Biplane fighter aces


Maresciallo Alessandro Bladelli

Alessandro Bladelli in the cockpit of a 91a Squadriglia Macchi MC.200 at Gorizia in 1941.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO.

When Italy declared war on the Great Britain and France on 10 June 1940, Sergente Alessandro Bladelli served in the 91a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo C.T.

On 12 June, the 2o Stormo’s fighters in North Africa 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.
The 91a Squadriglia C.T. was composed of the following pilots: Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis (CO), Tenente Enzo Martissa, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Maresciallo Raffaele Chianese, Maresciallo Vittorio Romandini, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato, Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito, Sergente Maggiore Elio Miotto, Sergente Aldo Rosa, Sergente Bladelli, Sergente Guido Scozzoli and Sergente Luigi Ferrario. They had ten CR.42s on strength (including Piragino’s).

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 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 Mario 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.

At around 16:20 on 23 July, nine CR.42s from the 13o Gruppo (Maggiore Secondo Revetria (CO of the 13o Gruppo in a 77a Squadriglia CR.42), Tenente Giulio Torresi and Sergente Ernesto Paolini (77a Squadriglia), Capitano Guglielmo Arrabito, Tenente Guglielmo Chiarini and Sergente Franco Porta (82a Squadriglia), Capitano Giuseppe Dall’Aglio, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli and Sergente Rovero Abbarchi (78a Squadriglia)) and nine from the 10o Gruppo (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili and Tenente Vincenzo Vanni (84a Squadriglia), Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti (90a Squadriglia),Tenente Enzo Martissa, Sergente Elio Miotto, Sergente Bladelli (91a Squadriglia)) took off from El Adem to make a fighter sweep in the Bir El Gobi – Sollum – Bardia area.
At around 17:40, between Sidi Azeiz and Bardia, they intercepted a group of Blenheims escorted by Gladiators.
The 13o Gruppo attacked the Gladiators with height advantage and Tenente Chiarini and the other pilots of the 82a Squadriglia attacked a group of three Gladiators, which were flying in a wide formation. After ten minutes of combat Chiarini shot down one of these fighters. The enemy plane burned when crashing on the ground while the pilot parachuted near Sidi Azeiz and was seen to be rescued by British armoured cars. Tenente Torresi in the meantime claimed another Gladiator shot down using 150 rounds of ammunition. Post war Italian studies claimed that two additional bombers fell burning after the attack of other pilots from the 13o Gruppo, but the official records do not confirm this.
The 10o Gruppo formation in the meantime joined the combat. While Capitano Monti with five other pilots remained high to cover the other fighters (and estimating the enemy strength to only three fighters), Tenente Martissa, Sergente Miotto and Sergente Bladelli joined the combat and claimed a single Gloster shared with the 13o Gruppo pilots.
It looks as if this shared victory was one of the two previously claimed by Torresi and Chiarini because there are no shared victories claims in the records of 2o Stormo. An incongruity of this type, in the claims of Regia Aeronautica, during combined actions of different units is not unusual at all.
No Italian aircraft were lost but four CR.42s of the 13o Gruppo were damaged and especially Chiarini’s and Capitano Arrabito’s CR.42s were so damaged that they were not flyable when back at base at 18:20; Arrabito’s CR.42, in particular had suffered many hits in the wings and behind the pilot’s seat.
Presumably the Gladiator claims were made in combat with Gladiators from 33 Squadron. During the day Pilot Officer Preston (Gladiator N5774), flying one of three Gladiators of 33 Squadron, briefed to escort the bomb-carrying Lysander of Flight Lieutenant Legge, was shot down by three attacking CR.42s and forced to bale out south of Bardia. Preston suffered a slight concussion and once rescued he was sent to hospital in Alexandria. The 33 Squadron ORB is lacking the times of this combat but that of 208 Squadron recorded that Legge took off at 18:00 and landed at 19:40 and that one of the escorting fighters was shot down by CR.42s and the pilot escaped by parachute, so it seems highly likely that Preston’s Gladiator fell victim of Chiarini.
It seems that the British records are incomplete on this date since there are no claims for the damaged Italian fighters.

