Capitano Domenico Bevilacqua
Domenico Bevilacqua was born on 4 August 1912.
Bevilacqua was commissioned (“in Servizio Permanente Effettivo”) on 31 December 1935.
He served as a volunteer during the Spanish Civil War.
On 16 March 1939, he was promoted to Capitano.
The 13o Gruppo (77a, 78a and 82a Squadriglie) of the 2o Stormo C.T. was commanded by Maggiore Secondo Revetria and started the war based at Tripoli Castelbenito airfield with twenty-five CR.42s and eleven CR.32s on hand (the CR.32s, kept as a reserve, were later passed on to the 50o Stormo Assalto) to guard against a possible French attach from the west.
Pilots in the 78a Squadriglia were: Capitano Giuseppe Dall’Aglio (CO), Tenente Ippolito Lalatta, Tenente Bevilacqua, Tenente Giovanni Beduz, Sottotenente Natale Cima, Sottotenente Italo Santavacca, Sottotenente Dario Magnabosco, Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Frigo, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli, Sergente Rovero Abbarchi, Sergente Cassio Poggi, Sergente Ernesto Taddia, Sergente Vito Rinaldi, Sergente Marcello Della Rovere and Sergente Aldo Loioli.
Between 1 and 3 July, Tenente Bevilacqua was transferred to the 93a Squadriglia, 8o Gruppo, from the 78a Squadriglia, 13o Gruppo.
At 12:10 on 4 July, three fighters from the 93a Squadriglia (Colonnello Angelo Federici (the Stormo CO), Tenente Bevilacqua and Sergente Maggiore Agostino Fausti) joined the other fighters from the 2o Stormo at Menastir.
In the evening on 4 July, at about 18:00, six 33 Squadron Gladiators flying in two sections escorted a Lysander from 208 Squadron flown by Flying Officer Brown over the Capuzzo-Bardia area. Nine CR.42s were seen taking off from Menastir Landing Ground west of Bardia and the Gladiators dived to attack. The No. 2 section, led by Flying Officer Gray-Worcester and including Flight Sergeant Cottingham and Pilot Officer Eric Woods, attacked just as the enemy fighters left ground and Gray-Worcester shot down four of them while Cottingham claimed two and Woods claimed one. The remaining two CR.42s made good their escape.
The British pilots reported that the Italians scrambled more fighters and five CR.42s were attempting to get airborne just as the other three Gladiators, all flown by 112 Squadron pilots (Flying Officer Price-Owen, Flying Officer R. H. Smith and Flying Officer R. J. Bennett), decided to join the fray. Taking the barely flying CR.42s by surprise Smith and Bennett each claimed one shot down.
Price-Owen was forced to leave his aircraft (Gladiator II N5751) after an explosion in the fuselage over Buq-Buq. He parachuted safely and came down 15 miles inside the Egyptian Border. Post war British studies suggested that his aircraft was possibly hit by own anti-aircraft but it seems this was not the case. In fact, Flight Lieutenant Joseph Fraser reported:
“During July 1940, pilots from 112 Squadron, on detachment at Sidi Barrani, were gaining operational experience rapidly and many dogfights resulted around the bay of Sollum between Gladiators and CR 42s, for the CR 42 pilot had not yet learnt to respect the Gladiator – his senior, with its greater manoeuvrability. It was during one of these flights that F/O Price-Owen was badly shot up, though uninjured himself, and then decided to bale out. However, unfortunately, he was wearing a parachute belonging to a friend of far greater stature and on pulling the rip cord, the loose harness gave him a very severe jerk between his legs which almost cost him his manhood – a very serious matter with Price-Owen. He was incapacitated for some time and posted from the Squadron.”Here it is also interesting to note how the British pilots had quickly learned what were the advantage of their machine over the Italians, they however greatly overestimated the speed of their opponent: “(We tried) to get to grips with CR 42s who declined a fight with the feared and more manoeuvrable Gladiator which was outpaced at full throttle by a good 50 mph (!)”
At 18.45, Tenente Bevilacqua returned to T2 in his damaged fighter, escorted by Colonnello Federici.
