Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sergente Piero Buttazzi

In December 1940, Sergente Piero Buttazzi served in the 84a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo C.T., in North Africa. This unit was at the time equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 19 December, the 9o Gruppo flew its last mission before retirement from North Africa. Taking off from Ain El Gazala T4 at 15:00, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni led ten other aircraft from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sergente Mario Guerci and Sergente Pasquale Rossi), 96a Squadriglia (Sergente Maggiore Dante Labanti, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Gallerani and an unknown pilot) and 97a Squadriglia (Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sergente Maggiore Raffaello Novelli and Sergente Alcide Leoni) to an escort mission together with 14 CR.42s of the 10o Gruppo. These had taken off from the Z1 landing ground (ten kilometres south-east of T4 on the opposite side of the “litoranea” road) where they had transferred the same morning. The 10o Gruppo pilots were led by Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli and included five fighters from the 91a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato, Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito and Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Casero), six from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sergente Luigi Contarini, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta) and two from the 84a Squadriglia (Sergente Domenico Santonocito and Sergente Buttazzi).
They escorted twelve SM 79s of the 41o Stormo, which took off at 14:45 from Martuba M2 with Tenente Colonnello Draghelli and Tenente Colonnello d’Ippolito at their head. They were to attack Sollum harbour and then to proceed to attack vehicles 10 km off Ridotta Capuzzo aimed against the British supply system.
Some minutes after 15:45, above the Sollum area, they were surprised by a number of Hurricanes; Tenente Guiducci reported five of them, the 73a Squadriglia recorded the attack of about ten while some the 235a Squadriglia crews spoke of eight “Spitfires”. It seems that the Hurricanes were somewhat lately intercepted by the CR.42s from 73a and 96a Squadriglie and 10o Gruppo while the 97a Squadriglia stayed with the bombers. According to Guiducci, the reaction of the CR.42s saved the bombers, avoiding the interception but this was not the case.
In the following combat, the Italian claims were extremely confused. Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli was credited with a Hurricane destroyed (in one of the rare individual victories assigned by his unit) and another damaged, but his aircraft was hit in the engine and he had to make an emergency landing near Bardia (he was unhurt and returned to his unit on 22 December). The 90a Squadriglia claimed two shared victories and two Hurricanes forced to flee with the use of 1328 rounds of ammo. The 84a Squadriglia claimed one individual and one probable victory shared with the whole 10o Gruppo. The 97a Squadriglia also claimed one Hurricane confirmed and one probable shared with the 10o Gruppo. The 73a Squadriglia claimed two shared individual and two probables. Post-war studies stated that one of the shared victories of 73a Squadriglia was in fact an individual of Tenente Bonfatti while Sergente Rossi got a damaged and Sottotenente Oblach one probable and one damaged. In fact, the Italian Bulletin of 20 December claimed that in a savage battle two Hurricanes were shot down in exchange for an Italian fighter that failed to return This suggests that all the Squadriglia Commanders at the end claimed the same two victories, from the original documents we can see that in fact one was an individual achievement of Ferrulli while the other was most probably a shared or possibly an individual of Bonfatti. The CR.42 reported as lost was obviously Ferrulli’s.
Sergente Buttazzi had to land at T5 because of an engine breakdown, while a fighter from the 73a Squadriglia was heavily damaged. The Italian formation landed back at 17:05.
At least seven of the bombers were hit. Capitano Meille (CO of the 233a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Bresciani were wounded and the co-pilot Sergente Maggiore Musiani was forced to make an emergency landing at Tobruk T5. The SM 79 of Sottotenente Trolla force-landed (and was most probably lost) after being hit by 543 bullets; Primo Avieri Luigi Favale was killed while Primo Avieri De Pasquale and Primo Avieri Palmieri were wounded. Tenente Stancanelli’s (233a Squadriglia) aircraft received 162 hits and also made an emergency landing. Sergente Maggiore armiere Antonio Carta (part of Tenente Stancanelli’s crew), in the confusion of combat, erroneously believed that his aircraft was falling out of control, jumped with his parachute and became MIA. Tenente Colonnello Draghelli made an emergency landing at Tobruk T2bis with his co-pilot Tenente Premurù, Maresciallo motorista Scagliarini, Sergente Maggiore armiere Della Ciana and Sergente RT Maurelli injured. In addition, the SM 79 of Tenente Persico, which was the last to land at 16:45, was damaged. The bomber’s gunners spent about two thousand rounds of 7.7mm ammunition and five thousands of 12.7mm, claiming three British fighters and one probable.
They had been intercepted by Hurricanes from 274 and 33 Squadrons. The former unit was employed in patrols in the Sollum-Bardia-Gambut area. At 15:50, Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (V7293) was alone but another Hurricane was in the vicinity when, at 11,000 feet over Sollum, he discovered a mixed formation of 18 SM 79s plus CR.42s 12 miles ahead and slightly to starboard. He attacked the escort that engaged him mainly head on. He reported:

“one CR 42 dived into the ground about 30 miles west of Sollum. Being a bit late arriving after the bombing I found it impossible to engage the S79 due to the attentions of the CR 42s, about 30 CR 42s in vics of three making vics of nine both sides of the bombers and 3000 feet above them. The main force carried on being attacked by Flying Officer Weller 274 Squadron.”
As a special comment, he remarked: “Enemy attacked in a most determined manner.”
Flying Officer Arthur Weller (V7300) reported being up with another Hurricane later engaged by CR.42s (obviously Lapsley) and possibly another behind him (33 Squadron aircraft?). He was flying at 18,000 feet over the Sollum – Bardia road at 15:45 when he discovered SM 79s with CR.42 escort. He saw the fighters wheeling towards him while the bombers didn’t take any action. He reported:
“7 S79s fired at and damaged at least one engine on fire, one or two undercarriages fell out. Only noticed one formation of fighters to starboard of bombers [obviously Lapsley had drawn the attention of the rest of the escort] so attacked from port to line astern with plenty of extra speed. Took each sub leader in turn then his no 2. 7 aircraft altogether when work finished. Part of formation I had attacked was disorganized and impossible to see any missing. Owing to approach of CR 42s and no ammunition, I had to leave the fight. I noticed part of formation I had attacked to be in difficulties. Two a/c pulled up practically vertically and probably collided, impossible to see if any went down.”
He didn’t reported suffering damage of any kind but back at base his machine was found riddled with bullets. Weller was subsequently credited with one damaged SM 79.
33 Squadron also flew an offensive patrol over the Sollum-Gambut area where they met SM 79s and CR.42s and there is little doubt that they engaged this Italian formation. The British pilots claimed three SM 79s and four CR.42s. Two of the fighters falling to Flying Officer Vernon Woodward, who attacked and shot them down apparently without the knowledge of the other Italians and two to Flying Officer Charles Dyson (P2499). It is not known who claimed the bombers. Considering the high level of accuracy of 151o Gruppo’s reports that recorded being attacked by six to seven British monoplanes earlier on the day it is possible that some of the claims of 33 Squadron (which also patrolled over the Gambut area) where in fact against them.

On 23 December, 17 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo took off at 08:30 to escort ten bombers from the 15o Stormo, which had taken off from T4 and bound to attack armoured vehicles around Sidi Azeiz. The escort included five fighters from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Maresciallo Giorgio Di Giulio, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Casero and Sergente Luigi Ferrario), four from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo and Sergente Luigi Contarini) and eight from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Corrado Patrizi and Sergente Buttazzi).
The formation was attacked by six Hurricanes and the Italian pilots claimed one confirmed shot down, another as a probable and a third was obliged to force-land among its own armoured vehicles (the 90a Squadriglia’s pilots expended 455 rounds of ammo). The three victories were credited as shared among all the participating pilots. The Italian fighters landed back at Z1 at 11:05 with Sergente Ferrario’s aircraft damaged. The bombers (led by Colonnello Napoli) landed back at base at 10:30, with only one machine damaged by the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes were from 274 Squadron, which was out on a morning patrol to cover a line Sidi Omar-Sollum-Buq-Buq with twelve machines taking off with 15 minutes intervals. From the reports of the returning pilots, it seems that fighters from 73 Squadron were present even if this is not reported in 73 Squadron documents.
Pilots taking part were Pilot Officer Stanley Godden (P2638) (06:15-09:15), Pilot Officer Ernest Mason (P3722) (06:30-09:30), Second Lieutenant Bester (N2624) (06:45-09:35), Flying Officer Thomas Patterson (P2544) (07:00-09:45), Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (V7293) (07:20-09:50), Sergeant Dean (V7423 (07:30-10:30), Second Lieutenant Robert Talbot (P3721) (07:45-11:05), Pilot Officer Garland (P 3977) (08:10-11:15), Sergeant John Clarke (N2627) (08:20-11.00), Flying Officer C. F. Greenhill (P5176), Pilot Officer Strange (N2628) (09:50-12:50) and Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (P2638) (10:00-13:00).
Pilot Officer Mason had a field day; firstly, he intercepted ten SM 79s in two vics of five at 07:30 (strangely enough he wrote 09:30 in his CFR) when he was 10 miles south-west of Gambut at the height of 12,000 feet. He discovered the ten bombers 2000 feet below and dived from above, past the escort on no. 4 of the rear vic. He reported:

“ no4 of rear vic dropped back but later observed to rejoin formation. Small a/c seen burning on ground (unreadable) miles south of Bir Chleta. Believed to be CR 42 claimed by 2nd Lieutenant Talbot. 12 CR 42s in 4s and 2s were on port flank 1000 feet above and behind. After carrying out this attack I climbed above and carried out another attack.”
Now he was at 10,000 feet and dived from above on four SM 79s of the rear vic. He reported:
“enemy aircraft damaged. Unable to observe further as I got involved with the escort and was also fired on by our own troops. Burning S79 observed on ground in this approximate position by Pilot Officer McFadden no 73 Squadron. 12 CR 42s in 2s and 4s were 1000 feet above on port flank. The escort had observed my approach as this was my second attack and closed in on main force that jettisoned bombs. After breaking off attack I got involved with 2 of the escort at 1000 feet and was considerably embarrassed by tracers and pom-pom fire from our own troops.”
Then at 09:15, 20 miles north-east of El Gubbi, when flying at 17,000 feet together with another Hurricane, he discovered a Caproni Ca.310 at ground level that he attacked from astern.
“port engine caught fire a/c climbed to 200 feet and then hit ground with wheels and flaps up. Bounced twice and went on nose. I circled a/c (E) and only one man (pilot) emerged from front exit.”
It is possible that the two claims made by Mason the previous days are included in these combat reports and that he thus claimed two SM 79s, one damaged and one additional Ca.310 (in fact it seems that no SM 79s were shot down).
Second Lieutenant Talbot claimed a CR.42. He was flying alone at 15,000 feet at 10:00 when he discovered ten SM 79s in two vics and 24 CR.42s stepped up on either side. 15 miles ahead and 2,000 feet below. He delivered a quarter attack on the no.5 bomber of the second vic and then an head on attack on a CR.42, which attacked while he was making a second pass. He reported:
“1 CR 42 shot down later burst in flames 1 S79 initial attack dropped out of formation and did not rejoin. Determined attacks from escort prevented me from observing results of combats with S 79. While the CR 42s attacked immediately the main formation increased speed but kept formation and opened fire.”
During the engagement, Flying Officer Greenhill force landed south of Taifa Rocks, reportedly with engine trouble. From the overall description of the combats, it seems likely that bullets from the escorting Fiats caused the engine trouble.