In the afternoon on 6 August Capitano Luigi Monti, Maresciallo Emiro Nicola (84a Squadriglia) and Sergente Bladelli scrambled from T3 and intercepted a Short Sunderland 30 kilometres north west of Tobruk. Nicola was obliged to turn back when his guns jammed while Monti and Bladelli attacked the flying boat.
The British aircraft was Sunderland N9025 ‘OO-Y’ of 228 Squadron from Aboukir flown by Flight Lieutenant T. M. W. Smith DFC (crew; Flying Officer D. R. S. Bevan-John, Pilot Officer I. T. G. Stewart, Sergeant H. J. Baxter, Leading Aircraftsman P. F. O. Davies, Leading Aircraftsman W. J. Pitt, AC1 W. D. Price, Leading Aircraftsman A. McWhinnie and Leading Aircraftsman Colin James Cambell Jones (RAF No. 525815)), which had replaced another Sunderland of 228 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader Menzies, which had shadowed a small Italian convoy from the early morning.
Attacking from out of the sun the Italian fighters firstly put the rear turret out of action, and then with two separate attacks they disabled the right flank gun and the left flank gun. Inside the Sunderland the situation was very difficult; Baxter was wounded three times, Jones was hit in the stomach and died one hour later while the flank gunner Davies was severely wounded in the stomach and the left eye. Two other members of the crew – Price and Pitt – were less severely wounded. One of the engines on the right wing was put out of action and the right fuel tank started to burn. The attack lasted fifteen minutes and Smith was forced to ditch at 16:20 near Tobruk (position 32o 19’ N 23o 42’ E).
Monti ordered Bladelli to return to T3 and with the last fuel left he directed the Italian torpedo-boat Rosolino Pilo to the Sunderland before returning to Tobruk T2bis. Here he immediately took off in a CR.32 to continue to guide the Italian ship toward the British aircraft, which was reached at 19:00. The Sunderland had maintained w/t contact with base and this only ceased when the Italian ship came alongside.
A CR.32 of the 160a Squadriglia, flown by Sergente Giovacchini, witnessed the whole action and continued to signal the position of the sinking Sunderland to Rosolino Pilo’s crew while Monti was away.
The British crew was captured except for Jones who had succumbed to his wounds and thus was left inside the Sunderland which sank while the Italian sailors were trying to take it in tow.
This was the first Sunderland admitted lost to the Italians in North Africa and was shared between Monti and Bladelli.

On 11 September 1940, the 9o and 10o Gruppo were still employed in standing patrols over the troops. During the second patrol of the day, at 17:45 in the Sidi Omar – Bardia area, a Blenheim was discovered at 6000 metres.
The Italian formation was escorting three CR.32s and was led by Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli. It was composed of seven CR.42s from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Narciso Pillepich and Sergente Domenico Santonocito), five CR.42s from the 91a Squadriglia (Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli, Sergente Elio Miotto and Sergente Bladelli) and six CR.42s from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Maresciallo Omero Alesi, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti).
Capitano Vanni, Tenente Aurili and Sergente Steppi attacked first, followed by other pilots of the formation. During the combat Vanni’s aircraft was hit by return fire and with the compressed air piping pierced, he was forced to turn back. His wingmen continued the pursuit and claimed the Blenheim shot down.
The bomber however was assigned as a shared to all the 10o Gruppo pilots presents (even if , for example, it is known that 90a Squadriglia pilots totally used only 140 rounds of ammunition so possibly only one of them was able to use his guns).
This claim can’t be verified with RAF sources but it is possible that it was a Blenheim from 113 Squadron since this unit’s ORB is lacking.

On 23 November, Sergente Aldo Rosa and Sergente Bladelli of the 91a Squadriglia took off from T4 and claimed a damaged Wellington bomber.

In early 1941 the 10o Gruppo was withdrawn to Italy to re-equip with the Macchi MC.200 and in April they operated from Ronchi with 23 MC.200s against Yugoslavia.

On 16 June 1941 10o Gruppo moved to Trapani, Sicily to take part in the attacks on Malta.

On 17 July 1941 Sergente Bladelli returned from a mission claiming a Blenheim near Cap Passero.

In early May 1942, the 4o Stormo (equipped with Macchi MC.202 Folgores) was in Sicily with the duty of bomber escort over Malta.
On 22 May, the 10o Gruppo returned to North Africa and to Martuba 4 airfield.

On 1 July, the 10o Gruppo transferred to Fuka.