On 1 August, Capitano Bevilacqua was transferred to the 77a Squadriglia, 13o Gruppo from the 94a Squadriglia, 8o Gruppo and took command of this Squadriglia.
After some days of inactivity due to the incessantly blowing Ghibli wind, a big coordinated Italian action against Mersa Matruh was planned for 31 October. It was planned to use at least 50 SM 79s from the 9o Stormo, 14o Stormo and 33o Gruppo with an escort of 40 CR.42s from the 2o Stormo and 151o Gruppo to attack the British base and its different targets.
At 10:10, Menastir M was attacked by British bombers reported as ten Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys (in fact seven Blenheims from 55 Squadron and three from 84 Squadron). The bombers arrived from a northerly direction completely undetected and hit the parking area of the 93a Squadriglia with many small and medium calibre bombs launched from 3000 metres. The Squadriglia HQ hut was completely destroyed by a direct hit while four CR.42s were lightly damaged by splinters (RS) and one was heavily damaged (RD). The heavy damaged CR.42 was immediately taken to the S.R.A.M. of El Adem (according to other sources the RD Fiats were three and the RS Fiats were two). Luckily no losses were suffered by the personnel of 8o Gruppo.
At 10:15 (09:40 according with other sources), while the 9o Stormo formation was taxiing on Gambut airstrip, a formation of seven Blenheims from 211 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Gordon-Finlayson and two others from 84 Squadron suddenly appeared overhead. The British bombers had managed to approach undetected by gliding down from 3000 metres with turned off engines and bombed with extreme precision, destroying three bombers while three others remained RD and many others were less seriously damaged. Heavy were also the losses among 9o Stormo’s personnel, with two dead among 63a Squadriglia (Sergente Armiere Carlo Marchi and Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Eugenio Bonino).
Three fighters of the resident 82a Squadriglia scrambled after the bombers had turned on their Mercury engines. They were flown by Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Maggiore Dante Davico and Sergente Nino Campanini but they were unable to intercept.
Three fighters of the 78a Squadriglia also scrambled at 10:00. These were flown by Tenente Ippolito Lalatta, Sottotenente Luigi Cannepele and Sergente Ernesto Taddia. These were also unsuccessful and they landed back at base at 10:45.
Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi and Sottotenente Carlo Albertini of the 366a Squadriglia scrambled from the nearby Amseat A3 for the British bombers. While in pursuit an enemy fighter, identified as a Hurricane, crossed the path of Albertini, who spent 420 rounds on it. The aircraft escaped smoking heavily and Albertini, who landed at 10:45, was credited with a probable victory.
At 10:25, three CR.42s from 92a Squadriglia, 8o Gruppo, scrambled from Menastir M. The three fighters were flown by Sottotenente Luigi Uguccioni Sergente, Mario Veronesi and Sergente Marcello Mosele. Veronesi intercepted a Hurricane which he claimed damaged with 150 rounds of ammunition. The three aircraft returned to base at 10:45.
It seems that both scrambles from 366a and 92a Squadriglie had been involved in combat with Hurricanes escorting the British bombers and in fact, 80 Squadron had put up eight Gladiators and two Hurricanes between 9.00 and 11.00 to patrol off Bardia at 15,000 feet and to cover bombers attacking Menastir and a target 38 miles west of Bardia (Gambut). The returning pilots didn’t report any encounter with Italian aircraft while returning 211 Squadron crews reported that an Italian CR.42 tried to follow them but after firing two bursts from 500 yards was set upon by a Gladiator and a Hurricane and last seen diving towards the ground with smoke trailing from it.
The Italian mission against Mersa Matruh was not cancelled and at 10:50 only ten SM 79s of 9o Stormo (that in the original intentions were to constitute the bulk of the formation) took off together with 11 SM 79s of the 14o Stormo and five from the 33o Gruppo. The bombers were escorted by 18 CR.42s from the 13o Gruppo, which flew as close escort, and 18 more from the 151o Gruppo, which was to fly an indirect support sweep.
