Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Maresciallo Aldo Buvoli

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Sergente Aldo Buvoli took part in the Spanish Civil War from 23 December 1937 until 24 September 1938, using the nom du guerre Aldo Briotti. During his time in Spain he served in the 19a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo, flying the Fiat CR.32.

On 10 March 1938, Sergente Buvoli (19a Squadriglia) claimed a shared I-16.

During the afternoon on 23 May, the XXIII Gruppo escorted 20 S.79s and five BR.20s over the Balaguer bridgehead in Catalonia in support of the Spanish Nationalist Army. The XXIII Gruppo clashed with 25 I-15s, of which six were claimed shot down (one of them seems to have been claimed by Sergente Buvoli from the 19a Squadriglia), for the loss of Maresciallo Mario Boschelli of the 19a Squadriglia, who was killed.
About half an hour later, at 14:35, Maggiore Armando François led 28 CR.32s from his XVI Gruppo on an interdiction patrol over the area. The Italian formation consisted of 12 fighters from the 24a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Luigi Bianchi, nine machines from the 25a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Roberto Fassi, and seven CR.32s from the 26a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Vincenzo La Carubba.
As the Fiat fighters of XVI Gruppo approached the bridgehead to escort the last of the S.79s home, they attacked nine Republican Tupolev SBs when they were set upon by 27 I-16s of Grupo de Caza No 21. Diving on the Italian aircraft from 19,000 ft, the Republican machines enjoyed a height advantage over the CR.32s. Nevertheless, Maggiore François successfully led his fighters against the enemy machines. Indeed, the XVI Gruppo pilots claimed five ’Ratas’ destroyed and three more probably destroyed and one SB. One of the confirmed fighters was credited to Maggiore François, whose aircraft was shot up during the engagement. Sottotenente Mario Visintini of the 25a Squadriglia took part in this combat and claimed a pair of I-16s damaged.
In return, XVI Gruppo lost two CR.32s in a mid-air collision while chasing an I-16 when Tenente Pericle Baruffi of the 26a Squadriglia and Sottotenente Alfonso Caracciolo of the 25a Squadriglia collided; both parachuted and were captured. Three biplane fighters were also damaged by enemy fire.
Republicans admitted the loss of three fighters and a bomber. Soviet patrol leaders Leitenant N. I. Marthishchenko from 2a Escuadrilla and Leitenant I. I. Turchin from 5a Escuadrilla, both of whom were flying newly delivered Tip 10 versions of the I-16, perished in this clash. The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed one CR.32 and one He 111 during the day; the CR.32 seems to have been shot down by Nikifor Livanskii (I-16).

At 12:15 on 18 July, two 12-aircraft formations of CR.32s from XXIII Gruppo were taking it in turns to patrol over the Viver front south of Barracas. The formations, led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti and Capitano Guido Nobili, were flying at altitudes of 3,600 meters and 4,000 meters, respectively, when they spotted 24 I-15s from Escuadrillas 1a and 3a of Grupo No 26 on a strafing mission. The biplane fighters were escorted by 24 I-16s from Escuadrillas 2a, 3a, 4a and 5a of Grupo No 21, which were flying above them.
The CR.32 pilots engaged the monoplane fighters and Maggiore Zotti described the well-tried tactics adopted by the enemy in his after action report:

“The Ratas tried to fragment our compactness into a widespread battle, reduce our operational height and bring the broken formation down into the “Curtiss fighters’” engagement zone - a restricted combat zone that would have put us in a disadvantageous position.”
Despite the Republican tactic, most Italian pilots stayed in formation and manoeuvred without losing height. The I-16s were tackled first in an engagement that lasted ten minutes, with Republican documents showing that three Polikarpovs were lost and two pilots killed. However, it appears that these aircraft were shot down by Legion Condor Bf 109s that had independently joined the battle at a higher altitude - German pilots claimed to have shot down three Ratas in the vicinity of Segorbe. Three more I-16s were hit by CR.32s or Bf 109s and had to make emergency landings. Two of the fighters collided whilst landing back at their base and one was destroyed, although both pilots survived.
One of the I-16s that force landed at Utiel airfield was flown by flight commander, Starshii Leitenant Sergey Gritsevets of 5a/21. His fighter on this occasion was one of the new four-gun I-16 Type 10s recently delivered to Spain. Gritsevets’ aircraft had suffered 25 hits from the guns of CR.32s, although he had also enjoyed success during the dogfight. Indeed, he was credited with two Fiat fighters destroyed, one of which was the aircraft flown by Capitano Giorgio Frattini, second-in-command of the 18a Squadriglia, which fell near Altura (his body was never found). Capitano Antonio Raffi (CO 18a Squadriglia) was also hit when an I-16 Type 10 flown by patrol leader Nikolay Prokofevich Zherdev intentionally collided with the tail of his CR.32. Zherdev managed to return to Utiel, thus saving his aircraft, but Raffi was forced to bail out over enemy territory in the vicinity of Teresa, where he was taken prisoner.
Zotti’s report concluded:
“Having seen off the Ratas, which suddenly vanished, our CR.32s turned their attention to the “Curtiss fighters” that had dived down low in order to engage us in close combat. This tactic left us with no room for a diving attack. In the second action, which lasted a good 20 minutes, we resisted the temptation to make individual attacks. Instead, we remained in formation, thus forcing the Republicans to fight us as a unified mass that dominated the battle from a higher altitude. During this second combat five “Curtiss fighters” were shot down.”
Two I-15s had actually been downed by the CR.32s, one from 2a Escuadrilla crashing near Chelva and a machine from 3a Escuadrilla falling in Nationalist territory. According to Teniente Calvo Diago of 2a Escudarilla, all the unit’s fighters had been hit in the action. One of the lost I-15s fell in flames after it was attacked by Zotti, but not before it had shot down Sergente Danilo Vestrini’s CR.32. His fighter also ablaze, the badly wounded Italian pilot parachuted into enemy territory between Alcublas and Altura, where he was captured. Concluding his report, Zotti wrote:
“Personally, I had fired 745 rounds during the 30-minute combat. Initially, I had attacked three Ratas without success, before going after six or seven “Curtiss fighters”, two of which I abandoned [one was the I-15 chasing Vestrini’s CR.32] after I saw that they were trailing dark smoke. I landed at Teruel airfield at 1355 hrs when I ran low on fuel.
Nationalist intelligence deciphered a “Red” air force signal during the evening of the 18th saying that following the day’s fighting about 15 of their aircraft were missing and no news had been heard of them. From the accounts of pilots that had taken part in the battle it emerged that eight Ratas and five “Curtiss fighters” had certainly been shot down, with the probable destruction of a further two Ratas.”
Flying with Zotti was Maggiore Aldo Remondino (“Remotti”) on his first combat mission and who was designated to succeed Zotti. Later, Remondino recalled this action, which can give an idea on a typical Spanish War dogfight (“la lucha de perros” in Spanish):
“… I was looking above and below to avoid surprises. I spotted, higher at right, a formation of “Ratas” which was diving on us. I immediately turned into to chase them, while at lower height the combat against “Chatos” was going on. I shot on the first “Rata” that went in front on me, but I was attacked at the rear by three “Ratas”, that went away as another CR.32 intervened. Then I shot at two other “Ratas” and I reached 3000 m, where I spotted a “Curtiss” below me. I attacked, shooting at it by close distance quite until the ground […]
I fought with another “Rata” that however dived to escape. After returning in combat area, I saw no more enemies. I landed to Teruel with two other CR.32s, having no enough fuel to reach Puig Moreno.”
It seems that Sergente Buvoli of the 19a Squadriglia claimed one I-16 and a shared I-15 in this combat.
1.J/88 (Bf 109) claimed two and one unconfirmed I-16s. These were claimed by Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann, Unteroffizier Ernst Quasinowski and Feldwebel Erich Kuhlmann (the unconfirmed) while Leutnant Walter Oesau, Stab J/88 (Bf 109) claimed an I-16.
Republicans declared to have fought against about 100 CR.32s and Bf 109s and claimed nine Fiats and a Messerschmitt, but admitted the loss of three “Ratas” and two “Chatos”. It seems that the Bf 109 was credited to capitán José María Bravo Fernández, CO 3a/21 (I-16), since he claimed a destroyed Bf 109 during the day. Republican fighter pilots Vicente Yuste Gorbatón (3a/21?) and Belmonte was killed in combat in the Levante area.