At 09:15 on 26 December, eight Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron took off from the LG south-west of Sollum to escort a Lysander doing artillery reconnaissance over Bardia. The Lysander failed to appear. At approximately 14:05 (obviously during a third patrol) two flights of five SM 79s escorted by a number of CR.42s were observed a few miles north-east of Sollum Bay. A separate formation of 18 CR.42s was following the bomber formation and escort 2,000 feet higher as top cover. Two Gladiators attacked the bomber formation whilst the remainder climbed to meet the higher formation. The attack on the bombers was broken off when the higher formation attacked the Gladiators. In the ensuing combat, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege and Flying Officer Wilfred Arthur each claimed a destroyed (seen to fall into the sea) and a damaged CR.42. Flying Officer Peter Turnbull, Flying Officer John Perrin and Flying Officer Alan Rawlinson each claimed one probable.
The CR.42s were 14 fighters from the newly arrived 23o Gruppo led by the CO, Maggiore Tito Falconi and 22 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo. The CR.42s from the 23o Gruppo included three from the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sergente Pardino Pardini and Tenente Gino Battaggion), five from the 74a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Bobba, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca (forced to return early due to a sudden illness) and Sergente Manlio Tarantino) and five from the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Monti, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni and Maresciallo Carlo Dentis). The fighters from the the 10o Gruppo included seven from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Capitano Mario Pluda, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato and Sergente Elio Miotto), nine from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Buttazzi, Sergente Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Mario Veronesi) and six from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta), which had taken off at 13:00.
They were escorting ten SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello Draghelli and five SM 79s 216a Squadriglia, 53o Gruppo, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Stringa. The SM 79s had taken off from M2 at 12:25 and attacked Sollum harbour’s jetty (reportedly hit) and two destroyers inside Sollum Bay (with poor results because of the heavy AA fire). AA from the ships hit four bombers from the 34o Stormo; one of them, piloted by Sottotenente Bellini had to force land close to Ain El Gazala with the central engine out of action. Returning pilots reported an attempt to intercept by some Gladiators but the escort repulsed the British fighters. They landed without further problems at 15:15.
Over the target, immediately after the bombing, the Italian fighters reported the interception of “enemy aircraft” alternatively “many Glosters” or “Hurricanes and Glosters”. The 70a Squadrigli pilots claimed a shared Hurricane, this was possibly an aircraft from 33 Squadron. This unit’s ORB reported that during the day’s patrols many SM 79s and CR.42s were intercepted with one CR.42 believed damaged. Two Gladiators confirmed and two probables were shared between the whole 10o Gruppo. Another Gladiator was assigned to the 23o Gruppo (in the documents of 75a Squadriglia but this is not confirmed by the other two Squadriglie). Many Glosters were claimed damaged by Tenente Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Schiroli, Sergente Tarantino, Sottotenente Marangoni, Tenente Calistri, Tenente Monti and Sottotenente Villa. The CR.42s were back between 14:30 and 15:05.
No Gladiators were lost even if three of them were damaged (all repairable within the unit). The Australians had done a very good job indeed, facing a formation four times more numerous (even if it seem improbable that all the Italian fighters were able to join the combat). From the Italian reports it seems that only the front sections of the escort (including the 74a, 75a and the 84a Squadriglie) were engaged in a sharp dogfight with the Gladiators. The Australians were able to shot down the CO of the 74a Squadriglia, Capitano Guido Bobba, who was killed when his fighter fell in flames into the sea and damaged Tenente Lorenzoni’s fighter, who landed at T2 (and came back to Z1 the day after). Three more CR.42s were damaged when Tenente Angeloni was forced to land at T5 before reaching Z1, Sergente Veronesi’s fighter was damaged and Sottotenente Prati was forced to make an emergency landing short of T2 (his fighter was reportedly undamaged and only suffering for a slight engine breakdown). Maggiore Falconi’s fighter was also heavily damaged but managed to return. The morning after Angeloni was able to return to Z1 with his aircraft.
Capitano Guido Bobba was awarded a posthumously Medaglia d’Argento al valor militare. He was replaced as CO of the 74a Squadriglia by Tenente Mario Pinna.