At 11:45 two sections with six CR.42s of the 78a Squadriglia took off from Gambut G with Capitano Giuseppe Dall’Aglio leading Sottotenente Luigi Cannepele (a future posthumously Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare winner and inspirer of the famous “Gigi tre osei” symbol of the 150o Gruppo C.T.), Sergente Rovero Abbarchi, Tenente Ippolito Lalatta (leading the second section), Sergente Ernesto Taddia and Sergente Teresio Martinoli. They were followed at 11:55 by two sections from the 82a Squadriglia. The first section included Tenente Guglielmo Chiarini (section leader), Sottotenente Giuseppe Timolina and Sergente Maggiore Dante Davico while the second section included Tenente Gianfranco Perversi (section leader), Sergente Francesco Nanin and Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan. Together with these six CR.42s, six more of the 77a Squadriglia took off with Capitano Bevilacqua leading Tenente Eduardo Sorvillo, Sottotenente Carmelo Catania, Sergente Maggiore Ernesto Scalet, Sergente Ernesto Paolini and Sergente Renato Gori. Capitano Giuseppe Dall’Aglio took command of the whole formation.
For the 151o Gruppo this was the first long range escort mission since arriving in Libya and they received the order to move at 11:00 and at 12:10 they took off from Amseat A3 to arrive over Mersa Matruh at the same time as the bombers. Participating pilots were from all three Squadriglie - 366a Squadriglia (Capitano Bernardino Serafini, Tenente Mario Ferrero, Tenente Piero Veneziani, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella, Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi and Sergente Rosario Di Carlo), 367a Squadriglia (Capitano Simeone Marsan, Sergente Maggiore Renato Mingozzi, Sergente Maggiorino Soldati, Tenente Irzio Bozzolan, Sergente Maggiore Gino Bogoni and Sergente Bruno Celotto) and 368a Squadriglia (Capitano Bruno Locatelli, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Mario Turchi, Tenente Giuseppe Zuffi, Sergente Piero Hosquet and Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi).
The bombers gathered over Tmimi and then headed east in groups of five in arrow formations. The fighters from the 13o Gruppo flew in flights of three in echelon right formation at 5000 meters, directed to a rendezvous point 20 kilometres south-west of Mersa Matruh along the road that connected this base with Bir Kenayis, which they reached at 12:56.
After the bombers arrived over Mersa Matruh, each formation went for different targets but was attacked by British fighters while aiming for their targets.
At 12:46, the 14o Stormo, led by Tenente Colonnello Lidonici, attacked the airfield of Bir Kenayis but finding it empty they headed for an alternative target of enemy troops south-west of Mersa Matruh, who were hit at 13:01. In fact, 80 Squadron pilots on the ground noticed Italian bombers attacking the aerodrome of Bir Kenayis at 12:45 and reported that bombs fell to the south-west and some distance away, obviously they thought that the Savoias had missed their intended target of some miles. Gunners of the 14o Stormo claimed two Hurricanes and a Gladiator destroyed, and another Gladiator probable. One SM 79 crash-landed near Sidi Barrani and was written off while a second crash-landed in the desert near Tobruk and was also written off. Three more SM 79s returned at 14:40 so badly damaged that they were classified RD and another one went to the SRAM for major repairs. Among the crews there were three dead (Sottotenente pilota-puntatore (pilot aimer) Federico Tonizzo, Primo Aviere Montatore Mario Padalino, Primo Aviere Armiere Guerino Invorti) and two wounded (Tenete Beltramini (another aimer) and Tenente Martinelli (observer)). Of its 11 SM 79s, in the evening only five were still fit for further operations.
