Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sergente Maggiore Ugo Corsi

22 March 1911 – 19 June 1940


Photo kindly provided by GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO.

Ugo Corsi was born in Pirano d’Istria on 22 March 1911.

He served in the 4o Stormo before the war.

Urgo took part in the Spanish Civil War, where he flew CR.32s with the 32a Squadriglia, VI Gruppo.

He claimed two victories in Spain.

On 12 October, the Republican Air Force intervened heavily to support International battalions and tanks in an attempt to break through the enemy lines at Fuentes del Ebro.
At 07:30, nine CR.32s of the 31a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Borgogno) and nine of the 32a Squadriglia (Capitano Ernesto Botto), VI Gruppo, took off from Alfàmen to patrol the area over Fuentes del Ebro. Each Squadriglia was split in two, so the four patrols were led respectively by Borgogno, Tenente Alessio Neri (31a Squadriglia) at 3,500 meters while Botto (“white 3” NC 623) and Tenente Edoardo Molinari (32a Squadriglia) flew at 5,000 meters.
Over Mediana at 07:55, they spotted Republican fighters escorting R-Z light bombers that were seen to retire without bombing because of CR.32s presence. The Republican escort consisted of 13 I-15s from the 1a Escuadrilla of Grupo No 26 (commanded by Kapitan Antonov) and 19 I-16s from 2a and 6a Escuadrillas of Grupo No 21 (led by Starshii Leitenants Pleshchenko and Gusev). Borgogno waved the wings to warn his pilots and then climbed to 4,000 meters to gain an advantage. The Republicans were to pass unaware below them, but over Lerida, before Borgogno could order the attack, a pilot (Sergente Rigolli, “first wingman” of Neri’s patrol) suddenly dived on them, followed by the three of his patrol. Soon the I-15s turned into them. Borgogno had no other choice than to intervene to help his pilots. In the fray, two CR.32s flown by Sottotenente Francis Leoncini (31a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Corsi (32a Squadriglia) collided, and both pilots parachuted. Sottotenente Roberto Boschetto (“Boscarelli”) was hit and made an emergency landing with his damaged fighter. A “Curtiss” was destroyed and another was damaged. Then, Tenente Neri also was shot down and parachuted.
Botto, meanwhile, kept cool enough to stay above and watch the “Ratas”. As the CR.32s were overwhelming the I-15s, the I-16s dived to intervene, but at this point Botto jumped them from 5,000 meters. Botto destroyed a “Rata” over Mediana and dispersed the others, before being hit at his right thighbone by an explosive bullet. He nevertheless managed to reach Saragossa-Sanjurjo and land but the limb had to be amputated. In the combat, Paolo Arcangeletti claimed two additional I-16s while Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Rigolli was shot down and killed. Two more CR.32s returned to base badly damaged. Overclaiming was heavy and the pilots from 31a and 32a Squadriglie claimed four I-15s and nine I-16s.
It seems that two I-16s of 6a/21 were lost (both flown by Russian pilots), one was shot down with the loss of the pilot while the other crash-landed. One I-15 of 1a/26 piloted by a Spanish pilot, crash-landed in friendly territory. Two I-16s and one I-15 returned damaged.
Boschetto, Leoncini and Corsi were captured and returned home after the war. Neri, who tried to defend himself by shooting at his captors with his handgun, was captured, prosecuted and executed on 16 October 1937. Botto, Neri and Rigolli were decorated with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare (Italy's highest military award) after this combat, the last two of them posthumously.
After the combat on 12 October 1937, when Capitano Ernesto Botto lost his leg, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Benassi created the famous ‘Gamba di Ferro’ badge, which was adopted by the whole VI Gruppo depicting an iron leg over an axe.

It was generally accepted that Corsi, a “virtuoso” of aerobatics at near-to-stall-speed was the best aerobatics pilot of the 4 o Stormo, and one of the very best of Italy.

On 12 June 1940, the 2o Stormo’s fighters were joined by those of the 10o Gruppo (84a, 90a and 91a Squadriglie) of the Gorizia based 4o Stormo C.T.. The Gruppo was commanded by Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino and started the war at Tobruk T2 with 27 CR.42s.
At the beginning of the hostilities the 84a Squadriglia C.T. was composed of the following pilots: Capitano Luigi Monti (CO), Capitano Aldo Lanfranco, Tenente Vincenzo Vanni, Maresciallo Emiro Nicola, Maresciallo Mario Bandini, Sergente Maggiore Corsi, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Giuseppe Scaglioni, Sergente Corrado Patrizi and Sergente Narciso Pillepich. The eleven pilots had only eight Fiat CR.42s. It seems that Sergente Maggiore Corsi and Sergente Pillepich didn’t take part in the move of the unit from Gorizia on 7 June but were however in T2 with the unit from at least 13 June and 15 June.
On 12 June, the first fighter of the 10o Gruppo to arrive at El Adem T2 was that of Capitano Luigi Monti, who landed in the morning. His Squadriglia’s mates arrived later, obliged to turn back by the bad weather. Then the other Squadriglie followed.