At 10:05 on 3 July, eight MC.202s of the 91a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli, took off for a free sweep over the El Alamein area. Flying in pairs at 15,000 feet, the formation was attacked by fighters south of El Alamein. At the end of the combat five P-40s were claimed by the Italian pilots. Then a formation of 16 Bostons escorted by 30 P-40s was reported and engaged, a bomber and another P-40 being claimed shot down for no losses. The claimants in this combat was Capitano Ruspoli (1 and 2 shared P-40s), Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli (1 and 2 shared P-40s), Sergente Bladelli (1 and 2 shared P-40s) and Sergente Ferruccio Terrabuio (1 and 2 shared P-40s). The claimant of the Boston remains unknown. The Italian fighters returned to base at 11:30.
The Hurricane IIcs of 213 Squadron had taken off at 10:47, reporting being jumped at 12,000 feet by 11 Bf 109s at 11:00, which were probably in fact the 10o Gruppo Macchis Three of the unit’s aircraft were shot down. Lost Hurricanes were Hurricane IIc BM972, which crash-landed 30 miles west of Burg el Arab with Pilot Officer W. R. Henderson safe, Hurricane IIc BN128, which was shot down near El Alamein where Pilot Officer L. O. H. Boucher parachuted WiA and Hurricane IIc BN569, which force-landed at Amiriya with Pilot Officer J. M. Cochrane safe. One of the attacking fighters (reported as a Bf 109F) were claimed damaged by Sergeant Henry Aitken (BN537/J) north of the El Alamein line.

On 10 July, the 9th Australian Division launched an attack in the northern sector of the El Alamein line. This was backed by all the Commonwealth Wings that targeted ground targets and the airfields of LG 20, LG 21 and LG 102, which resulted in heavy aerial fighting.
Twelve MC.202s of 10o Gruppo led by Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (CO 90a Squadriglia) took off at 18:00 for a free sweep over El Alamien. At 6,000 meters over El Alamein, they met eight Hurribombers covered by 15 P-40s and four Spitfires, which they engaged. They claimed two confirmed victories, one by Sergente Maggiore Bladelli (91a Squadriglia) and the second by Maresciallo Angelo Savini (90a Squadriglia) and one probable by Capitano Piccolomini. After around 20 minutes the combat ended due to lack of ammunitions and impending dark. The Macchis landed back at 19:30.
It seems that 10o Gruppo met 274 and 80 Squadrons. Nine Hurricane IIs of the former had taken off at 19:10 to cover eight Hurribombers of 80 Squadron over the frontline (19:05-20:10). Ten miles west of Alamein at the height of 10,000ft they discovered a mixed patrol of Bf 109s and Macchis and the two formations charged frontally. The Macchis opened fire from long distance damaging the left wing of Hurricane II Z5337/D of Sergeant R MacFarlane from 274 Squadron. The 274 Squadron then assumed a defensive position regaining its territory and coming back at 20:15. 80 Squadron according with Form 541, wasn’t apparently engaged and just recorded eight Spitfires clashing against Bf 109s.

At 08:40 of 31 August, eleven MC.202s from the 4o Stormo (seven of the 9o Gruppo led by Tenente Giulio Reiner and four of the 10o Gruppo led by Maresciallo Del Turco) took off on a free sweep over the Qaret el Shirab area. Flying at 3,000ft they sighted and bounced a formation of about 25 Spitfires flying a thousand metres lower. They made a number of claims when Sergente Bladelli (91a Squadriglia) and Sergente Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia) claimed a Spitfire each while Tenente Mario Mecatti (73a Squadriglia) claimed a probable, Tenente Reiner (73a Squadriglia) claimed two damaged and Sottotenente Alvaro Querci (73a Squadriglia) claimed a third damaged. Two more Spitfires were claimed as damaged by two unspecified pilots of the 10o Gruppo.
The Italian pilots landed again at 10:10.
It seems that they had been in combat with Spitfire Vcs from 92 Squadron, which flew a mission 09:35-10:55. Lieutenant S. W. ‘Bill’ Rabie (BR390), on attachment from 1 SAAF Squadron to gain experience of the Spitfire, and Flight Sergeant R. Hempstead (BR522) each claimed an MC.202 shot down while Squadron Leader J. H. ‘Jeff’’ Wedgwood claimed a Bf 109 damaged.
In fact, neither side lost any aircraft in this combat.