At 12:55 the 9o Stormo, led by Tenente Colonnello Italo Napoleoni, released its bombs on the railway near El Qasaba airfield. The diarist of 6 Squadron noted that Quasaba had been bombed at 13:05 by five Savoia SM 79s, dropping approximately 30-40 100kg bombs and that no casualties nor damage had been suffered by the Squadron’s detachment while the diarist of 208 Squadron reported that around 40 bombs of the 100kg type were dropped by 15 SM 79s and that four of them fell in the camp damaging three lorries and three tents while the remainder fell around the railway siding. Two SM 79s from the 11a Squadriglia, 26o Gruppo B.T. were shot down. The Squadriglia flew in a ‘V’ formation led by Tenente Giovanni Ruggiero and it was the two outer SM 79s that were shot down in flames by a Hurricane (Sottotenente Fulvio Fabiani, Sergente Arturo Bigliardi, Primo Aviere Fotografo Adorno Antonini, Primo Aviere Motorista Francesco Farina and Primo Aviere Armiere Vincenzo Scarinci) (Tenente Roberto Di Frassineto, Sergente Maggiore Armando Zambelli, Aviere Scelto Motorista Camillo Caiazzo, Primo Aviere Armiere Alfredo Pacifici and Aviere Scelto Radiotelegrafista Giuseppe Costa); all but Zambelli (POW) were killed. In an aircraft of the 13a Squadriglia was Primo Aviere Motorista Tommaso Giorgio killed and Aviere Scelto RT Canaponi was wounded by Hurricane bullets. A gunner in the SM 79 to the left of Tenente Ruggiero, at the time 22-years-old Aviere Scelto Armiere Cherubino Mariotti recalled, of this his first combat mission:
“On 31 October 1940 I was on a S79, first left wingmen of a five planes formation that was attacked by British fighters after bombing enemy troops near Mersa Matruh. We, gunners, were returning fire when I noticed that the two end wingmen of our formation were hit and were losing height in flames. Suddenly I centred in my gun sight a Hurricane that was closing to the last three planes shooting continuously at us. Arrived at the distance suitable to start the “famous” turn that permit it to fan with its eight guns its target, I was able to aim at its belly and saw my tracers entering it. Obviously hit, the plane directed towards the ground leaving a thick cloud of black smoke. In this way I avenged the ten dear friends lost in the two planes fell in flames.”Sergente Pilota Armando Zambelli who was the only survivor of the SM 79 flown by Tenente Di Frassineto recalled:
“It was 31 October 1940, I was hospitalised in Derna infirmary when I heard that we were going to start for an important bombing mission. Today it can seem a bit excessive all the enthusiasm with which we wanted to take part in war missions, but twenty years old and with the high spirit of those days all seemed normal for us. I left the infirmary and reached the Squadriglia. When my Commander Capitano Giovanni Ruggiero asked me how I felt I told him: “Perfectly and I’m ready to start” [in fact, Tenente Ruggiero wasn’t promoted to Capitano until 15 November 1940].An anonymous crewmember of a 13a Squadriglia SM 79 (the 13a Squadriglia composed the second arrow of the 9o Stormo) described the combat:
My crew was composed by: Tenente Di Frassineto, me, Primo Aviere Fotografo Antonini, Primo Aviere Motorista Stramccioni and Aviere Scelto Armiere Costa [Strangely enough, Zambelli here quotes among his crew, a member of the crew of Sottotenente Fabiani and an airman: Stramaccioni that neither is recorded among the casualties of 9o Stormo in WWII]. The action was one of the most important of the war so far and our forces were fifty S 79s with the escort of forty fighters started from an airstrip near Derna [It appears that the 9o Stormo was divided in two formations - one from the 26o Gruppo (11a and 13a Squadriglie), which started from Derna and the other from the 29o Gruppo (62a and 63a Squadriglie), which was surprised by the Blenheims at Gambut and was prevented to take part in the action] and after around an hour of flight we arrived over the airbase of Matruh.
Our section was composed by five planes disposed in arrow formation under command of Capitano Ruggero. We were almost on the target when a hand on my shoulder made me turning the head. It was the Motorista that told me that we were attacked by enemy fighters of which we had already shot down one [the aircraft claimed by Mariotti], sadly the Hurricanes and Gloster Gladiators from a superior height continued to fire without respite and after a short while I saw the end wingman opposite to my position falling in flames; pilots were Tenente Fabiani from Rome and Sergente Bigliardi from Bologna. We succeeded in bombing the target but following another enemy’s burst of fire our plane started to burn and being made of wood and fabric it burned like a wax match.
