Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Maggiore Luigi Corsini

21 March 1907 -

Luigi Corsini was born on 21 March 1907.

On 1 October 1931, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo).

In November 1940, Capitano Luigi Corsini served in the 80a Squadriglia, which was equipped with Fiat CR.42s and taking part in the attacks on Malta.

At about 12:20 on 2 November, Italian aircraft were reported high to the north of Malta. This was 20 S.79s of the 34o Stormo under a fairly strong fighter escort. Eleven MC.200s from the 71a and 72a Squadriglie led by Maggiore Bruno Brambilla (top cover), and five CR.42s of the 80a Squadriglia led by Capitano Corsini (close escort) undertook the mission, these squadriglie forming the 17o Gruppo of the 1o Stormo C.T. They reported being involved in a big dogfight with five Hurricanes, Maresciallo Leonida Carozzo claiming one shot down while Sergente Abramo Lanzarini of the 72a Squadriglia was killed when his MC.200 crashed on the island at Zeitun.
261 Squadron had in fact scrambled six Hurricanes of 'B' Flight led by Flying Officer John Waters (Hurricane P3730) and two Gladiators including N5520 in the capable hands of George Burges. It is possible that Sergente Lanzarini was shot down by Pilot Officer Allan McAdam, who claimed a Macchi shot down, while Burges attacked a formation which he identified as compromising eight CR.42s. He thought he had shot one of these down but did not see it crash. He also claimed a second damaged. A second MC.200 was claimed probably destroyed by an unknown pilot from 261 Squadron. It is possible that John Waters claimed a MC.200 in this combat since it's known that he made a claim around this date and this combat is the one that most fits this claim. Thus the second claim should be a 'confirmed'. AA gunners believed they had shot down a bomber.
Bombs fell on Luqa, where an empty hangar received a direct hit, and on Zabbar where four houses were demolished, fortunately without inflicting any casualties.
After the attack a reconnaissance part of from the 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment was dispatched to the crash site of the Italian aircraft at Buleben il-Kbir between Zeitun and Fgura, arriving to find "the whole village...out in the streets". The unit's War Diary also noted that Lanzarini "was quite dead and the Italian equipment was very poor indeed". Lanzarini had baled out of his stricken aircraft only to plummet to his death when the parachute failed to deploy.

After the death of Capitano Nicola Magaldi on 27 November, he was replaced by Capitano Corsini as commander of the 364a Squadriglia, 150o Gruppo Autonomo C.T. This unit was at the time equipped with Fiat CR.42s and taking part in the Greek campaign.

At 10:30 on 21 December 1940, 80 Squadron took off from Yanina for the front in Greece. They were led by Squadron Leader William Hickey and flew in three sections. The first comprised four aircraft and was led by Hickey, the second of three was led by Flight Lieutenant ’Pat’ Pattle and the third trio was led by Flying Officer Sidney Linnard.
Near Argyrokastron three enemy trimotor bombers were seen. They were identified as S.79s, and then three more aircraft with twin tails were seen, recognized in this case as Fiat BR.20s. All six were in fact Cant Z.1007bis aircraft from the 47o Stormo B.T. from Grottaglie. The Italian bombers were attacked by the Gladiators and Pattle believed that he had hit one.
At this moment however 15 CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo appeared on the scene. Maggiore Oscar Molinari, the Gruppo commander, was leading these Italian aircraft on an offensive reconnaissance over Yanina, Paramythia and Zitsa. Seeing the bombers under attack by an estimated 20 Gladiators, the Italian attacked, joined by six other CR.42s from the 150o Gruppo led by Capitano Corsini so that 80 Squadron pilots assessed the number of their opponents at 54!
After 25 minutes, the air battle broke up and eight of the British pilots returned to claim eight confirmed and three probables. Pilot Officer ’Bill’ Vale claimed three, one of them in flames (according to Pattle this was the fighter that shot down Flight Lieutenant Ripley). Vale’s own aircraft was riddled by explosive bullets during the combat. Vale reported:

‘At 1050, ten Gladiators took off from Yannina on an offensive patrol, flying in three flights of four, three, and three aircraft. I was flying in No.3 in the third flight led by F/O Linnard.
On reaching the patrol line “Tally-ho!” was immediately given for three bombers seen going from west to east. The leading flight led by S/L Hickey immediately went into action. At the same moment three more bombers were seen approaching from our port beam. The leader of the second flight, F/L Pattle, immediately turned left and carried out a head-on attack, and my flight leader followed.
I was able to get in a short burst before breaking away. On turning to follow, I observed a large formation of CR42s diving down from above. We immediately climbed to attack and a general dogfight started. I singled out one enemy aircraft who tried to dive away and dived down firing a burst at long range. He pulled up and I got in a full deflection shot from underneath and noticed flames coming from underneath his engine. The enemy aircraft went down out of control and finally hit the ground in flames. I then noticed a single Gladiator low down in a valley being attacked by five CR42s. I dived down and engaged two of them and managed to get behind one and fire a long burst until it suddenly spun out of control and crashed into the valley.
I was then attacked by more CR42s who carried out frontal quarter attacks on me with the superior speed that could out-climb me. I carried out one evasive action and noticed that the Gladiator below me was on fire and spinning down out of control
[this was Sqn Ldr Hickey’s aircraft]. I dived down towards it and saw the pilot leave the aircraft and use his parachute. I was again fired at by a CR42 from above who carried out his attack and then headed away north. When I again looked down I saw the Gladiator in flames on the ground with the pilot going down in his parachute. At the same time I saw a CR42 dive on the pilot and twin streams coming from behind his aircraft. I dived down and managed to get in a surprise attack as he pulled away from the parachutist. I got on his tail and fired a long burst from a single fuselage gun until he turned over out of control and went straight down to crash in the valley.
As I pulled up another CR42 came down very close to my machine, out of control, and crashed quite near to the burning Gladiator. I gained altitude and saw another Gladiator circling above me, and as I was short of ammunition I joined formation and found the other pilot to be F/S Richens, who had shot the CR42, which went past me. I noticed the position of the crashed Gladiator in respect to Argyrokastron and then returned to base.
On landing I inspected my aircraft and found that my lower and upper starboard mainplanes had been hit twice by explosive bullets, one of which had entered the wing ammunition tank and had exploded inside but had done no apparent damage to the structure of the mainplane. The fuselage was hit in several places but with no structural damage.’
Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one CR.42 during the combat, which blew up and another, which spun down (later downgraded to a probable). Sergeant Donald Gregory claimed another two, again one in flames, but his own aircraft was badly shot up with the engine and the undercarriage damaged by a series of frontal attacks from a CR.42s that had also wounded him in the right eye and was barely able to save himself from a “desperate position”. He however managed to return to Yanina and reproted:
‘Turning round in a stall turn I observed the leader [of the 42s] diving vertically whilst the remaining two had split, No.2 going up, No.3 down. As I had the advantage over the lower aircraft I decided to attack this first. He attempted to come up under me but as I was near to stalling, I had no difficulty in bringing my sight round to get in a deflection shot and then turn astern on him. Followed him down. At the same time I observed the leading aircraft crash on a hill and burst into flames. This dive was very steep, so much so, that I very nearly hit the ground with the 42. When I pulled up sharply out of this dive the third 42 came past and then pulled up underneath me into such a position that we could both get in quick deflection shots.
This happened three times and each time we missed colliding by inches, so that after each attack I had to find him again. Quite naturally this developed into a head-on attack, the first of which I slid out of. As the following attack was also head-on I became rather worried. I brought him into my sights, fired, ducked down behind my engine for cover, at the same time pulling back on the control column.
Immediately after this my right eye became warm and I found I had lost my sight in this eye. It took me some seconds to get used to this, as I would try to look towards the rear on the right side, but all I saw was the extensive damage to the centre section, starboard lower plane and a flying wire that had broken. I seem to remember at this point that he came at me from below and we had another deflection shot at each other, but as I had seen him so often in this position it may have stuck in my mind. However, I do remember I decided that my position was desperate and I weighed up the ground that was to receive me below. When I was overcome by a wave of determination, possibly due to the fact that when I was hit and saw the blood I turned my oxygen on at full strength. I pulled up in a loop and rolled off the top into a tight turn back into the direction I had come from. I looked at my compass but it seemed blurred. Although I could see the sun, I could not convince myself which direction to fly.
Diving down into the valley seemed to be the only means of escape. I was unable to look behind, as this brought on pain in my eye. At one period my sight was so blurred that I could not decide whether I was being chased by CR42 or if it was AA fire. Fortunately it was the latter. I discovered my position to be ten miles north of Valona at four thousand feet. As I could use only sixteen hundred revolutions due to damage to the rocker arm, causing excessive vibration, it took forty minutes to return to base where a landing was made under difficulties due to damage to eyesight and to undercarriage.’
Sergeant Gregory was recommended for an immediate DFM. Pattle and Warrant Officer Sid Richens also claimed one CR.42 each, Pattle reporting that his victim fell in flames, whilst Flying Officers W. B. Price-Owen and F. W. Hosken both claimed probables. However Flight Lieutenant Henry Derek Ripley (RAF no. 70575) in N5854 was seen to be shot down in flames and killed, while Squadron Leader Hickey was spotted bailing out of N5816; sadly his parachute caught fire, and he died from injuries soon after reaching the ground. Greek troops recovered the bodies of both pilots. Of Hickey’s death Vale reported:
‘The Gladiator was flat-spinning too. Suddenly the pilot hurled out of the cockpit like a black ant and the white burst of his parachute spreading in a puff … the parachute burst into flames and the sudden black smudge as its slow speed became a lightning streak of charred smoke and the black figure of the Gladiator pilot hurtling two thousand feet down to the black earth.’
Linnard’s aircraft (N5834) was also badly hit and he was hit in the left calf by an explosive bullet and was taken to hospital after landing at Yanina. Flight Lieutenant Pattle noted:
‘Enemy fighters used a definite plan of attack. Attacking from superior height they maintained that height by attacking the Gladiators singly and in quick succession and climbing after each attack, the Gladiators, forced to evade, were unable to climb.’
And also
‘for fully five minute I was kept on the defensive without being able to fire a shot in return.’
In return the 160o Gruppo pilots claimed six Gladiators, two each by Maggiore Molinari and Tenente Edoardo Crainz (in CR.42 ‘394-7’), and one apiece by Tenente Eber Giudici (his aircraft was damaged by enemy fire) and Capitano Paolo Arcangeletti. Probables were claimed by Tenente Torquato Testerini, Sergente Maggiore Francesco Penna and Sergente Maggiore Domenico Tufano. The 150o Gruppo pilots claimed two more Gladiators when Capitano Corsini claimed one Gladiator and a probable while Sergente Maggiore Virgilio Pongiluppi claimed one Gladiator; both pilots were from the 364a Squadriglia. The 47o Stormo gunners claimed one more and a probable. As in the case of the British fighters, actual Italian losses totalled only two aircraft, Tenente Mario Gaetano Carancini and Tenente Mario Frascadore of the 160o Gruppo being lost, while Maggiore Molinari was wounded in the right foot and force-landed near Tepelene in a dry river-bed with a damaged engine (it seems that the aircraft was written off).

