Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi

Bartolozzi took part in the East African campaign of 1940-41, where he served with 410a Squadriglia, which was equipped with Fiat CR.32s.

When the war started in East Africa on 10 June 1940, the 410a Squadriglia was equipped with nine Fiat CR.32s and based at Diredawa. Pilots in the unit were Colonnello Mario Pezzi, Capitano Corrado Ricci, Tennete Elio Pesce, Sottotenente Vincenzo Forcheri, Sottotenente Alberto Veronese, Sottotenente Bartolozzi, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Giardinà, Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli, Sergente Maggiore Alberto Puliti, Sergente Maggiore Athos Tieghi, Sergente Giovanni Tellurio and Sergente Ugo Zoino.

On 31 October 1940, he claimed his first victory.
This claim has not been possible to verify with Commonwealth records.

In December 1940 he was loaned to the 413a Squadriglia, equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On the evening of 29 December 1940, four Hurricanes of ‘B’ Flight, 2 SAAF Squadron, led by Flight Lieutenant Robert Blake (Hurricane V7283) and including Lieutenant J. A. Kok (Hurricane R4104), Captain A. Q. Masson and Lieutenant A. M. Colenbrander raided Bardera airfield. During the attack one S.81 was set on fire and two more were possibly badly damaged.
Three CR.42s, which were at a satellite strip, were scrambled. Tenente Franco De Micheli and Sottotenente Bartolozzi got off first, but Sergente Strano had to wait for the dust they had raised to subside before he could follow. This same dust brought the Hurricanes down on him as he begun his run and one attacked him, firing two bursts. The first of these hit the left side of the aircraft and put 17 splinters into his body, also damaging the throttle control, while the second burst struck the right side, puncturing the compressed air cylinder. Strano continued his run, however, taking off under attack. Without compressed air he was unable to operate his guns and had to manoeuvre wildly to escape being shot down. He later landed with the tyres flat and the fabric stripped completely from the rear fuselage. The Hurricanes meanwhile continued their strafing, unaware that two CR.42s had already got into the air. Flying cover, Blake saw the Italian fighters climbing up, but as the Hurricanes were not as this stage fitted with radio, was unable to warn either his wingman, Lieutenant J. A. Kok, or the other Hurricane pilots who were now making their third strafe. Although Blake made a dummy pass on Kok’s aircraft in an effort to attract his attention, the latter did not catch on in time, and Tenente De Micheli was enable to engage Kok in a dogfight, while Bartolozzi similarly engaged Blake. The fight continued, according to observers on the ground, for around seven to nine minutes, De Micheli then shooting down Kok’s Hurricane in flames; the pilot baled out and became a prisoner, having been slightly wounded. Bartolozzi finally managed to get a good burst into Blake’s Hurricane from below, wounding the pilot in the foot and setting fire to the fuel tank. Burned around the waist and legs, Blake was unable to climb out of his cockpit, so he turned his aircraft on its back and fell out at 700 feet. On landing by parachute he was almost immediately surrounded by ‘banda’, followed soon after by an Italian officer, and taken prisoner. Blake was removed to the airfield sick quarters where Sergente Strano just had been brought in. Blake was now in bad shape from his wounds and was later moved to the town hospital for more extensive treatment, as the wound to his foot was quite severe. He remained in the hospital for some time.

On 2 February 1941 he claimed his third victory.
This claim has not been possible to verify with Commonwealth records.

On 15 March Hurricanes of 3 SAAF Squadron attacked Diredawa. During the night Blenheims of 8 Squadron from Aden had bombed the airfields there, and in the morning six fighters from Dogabur approached the main airfield at the same time as Junkers Ju86s of 12 SAAF Squadron arrived to bomb. There the Hurricane pilots found three Fiat CR.32s of the 410a Squadriglia in the air, the South African pilots identified these as two CR.32s and one CR.42. One of the CR.32 pilots, Sergente Maggiore Antonia Giardinà, had just begun an attack on a Ju86 when he suddenly spotted a Hurricane approaching to attack him, and a dogfight began. Sottotenente Bartolozzi rushed to Giardinà’s aid without checking his own tail, next moment hearing an explosion and being hit in the face and neck by splinters. He immediately broke away and began turning with his attacker, avoiding two more bursts of fire. He landed with 188 holes in his aircraft, but no serious damage. Bartolozzi, normally on loan to 413a Squadriglia, equipped with CR.42s, had just landed at Diredawa before the raid because his aircraft was in need of repair. At the outset of the attack he had taken off again in one of 410a Squadriglia’s CR.32s.
Giardinà meanwhile fought on for several minutes, returning fire, and at last the Hurricane left. He was then able to land, his aircraft also exhibiting a few holes in the fabric. The third CR.32 escaped undamaged.
In this combat the South Africans considerable overestimated the result of their fire against the nimble Fiats, Captains Theron and Frost each claiming a CR.32 shot down, while Lieutenants Morley and Venter claimed a shared CR.42. The Hurricanes then strafed the aircraft seen on the ground and claimed S.79s in flames and one damaged, one CR.32 or Romeo in flames and four CR.32s or Romeos damaged. One fighter and two Ro.37bis aircraft were actually damaged.

He managed to return to Italy before the Italian collapse in East Africa after having clamed 3 and 1 shared victories.

On 12 May 1942 he was promoted to Tenente.

Later he served with the 300a Squadriglia, 167o Gruppo.

On 22 July 1943 he claimed his forth victory.

On the 27 August Tenente Bartolozzi claimed a B-17.
At this mission he flew aircraft belonging to the 365a Squadriglia.

Two days later on 29 August he, Tenente Giuseppe Bennicelli and Maresciallo Alessandro Sicco were each credited with a P-38.

Bartolozzi ended the war with 3 biplane victories and a total of 6 destroyed.

During the war he was decorated with two Medaglie d’argento al valor militare and one Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 31/10/40 1 Enemy aircraft (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32     410a Squadriglia
2 29/12/40 1 Hurricane (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Bardera 413a Squadriglia
3 02/02/41 1 Enemy aircraft (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.42     413a Squadriglia
4 22/07/43 1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed       300a Squadriglia
5 27/08/43 1 B-17 Destroyed G.55     300a Squadriglia
6 29/08/43 1 P-38 Destroyed G.55     300a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 3 and 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 6 and 1 shared destroyed.
(a) This claim cannot be verified with Commonwealth records.
(b) Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake, flight leader of ‘B’ Flight, 2 SAAF Squadron, shot down, wounded and POW.
(c) This claim cannot be verified with Commonwealth records.

Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
G.55, 1999 Ali d'Italia nr. 10, kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
Springbok Fighter Victory: East Africa Volume 1 1940 – 1941 – Michael Shoeman, 2002 African Aviation Series No. 11, Freeworld Publications CC, ISBN 0-958-4388-5-4
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro, Tomáš Polák and Flavio Silvestri.

Last modified 14 February 2011