I told the members of the crew to bale out but without avail because they tried to fight the fire. Enemy bullets continued to enter the plane and I saw the poor crewmembers hit by the bullets and reached by the flames. We decided to leave the plane, I opened the exit door on the top of the cockpit and immediately air suction threw me against the tail of the plane that was burning; I lost consciousness and I woke up when the parachute opened. I was descending under the area where our CR 42s and the Hurricanes were fighting. Moving my legs I tried to move towards the land to avoid falling into the sea but in that moment I lost consciousness again. When I woke up for the second time I was on a British vehicle between a bearded Shik driver and an English officer that pointed his gun on me. I was taken to the infirmary because I was burned in the face and in the hands and had a dislocated ankle; there I was left resting for a while. Subsequently I was examined by a General that told me that he was Canadian and that he had fought as our alley during the First World War [Raymond Collishaw!]. He asked me, in an approximate Italian, if in Italy we thought that they killed the aviators that jumped with the parachute. […].”
“Immediately after the bomb release a hard attack of Hurricanes […] immediately the plane took 116 hits […] one wing damaged, engines nacelles damaged, flaps and empennages damaged, bomb bay damaged, the three propellers hit, […] 1o Aviere Motorista Tommaso Giorgio, that was shooting back with the gun in the “hunk” died, […] his place was taken by Aviere Scelto Marconista Canaponi but after a short while he was wounded too […] finally Primo Aviere Fotografo Marcucci took the gun […].”In the end the gunners of the SM 79 expended 1337 gun rounds, notwithstanding the damage suffered, the aircraft was back at base at around 15:00.
Eight Italian Planes Down – Air Battle over Mersa Matruh. Cairo, Saturday.The Italian fighters totally claimed ten victories in this combat (Colauzzi, Turchi, Locatelli, Marchi, Serafini, Bevilacqua (2), Perversi (2) and Chiarini’s and Nanin’s shared) (post war studies raised this number to eleven considering the one claimed by Martinoli, which was not credited to him by his unit)while the bombers claimed seven for the loss of one CR.42 and two SM 79s (two more where write-offs after forced-landings). The British fighters claimed four CR.42s and three SM 79s (and one probable) for the loss of five Gladiators and two Hurricanes. 33 Squadron’s ORB in recording the presence of 112’s Gladiators claimed that they had shot down three CR.42s and two SM 79s.
It was announced from Headquarters, RAF, Middle East on Friday, that a large force of enemy bombers (SM 79s) escorted by a dozen fighters (CR 42s) attempted an attack on targets in the Mersa Matruh area yesterday. Fighter aircraft of the RAF immediately engaged the enemy. In the ensuing battle, four SM 79s were shot down and four CR.42s were destroyed. In addition, four more enemy aircraft were so damaged that it is unlikely that they returned to their base. During the battle, two of our fighter aircraft collided, but the pilots landed safely by parachute. One of our fighters was shot down and one, which was last seen engaging three SM 79s making for home, has so far not returned to its base.
“On 31 October, two S 79s of 11a Squadriglia failed to return from a bombing action done at 12.57 over enemy positions.The Italian fighters were rightly quite pleased with their performance, the 151o Gruppo started well and the 13o Gruppo confirmed that it was the best Italian unit in theatre. However, considering the ordeal of the SM 79s their Commander, Generale Matricardi, Commander in Chief of Va Squadra Aerea awaiting Felice Porro return from Italy, wasn’t satisfied. In a reserved note regarding the 31 October engagement Matriciardi commented:
Crew chief of one of those planes was Tenente Di Frassineto.
It seems that coming back from the action the two planes were attacked by numerous enemy planes, together with them other eight planes of the same Gruppo; the two S 79s were seen to fall near Mersa Matruh, one of them presumably hit by the AA fire.
The other crewmembers were Sergente Maggiore Armando Zambelli, Aviere Scelto Motorista Camillo Caiazzo, Primo Aviere Armiere Alfredo Pacifici, Aviere Scelto Radiotelegrafista Giuseppe Costa.
All this personnel until now is considered missing in action.
We already started the procedures on the Red Cross, necessary to know the names of possible prisoners.”