The high number of aircraft flying in the area during these days caused such confusion that the German Freya radar personnel had troubles to identify friend or foe aircraft. So, many times the alarm was delayed, and Axis fighters scrambled late.
This happened on 20 October when at 10:55, 14 MC.202s of the 4o Stormo hurriedly scrambled to intercept 24 Bostons and Hudsons above Fuka, escorted by 30 P-40s and 20 Spitfires. The bombers were still releasing their cargo over the airfield when the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Tenente Vittorio Squarcia, Sergente Armando Angelini and Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi), 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Franco Lucchini, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano and Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi), 91a Squadriglia (Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Maggiore Bladelli), and 97a Squadriglia (Tenente Jacopo Frigerio, Tenente Giovanni Barcaro, Sottotenente Leo Boselli and Maresciallo Giovanni Bianchelli), attacked them. The escort intercepted the Italian fighters, and a number of claims were made. Ruspoli, Oblach and Ferrulli claimed two P-40s each, Bladelli, Frigerio, Barcaro and Boselli claimed one P-40 each while Bianchelli claimed one Spitfire. Another Spitfire was claimed as a probable by Bladelli. Mettimano, in his first combat mission, damaged four Hudsons and a P-40 while Angelini, Rinaldi and Squarcia jointly claimed four damaged P-40s. Buttazzi claimed three damaged P-40s and Lucchini claimed a Hudson as a damaged. Lucchini’s MC.202 (MM7905/84-4) was hit when a 20mm shell tore off the aircraft’s spinner and he was forced to make an emergency landing at 11:30.
Totally the 4o Stormo claimed 25 enemy aircraft shot down during the day, but of the 57 fighters (43 of which were combat-ready) on charge in the morning, only eleven were serviceable in the evening. The 9o Gruppo reported the mission as between 10:55 and 12:20 while the 10o Gruppo reported it as between 11:00 and 12:30
The 23o Gruppo also scrambled (11:00-12:30) and they also made a number of claims. From 70a Squadriglia, Sottotenente Luigi Bandini and Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella each claimed a P-40 over El Daba while Tenente Antonio Maccanti claimed a probable P-40 in the same area. 74a Squadriglia was in combat south of El Alamein, and Sergente Maggiore Felice Papini claimed a Boston and Sergente Maggiore Emilio Stafano claimed a Spitfire while Tenente Giorgio Solaroli claimed a shared Spitfire together with Sergente Maurizio Mandolesi (75a Squadriglia). Tenente Carlo Moruzzi claimed a probable P-40.

Between 12:10-13:40 on 25 October, Capitano Ruspoli led a patrol of the 10o Gruppo to intercept some raiders. Shortly after (12:30-13:40), five MC.202 from 73a Squadriglia scrambled from Fuka led by Tenente Giulio Reiner and including Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Tenente Vittorio Squarcia, Tenente Mario Mecatti and Sergente Armando Angelini scrambled from Fuka, under the falling bombs.
They intercepted a reported 21 Bostons, that were escorted by 25 P-40s and ten Spitfires. They hit the enemy 15 kilometers south-east of Fuka. Reiner led the attack on the bombers and damaged four plus the bombers’ leader, which was hit in the left engine. Realizing that he had a Spitfire at his six-o’-clock, Reiner maneuvered and opened fire on it, hitting it in the cockpit and seeing it falling away. Oblach claimed a P-40 and Tenente Mecatti claimed another P-40 while some MC.202s from the 91a Squadriglia arrived to help. Reiner, Squarcia and Angelini jointly claimed a Spitfire (not credited to them), while Mecatti, Sergente Ferruccio Terrabuio (91a Squadriglia in MM7933), Sergente Maggiore Bladelli (91a Squadriglia) and Oblach shared a Spitfire. During the return flight Reiner spotted a Spitfire below, heading opposite, that seemed to have some trouble. He dived and fired at it with the few remaining rounds in his SAFATs. The Spitfire made an emergency wheels-up landing 60 kilometers south-east of Fuka. No losses were suffered by the Italians.
Once back at base Reiner and Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini hurriedly took off with the Stormo's Storch and went to the rescue, but when they arrived, they found to their surprised another Storch, this time a Luftwaffe machine, with the British pilot still aboard. In a brief conversation the RAF pilot, Sergeant A. F. Richardson, admitted that he’d been shot down by a Macchi. Notwithstanding this Piccolomini didn’t press to obtain back the prisoner from the Germans.
RAF records shows that twelve Kittyhawks of 3 RAAF Squadron were up escorting 21 bombers at 13:30. They were attacked by four fighters that shot down the Kittyhawk (EV319/X) of Sergeant A. J. Richardson, who became a PoW. Pilot Officer B. H. Harris (Kittyhawk I AL205/S) claimed to have damaged a MC.202 over Fuka at 14:20. Obviously, Reiner had mistaken his opponent for a Spitfire. For the Italian pilots the misidentification of P-40s and even Hurricanes for Spitfires was as frequent as the misidentification of Macchis for Bf 109s made by their opponents.

