Sergente Maggiore Cesare Chiarmetta
On the last day of August 1940, the 151o Gruppo C.T. (366a, 367a and 368a Squadriglie) was ordered to move in Libya with 30 CR.42s as a reinforcement for the attack against Sidi Barrani.
The unit under the command of Maggiore Carlo Calosso was one of the first equipped with CR.42s in 1939 and was based in Caselle Torinese near Turin, with sections and Squadriglie detached in different airbases of North Italy for local defence duties.
They departed Caselle Torinese in the morning of 6 September and at 18:20 on 8 September, the whole Gruppo landed in Tripoli Castel Benito.
The 366a Squadriglia formation was composed of ten aircraft: Capitano Bernardino Serafini (CO), Tenente Mario Ferrero (the Gruppo Adjutant), Sottotenente Amedeo Guidi, Maresciallo Giulio Cesare, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella, Sergente Maggiore Dino Carta, Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi, Sergente Maggiore Chiarmetta, Sergente Antonio Camerini, Sergente Eugenio Cicognani. Tenente Piero Veneziani and Maresciallo Giovanni Accorsi followed in the unit’s hack Caproni Ca.133 together with five ground personnel.
The formation of 367a Squadriglia comprised the Gruppo Commander Maggiore Carlo Calosso, the 368a Squadriglia’s pilot Sergente Piero Hosquet and nine other pilots for a total of eleven. Among them were Capitano Simeone Marsan (the CO), Tenente Irzio Bozzolan, Tenente Aldo Bonuti, Sergente Maggiore Gino Bogoni and Sergente Tolmino Zanarini. The Squadriglia’s other six pilots were Tenente Giuseppe Costantini, Maresciallo Bruno Castellani, Sergente Maggiore Rodolfo Benco, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Celotto, Sergente Renato Mingozzi and Sergente Maggiorino Soldati.
The 368a Squadriglia formation was composed of nine aircraft: Capitano Bruno Locatelli (CO), Tenente Giuseppe Zuffi, Sottotenente Furio Lauri, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Maggiore Annibale Ricotti, Sergente Maggiore Alvise Andrich, Sergente Stefano Fiore, Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi, Sergente Mario Turchi. Tenente Orfeo Paroli and Maresciallo Guido Paparatti followed in the Ca.133 of the Squadriglia (Paroli and Fiore were just transferred from 367a Squadriglia).
On 25 September the 151o Gruppo transferred from Benghazi to El Adem where it replaced the 9o Gruppo C.T.
208 Squadron lost another Lysander to the CR.42s on 16 November when Flying Officer Benson was shot down, although his gunner claimed one of the attackers shot down.
The Lysander (L4686) had taken off from Qasaba at 13:30 and was making a photographic reconnaissance of Maktila camp from 18,000 feet when at approximately 15:00 six CR.42s appeared. Three caught up astern and the gunner, Sergeant Phillips, was hit in the leg, but kept firing until his gun jammed. The engine stopped at 100 feet and the Lysander crash-landed at the same moment as a CR.42 hit the ground. Benson was slightly wounded in the thigh. while Phillips suffered a broken leg and was attended by the Medical Officer of the 11th Hussars. Both were evacuated to No. 31 M. R. S. at Fuka.
The six CR 42s were three aircraft from the 366a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Ferrero, Sergente Maggiore Chiarmetta and Sergente Rosario Di Carlo) and three from the 368a Squadriglia (Tenente Raimondo Sacchetti, Sergente Ernesto De Bellis and Sergente Maggiore Annibale Ricotti). The two sections had taken off from Amseat A3 at 13:10 to make a protective flight over Italian infantry in the Buq-Buq - Sidi Barrani area and to escort a Ro.37bis over the Bir El Khraigat area.
Returning from Bir El Khraigat and 30 kilometres south-east of Sidi Barrani, Sergente Di Carlo discovered an enemy aircraft being fired on by the AA 2000 metres higher. The CR.42s started in pursuit and identified their opponent for a Lysander. The British spotter dived at full throttle towards its lines but it was easily followed by the faster Italian biplanes. Tenente Ferrero and Sergente Maggiore Chiarmetta hit it with 1950 rounds until they saw it crash-landing 30 kilometres inside the British lines. Immediately after this, Tenente Sacchetti’s aircraft (MM5580), which was flying at very low altitude and still firing at the Lysander, was seen to suddenly nose up and then crash near the wreck of the RAF machine and burn as if the pilot had been hit by enemy return fire.
Even if a radio intercept that night suggested that Saccheti was found wounded by the British troops it seems that in fact he died. It was the first loss of the campaign for the 151o Gruppo.
At 09:00 on 9 December, two Blenheims were spotted over Amseat. Capitano Bernardino Serafini, Sottotenente Amedeo Guidi, Sergente Maggiore Chiarmetta and Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi of the 366a Squadriglia scrambled immediately but the bombers were able to release their bomb on Sollum ridge, which however didn’t cause any damage.
While Chiarmetta and Marchi were pursuing the enemies, a British fighter (identified as a Spitfire) attacked from out of the clouds. The Italian pilots were able to evade and counterattack but the monoplane escaped into clouds after Chiarmetta had fired a burst of 87 rounds after it. Sottotenente Guidi, who was following the combat from a higher altitude, started in pursuit of the enemy fighter and when the two aircraft were over British territory, south-east of Sidi Barrani, the British fighter turned around and attacked the Fiat CR.42 head-on from a higher altitude. Guidi was able to out-manoeuvre his opponent and hit it with a burst of fire from short distance, seeing the enemy fighter falling down, heavily smoking.
Guidi returned to base at 09:50, claiming a Spitfire shot down.
Chiarmetta ended the war with one shared biplane victory.
Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed.
(a) Lysander from 208 Squadron shot down. Pilot Flying Officer Benson and gunner Sergeant Phillips both WIA.
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
Diario Storico 366a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Diario Storico 368a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Additional information kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.