The last Italian bombing mission of the day on 27 December was again against Sollum. Four SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello D’Ippolito and four bombers from the 216a Squadriglia, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Romanini took off from Tmini at 14:30.
They were escorted by fighters from the 23o Gruppo and 10o Gruppi. Maggiore Tito Falconi was at the head of the formation of the first unit, which also included Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sottotenente Oscar Abello and Sergente Ubaldo Marziali from the 70a Squadriglia, Tenente Mario Pinna, Sottotenente Milano Pausi and Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli from the 74a Squadriglia and Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Sergente Leo Mannucci and Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni from the 75a Squadriglia.
It seems that the bomber formation split and the 41o Stormo attacked British mechanized units in Halfaya and Gabr Bu Fares under heavy AA that damaged, although slightly, all the aircraft. The SM 79s of the 34o Stormo attacked ships in Sollum harbour and were intercepted by many Hurricanes. The SM 79s were totally unable to defend themselves because of icing on all the guns and one of them was shot down. This was Sottotenente Aldo Peterlini’s bomber and Peterlini was killed together with three of his crew (Sergente Maggiore Arturo Scagnetti (second pilot), Aviere Scelto Motorista Alcide Frizzera and Aviere Scelto Radiotelegrafista Gioacchino Scuderi). The other two members of the crew (Primo Aviere Armiere Ciancilla and Primo Aviere Montatore Fiore) where able to bale out. Tenente Pandolfi’s aircraft was riddled by enemy bullets (probably RD) while the other two SM 79s were less seriously damaged although suffering some wounded among their crews.
They had been intercepted by 33 Squadron which claimed three SM 79s and one probable and probably two CR.42s during offensive patrols performed by pairs of Hurricanes over Sollum. They also claimed one SM 79 and one CR.42 damaged. Vernon Woodward claimed one of the probable CR.42s and the damaged CR.42.
Falconi’s pilots recorded combat with many Hurricanes, one of which was claimed as probable by the 70a Squadriglia and six more were damaged. Tenente Solaro and Sottotenente Abello returned with damaged fighters. Solaro had been hit by AA fire and Sottotenente Abello by British fighters. Calistri and his men claimed a shared Hurricane and four more damaged. They landed back at 16:55. A shot down Hurricane was also recorded by the 74a Squadriglia, which also recorded a SM 79 shot down by AA fire.
The CR.42 escort from the 10o Gruppo was composed of seven fighters from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti and Sergente Enrico Botti), six from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli, Sergente Domenico Santonocito and Sergente Buttazzi) and six from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Orlando Mandolini, Sottotenente Ennio Grifoni and Sergente Elio Miotto). Tenente Guiducci reported that the heavy AA immediately hit one of the SM 79s, which was shot down. Then five monoplanes (Hurricanes and Spitfires(!)) tried to attack but were immediately counterattacked and one of them was shot down. Later, another attempt by a lone British fighter failed after the intervention of the Italian escort. The 90a Squadriglia pilots expanded 320 rounds of ammunition and it seems that in the end the victory was assigned to the whole formation as a Gruppo victory. It seems that it was the same aircraft claimed independently by the two Squadriglie of the 23o Gruppo.

At 15:00 on 3 January 1941, Maggiore Tito Falconi led four CR.42s of the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Claudio Solaro, Tenente Gino Battaggion, Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani and Sergente Cesare Sironi), five of the 74a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Pinna, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca and Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli) and seven of the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Maresciallo Luigi Pasquetti and Sergente Leo Mannucci) in an escort mission for SM 79s attacking mechanized vehicles around Bardia. Fighters from the 10o Gruppo were also present including Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Mario Veronesi, Sergente Buttazzi and Sergente Luciano Perdoni of the 84a Squadriglia and Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sottotenente Orlando Mandolini, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Alfredo Sclavo of the 90a Squadriglia. Hurricanes were intercepted and two of them were claimed damaged by the 70a Squadriglia’s pilots. During the return journey, the CR.42s went down to strafe, claiming three armoured vehicles.
They landed back at 17:20.

In January 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.

By the end of 1941, the 4o Stormo re-equipped with Macchi MC.202s.

In early May 1942, the 4o Stormo was in Sicily with the duty of bomber escort over Malta.
On 22 May, the 10 Gruppo returned to North Africa and to Martuba 4 airfield for a second desert tour.