On 26 December, six 364a Squadriglia CR.42s led by Capitano Corsini intercepted eight Blenheim Is from 211 Squadron that were bombing the Himarë-Valona road.
Blenheim L1482 flown by Pilot Officer R. V. Hubert and with the crew of Sergeant J. B. Dunnet and Sergeant Hughes had taken off from Menidi/Tatoi at 10:00 to bomb the Himarë-Valona road and Krioner, Albania. They were hit by enemy fighters, which damaged the hydraulics. They belly-landed at Menidi on return and the Blenhiem was damaged beyond repair.

During a strafing attack on Katzika airfield by three CR.42s on 17 March 1941, AA fire hit Corsini’s aircraft, forcing him to bale out over Italian held territory during his return flight.

Capitano Corsini left the command of the 364a Squadriglia, 150o Gruppo, in November 1941 when Capitano Mario Bellagambi took command of the unit. Bellagambi commanded the unit until the end of the war in September 1943.

He was promoted to Maggiore on 16 December 1941.

In 1943, he served in the 15o Stormo.

Corsini ended the war with 1 biplane victory.
He was decorated with two Medaglie d’argento al valor militare, the Croce di guerra al valor militare, the Medaglia d'argento militare aeronautica di lunga navigazione aerea, the Croce al merito guerra and the Medaglia commemorativa operazioni militari in A. O. I. during the war.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
1 21/12/40 10:30- 1 Gladiator (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Argyrokastron area 364a Squadriglia
  21/12/40 10:30- 1 Gladiator (a) Probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   Argyrokastron area 364a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed, 1 probably destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed, 1 probably destroyed.
(a) The Regia Aeronautica claimed 9 and 5 probables while suffering 2 aircraft lost and 1 one force-landed. The 80 Squadron claimed 8 and 3 probables while suffering 2 aircraft lost and 3 damaged.

Sources:
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Royal Air Force Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean, Volume 1: 1939-1942 - David Gunby and Pelham Temple, 2006 Midland Publishing, ISBN 1-85780-234-9




Last modified 05 September 2016