At 09:35 on 26 October, seven MC.202s of the 9o and 10o Gruppi (Tenente Giulio Reiner (leader), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Giorgio Bertolaso (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Bladelli (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Ferruccio Terrabuio (91a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara (91a Squadriglia) and Sergente Amleto Monterumici (90a Squadriglia)) took off to intercept a reportedly 18 Bostons, escorted by 30 P-40s and ten Spitfires, heading to bomb Fuka.
A little earlier, at 08:50, twelve MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo, 3o Stormo, (four from the 70a Squadriglia, three of the 74a Squadriglia and five of the 75a Squadriglia) led by Capitano Mario Pinna (CO of the 75a Squadriglia) had taken off from Abu Aggag for a patrol mission (one of the aircraft was flown by Sottotenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri of the 83a Squadriglia, 18o Gruppo).
At 4500 meters altitude, both Italian formations spotted the enemy bombers at the same time and the attack of the 4o Stormo and the 23o Gruppo made the bombers aiming inaccurate, so most of the bombs fell out of the target. Daffara claimed the left wingman of the head formation of Bostons, and damaged two more. Reiner strafed the bomber leader, which began to slip out of formation sideways. He then climbed and found a Spitfire in front of him, fired and hitting it. The Spitfire exploded when hitting the ground 20 kilometers south-east Fuka. Another Spitfire was claimed as a probable by Bertolaso, who also damaged two Bostons. Squarcia, after having damaged several Bostons and a P-40, pursued another Curtiss together with pilots of the 23o Gruppo, and forced it to make a wheels-up landing south of Daba (the pilot, Sergeant J. G. Meredith (Kittyhawk IIa), was subsequently rescued by the same Squarcia together with Tenente Colonnello Armando François in the Stormo's Fiesler Storch). Bladelli (MC.202 MM7805/84-2) damaged four Bostons and a P-40, but was hit and had to made an emergency landing at Fuka. Another P-40, shared by many, was seen to explode when hitting the ground. Sergente Monterumici (MM7933/84-10), after having fired at the bombers, was hit by three rounds from a P-40; one stopped against the head armour, one hit the armoured windshield and one destroyed the instrument panel. Monterumici recalled:

“On that day I scrambled to intercept 18 Bostons, escorted by approximately 30 Curtiss P-40s and about ten Spitfires, heading to our airfield. I attacked the bombers before they could deliver their charge on our aircraft on the ground, while the escorting fighters were still far enough off, giving me a chance to disengage. In reality, on that occasion our adversaries employed larger calibre guns, still unknown to us, and opened fire unexpectedly at a 500 meters range. A burst hit my cockpit, shattering the canopy and blistering my face with glass chips. I quickly rolled away to evade this difficult situation but as soon as I gained speed the windscreen smashed, hurting my forehead. I was left with no protection in the violent airflow and I felt like my head was coming off. I reduced speed but the enemy fighter was again getting on my tail. I had no more altitude to lose and, trying to dodge a burst, I touched the ground with the propeller, crash-landing at excessive speed. In the sandy desert plain, my plane kept on dragging, engaged in a never-ending run, while in those seemingly endless moments I was saying: Tm still alive, I'm still alive, I'm still alive...
When at last the plane carne to rest, I climbed out of my cockpit, bleeding; then, fearful that the damaged aircraft could catch fire, I went further away, and made my way northbound, with the help of a small compass that I carried with me. After a few hours walk, the real troubles started: large minefield, marked with many pegs, was just in front of me, apparently endless. I made a detour, because I couldn't stop: I had just a half-filled water-bottle and the flies, attracted by the blood that was still dripping from the wounds on my face, kept on annoying me. After some time, I heard an aircraft engine noise far away: it was a Storch, piloted (as I was told afterwards) by my Stormo CO T.Col Armando François and by Ten Vittorino Daffara. Unfortunately they didn't notice me, although I waved my life-vest for a long time, trying to draw their attention.
I carefully resumed my march among the mines, hoping to meet with someone or something. Some time later, I carne across the wreck of a shot-down aircraft. I approached to see what type it was: it was a P-40 whose pilot was lying on a wing with his head on his hands and a parachute not so far way. The body was intact but sort of mummified. Not very far away there was another aircraft, this time a Spitfire, whose pilot was sitting still on his 'chute near to the tailwheel, with to back leaning against the fuselage, holding his knees with his arms. He looked as if he was sleeping, but he too had been already transformed into a statue. I gently knocked my knuckles against his cheek-bone and a sort of dried wood sound replied. I then thought to myself: 'This will be also my destiny, but... never mind, let's continue until there’s energy to do so...
After many more hours of walking, I noticed what I hoped so much to see: a thin dust cloud moving towards me. I started again to wave my life-vest, but I wasn't able to make clear what it really was: was it just the wind raising some sand or something moving in my direction? As a matter of fact, my eyes were filled with clotted blood, while the right part of my face, from the nose to the cheek, was a just a congealed wound. It was 7 o’clock p.m. already, the sunset was soon to come and by then I’d been walking for ten hours. The dust cloud kept on getting closer and at last I managed to recognise a motorbike. The driver was Ten Carlo Tommasi, of 3o Stormo, wandering around in the desert looking for souvenirs to be brought back to his villa in Naples...”
Monterumici was taken to a field hospital and later repatriated.
From the 23o Gruppo formation Bordoni-Bisleri claimed one of the fighters, which crash-landed about 15 km south-east of Fuka and Capitano Pinna claimed one probable Boston and a damaged fighter while Sergente Antonio Franciosi (75a Squadriglia) claimed a probable Kittyhawk and two damaged Bostons. Sergente Maurizio Mandolesi (75a Squadriglia) damaged two fighters and two bombers, Sergente Francesco Cuscunà (75a Squadriglia) damaged a bomber and all of the Gruppo's pilots damaged twelve aircraft. Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella (70a Squadriglia in MM9058/70-10) jumped and parachuted in the El Quteifiya area due to an engine failure.
The Luftwaffe claimed only two planes in these combats (one Kittyhawk each by Unteroffizier Erich Krainik of 8./JG 27 and Leutnant Jürgen Harder of 7./JG 53 at 09:57 10 km north-east of Fuka). However, Unteroffizier Krainik (Bf 109 F-4/Trop WNr. 8727 Black 7 + ~) was lost in combat with Spitfires over Deir el Tarfa and he became MiA (totally 13 victories). Leutnant Doktor Helmut Fenzl from 7./JG 27 (Bf 109 F-4/Trop WNr. 13136 White 7 + ~) was shot down in combat with P-40s (reportedly by Pilot Officer J. G. Wright from 112 Squadron) near El Alamein and the pilot became a PoW. Leutnant Werner Boden from 9./JG 27 (Bf 109 F-4/Trop WNr 8669) was shot down in combat with enemy fighters (reportedly a Spitfire) at Turbiya and the pilot was killed.
The Desert Air Force reported a general attack in the Fuka and Daba areas conducted by 24 Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron and 2 SAAF covering twelve Bostons and six Baltimores bound for Fuka while twelve Kittyhawks of 112 Squadron escorted bombers. Ten Hurricanes of 274 Squadron covered by others of 127 Squadron, six Kittyhawks of 450 Squadron and 17 Spitfires of 92 and 601 Squadron were also up, the Spitfire doing a “delousing” sweep. These large formations reported widespread combat with enemy fighters and while no bombers were reported lost five fighters failed to return. The fighters made claims for four Bf 109s destroyed, one probable and one damaged and four MC.202s destroyed, two probables and two damaged.
The Kittyhawk IIIs of 112 Squadron was in combat with Bf 109s north of El Alamein at 09:00-09:50 and Squadron Leader Billy Drake (FR293/?) claimed one Bf 109 destroyed while Pilot Officer J. G. Wright (FR279/J) claimed one Bf 109 F destroyed. Pilot Officer Wright crashed-landed near the front-line and was reported MiA while 21-year-old Flying Officer Keith Ronald Gardener (RAF No. 103554) (FR263/X) failed to return and later died of his wounds.
Flying OfficerJ. L Waddy from 92 Squadron (Spitfire Vb) claimed one Bf 109 F over Daba between 09:30-11:00.
260 Squadron encountered the Italian fighters and Flying Officer E. G. Aitchison and Flying Officer J. G. Meredith claimed one MC.202 each destroyed over Fuka landing ground between 10:00-11:48. Meredith was shot down and taken to Fuka but the same evening the 4o Stormo was obliged to hand him over to the Germans by an order coming directly from the HQ. 22-year-old Pilot Officer Charles Edwin Ody (RAF No. 135396) was reportedly shot down by Bf 109s south-west of Daba and Ody was KIA. Flying Officer E. G. Aitchison’s fighter was badly damaged by Flak north of the Qattara Depression but the pilot was safe. Sergeant W. D. Barker’s Kittyhawk was badly damaged by MC202. South-west of Daba but the pilot was safe.
Between 10:30-11:30, the Spitfire Vcs from 601 Squadron was in combat with MC.202s over El Daba. Pilot Officer A. B. Boyle (EP682) claimed one damaged while Flight Lieutenant J. H. Curry (AB345/J) claimed one destroyed.
Captain L. B. van det Spuy from 5 SAAF Squadron (Tomahawk IIb AN226/C) claimed one probable MC.202 over Fuka at 10:40 while Flight Sergeant R. N. B. Stevens from 3 RAAF Squadron (Kittyhawk Ia AK653/CV-X) claimed one probable MC.202 over Fuka landing ground at 10:50.
At 10:50, the 2 SAAF Squadron engaged the fighters and made a number of claims over Fuka Main landing ground when Captain J. E. Parsons (Kittyhawk Ia EV326/DF-F) claimed a Bf 109, Lieutenant J. H. Burls (ET972/DB-P) a MC.202, Lieutenant A. P. Blignault (EV356/DB-A) claimed a probable Bf 109F, 2nd Lieutenant A. F. Allen-Whyte (AK658/DB-P) and Lieutenant H. J. Lowens (EV330/DB-S) damaged respectively a Bf 109F and a MC.202.
Hurricane IIc HL774 of 274 Squadron was shot down by Bf 109s with the pilot, Flying Officer Graves MIA.

