Biplane fighter aces


Sergente Maggiore Arturo Bonato

20 January 1916 – 19 November 1940

Arturo Bonato was born on 20 January 1916 in Asiago.

In November 1940, Bonato belonged to 393a Squadriglia of 160o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which was equipped with Fiat CR.42s. The unit was at this time operating over Greece.

On 18 November, during two separate combats over the front of Koritza, the fighters of 393a Squadriglia claimed six Greek fighters without losses.
The first action happened during the morning after the scramble at 10:05 of two Falcos piloted by Tenente Mario Gaetano Carancini and Sergente Teofilo Biolcati. They met a reportedly three PZLs and claimed two (one apiece) landing back at 11:35.
The second action was in the early afternoon when three machines of the same Squadriglia, which had taken off at 13:16 reportedly met four PZLs claiming all of them, three of the EVA pilots were seen to jump with parachute and followed during their descent were seen to land inside their own territory. Tenente Torquato Testerini claimed one victory while Sergente Maggiore Bonato claimed two and Sergente Luca Minella claimed the last one.
Greek sources show that Hiposminagos Costantinos Yanikostas of 22 Mira was killed during the day, as was Episminias Gregorios Valcanas of 23 Mira, although this pilot was reported to have voluntarily crashed on an Italian bomber, while Hiposminagos Corneleus Kotrones of 22 Mira was wounded in one leg, but managed to force-land his shot-up aircraft at an emergency airfield. Additionally according with other sources Episminias Dimitrakopoulos was shot down and jumped with parachute while Anthyposminagos Giannikostas of 22 Mira made it back to its base although seriously wounded reporting two kills, thus possibly confirming at least three of the six Italian claims. Additionally, the Greeks claimed two CR.42s shot down, one each by Hiposminagos G. Laskaris of 23 Mira and Anthyposminagos Ioannis Katsaros of 21 Mira.

On 19 November 1940, 'B' Flight of 80 Squadron, which recently had arrived to Greece to reinforce the Greek fighter forces, flew up to Trikkala during the morning. After refueling, nine Gladiators took off at 14:10, led by three Greek PZL P.24s (23 Mira), for an offensive patrol over the Koritza area. Squadron Leader William Hickey led the Gladiators.
When they neared the Italian airfield at Koritza the PZLs were obliged to turn back due to their short range. The Gladiators flew over Koritza were Italian anti-aircraft opened up. Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle, who were leading the second section, sighted four Fiat CR.42s climbing towards them from the starboard beam.
It had been arranged beforehand that the Gladiators would not use their radiotelephones unless it was absolutely essential, because they had discovered in the desert that the CR.42s used a similar wavelength; by listening in to the Gladiators, the Italians received prior information of an attack. Pattle warned Hickey of the presence of the CR.42s simply by diving past the Commanding Officer's section and pointing his Gladiator towards the Italian aircraft. Hickey acknowledged that he understood by waggling his wing and Pattle withdrew to his position at the head of his section.
As Hickey’s section dived towards the four CR.42s, Pattle noticed a second group of two more CR.42s and took his section, consisting of Pilot Officer 'Heimar' Stuckey and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, to engage these. Pattle went for the leading CR.42, which attempted to evade the attack by diving steeply and slipping from side to side. Pattle followed, closing in rapidly, but he didn't fire until the CR.42 straightened out and thereby offered a steadier target. From 100 yards astern, he lined up the CR.42 in his sight and opened fire. The CR.42 steepened its dive; the pilot had apparently been hit, because he fell forward over the control column. Pattle pulled away, as the CR.42 went straight down to crash about two miles west of Koritza, bursting into flames on striking the ground. Stuckey, following close behind Pattle's Gladiator, smiled and gave a thumbs-up signal to Pattle signifying confirmation of the victory.
The two Gladiators, now completely alone, climbed up to 15,000 feet immediately over the airfield, and saw a dogfight in progress a few miles to the north. Heading in that direction, they were soon engaged by five CR.42s and two G.50s. One of the G.50s came at Pattle in a head-on attack, but broke away much too early, the tracers passing yards below the Gladiator. A CR.42 had a go next, but Pattle quickly snap-rolled, up and over the Italian aircraft, and came down perfectly in position fifty yards behind the CR.42. A short burst and the cockpit of the CR.42 became a mass of flames and it fell away burning furiously. After this combat he noticed that his air pressure were so low that he couldn't fire his guns and he soon returned to base.
Totally in this combat the British pilots claimed nine and two probables shot down. Apart from Pattle's two CR.42s, Stuckey claimed one G.50, which crashed, and one CR.42, Flight Lieutenant Greg Graham claimed one G.50 and one CR.42, Pilot Officer Samuel Cooper claimed one shared CR.42 with Pilot Officer William Vale, who also claimed one additional CR.42, Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one G.50 and finally Flying Officer Sidney Linnard claimed two CR.42s as probables.
Pilot Officer Stuckey was hit in the combat by CR.42s and wounded in the right shoulder and leg. He was saved from being finished off by Squadron Leader Hickey, who managed to driving away the CR.42s and then escort him back to Trikkala from where he would be dispatched to the Greek Red Cross hospital in Athens.
Pilot Officer Vale reported:

"Nine Gladiators and three PZLs took off from Trikkala in four flights of three aircraft to carry out an offensive patrol over Koritza. I was flying in the second flight as No.2 to F/Lt Pattle. We arrived over the area at approximately 1440 hours and after patrolling for about five minutes two CR42s were seen approaching our formation at 14,000 feet from starboard ahead. The signal for line astern was given by the flight leader, who immediately attacked the enemy aircraft, which broke formation. F/Lt Pattle engaged one CR42 and after a shot dogfight shot it down out of control, with smoke coming from the engine.
The other CR42 was engage by No.1 Flight. I tried to regain my flight but finally attached myself to two Gladiators in formation, which I found out to be No.1 Flight led by S/Ldr Hickey. We carried on the patrol at about 10,000 feet over Koritza, where we met fairly accurate AA fire. ‘Tally-ho!’ was then given when three CR42s in formation were seen at about 6,000 feet. The formation split up and I dived on a CR42 which was attempting to escape to the north. I carried out a quarter attack and then slid in to an astern position, which I held while the enemy pilot did evasive tactics. He then carried out a manoeuvre which appeared to be a downward roll and I noticed that smoke was coming from his engine. I carried on firing in short bursts until he went between two hills through a small cloud. I followed over the cloud but no enemy aircraft appeared and so I went below into the valley and saw wreckage in a copse – at the same time getting fired at by enemy troops.
I climbed up immediately and at 6,000 feet saw a shiny monoplane with radial engine diving down. I gave chase but was out-distanced and so gave up after firing a short burst at about 400 yards. I gained altitude and observed a Gladiator and a CR42 in a dogfight very low down over the hill, and also noticed that the enemy pilot was attempting to lead the Gladiator over a group of enemy ground forces. I waited until the Gladiator pilot had manoeuvred into an astern attack and then carried out a quarter attack. I noticed that first white smoke and then black was coming from the engine of the e/a before I opened fire. I carried out quarter attacks until the other Gladiator pilot pulled away and then slid into an astern attack.
I remained in that position until very low over the main road and then the CR42 turned over and slid into the side of a hill. The aircraft did not burst into flames. While pulling up I fired at the enemy ground troops. I gained altitude and waggled my wings for the other Gladiator pilot to join me and then found the other pilot was P/O Cooper, who had apparently run out of ammunition. I then set course for home and finally landed at Eleusis, where I refuelled, before proceeding to the base aerodrome. I inspected my aeroplane and found that I had one bullet hole in my tail plane, which had done no damage. In each encounter with CR42s I found that both pilots used the downward roll manoeuvre at high speed for evasive action."
80 Squadron had been involved in combat with Fiat CR.42s of 160o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which were patrolling over this area, and with G.50bis from 24o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which were escorting bombers in the same area.
In fact, when the British aircraft arrived over the front there were four CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo led by Tenente Torquato Testerini (CO 393a Squadriglia) and two G.50bis of the 24o Gruppo led by Tenente Attilio Meneghel (355a Squadriglia) in the air. The Fiat of Sergente Maggiore Natale Viola (363a Squadriglia) was attacked by a reportedly “20 Glosters and three PZL” and shot down, the pilot being killed while Meneghel attacked six Glosters alone before being shot down himself and killed. It is possible that Sergente Maggiore Viola was shot down by Flight Lieutenant Pattle.
From Koritza airfield, the eight remaining combat ready CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo were scrambled at 15:25 to help their comrades. They were led by Capitano Paolo Arcangeletti but were taken at disadvantage while climbing by the aggressive Glosters losing two more of their numbers when Maresciallo Giuseppe Salvadori (363a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Bonato (393a Squadriglia) were killed. Sergente Maggiore Walter Ratticchieri was hit early in the fight and wounded in both legs being however able to return to base and land.
Totally three CR.42s (Viola, Salvadori and Bonato) and one G.50bis (Meneghel ) were lost and one CR.42 was damaged (Ratticchieri). Sergente Maggiore Luciano Tarantini claimed a Gladiator shot down, two more being claimed as probables, one by Capitano Paolo Arcangeletti, the other by a G.50bis pilot.

At the time of his death, Bonato was credited with 2 biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 18/11/40 13:16- 1 PZL P.24 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Koritza area 393a Squadriglia
2 18/11/40 13:16- 1 PZL P.24 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Koritza area 393a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in two combats with PZL P.24s of 21, 22 and 23 Mire. 393a Squadriglia claimed six without losses. The Greek fighters lost at least three aircraft, possibly four, while claiming four CR.42s shot down.

Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Gladiator Ace: Bill 'Cherry' Vale, the RAF's forgotten fighter ace - Brian Cull with Ludovico Slongo and Håkan Gustavsson, 2010 Haynes Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84425-657-0
Ministero della Difesa - Banca Dati sulle sepolture dei Caduti in Guerra
Additional information kindly provided by Gianmaria Spagnoletti.

Last modified 12 June 2012