Biplane fighter aces


Capitano Antonio Chiodi Medaglia d'oro al valor militare

12 August 1907 – 31 July 1940

Date Decoration Note
29/09/42 Medaglia d’oro al valor militare (Posthumous) 1940-43
??/??/40 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare O.M.S.
18/08/33 Medaglia d’argento al valor aeronautico  
??/??/40 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare O.M.S.

Antonio Chiodi was born in Udine on 12 August 1907.

Chiodi enlisted in the Italian Air Force on 1931, after a degree in engineering in 1930.

Chiodi took part in Italo Balbo’s air cruise Italy-United States-Italy in 1933.

Afterwards he was transferred to Montecelio’s Flight Test Center (Guidonia after 1937) as test pilot where he began the design of the Caproni-Chiodi CH.1. This was an all metal biplane fighter with fabric and light alloy cover powered by a radial engine 900hp Gnome-Rhône 14K Mistral Major, produced under licence by Isotta-Fraschini.

In 1934, he was assigned to 1a Zona Aerea Territoriale (Air Territorial Region) of Milan and was assigned for the Caproni’s aircraft flight tests.
From 1935 until 1937, Chiodi, as Caproni Chief Test Pilot, tested near 500 airplanes, included 13 prototypes, during 1,596 flights. During his time with Caproni, Chiodi in 1935 built his aircraft, which was purchased by the Regia Aeronautica (price 525,000 Lire) and transferred to Montecelio in July 1935 for the military tests.
The life of the CH.1 was very brief; during taxiing it run into hole on the ground suffering heavy damage to the undercarriage, which was never repaired.

At outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Chiodi served as a fighter pilot in the XXIII Gruppo, flying 53 war missions with the Fiat CR.32.

After returning from Spain, Chiodi returned to Caproni but, just after the Italy’s entry in the WW2, was enlisted as volunteer in the Regia Aeronautica and posted again to the 23o Gruppo, based at Turin-Mirafiori and equipped with Fiat CR.42.

In July 1940 Chiodi served as commanding officer of the 75a Squadriglia of the 23o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which was equipped with Fiat CR.42s

On 12 July the recently arrived 9o Gruppo C.T. was ordered to fly on to Libya, to operate in the desert. To replace the unit two new gruppi of fighter flew in to Sicily, the autonomous 23o and the 17o from 1o Stormo C.T.

On 13 July 1940 eleven CR.42 of 23o Gruppo led by the unit commander Maggiore Tito Falconi made a reconnaissance sortie over Malta’s principal ports. During the sortie the unit claimed two Hurricanes shot down. One was claimed by Capitano Guido Bobba and the other was claimed by Capitano Ottorino Fargnoli and Capitano Antonio Chiodi with Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella and Sergente Maggiore Renzo Bocconi. Their opponents at this occasion had in fact been a single Hurricane and a Gladiator flown by Flight Lieutenant George Burges who had been on readiness when the order to scramble came at around 0200. The Hurricane (P2653), flown by Pilot Officer Dick Sugden of the Hal Far Fighter Flight, was only damaged during the engagement.

At 09:45 in the morning of 31 July, nine 23o Gruppo CR.42s escorted a single reconnaissance S.79 over Malta. Hardly any Hurricanes were now serviceable on the island, and three Gladiators took off to intercept, flown by Flying Officers Peter Hartley (N5519), Fred F. 'Eric' Taylor (N5529) and William ’Timber’ Woods (N5520). As they attacked the formation, the bomber turned away, but a dogfight at once began between the opposing fighters. A burst of fire from the guns of Sergente Manlio Tarantino’s aircraft caused the fuel tank of Hartley’s Gladiator (N5519) to explode, and he baled out suffering from severe burns. Woods shot down the commander of the Italian formation, Capitano Chiodi of the 75a Squadriglia, his aircraft falling into the sea five miles east of Grand Harbour. Chiodi was subsequently awarded a posthumous Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
The returning Italian pilots claimed that they had seen five Gladiators and two of them were claimed shot down. One by the above mentioned Tarantino and one by Capitano Luigi Filippi. Two more Gladiators were attacked by Tenente Mario Rigatti.
South African Flying Officer Roger ‘Jock’ Barber of the Island’s Fighter Flight witnessed the shooting down of Hartley and N5519 from the ground:

“Peter Hartley must have been hit in his centre tank because his Gladiator burnt just like a magnesium flare - an actually brilliant light in the sky, and it was a very lovely day: typical Malta summer day very hot, clear blue sky, no clouds.
He actually baled out after his aircraft caught fire and he fell into the sea. He was very badly burnt, particularly about the knees and arms and face. In those days, we, of course, flew in khaki shirts and shorts and stockings and it was, of course, the exposed portion of his body that got damaged. He spent a very long time in hospital and was eventually evacuated to UK, but I believe made a good recovery and flew again.”
According to at least one report, Gladiator N5519 fell just offshore, close to Ras il-Fenek, in south-east Malta. Hartley was rescued by a boat from Kalafrana and admitted to the Station Sick Quarters suffering from shock and third degree burns. Soon after, he was transferred to the military hospital at Mtarfa. He did indeed return to flying duties in the UK and the Middle East, but was eventually reassigned a ground role due to continuing problems with his injuries.

Capitano Luigi Filippi took command over 75a Squadriglia after the death of Chiodi.

At the time of his death, Chiodi was credited with 1 shared biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  13/07/40 1 Hurricane (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Malta 75a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed.
(a) Two Hurricanes claimed destroyed by Regia Aeronautica. Only one Hurricane (P2653), flown by Pilot Officer Dick Sugden of the Hal Far Fighter Flight, was damaged during the engagement.

3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - C. Lucchini and E. Leproni, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala with translations kindly provided by Birgitta Hallberg-Lombardi
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 1 Volume A - L
Gladiators over Malta: The Story of Faith, Hope and Charity – Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2008 Wise Owl Publications, ISBN 978-99932-92-78-4
Hurricanes over Malta - Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2001 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-91-8
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Storia Aeronautica Italiana
Additional information kindly provided by Carlo Turco.

Last modified 26 February 2024