After the battle of El Alamein, the Axis forces gradually retreated. In early December, the 10o Gruppo was at Castelbenito to be sent back to Italy.
During the period January 1942 – January 1943, the 4o Stormo flew 7202 hours on missions, took part in 133 combats, claimed 289 aircraft destroyed (totally 501 from the beginning of the war) and lost 24 pilots KIA or MIA with 29 wounded and 2 POWs.

After a period of rest, on 24 February 1943, pilots of the 10o Gruppo rejoined to reorganize the unit at Bresso airfield, under the command of Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis.
Pilots in the 84a Squadriglia were Capitano Franco Lucchini (CO) (hospitalized), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sottotenente Francesco De Seta, Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Maggiore Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Livio Barbera.
Pilots in the 90a Squadriglia were Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (CO), Sottotenente Sforza Libera, Sottotenente Renato Baroni, Sottotenente Luigi Cima, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni.
Pilots in the 91a Squadriglia were Capitano Luigi Mariotti (CO), Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani, Tenente Alvaro Bondi, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli, Sottotenente Elio Miotto, Sottotenente Guerriero Silvestri, Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara, Maresciallo Bladelli, Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli, Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Terrabuio, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi and Sergente Giulio Fornalé.
On 20 April, the Gruppo transferred to Ciampino Sud for the defence of Rome.

After the Italian surrender in September 1943, he continued to fly in the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force.

On 23 October, he shared in the shooting down of a German Ju 52/3m with fellow ace Tenente Giuseppe Ferrazani.
This was one of the few German aircraft downed by Italian fighters after the Armistice on 8 September 1943.

