Sergente Renato Casalini
In June 1942, Sergente Renato Casalini served in the 355a Squadriglia on Sardinia. This unit was at the time equipped with Fiat G.50s and CR.42s. The biplanes were used for convoy escort duties and long rang escorts of S.79 and S.84 torpedo-bombers.
During Operation “Harpoon” between 12 to 17 June 1942, a British convoy sailed from Gibraltar with supplies for Malta. This convoy was heavily escorted by British Naval units including two carriers – HMS Eagle and HMS Argus.
The convoy became heavily attacked by German and Italian air and sea units including 24o Gruppo C.T.
At 10:20 on 14 June, 19 CR.42s from 24o Gruppo C.T. took off from Sardinia together with MC.200s from 7o and 16o Gruppi to escort Italian bombers attacking the convoy for the second time of the day.
Over the convoy the escort became involved in combat with British carrier-based fighters and Sottotenente Giorgio Moretti claimed one Hurricane while Tenente Italo Marchi and Sergente Casalini claimed a shared. Marchi and Casalini was also credited with a shared probable. Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Corti and Sergente Angelo Rizzardo were credited with one probable each.
The Italian fighter totally claimed three Hurricanes destroyed and three probables and one Defiant (probably a Fulmar) while the bombers claimed 14 Hurricanes shot down and six probables! It seems that two Fulmars from 807 Squadron was lost and one Sea Hurricane from 801 Squadron was lost and one was damaged.
The cruiser HMS Liverpool were damaged and the Dutch freighter Tanimbar was sunk during the attack.
807 Squadron claimed two S.79s while 801 Squadron claimed one S.79 shot down, one probable and four damaged. They also claimed two MC.200s and one CR.42 (MM7594). AA fire on the ships claimed five bombers. It seems that two MC.200s, one CR.42, two S.79, six S.84s and one Z.1007bis were lost while three S.79s were damaged.
In the evening the CR.42 were out again to attack the cruiser HMS Liverpool. The cruiser was escorted by a Gibraltar based Catalina (Z2146/B) from 240 Squadron flown by Flying Officer K. J. Riddy, which had been diverted from its anti-submarine duties and ordered to escort the damaged cruiser.
At 17:05, the Catalina was attacked by four CR.42s but Riddy skilfully maneuvered his lumbering flyingboat, enabling his gunners to repel repeated attacks. Nonetheless, Sergente Casalini carried out a number of determined attacks, gaining strikes on the ‘boat’s hull and slightly wounding the W/T operator.
Casalini ended the war with 1 shared victory, this one being claimed while flying Fiat CR.42s.
Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed, 1 shared probable, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed, 1 shared probable, 1 damaged.
(a) In this combat the Italian fighter totally claimed three Hurricanes destroyed and three probables and one Defiant (probably a Fulmar) while the bombers claimed 14 Hurricanes shot down and six probables! It seems that two Fulmars from 807 Squadron was lost and one Sea Hurricane from 801 Squadron was lost and one was damaged.
(b) Catalina (Z2146/B) from 240 Squadron flown by Flying Officer K. J. Riddy damaged and W/T operator slightly wounded.
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-16-X