In the morning on 12 June, 14 MC.202s from the 10o Gruppo led by the Gruppo commander Maggiore Paolo Tito Maddalena, together with German Bf 109s were escorting Luftwaffe Ju 87s to attack targets south-east of Acroma. At 3500 meters halfway between Ain el Gazala and Acroma the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Sergente Roberto Ugazio and Sergente Buttazzi) was attacked by three diving Spitfires. The formation broke up, while the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan and Sergente Gregorio Taverna) counter-attacked and scattered the Spitfires. Soon after this, these three pilots spotted a lone P-40, which was hit several times. The P-40 made a wheels-up landing at Gambut and was claimed as a shared victory. After this was, Taverna shot down by ground fire. Vanzan was also hit over Tobruk, but was able to return at Martuba. Meanwhile Lucchini, Buttazzi and Veronesi had met eleven RAF fighters (Spitfires and P-40s) north-east of El Adem. In the combat, they claimed a shared Spitfire and damaged many others.

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

At 06:45 on 18 July, eight MC.202s; four of the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Luigi Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi and Sergente Buttazzi) and four of the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici), led by Lucchini, took off from Bu Amud for a "free hunt" mission. Over the front, they spotted nine P-40s escorted by eleven Hurricanes. The P-40s jettisoned their bombs over the El Qasaba area and tried to escape home eastward. The Italian fighters caught the Allied aircraft over Burg el Arab, 50 km east of El Alamein. A P-40 was claimed as a shared destroyed by Lucchini and Buttazzi, a second was claimed as a shared by Giannella and Veronesi, a third was claimed by Savini and a fourth was claimed jointly by Piccolomini, Vanzan and Monterumici.

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 Buttazzi), 91a Squadriglia (Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Maggiore Alessandro Bladelli), and 97a Squadriglia (Tenente Jacopo Frigerio, Sottotenente 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 was hit when a 20mm shell tore off the aircraft’s spinner and he was forced to make an emergency landing.
Totally the 4o Stormo claimed 24 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.

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 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 Alessandro Bladelli, Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli, Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Terrabujo, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi and Sergente Giulio Fornalé.
On 20 April, the Gruppo transferred to Ciampino Sud for the defence of Rome.

