect both bombers and ground forces, 33 Squadron flew offensive sweeps as far as Bardia, meeting the Regia Aeronautica two times in the morning and Azzarone took part in the second engagement.
At 10:00, after refuelling the Gladiators, Dean (Gladiator L9046) and Woodward (Gladiator N5783) were off again, followed a few minutes later by Sergeant J. Craig (Gladiator N5768). Near Fort Capuzzo they intercepted two Caproni Ca.310Bs escorted by CR.32s. Dean shot down one of the CR.32s while Woodward and Craig jointly attacked one Caproni, setting one of the engines on fire. The Italian bomber crash-landed among British tanks near Fort Capuzzo. Woodward also attacked and claimed a second CR.32 (this claim is unconfirmed and no more Italian losses has been possible to verify) before retuning to base with a single bullet hole in one of the wings. Dean later told:

“Soon after being promoted to Flying Officer, I was posted to No 33 Squadron at Mersa Matruh. I had a good flight with Verne Woodward, Peter Wickham and Sergeant Craig. It wasn’t long after Italy declared war that we were moved to Sidi Barrani. We had no warning system at all of aircraft movement by the enemy, and only very sketchy and vague locations of both ours and their positions from the Army. We carried out the old traditions of patrolling along and over the border in the beginning in “vics” and pairs. Later, we flew bigger sweeps with more aircraft. The combat of 14 June near Fort Capuzzo was our very first encounter with the enemy. An inoffensive-looking light bomber was seen, and I detached Woodward and Sergeant Craig to attack, whilst I stayed aloft to cover. Within a short spell, I saw six aircraft in line astern heading from the west. I recognised them as CR 32s. I remember being quite calm, and wondering what the heck to do. I flew towards them, keeping them well to my right – with the thought of getting behind them (and shooting them down one by one – silly boy!).
Before I got close enough to them, they split in all directions and formed a ring around me – the sitting duck! I remembered somewhere about flying extraordinarily badly to present a very bad target. I throttled back, yawed and waffled up and down and around, and could hear the thump of their half-inch cannon at each pass, and as each came into my sights having a rapid squirt at them. This seemed to go on for ages, and eventually one of them dropped away and suddenly the remainder disappeared, and I was thankfully alone in the sky and flew back.
I heard upon my return to base that one CR 32 had been destroyed, apparently by me, whilst Woodward and Craig had shared the bomber. I did hear later that the pilot of the CR 32 had been struck by a single bullet through the heart.”

They had clashed with six CR.32s from the 8o Gruppo flown by Capitano Martino Zannier (CO 92a Squadriglia), Tenente Ranieri Piccolomini (92a Squadriglia), Tenente Gioacchino Bissoli (93a Squadriglia), Sergente Ernesto Pavan (92a Squadriglia), Sergente Azzarone (92a Squadriglia) and Sergente Roberto Lendaro (93a Squadriglia), which had been escorting three Caproni Ca.310s of the 159a Squadriglia, 12o Gruppo, 50o Stormo that had taken of at 09:30 to attack British armoured cars that were surrounding Amseat (Fort Capuzzo). The Italian fighters reported that they had chased seven (or nine) Gladiators and three of them were claimed shot down by Piccolomini, Pavan and Azzarone before Azzarone was shot down and killed (probably by Dean) over the British lines (according to some sources the Italian fighters only claimed two victories; one by Piccolomini and the second shared between Pavan and Azzarone). The Caproni shot down was flown by Sergente Maggiore Stefano Garrisi who parachuted together with Primo Aviere Montatore Alfio Ubaldi while gunner Aviere Scelto Armiere Giuseppe Pascali jumped too low and was killed (his body was recovered near Amseat on 26 December 1940). 130 rounds hit the Caproni of Tenente Mario Virgilio Corda and Sergente Maggiore Giovanbattista Trevisan was wounded. This was the second mission during the war for the 12o Gruppo and it revealed the unreliability of Ca.310s in this role. Breda Ba.65s soon replaced them.

At the time of his death, Azzarone was credited with 1 biplane victory.

In some sources he is known as Edoardo Azzaroni

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 14/06/40 09:30- 1 Gladiator (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   near Fort Capuzzo 92a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with three Gladiators from 33 Squadron. 33 Squadron claimed one and one unconfirmed CR.32s and one Ca.310 without losses. The 8o Gruppo claimed three victories (or two) for the loss of one CR.32 (Sergente Azzarone killed). According to some sources Azzarone’s claim was a shared with Sergente Pavan.

2o Stormo - Note storiche dal 1925 al 1975 - Gino Strada, 1975 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
50o Stormo d'Assalto - Nino Arena, 1979 STEM Mucchi, Modena kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Adriano Visconti Asso di Guerra - Giuseppe Pesce and Giovanni Massimello, 1997 Albertelli Edizioni Speciali, Parma, ISBN 88-85909-80-9, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring kindly provided by Santiago Flores
Gloster Gladiator - Alex Crawford, 2002 Mushroom Model Publications, ISBN 83-916327-0-9
Gloster Gladiator Aces - Andrew Thomas, 2002 Osprey Publishing, London, ISBN 1-84176-289-X
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Il Fiat CR 32 poesia del volo - Nicola Malizia, 1981 Edizioni dell’Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
L'8o Gruppo Caccia in due conflitti mondiali - Giuseppe Pesce, 1974 STEM Mucchi, Modena kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
La Regia Aeronautica - volume I: Dalla non belligeranza all'intervento – Nino Arena, 1981 USSMA, Rome kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Ministero della Difesa - Banca Dati sulle sepolture dei Caduti in Guerra
Operation Compass 1940 - Jon Latimer, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-85532-967-0, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history – Graham Warner, 2002 Crécy Publishing Limited, Manchester, ISBN 0-947554-92-0
The Desert Air Force - Roderick Owen, 1948 Hutchinson, London, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
The Desert Air War 1939 – 1945 – Richard Townshend Bickers, 1991 Leo Cooper, London, ISBN 0-85052-216-1, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
The Gloster Gladiator - Francis K. Mason, 1964 Macdonald & Co. Ltd. London
Woody - A Fighter Pilot's Album - Hugh A. Halliday, 1987 Canav Books, Toronto, ISBN 0-9690703-8-1
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 15 December 2009