“Indirect protection in the sky over the target was not reliable for the protection of big formations of S79s (…) so, it happened that the S79 had to fight hardly (…) while the fighters, in areas far from the fighting, (…) didn’t do nothing!”.Looking at RAF losses the judgement of Matriciardi seems to be (undeservedly) too hard. But indeed, such were the losses of the bomber force that for some weeks after the 31 October daylight operations had to be curtailed.
At 14:45 on 15 December, Tenente Colonnello Secondo Revetria and Capitano Bevilacqua in two Fiat CR.42s from the 77a Squadriglia took part in an offensive sweep in the Sidi Azeiz area. They strafed British armoured cars and claimed some of them damaged. They were back at 16:05.
Capitano Bevilacqua took command of the 365a Squadriglia, 150o Gruppo, in September 1941 after Tenente Armando Badessi, who had commanded the unit (temporary) from August 1941.
The British offensive Operation Crusader was launched in North Africa on 18 November 1941. Italian reinforcements were rushed to Libya including the 150o Gruppo, which arrived at Castelbenito on 14 December with their MC.200s and Capitano Bevilacqua as CO of the 365a Squadriglia.
At 08:30 on 8 January 1942, 19 CR.42s of the 3o Gruppo, led by Tenente Colonnello Innocenzo Monti, took off from Ara Fileni to bomb and strafe the airstrip of Agedabia. Twelve MC.200s of the 150o Gruppo, led by Maggiore Antonio Vizzotto, which had taken off at 08:30 from El Merduma, were their direct cover. Finally, eight MC.202s of the 88a Squadriglia (6o Gruppo) took off from Ara Fileni at 08:30 led by Capitano Dante Ocarso, to indirectly escort the whole formation.
The CR.42s reached the target at 09:00, flying at 1,000m in groups of three aircraft in echelon right; at the same height were the Macchi MC.200s, (flying in echelon right too) while the MC.202s were at 3,000m. While the Fiats were starting their dives, a formation of twelve P-40s was discovered. They immediately attacked the Falcos and one of the Curtiss was claimed shot down by Sergente Adriano Vezzi of the 155a Squadriglia, who’s aircraft in turn was damaged. The Fiats of the 3o Gruppo were able to complete the attack even if they didn’t claim to have inflicted heavy damage; a Bristol Blenheim destroyed and a couple of trucks left in flames with the use of 24 50kg bombs, 1335 rounds of 7,7 ammunition and 2846 rounds of 12,7 ammunition.
The 150o Gruppo recorded a clash with 25 P-40s losing two MC.200s and one damaged while claiming two P-40s and two damaged with the use of 2050 rounds of ammunition. The two destroyed P-40s were shared between Maggiore Vizzotto, Tenente Enea Atti (363a Squadriglia), Capitano Bevilacqua (CO 365a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Fausto Filippi (365a Squadriglia). The pilots of the lost MC.200s (MM6668 and MM5342), one of them wounded, parachuted and were able to regain the Italian lines on foot two, returning to their unit two days later.
The MC.202s reached the target at 08:55, in vics of three disposed in echelon right, at the height of ,3000 m. recording an intense AA reaction. Then they intercepted four or five P-40s that were attacking the CR.42s and forced them to flee. One of the P-40s was claimed shot down and a second probably so with the use of 1060 rounds of ammunition. The claims were shared among the eight pilots (Capitano Ocarso, Tenente Raffaele Giannuzzi Savelli, Sottotenente Alfredo Civetta, Sottotenente Roberto Sparapani, Sottotenente Roberto Sgorbati, Maresciallo GianLino Baschirotto, Sergente Maggiore Anano Barreo and Sergente Luigi Bartesaghi). The MC.202s landed back at base at 09:50.
