Biplane fighter aces


Maresciallo Mario Bandini

Bandini served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War.

On 29 January 1937, seven CR.32s from the 4a and 5a Squadriglie of the Aviazione Legionaria escorted some Ro.37bis and five S.81s that were flying to drop supplies to the besieged in the Santuario de la Virgen de la Cabeza. The CR.32 ran into fog at low level and due to collisions and forced landing six of them were lost. Sottotenente Giuseppe Cenni, Tenente Elio Pesce, Sergente Bandini and Sergente Bernocchi were taken POWs while Sergente Maggiore Giacomo Trombotto and Sergente Maggiore Luigi Grimoldi were killed.
The Republicans recovered two CR.32s intact (one was MM431/'3-6') and one damaged.

Bandini was released after the end of the Spanish Civil War and returned to the Regia Aeronautica in Italy.

On 12 June, the 2o Stormo’s fighters were joined by those of the 10o Gruppo (84a, 90a and 91a Squadriglie) of the Gorizia based 4o Stormo C.T.. The Gruppo was commanded by Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino and started the war at Tobruk T2 with 27 CR.42s.
At the beginning of the hostilities the 84a Squadriglia C.T. was composed of the following pilots: Capitano Luigi Monti (CO), Capitano Aldo Lanfranco, Tenente Vincenzo Vanni, Maresciallo Emiro Nicola, Maresciallo Bandini, Sergente Maggiore Ugo Corsi, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Giuseppe Scaglioni, Sergente Corrado Patrizi and Sergente Narciso Pillepich. The eleven pilots had only eight Fiat CR.42s. It seems that Sergente Maggiore Corsi and Sergente Pillepich didn’t take part in the move of the unit from Gorizia on 7 June but were however in T2 with the unit from at least 13 June and 15 June.
On 12 June, the first fighter of the 10o Gruppo to arrive at El Adem T2 was that of Capitano Luigi Monti, who landed in the morning. His Squadriglia’s mates arrived later, obliged to turn back by the bad weather. Then the other Squadriglie followed.

Nine aircraft from both 113 and 55 Squadrons were briefed to attack the airfields of El Adem and El Gubbi at dawn on 16 June. Three Blenheims (L8664, L8397 and L8390) of the latter Squadron failed to reach the target due to engine problems (a penalty of operating from desert airstrips). Reportedly, 25 Italian fighters, which spoiled their aim, heavily engaged those that bombed and although bombs were seen to fall among the parked aircraft, damage was estimate as slight. All bombers returned to base.
It seems that four aircraft (probably fighters) were slightly damaged at T2 and that Tenente Vincenzo Vanni of the 84a Squadriglia was wounded.
During the attack on T2, four pilots (Tenente Enzo Martissa, Maresciallo Vittorio Romandini, Sergente Alessandro Bladelli and Sergente Elio Miotto) of the 91a Squadriglia were scrambled immediately. They intercepted three of the Blenheims and claimed two of them shot down. The victories were credited as shared to the four pilots as was common use for the 4o Stormo at this stage of the war. In fact, because of this combat, Martissa was awarded with a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare for bravery and the official motivation of this award stated that he had shot down one of the British bombers individually.
Maresciallo Bandini, Sergente Giuseppe Scaglioni and Sergente Corrado Patrizi (all of the 84a Squadriglia) went to T3 on alarm duty and met six bombers coming back from that airfield. Bandini single-handed attacked the British planes claiming one of them. During the attack, he was wounded in the left arm by return fire but succeeded in coming back to T2 and displaying great calm, made a perfect landing and a complete debriefing before being carried to Tobruk’s hospital. Bandini was also awarded a Medaglia d’Argento al valor militare for bravery for this mission.
Scaglioni and Patrizi meanwhile attacked two Blenheims, empting their guns on them without seeing their opponents going down.
The only reported intercepted British bomber was Blenheim Mk.I L8531 from 55 Squadron flown by Flying Officer M. F. H. Fox (Observer Sergeant Nicholas and Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Leading Aircraftman Klines), which reported being attacked by a fighter that followed it opening fire and hitting both spars of the mainplane, the radio set and the stern frame. The plane was however able to return to Fuka without difficulty. Nothing is known about 113 and 211 Squadrons because of the total lack of records of these units for the period.

Bandini ended the war with 1 biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 16/06/40 dawn 1 Blenheim (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Tobruk area 84a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Blenheims of 113 and 55 Squadrons, which didn’t suffer any losses.

L’8oGruppo caccia in due conflitti mondiali - Giuseppe Pesce, 1974 S.T.E.M. Mucchi, Modena, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
L’aeronautica Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale I volume - Giuseppe Santoro, 1966 Second Edition, Editore Esse, Milano-Roma, 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 War 1939 – 1945 – Richard Townshend Bickers, 1991 Leo Cooper, London, ISBN 0-85052-216-1, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 11 October 2012