The 5 July 1943 was to become a tough day for the Macchis of 9o and 10o Gruppi with heavy combat and serious losses.
From 07:15 to 09:25 Tenente Giorgio Bertolaso and Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi of the 91a Squadriglia flew a reconnaissance mission from Sigonella over the sea, searching enemy shipping or signs of sunken ships.
At 10:25, 27 MC.202s and MC.205s of the 4o Stormo scrambled to intercept 52 bombers escorted by about 20 Spitfires, that were heading to bomb the airfields around Catania. The 9o Gruppo was led by Capitano Giulio Reiner, while Capitano Franco Lucchini was leading the 10o Gruppo. The 10o Gruppo consisted of the 84a Squadriglia (Lucchini, Sottotenente Francesco Palma, Sottotenente Enzo Dall'Asta and Capitano Luigi Giannella (CO of the 84a Squadriglia) flying MC.202s and Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi and Sergente Livio Barbera flying MC.205s), the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Luigi Cima, Maresciallo Massimo Salvatore and Sergente Maggiore Giambattista Ceoletta flying MC.202s) and 91a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Mecatti (CO), Sottotenente Giovanni Silvestri and Sottotenente Elio Miotto).
Giannella and Palma was a few minutes late to take-off because the ground crew were checking their weapons.
The Italian fighters made a frontal attack over Gerbini ignoring the escorting Spitfires. Two B-17s were claimed by Salvatore and Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) together with some Bf 109s. Lucchini claimed a Spitfire while Reiner, Salvatore and Mecatti claimed a probable bomber each. Three bombers were claimed damaged by Lucchini, Giannella, Mettimano, Dall’Asta and Buttazzi. Additional damaged bombers were claimed by Reiner, Salvatore, Mecatti (who also claimed a damaged Spitfire), Sergente Ettore Chimeri (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia), Cima and Ceoletta.
When the Italian fighters landed again at 11:55, Lucchini was missing. He had been seen by Dall’Asta attacking the bombers against heavy defensive fire and then diving into the ground east of Catania. During the alarm, some of the ground crew also reported to have seen a MC.202 falling with the canopy closed, some kilometres east of the airfield. A car from the unit tried to reach the place, but it couldn't go on due to the bombing of the area. Lucchini’s body wasn’t found until two days later.
Taking part in this interception were also more than 100 Bf 109Gs from I, II and III/JG 53 and I and II/JG 77. They claimed twelve bombers for the loss of four Bf 109s including Major Johannes Steinhoff, Kommodore of JG 77, who force-landed his stricken aircraft.
It seems that the Italian fighters had been in combat with USAAF B-17s from 99th Bomber Group, which were out to attack Gerbini. They were intercepted near Ragusa at 23,000 feet but the escorting Spitfires from 72 and 243 Squadrons intervened. The Spitfires claimed one and one damaged Bf 109 while the bombers gunner claimed 45 enemy fighters shot down! According to American records, three B-17s from the 99th BG (42-29486 and 42-29483 of the 348th BS and 42-29492) were lost during the day.
After this combat, an American pilot of a shot down bomber was brought to San Salvatore airfield.
At 11:55, four aircraft from the 91a Squadriglia scrambled. Tenente Vittorino Daffara damaged two four-engined bombers, claimed a P-38 shot down and hits on two Spitfires. Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli damaged two four-engined bombers while Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani damaged a P-38.
At 13:00, Tenente Renato Baroni of the 90a Squadriglia scrambled from San Salvatore and had an in-conclusive contact with enemy fighters, returning to land at 15:00.
At 13:25 there was a new alarm and three MC.202s and two MC.205s of the 84a Squadriglia took off flown by Capitano Luigi Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Segente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi. At least three additional Macchis flown by Sottotenente Sforza Libera (90 a Squadriglia), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli (91a Squadriglia) also scrambles.
During the alarm an enemy formation released bombs on San Salvatore airfield; luckily, only a few bombs hit the strip but many others exploded around it and the tent of the 90a Squadriglia became surrounded by large craters. The American pilot quivered during the bombing and showed a little fear; to excuse himself, he stated that he was unaccustomed to be at the receiving end of bombers. More huge formations passed over the heads and bombed the other airfields.
The eight Macchis intercepted a reported 70 four-engined bombers escorted by 30 P-38s in the area between Gela, Enna and Caltagirone. The Allied aircraft were returning from a bombing mission over Catania.
Sottotenente Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Veronesi, Sottotenente Libera and Tenente Mettimano each claimed a P-38 in this in combat. Two probables were claimed by Mettimano and Sergente Patrizi. Mettimano, Patrizi, Squarcia and Martelli damaged several bombers. Libera was subsequently shot down and killed in this combat while Veronesi, after receiving hits in the engine and in the water cooler, made a gear-up emergency landing near Comiso.
The Italian fighters landed back at 13:55.
It is possible that they had been involved in combat with P-38Gs from 96th and 97th Fighter Squadrons, which returned claiming five enemy fighters at 13:30. First Lieutenant Gerald Lynn Rounds and Second Lieutenant Russell C. Williams from 97th FS claimed one Bf 109 each. First Lieutenant William Judson Sloan of 96th FS claimed one Bf 109 and one Re.2001 while Second Lieutenant James V. O’Brien from the same unit claimed a second Re.2001.
While the aircraft were refurbished with fuel and ammunition, a MC.202 flown by Sergente Maggiore Patrizi, scrambled. He took off at 14:15 and didn’t return.
At 14:20, three MC.202s from 91a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Bertolaso, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Giulio Fornalé took off for another scramble. It seems that they became involved in combat with B-17s, which were out to bomb Gebrini in the afternoon with a close escort of P-38s while 20 Spitfires from 126 and 1435 Squadrons provided top cover. Bf 109s and Macchis tried to intercept over Gerbini. A Bf 109 was claimed damaged by Flight Sergeant F. K. Halcombe (JK368/V-J) of 1435 Squadron, Pilot Officer Chandler (JK139/V-X) similarly claimed a Macchi damaged, while Flying Officer Geoff White (JK611/MK-M) of 126 Squadron shot down a Macchi. His victim was possibly Sergente Patrizi of the 84a Squadriglia who baled out of his disabled MC.205V near Gibrini. In the combat Leonardo Ferrulli was seen to shoot one of the bombers down, from which three men baled out, along with an escorting P-38 before he was in turn jumped by a flight of Spitfires that had been patrolling over the B-17s. Ferrulli baled out of his damaged MC.202 but was to low, his parachute failing to deploy before he hit the ground near Scordia, killing him. Tenente Bertolaso returned claiming damage to four four-engined bombers while Sergente Fornalé claimed hit on a bomber.
At 15:35 there was a new scramble with Capitano Giannella in a MC.202 and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi in a MC.205. They returned after 30 minutes with no news.
At 17:35, there was again a new scramble by a MC.202 (pilot unknown) and Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini in a MC.205. These two fighters returned at 18:00.
In the late afternoon, a German car arrived at San Salvatore airfield, and Sergente Maggiore Patrizi got out of it, aching all over and with scratches on many parts of his body; the pilot was welcomed with happiness by the personnel that crowded round him to listen to his adventure. He told that he chased a formation of Spitfires; while he was shooting at one of them, another one attacked him at six-o'-clock, and did not let him go, forcing him to jump from his burning aircraft and parachute. He touched down near Gerbini and was picked up by the Germans.
Towards the evening an aircraft from Comiso landed, carrying Sergente Maggiore Veronesi.
From 17:30 to 17:55, Tenente Fabio Clauser of the 90a Squadriglia flew a sortie together with Marescialo Salvatore but they didn’t encounter any enemy aircraft.
Tenente Clauser flew another sortie from 20:00 to 20:15 over San Salvatore.