Their opponents were ten Kittyhawks of 3 RAAF Squadron, which had taken off at 08:20 for an offensive sweep between Agedabia and El Agheila. They reported that they met 20 MC.200s, 15 CR.42s and G.50s and 8 Bf 109s (clearly the MC.202s), flying at 5000 feet. They started in pursuit and claimed seven shot down, five probables and three damaged. The claimants were Flight Lieutenant Edward Jackson (AK650) who claimed one MC.200 and three MC.200s damaged, Sergeant Ronald Simes (AK610) who claimed one CR.42 and two MC.200s, Sergeant Reginald Pfeiffer (AK619) who claimed two MC.200s, Flying Officer Jones (AK698) who claimed one Bf 109E and one Bf 109F as probables, Flying Officer H. H. Schaeffer (AK645) who claimed one CR.42 and one probable MC.200 and finally Flying Officer Richard Hart (AK617) who claimed one CR.42 and one Bf 109 E as probables. They lost Kittyhawk AK656 of Flying Officer Alan Baster (RAAF no. 400035), who was killed. The Australians all had landed again at 10:25
It seems likely that the Folgores attacked only part of the Australian formation while the others fought against the Macchi MC.200s and the CR.42s.
At the end, even if the escort wasn’t able to avoid the attack on the Fiats, it permitted them to come back without losses after completing their mission but it is necessary to note that the eight MC.202 were engaged by only four or five P-40s. The Australian pilots, back at base noted that the MC.200s were able to out-turn their Kittyhawks, which were less manoeuvrable than their predecessors were.
It is not possible to state who shot down Baster even if from the very detailed report submitted by Vezzi once back at base it seems that he was the responsible.
Capitano Bevilacqua left the command of the 365a Squadriglia, 150o Gruppo, in July 1942 when Tenente Giuseppe Gianelli took command of the unit. Gianelli commanded the unit until the end of the war in September 1943.
In 1943, he belonged to the 53o Stormo.
Capitano Bernardino Serafini left the command of the 151o Gruppo in March 1943, when Capitano Bevilacqua took command of the unit.
In the evening on 10 June 1943, there was another air battle fought near Pantelleria when 30 Italian fighters took off at 19:00. The formation comprised of six Bf 109Gs from the 150o Gruppo, eight MC.202s from the 151o Gruppo, ten MC.202s from the 153o Gruppo and six MC.202s from the 161o Gruppo. The pilots reported encountering both medium and heavy bombers escorted by fighters, and they engaged Spitfires from the 31st FG and P-40s of the 85th and 87th FSs of the 79th FG.
The U.S. pilots claimed heavily when they claimed 11 MC.202s and 12 Bf 109s shot down with an additional probable Fw 190 and three damaged Bf 109s.
The first claimants were Captain Joseph Connelly and Lieutenant John Martin of the 85th FS, which claimed a shared MC.202 5 miles north of Pantelleria between 18:40-19:50.
Five minutes later it was the turn of the 87th FS, whose pilots reported downing three MC.202 stragglers that had possibly come from the 161o Gruppo. The unit also claimed a further 12 Axis fighters destroyed, the latter being engaged while escorting a Cant Z.506S seaplane of the 8a Squadriglia Sezione Soccorso (rescue section) that had left Marsala-Stagnone seaplane base at 18:20. The seaplane was forced to ditch, with one crewmember slightly injured, but it was later able to return to its base after the crew had repaired the damage. The 87th FS mission lasted between 18:50-20:10 and 1st Lieutenant Paul G McArthur claimed four kills (two Bf 109s and two MC.202s), plus another Bf 109 damaged over Pantelleria, but was then himself hit and forced to bale out. He was picked up later by a Walrus from 283 Squadron. 1st Lieutenant Wyman “Porky” Anderson claimed two MC.202s (one over Pantelleria and one 20 miles north-east of the island) and one Bf 109 (over Pantelleria) destroyed. Additional Bf 109s were claimed by 1st Lieutenant Asa Adair (Pantelleria), 1st Lieutenant Leo Berinati (15 miles west of Sicily), Captain Lee Gossick (who also claimed an additional Bf 109 damaged; both claimed 20 miles north of Pantelleria), Captain Frank Huff (15 miles west of Sicily), 2nd Lieutenant John Kirsch (Pantelleria), 1st Lieutenant Kensley Miller (Pantelleria) and 1st Lieutenant Morris Watkins (Pantelleria). Lieutenant Colonel Charles Grogan reported slight damage to his P-40 (from 79th FG) after colliding with a Bf 109 over Pantelleria. He had actually hit a MC.202, which lost a wing and crashed into the sea.