At 07:45 on 19 June, four Gladiators from 33 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader D. V. Johnson (N5782), Flight Lieutenant G. E. Hawkins (N5765), Flying Officer A. H. Lynch (N5764), and Sergeant Roy Leslie Green (L9043) accompanied by Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes (Hurricane Mk.I P2639) of 80 Squadron and two Blenheim IFs from 30 Squadron took off from Mersa Matruh to patrol between Bug Bug and Sollum.
At 09:40, they sighted a formation of nine Fiat CR.42s (in other sources it is stated that it was five CR.42s and either seven CR.32s or Ro.37s). The Fiats were slightly below and to the port side of the British fighters, who were in an ideal position to make an attack.
Wykeham-Barnes shot down the leader of the Italian fighters whilst he was doing a vertical turn, with a short burst at full deflection. The Gladiators claimed two more CR.42s, but lost 24-year-old Sergeant Green (RAF No. 44754) when he was shot down despite some violent aerobatics.
The returning RAF pilots reported that although the enemy was superior in numbers, they lacked the aggression of the Gladiator pilots and gradually retreated towards the Libyan border. Wykeham-Barnes found it difficult to get his sights on the Fiats, because they were so very manoeuvrable, but eventually one of them made a mistake and he was able to get in a good burst of shells, which caused the CR.42 to dive away with smoke trailing behind it. He did not actually see it crash, but it was later confirmed as being destroyed by the ground forces. The Gladiators and the Hurricane were then forced to break off the combat by lack of petrol and ammunition. On their way back to Mersa Matruh they had to land at Sidi Barrani to refuel and rearm. The Gladiators were back at 10:10 and Wykeham-Barnes at 10:30.
The Italian aircraft had been from the Tobruk T2 based 10o Gruppo C.T. At 08:40, five aircraft of the 84a Squadriglia took off to escort a formation of five Breda Ba.65/A80s of the 159a Squadriglia, 12o Gruppo Assalto and nine CR.32s from the 8o Gruppo, heading to attack enemy vehicles between Sollum and Sidi El Barrani. The Bredas took off at 07:20, commanded by Capitano Duilio Fanali. The Italian fighters of the 84a Squadriglia were flown by Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino, Capitano Luigi Monti, Sergente Maggiore Corsi, Sergente Giuseppe Scaglioni and Sergente Narciso Pillepich (almost certain MM5552). Monti, who was the pilot with the longer war experience insisted with his commander to increase the number of aircraft participating in the escort, but without avail. The assault planes were out in a search-and-destroy mission and firstly they had to find targets. In doing so they started with a pass between Amseat and Bardia, then a second one going beyond Sollum then a third one. In this way, a lot of time was lost and the RAF could scramble its aircraft. The Fiats were over the Bredas, turning at 2000 metres when a number of Glosters and Hurricanes (the Blenheims were not seen at all while the Hurricane was, as usual, misidentified as a Spitfire) suddenly attacked them. After a sharp engagement, three pilots came back to T2. The missing pilots were Corsi and Piragino. A CR.42s (Corsi, who was killed) was clearly seen to fall into the sea after being hit by a Hurricane, while nothing was known of the second CR.42. The Ba.65s came back safely, without seeing enemy planes that were obviously too busy with the 4o Stormo planes and didn’t engage them. However, returning to T2, the Breda flown by Sergente Maggiore Pietro Scaramucci suffered an engine breakdown and crash-landed, being written-off as a consequence.
Sergente Giuseppe Scaglioni returned claiming a Gladiator (probably Green) and a damaged Spitfire, Sergente Pillepich claimed two damaged Gladiators and Capitano Monti claimed a damaged Gladiator. The same evening a “British communiqué” advised that six (!) British fighters were lost in exchange for two Italians. So all participating pilots in this combat were credited with six shared victories because this was the only combat of the day for Italian units. Some days after, a British message dropped on Bardia informed that Piragino was wounded in a leg after crashing at Sollum and prisoner. Scaglioni described the combat:

“Over Bir el Gib we were surprised by a number of Glosters and a Hurricane that attacked with height advantage giving us a lot of trouble. I saw the commander doing a violent overturning while I was doing a break on the left, this manoeuvre put me behind a Gloster that I shot down with my 12,7 mm guns.
I lost sight of the commander immediately and after landing I knew he was missing. In the same combat we lost Sergente Maggiore Corsi shot down by a Hurricane that I attacked trying to distract it from its action but in vain. For sure Corsi was taken by surprise because he was considered a pilot of exceptional skill and the very best aerobatic pilot of the Stormo.”

The nine CR.32s from the 8o Gruppo had taken off at 08:25. The formation included six CR.32s of the 92a Squadriglia (Capitano Martino Zannier, Tenente Ranieri Piccolomini, Tenente Giorgio Savoja, Sergente Maggiore Guglielmo Gorgone, Sergente Nadio Monti and Sergente Ernesto Pavan) and three from the 94a Squadriglia (Capitano Franco Lavelli, Sottotenente Giacomo Maggi and Sottotenente Nunzio De Fraia), which took off loaded with two-kilo bombs with the dual role of escorting the Bredas from the 159a Squadriglia and ground attack.
The formation of the 92a Squadriglia was back at 10:35 claiming the destructions of many trucks (left in flames) with the use of 2765 rounds of ammunition and 96 two-kilo bombs. Tenente Savoja’s aircraft was damaged by AA fire but no enemy planes were noted. Lavelli’s group was back at 10:55 without suffering losses. They claimed the destruction of Sollum’s electrical station by the use of 36 two-kilo bombs but noted enemy fighters that had attacked them. It seems that they also had been engaged by the Gladiators from 33 Squadron, the 80 Squadron Hurricane and the two Blenheims from 30 Squadron.
This was 80 Squadron's first action during the Second World War.

On instruction from HQ 202 Group, Flight Lieutenant Black of 208 Squadron, flew over Bardia on 24 June and dropped by parachute messages from Italian prisoners shot down over Egypt. In this way news on Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino, Sergente Maggiore Corsi and the crews of the two Savoia SM 79s of the 15o Stormo that had collided during the night bombing mission on Mersa Matruh were received.

Corsi was decorated with three Medaglie d'argento al valor militare during his military career.

At the time of his death Corsi was credited with 2 biplane victories.
According to some sources Corsi have been credited with 5 victories but these haven’t been possible to verify and it seems that he in fact should be credited with 2 and 6 shared destroyed.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1938              
1 ??/??/3? 1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain VIo Gruppo
2 ??/??/3? 1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain VIo Gruppo
  1940              
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 and 6 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 and 6 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with 33 Squadron, which claimed four victories for the loss of Sergeant Roy Leslie Green (RAF No. 44754), who was shot down and killed. The 84a Squadriglia claimed six victories for the loss of two CR.42s (Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino POW and Sergente Maggiore Corsi killed).

Sources:
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Ali in Spagna - Giuseppe Federico Ghergo and Angelo Emiliani, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Ali nella tragedia - Giulio Lazzati, 1970 Mursia, Milan, ISBN 88-425-2132-9, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
Aviatori Italiani - Franco Pagliano, 1964 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Aviabrigada X - Alfredo Logoluso, 2001 no. 97, 98 and 99 of Storia Militare (October-December 2001), 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
Diario Storico 92a Squadriglia C.T. kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Diario Storico 94a Squadriglia C.T. kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO
Guerra di Spagna e Aviazione Italiana - Ferdinando Pedriali, 1992 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 23o Gruppo Caccia - Nicola Malizia, 1974 Bizzarri, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il Breda 65 e l'Aviazione d'Assalto - Giancarlo Garello, 1980 Ed. dell'Ateneo & Bizzarri, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Il Fiat CR 42 l’ultimo biplano da caccia Italiano – Nicola Malizia, 2003 Editrice Innocenti, Grosseto, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
L’8oGruppo caccia in due conflitti mondiali - Giuseppe Pesce, 1974 S.T.E.M. Mucchi, Modena, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Le giovani aquile – Antonio Trizzino, 1972 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Ministero della Difesa - Banca Dati sulle sepolture dei Caduti in Guerra
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Desert Air War 1939 – 1945 – Richard Townshend Bickers, 1991 Leo Cooper, London, ISBN 0-85052-216-1, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 29 January 2017