On 23 August, Sergente Buvoli of the 19a Squadriglia claimed a shared I-16.

During his time in Spain, Buvoli claimed 2 and 3 shared victories.

In July 1941, Maresciallo Buvoli served in the 378a Squadriglia, 155o Gruppo CT.

On 9 July 1941, seven Blenheim IVs from 110 Squadron took off from Luqa, Malta, to attack Axis shipping in Tripoli harbour. The Blenheims claimed direct hits on four merchant vessels, one which was estimated to be 12,000 tons, two of 10,000 tons and one of 7,000 tons. Losses were heavy however, four Bleheims failing to return. Squadron Leader D. H. Seale (Z6449; crew Flight Sergeant F. B. Mulford and Flight Sergeant W. H. McDougall) was seen to force-land in the sea while Pilot Officer W. H. Lowe (Z9578; crew Sergeant R. E. Baird and Sergeant H. Lummus) was short down and they were reported missing and KIA with their crews. Flight Lieutenant M. E. Potier (Z9537) was shot down and killed while his crew of Pilot Officer T. Griffith-Jones and Sergeant D. H. Wythe became prisoners. Sergeant W. H. Twist (Z9533) was shot down a few miles north of Tripoli, he and his crew (Sergeant D. W. Allen and Sergeant S. W. Taylor) becoming prisoners.
Italian fighters had been scrambled in time and managed to intercept the bombers effectively. Flying at 1,500m at about 16:00 Maresciallo Buvoli (G.50bis MM6384) from the 378a Squadriglia spotted a formation of four Blenheims, followed at a distance by a fifth. He shot down one over the port and a second over the sea after a long chase. Two CR.42s from the 151o Gruppo flown by Maresciallo Paolo Montanari of the 366a Squadriglia and Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi of the 368a Squadriglia also intercepted the bombers claiming one shot down each.
Ambrosi was later awarded the Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare.

Buvoli was shot down and became a PoW on 23 June 1942.

Buvoli ended the war with 2 biplane victories and a total of 8.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1938                
  10/03/38   1/? I-16 Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   SCW 19a Squadriglia
1 23/05/38 p.m. 1 I-15 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Balaguer 19a Squadriglia
2 18/07/38 12:15-13:55 1 I-16 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   S Barracas 19a Squadriglia
  18/07/38 12:15-13:55 1/? I-15 (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   S Barracas 19a Squadriglia
  23/08/38   1/? I-16 Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   SCW 19a Squadriglia
  1941                
3 09/07/41 16:00 ca 1 Blenheim (b) Destroyed Fiat G.50bis MM6384 Tripoli area 378a Squadriglia
4 09/07/41 16:00 ca 1 Blenheim (b) Destroyed Fiat G.50bis MM6384 Tripoli area 378a Squadriglia
  1942                
5 23/06/42   1 Spitfire Destroyed Macchi C.202 MM7849 Tripoli area 378a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 and 3 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 8 and 3 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with I-15s from Grupo No 26 and I-16s from Grupo No 21.
(b) Claimed in combat with Blenheims from 110 Squadron, which lost four Blenheims corresponding with four Italian claims.

Sources:
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume One – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN 978-1908117076
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Additional information kindly provided by Gianandrea Bussi and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 18 April 2017