Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Guido Beggiato

Guido Beggiato served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, where he served in the XXIII Gruppo.

During his time in Spain, he claimed three victories with the Fiat CR.32.

On 12 December 1941, the 6o Gruppo saw the first action in North Africa. Ten MC.202 (six from the 79a Squadriglia and four from the 81a Squadriglia), led by Tenente Colonnello Vezio Mezzetti, had taken off at 13:10 for a free sweep in the Gazala-Tobruk-El Adem area. The Macchis were divided in two pairs in echelon right and two vics, weather was cloudy. At 13:30, at the height of 3000 m., they met a formation of around 50 enemy fighters (Curtiss P-40s and Hurricanes), flying west.
The Macchis attacked even if outnumbered and every pilot was engaged by many enemy fighters.
Back at base at 14:00, Capitano Beggiato claimed a P-40 and Maresciallo Natalino Stabile claimed a Hurricane. 20 more enemy fighters were claimed damaged (twelve P-40s and eight Hurricanes), many of these were seen to flee emitting smoke trails (1603 rounds of ammunition had been used). Sergente Renato Saiani (MM7880) was obliged to force-land wounded in friendly territory but was obliged to burn his plane to avoid its capture and Capitano Domenico Camarda (MM7767) came back with his fighter so damaged that it had to be written off.
Hurribombers of 80 Squadron were out to attack Axis vehicles near Derna with twelve Hurricanes of RNFS (Royal Navy Fighter Squadron), which had taken off at 13:00, that provided close cover and with a top cover of nine Tomahawks of 250 Squadron (they recorded the take off at 12:00 but this is probably wrong). The Hurricanes recognized small groups of motor vehicles and attacked them with bombs carrying out a shallow dive from 900 to 300m. The bombs were not well placed, but four motor vehicles were burnt. They then came down to machine gun. At this point, Sergeant R. Whyte (Hurricane Z4776) was shot down, probably by machine gunners on the ground.
On the return to base, 80 Squadron split into two groups flying at 600m. At 14:00, between Tmini and Gazala, five Hurricanes were attacked by Bf 109s at the same height or higher. The 80 Squadron didn’t claim anything in the encounter but lost three more Hurricanes; Flying Officer Peter Townley Dowding (Z4931), Pilot Officer Reynolds (Z4501) and Sergeant G. F. Halliwell (Z4031). All four pilots (including White) from the Squadron pilots were taken PoWs. Two more Hurricanes were damaged; one badly.
The 250 Squadron reported that the clash took part after the ground attack and they reported encountering several Bf 109 and twelve MC.202 with a cloud cover of 7/10 (in contradiction to what the Italian diaries noted saying that the enemy formation was headed west).
Sergeant Robert Whittle (AN313) reported:

‘Gazala - Derna road. Led formation 9 A/C top cover. Engaged 12 Macchi 202 for 20 minutes. Self shot down 1 Macchi (burnt on the ground) also probable Ju.88 over Menelao Bay (black and white smoke from port engine + port wheel hanging down). Attacked by 8 Macchi 202 escaped in cloud.
2 explosive bullets in port wing and one in propeller.’
Pilot Officer J. L. Waddy (AN290) reported:
‘Top cover to 80 Squadron met 109’s and Mc202 Flamer 1 Me109F confirmed Destroyed.’
Sergeant ‘Mac’ Twemlow reported:
‘Patrol Escort to Dive bombers
Attacked by 8 Mc202 and some Me109’s from above. P/O Waddy shot down a Me109, Sgt. Nitschke 1 Mc202, Self 1 Me109 probable, SGT Whittle 1 Me109 and 1 Ju88 probable, P/O Ranger 1 Me109. Sgt Whittle's machine damaged.’
In total it seems that 250 Squadron was credited with seven destroyed and two probables, these being claimed by Sergeant Whittle (MC.202 and Ju 88 probable), Sergeant R. H. Nitschke (MC.202 at 13:00 over Martuba), Pilot Officer G. H. Ranger (Bf 109F at 13:00 over Martuba), Sergeant Twemlow (Ju 87; according to some sources he claimed two additional Ju 87s as probables), Pilot Officer J. L. Waddy (Bf 109F), Sergeant G. C. Coward (Ju 87 and probable Bf 109) and Flight Lieutenant Clive Caldwell (Bf 109 in AK498). No German losses can be verified against these claims. The 250 Squadron lost Tomahawk AN290 with 2nd Lieutenant D. L. Norton wounded and ending up in Tobruk hospital.
Strangely enough, the ORB of RNFS didn’t report any combat.
At about the same time, 13:10, ten Hurricane IIBs of 1 SAAF Squadron led by Major Osler took off to escort Blenheims between Gazala and Tmimi. They had reached Sidi Rezegh from L.G. 124 during the morning.
After about half an hour, some miles SSW of Gazala at 2,750m, they saw four Bf 109s lower down and two at their same altitude. The enemy was engaged in a battle that ended in the claim for one Bf 109 shot down, two probable victories and one damaged. These were claimed by 2nd Lieutenant R. J. P. Collingwood (probable Bf 109F south-east of Gazala at 13:30), Lieutenant R. H. C. Kershaw (Bf 109F 10 miles south of Gazala at 13:40), Major S. Osler (Bf 109F destroyed) and 2nd Lieutenant T. A. Meek (Bf 109F damaged). Lieutenant John Seccombe claimed an additional Ju 88 and reported:
‘Our formation manoeuvred until this Me. 109 flew straight across the formation and our leader, Maj. Osler, jumped on its tail. The Me. 109, with Maj. Osier about 20 yards behind flying at it, flew across me. I turned to the left and dived after them. I saw the Me. 109 smoking and obviously going down. I then attempted to rejoin our formation but could not find it As 2 Tomahawks would not let me form up with them, I flew west on my own in order to investigate some bombing that I could see taking place.
I came across a Ju.88 flying in a N.E. direction at 5-6000 feet. I looked about for its escort, but not seeing any I decided to go in and attack. I fired a long burst at it from dead astern. This quietened the gunner, but did not appear to have any effect on the E/A itself. I then made a shallow dive and coming up underneath the Ju.88 I aimed at the port wing root. As the result of my fire / saw a thin stream of black smoke which later developed in density, come up from the port engine.
It was then I saw 3 Me.109F’s on my right and about 2000 feet above me. Two of them made an attack and I turned into them. After milling about with them I decided to get away into the clouds for I knew I was short of ammunition. I climbed into the clouds and as soon as I straightened out I felt three violent explosions. My A/C was hit. I lost control of it completely and then baled out. I was picked up by our forward troops and returned to my Squadron the following day.’
The enemies had probably been Messerschmitts of III./JG 27, which were in action in the same area, in fact Oberleutnant Erbo Graf von Kagenek of 9./JG 27 was credited with two victories above the Tmimi area at 13:46 (one P-40 and one Hurricane). These were the first claims of this unit in Africa.
It seems that 1 SAAF Squadron's battle was separate from that of the Macchis but it is probable that the various units had at least seen each other, in this case the estimate of ’about fifty enemy fighters’ mentioned by the Italians and the sighting of the Bf 109s by some British pilots would hold up. However, there must have been a very small number of Bf 109s, seeing the estimates of 250 and 1 SAAF Squadrons. Taking into account the large number of planes also machine gunned by the pilots of the 6o Gruppo, it would seem probable that these had shot down at least four of the six planes lost by the Commonwealth, despite only two having been claimed.

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

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  193?                
1 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain XXIII Gruppo
2 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain XXIII Gruppo
3 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain XXIII Gruppo
  1941                
4 12/12/41   1 P-40 (a) Destroyed MC.202   Gazala-Tobruk-El Adem 81a Squadriglia
5 ??/??/4?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed        
6 ??/??/4?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed        

Biplane victories: 3 destroyed.
TOTAL: 6 destroyed.
(a) Probably claimed in combat with Tomahawks from 250 Squadron and Hurricanes from 80 Squadron. 250 Squadron claimed 2 MC.202s, 3 Bf 109s and 1 probable, 1 Ju 87 and 1 probable Ju 88 while losing Tomahawk AN290 (pilot WIA). The 80 Squadron lost 4 Hurricanes (pilot POW) with 2 more damaged. The 6o Gruppo claimed 1 P-40 and 1 Hurricane for the loss of 2 MC.202.

Sources:
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
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - Giovanni Massimello, 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan
La Battaglie Aeree In Africa Settentrionale: Novembre-Dicembre 1941 – Michele Palermo, IBN, ISBN 88-7565-102-7




Last modified 22 May 2017