The 31st FG also enjoyed success, its pilots being credited with seven fighters destroyed for the loss of one 307th FS Spitfire. The pilot of this aircraft, 1st Lieutenant George Gooding, was killed when his fighter was apparently attacked by a P-40 of the 99th FS, which had been temporarily attached to the 33rd FG. All the claimants from 31st FG were from 309th FS, which mission lasted between 18:25-19:35 and all claims were made over Pantelleria. Six MC.202s were claimed by Major Frank Hill, Captains Berry Chandler and Carl Payne (claimed 19:00 5 miles north of Pantelleria), 1st Lieutenants Donald Keith, Robert Rahn and Dale Shafer Jr (who was also attacked in error by a P-40). In addition, 1st Lieutenant James Swiger claimed a Bf 109, 2nd Lieutenant Leonard Meldeau an Fw 190 as a probable and Captain John Paulk a Bf 109 damaged.
The Italians had actually lost seven MC.202s, four from the 53o Stormo and three from the 161o Gruppo. Of the four 53o Stormo pilots shot down, three were from the 151o Gruppo, namely its CO, Capitano Bevilacqua, and Sergente Rino Nava of the 366a Squadriglia and Tenente Giancarlo Celle of the 367o Squadriglia. The 153o Gruppo also lost Maresciallo Paolo Franchi of the 373a Squadriglia. The three downed 161o Gruppo pilots were Tenente Giuseppe Marazio and Maresciallo Giuseppe Ravasio (both of the 164a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Iolando Soprani of the 159a Squadriglia. Despite these losses, the 53o Stormo pilots reported shooting down a B-24, a Boston and two Spitfires, as well as damaging five Bostons and one P-38. Of this score, the 374a Squadriglia pilots (among them Tenente Vittorio Satta) accounted for one Boston shot down and claimed to have attacked five others.
After Capitano Bevilacqua had been killed, Capitano Giuseppe Costantini shortly took (temporary) command of the 151o Gruppo.
Capitano Costantini left the command of the Gruppo later in the month, when Maggiore Bruno Mondini took over the command.
Maggiore Mondini where to remain in command of the Gruppo until the end of the war in September 1943.
At the time of his death, Bevilacqua was credited with 2 biplane victories.
During the war, he was decorated with four Medaglie d’argento al valor militare, one Croce di guerra al valor militare, one Croce al merito di guerra, one Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna and one Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|1||31/10/40||13:00-14:20||1||Gladiator (a)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Mersa Matruth||77a Squadriglia|
|2||31/10/40||13:00-14:20||1||Gladiator (a)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Mersa Matruth||77a Squadriglia|
|08/01/42||09:00||1/4||P-40 (b)||Shared destroyed||Macchi MC.200||Agedabia||365a Squadriglia|
|08/01/42||09:00||1/4||P-40 (b)||Shared destroyed||Macchi MC.200||Agedabia||365a Squadriglia|
Biplane victories: 2 destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 and 2 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 112 Squadron and Hurricanes from 33 Squadron. 112 Squadron and 33 Squadron claimed 4 CR.42s, 3 S.79s, 2 probable S.79s and 1 damaged S.79 while losing 4 Gladiators and 2 Hurricanes. The Italian fighters totally claimed 11 victories while the bombers claimed 7, while losing 1 CR.42 and 2 S.79 (2 more S.79 being damaged beyond repair).
(b) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 3 RAAF Squadron, which claimed 7, 5 probables and 3 damaged while losing 1 P-40. The Regia Aeronautica claimed 4, 1 probable and 2 damaged while losing 2 MC.200s and 1 damaged CR.42.
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
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
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
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Il Savoia Marchetti S.M. 79 nel Secondo Conflitto Mondiale - Bombardamento Terrestre - Ricognizione Strategica - Aviazione Sahariana – Cesare Gori, 2003 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Ministero della Difesa
USAAF (Mediterranean Theater) Credits For The Destruction Of Enemy Aircraft In Air-To-Air Combat World War 2 - Frank Olynyk, 1987 Victory List No.6
Additional info kindly provided by Ian Acworth, Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.