Bladelli ended the war with 5 shared biplane victories and a total of 5.
During the war, he was decorated with two Medaglie d’argento al valor Militare and two Medaglie di bronzo al valor Militare.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  16/06/40 dawn 1/4 Blenheim (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Tobruk area 91a Squadriglia
  16/06/40 dawn 1/4 Blenheim (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Tobruk area 91a Squadriglia
  23/07/40 17:40-18:20 1/12 Gladiator (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Azeiz-Bardia 91a Squadriglia
  06/08/40   ½ Sunderland (c) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   off Tobruk 91a Squadriglia
  11/09/40   1/19 Blenheim (d) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Omar - Bardia area 91a Squadriglia
  23/11/40   ½ Wellington Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Ain el Gazala area 91a Squadriglia
1 17/07/41   1 Blenheim Destroyed MC.200   Cap Passero area 91a Squadriglia
2 03/07/42 10:05-11:30 1 P-40 (e) Destroyed MC.202   S El Alamein 91a Squadriglia
  03/07/42 10:05-11:30 1/4 P-40 (e) Shared destroyed MC.202   S El Alamein 91a Squadriglia
  03/07/42 10:05-11:30 1/4 P-40 (e) Shared destroyed MC.202   S El Alamein 91a Squadriglia
3 10/07/42 18:00-19:30 1 P-40 (f) Destroyed MC.202   El Alamein area 91a Squadriglia
4 31/08/42 08:40-10:10 1 Spitfire (g) Destroyed MC.202   Qaret el Shirab 91a Squadriglia
5 20/10/42 11:00-12:30 1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   Fuka 91a Squadriglia
  20/10/42 11:00-12:30 1 Spitfire Probable MC.202   Fuka area 91a Squadriglia
  25/10/42 12:30-13:40 1/4 Spitfire (h) Shared destroyed MC.202   15km SE Fuka 91a Squadriglia
  26/10/42 09:35-10:30 1 Boston (i) Damaged MC.202 MM7850/84-2 Fuka area 91a Squadriglia
  26/10/42 09:35-10:30 1 Boston (i) Damaged MC.202 MM7850/84-2 Fuka area 91a Squadriglia
  26/10/42 09:35-10:30 1 Boston (i) Damaged MC.202 MM7850/84-2 Fuka area 91a Squadriglia
  26/10/42 09:35-10:30 1 Boston (i) Damaged MC.202 MM7850/84-2 Fuka area 91a Squadriglia
  26/10/42 09:35-10:30 1 P-40 (i) Damaged MC.202 MM7850/84-2 Fuka area 91a Squadriglia
  23/10/43   1/2 Ju 52/3m Shared destroyed MC.202     91a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 5 shared destroyed, 1 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 5 and 9 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed, 5 and 1 shared damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with Blenheims of 113 and 55 Squadrons, which didn’t suffer any losses.
(b) Probably claimed in combat with Gladiators from 33 Squadron, which lost one when Pilot Officer Preston baled out. The 13a Gruppo claimed two Gladiators while getting four CR.42s damaged. The 10a Gruppo claimed one shared Gladiator without losses.
(c) Sunderland I N9025 from 228 Squadron shot down. One of the crew was killed and the remaining eight became POWs.
(d) This claim can’t be verified with RAF sources.
(e) Probably claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 213 Squadron, which claimed 1 damaged fighter while losing 3 Hurricanes (1 pilot WIA). The 10o Gruppo claimed 6 P-40s without losses.
(f) Probably claimed in combat with 80 and 274 Squadrons, which didn’t suffer any losses.
(g) Probably claimed in combat with Spitfire Vcs from 92 Squadron, which claimed 2 MC.202s and 1 damaged Bf 109 without losses. 4o Stormo claimed 2 Spitfires and 1 probable and 5 damaged without losses.
(h) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawk Is from 3 RAAF Squadron which claimed 1 damaged MC.202 and lost 1 Kittyhawk (Sergeant A. F. Richardsson PoW). The 73a and 91a Squadriglie claimed 4 fighters without losses.
(i) RAF, SAAF and RAAF claimed 4 Bf 109s destroyed, 1 probable and 1 damaged and 4 MC.202s destroyed, 2 probables and 2 damaged while losing 1 Hurricane, 4 Kittyhawks and getting 2 Kittyhawk badly damaged. No bombers were lost. The 9o, 10o and 23o Gruppi together with III./JG 27 and III./JG 27 claimed 1 Boston, 1 probable, and 9 damaged, 4 P-40s destroyed, 1 probable and 4 damaged, 1 Spitfire destroyed and 1 probable while losing 3 Bf 109s and 2 MC.202s with 1 more damaged.

2o Stormo - Note storiche dal 1925 al 1975 - Gino Strada, 1975 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
Ali d'Africa - Michele Palermo and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 IBN Editore, ISBN 88-7565-060-8
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Diario Storico 84a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 90a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 91a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Gloster Gladiator – Bartlomiej Belcarz and Robert Peczowski, 1996 Monografie Lotnicze no. 24, AJ press, Gdynia
Gloster Gladiator Aces - Andrew Thomas, 2002 Osprey Publishing, London, ISBN 1-84176-289-X
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
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
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Stormi d'Italia - Giulio Lazzati, 1975 Mursia, Milan, ISBN 88-425-1946-4, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
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
The Gloster Gladiator - Francis K. Mason, 1964 Macdonald & Co. Ltd. London
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 01 November 2022