Buttazzi ended the war with 4 shared biplane victories and a total of 6 shared victories.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  23/12/40 08:30-11:05 1/17 Hurricane (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Azeiz area 84a Squadriglia
  23/12/40 08:30-11:05 1/17 Hurricane (a) Shared probable Fiat CR.42   Sidi Azeiz area 84a Squadriglia
  23/12/40 08:30-11:05 1/17 Hurricane (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sidi Azeiz area 84a Squadriglia
  26/12/40 13:00-15:05 1/22 Gladiator (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  26/12/40 13:00-15:05 1/22 Gladiator (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  26/12/40 13:00-15:05 1/22 Gladiator (b) Shared probable Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  26/12/40 13:00-15:05 1/22 Gladiator (b) Shared probable Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/19 Hurricane (c) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  1942                
  12/06/42 a.m. 1/3 Spitfire Shared destroyed MC.202   NE El Adem 84a Squadriglia
  18/07/42 06:45- ½ P-40 Shared destroyed MC.202   Burg el Arab area 84a Squadriglia
  20/10/42 10:55- 1 P-40 Damaged MC.202   Fuka area 84a Squadriglia
  20/10/42 10:55- 1 P-40 Damaged MC.202   Fuka area 84a Squadriglia
  20/10/42 10:55- 1 P-40 Damaged MC.202   Fuka area 84a Squadriglia
  1943                
  05/07/43 10:25-11:55 1/4 Enemy bomber Shared damaged MC.205   Gerbini area 84a Squadriglia
  05/07/43 10:25-11:55 1/4 Enemy bomber Shared damaged MC.205   Gerbini area 84a Squadriglia
  05/07/43 10:25-11:55 1/4 Enemy bomber Shared damaged MC.205   Gerbini area 84a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 4 shared destroyed, 3 shared probably destroyed, 1 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 6 shared destroyed, 3 shared probably destroyed, 3 and 4 shared damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 274 Squadron, which claimed one CR.42 while suffering one damaged Hurricane. 10o Gruppo claimed one, one probable and one damaged Hurricanewhile suffering one damaged CR.42.
(b) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron, which claimed 2 and 3 probables without any losses, and possibly Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed a damaged CR.42 during the day. The 23o Gruppo claimed 1 Hurricane and 1 Gladiator and the 10o Gruppo claimed 2 and 2 probable Gladiators while losing one CR.42 and getting five more damaged.
(c) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed two probable CR.42s and one damaged without losses. The 10o and 23o Gruppi claimed 3 Hurricanes and 1 probably shot down with another 10 damaged while suffering 3 damaged CR.42s.

Sources:
2o Stormo - Note storiche dal 1925 al 1975 - Gino Strada, 1975 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Desert Prelude: Operation Compass - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2011 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-61421-18-4
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
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo




Last modified 05 May 2012