Biplane fighter aces


General Vittorino Daffara

Vittorino Daffara served in Spain as a fighter pilot from October 1936 through to 1940 using the nom de guerre ’De Pretis’.

Initially he served as a Sergente with the 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio.

In the afternoon on 16 November, there was an air battle between CR.32s providing escort for bombers and four I-16s escorting nine I-15s over Madrid. Starshiy Leytenant Pavel Rychagov’s (CO Escuadrilla Palancar) I-15 was initially hit by return fire from a Ju 52/3m, before being finished off by Sergente Maggiore Brunetto di Montegnacco. Although Rychagov was forced to abandon the aircraft on altitude of only 150 meters, he managed to parachute and survive. He landed in the Paseo de la Castellana, near the War Ministry.
During the same engagement, Sergente Maggiore Daffara recorded his very first individual kill when he shot down an SB.
The Nationalists claimed two fighters while one Italian pilot was wounded but managed to reach his base. The Republicans claimed five victories, two of them by Starshiy Leytenant Rychagov, and one loss (Rychagov).
Rychagov was slightly wounded and during his recovery, the Escuadrilla Palancar was commanded by Petr Pumpur. The two detachments were in turn led by Yevgeniy Yerlykin and Starshiy Leytenant Georgiy Zakharov.

In the afternoon on 19 November, four S.81s, 12 Ro.37s and 18 Ju 52/3ms dropped about 40 tons of bombs on Madrid. Escorting nine He 51s and 16 Fiats fought against a large number of ’Ratas’ and ’Chatos’ (reportedly 33 Republican fighters were counted).
One Ju 52/3m was lost although its Spanish crew survived. Seven Soviet fighters were claimed as destroyed. Capitán Ángel Salas fired off practically all his ammunition against one I-16, which was last seen in a dive behind its own lines (credited as a damaged). Tenente Corrado Ricci of the 3a Escuadrilla claimed an I-16. Capitano Guido Nobili and Sergente Maggiore Daffara claimed two I-15s each.
The Republicans claimed four aircraft destroyed (three fighters and one Ju 52/3m) with two more damaged Ju 52/3ms for the loss of two fighters. Sargento Fernando Roig Vilalta was shot down and killed in an I-15s as was Kapitan Dimitriy I. Zedanov, who crashed to his death in his heavily damaged I-16 two kilometres short of his airfield.
Zedanov, who was leading a section of I-16s, was probably shot down between Madrid and Barajas by Tenente Ricci.

Aniene delivered 12 more CR.32s to Spain during a voyage from La Spezia that ended on 4 February. With this shipment arrived squadriglia commander Capitano Mario Viola (’Viotti’) and an additional 11 pilots – five Sottotenenti and six Sottufficiali.

With the arrival of these new fighters there were now sufficient aircraft in-theatre to organise the CR.32 stormo into two gruppi of three squadriglie each. These took the form of the already established I Gruppo (formerly Gruppo Caccia di Torrijos) (CO Maggiore Tarcisio Fagnani) and including the reformed:

1a Squadriglia (CO Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti from 15 January)
2a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Guido Nobili)
3a Squadriglia (CO Tenente Corrado Ricci (followed by Capitani Luigi Lodi and Mario Viola)
The newly formed II Gruppo (CO Tenente Colonnello Alberto Canaveri) and including:
4a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Vincenzo Dequal)
5a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Armando François from 19 January)
6a Squadriglia (initially remained in reserve, although it was later commanded by Tenente Antonio Larsimont Pergameni)

In the evening on 18 February, 23 Republican fighters reportedly met three ”Junkers” and 17 fighters over Madrid. The Nationalists claimed two I-16s shot down when capitano Guido Nobili and sergente maggiore Daffara shared one between them and teniente Julio Salvador claimed the second.
The Republicans didn’t acknowledge any losses but instead stated that the bombers dropped their bombs when intercepted and they claimed one ”Heinkel” shot in flames as a shared among three pilots (pilots included starshiy leytenant Alekseii Minaev in an I-16 from 1a/21).

Between 16 November 1936 and 4 January 1938, Daffara was credited with six individual and four shared victories.

He later flew with XXIII Gruppo Caccia of the Aviazione Legionaria in 1937- 38 and finally as a highly valued instructor with various Spanish military flying schools.

Daffara claimed 6 biplane victories during the Spanish Civil War.

Promoted for his distinguished service in Spain, Daffara also saw action leading a squadriglia during World War 2.

At 10:45 on 7 December 1941, ten Ju 87s took off with the escort of 16 Bf 109s and twelve MC.200s to attack concentrations of motor vehicles 16 km to the south-east of Bir El Gobi.
The MC.200s were ten fighters from the 153o Gruppo that had taken off at 10:50, together with two photo-reconnaissance MC.200s.
Immediately after the dive they were attacked by about thirty enemy fighters and Maresciallo Daffara reported:

“On 7 December, I took off from Derna airport with aircraft Macchi 200 No 5841 leader of the last section within the Gruppo led by Maggiore Favini (Ace of Clubs Group) to carry out an escort and the following photo-and-film shooting of the Stuka bombardment of the Bir El Gobi zone.
Once I was over the target at an altitude of 4000 metres at 11:30, I distanced myself from the Gruppo (followed as always by my wingman) so as to be better able to make the photo-and-film shooting.
I began to go down immediately after the Stukas and shot the bombardment carried out by them reaching an altitude of 500 metres.
Once I had taken the shot, I made an about turn and got onto the return route trying to catch up with the Group of Macchis that had in the meantime made off involved as they were in escorting the Stukas.
At the same time I observed a formation of about 30 aircraft of the Hurricane and P-40 type higher up, they were already diving down towards the Stukas to attack them. On being unable to warn the Commander of the Macchi formation of the presence of the enemy aircraft, I tried to stop them from carrying out their manoeuvre by rapidly gaining height and so swooping down from behind them.
I managed to carry out the manoeuvre and got on their tail. I machine gunned a Hurricane that was attacking a Stuka. Instantly the British pilot broke off the attack and made off still followed by me towards his territory. A little later I abandoned him to regain contact again with the Stukas. In this very instant, however, I noticed that another Hurricane was trying to attack a Stuka that had broken away from the formation. The greater height I was at enabled me to carry out my manoeuvre before him and get onto his tail so that I machine-gunned his aircraft successfully. The enemy seeing that he was being pursued and the object of my rounds started a rapid dive so as to come within a few metres of the ground followed as always by me, until with an abrupt manoeuvre similar to a spin his plane crashed into the ground at about 20 km north west of Bir El Gobi.
Therefore I reached the Stukas in time to machine-gun another Hurricane whose pilot had to change his plans and make off. I regained the altitude of 800 metres to feel more secure which was still above the Stukas that were flying a few metres from the ground. All of a sudden my attention was seized by the combat in which a Hurricane and a Macchi 200 were engaged. It just so happened that the Macchi had dragged the enemy into my immediate vicinity, so I considered that I was opportune to take him on, especially as I was a few metres higher and very fast. I fired some concentrated bursts at his tail while he tried to get out of harm's way by diving and going from side to side until some light whitish smoke came from the aircraft, he slowed down the speed of his plane so much that I had to close down almost all my plane’s engine so as not to pass him. Therefore he landed somewhat abruptly without the undercarriage in the Giof el Baar area (south-west of El Adem).
I got back with the Stukas in time to see that one of them was trying to make an emergency landing in the desert in the enemy zone.
I again machine gunned another Hurricane that was attacking other Stukas but without seeing the effect.
Finally the remaining enemy aircraft made off in the vicinity of El Gazala There was nothing else happening so I landed at Derna airfield at 12:50 after a two-hour flight.”
It was thought that in the battle that lasted between 15 and 20 minutes six enemy fighters had been shot down (it is not certain if they included Daffara’s) and eight probables. four pilots didn’t return: Capitano Armando Farina, Sottotenente Guido Sturla and Sergente Maggiore Rino Lupetti were all KIA (all from 372a Squadriglia) while Sergente Ernesto Revello (of the 157o Gruppo) became a PoW. Tenenente Cesare Marchesi (372a Squadriglia) had to make an emergency landing near Acroma, while Maresciallo Erberto Rocchetta’s (372a Squadriglia) fighter was damaged and he had to land at Ain El Gazala.
The bombs hit their target. The Germans reported the clash with 30 or 40 enemy fighters divided between Hurricanes and P-40s; three of them were claimed shot down;
Oberfeldwebel Albert Espenlaub of 1./JG 27 claimed a P-40 south-east of El Adem at 11:55
Unteroffizier Josef Grimm of 1./JG 27 claimed a P-40 west of El Adem at 12:05
Leutnant Franz Külp of 6./JG 27 claimed a Hurricane near Tobruk at 12:05.
Leutnant Külp’s Bf 109F-4 trop (WNr. 8425 from 5.Staffel while the pilot was from 6.Staffel) was reportedly shot down by anti-aircraft fire above Tobruk and landed on its belly. The pilot returned to El Adem on foot.
A Ju 87 was missing while a second made an emergency landing. The missing was from 5./StG 2 which was lost in combat east of Bir el Gubi with the pilot Unteroffizier Walter Krug WIA.
During a ”JUMBO” signal warning of an enemy formation in the El Adem zone, 1 SAAF and 274 Squadrons were ordered to intercept it. The twelve 1 SAAF Hurricanes, led by Major ‘Bennie’ Osler, took off from Tobruk at about 11:00 (they had been transferred there from LG 124 in the morning).
As 274 Squadron was still being refuelled it took off slightly late at 11:10. As many as four of the twelve 274 Squadron Hurricanes had to return because of engine trouble. The roles of the two Squadrons are not clear because the respective diaries don’t mention a joint action, nevertheless in view of the claims it is possible that the South Africans were the cover.
At 11:45, 1 SAAF Squadron made out about nine Ju 87s at an altitude of 4000 feet, 10 miles south-west of El Adem. They were in a V patrols with a close cover of an indefinite number of MC.200s and G.50s. The medium cover that was believed to consist of fifteen MC.202s was seen at 7000 feet (none of this type were present). Finally there was the top cover consisting of ten Bf 109s at 10000 feet. The enemy formation must have been on its way back as it was heading west. The 1 SAAF Squadron Hurricanes were flying in pairs side by side, grouped in three sections one of which was at a higher altitude (Blue) to cover the other two that were attacking the bombers. The higher up section was the main concern of the Bf 109s which were top cover. Major Osler reported:
“I was leading the Sqn. on a bearing which the R/T station had given me and when at 9000 feet my attention was attracted by spurts of dust on the ground produced by fire on the formation. I saw a formation of enemy fighters and bombers some 5000 feet below. At this moment I discovered a top cover of Me 109s. They were moving into a position able to deliver an attack upon our formation. I warned the rest by means of the R.T.
The port section of four covered my section and the starboard section while we were going down to attack the lower fighters and bombers. One of these fighters was engaged by myself and after three short bursts delivered by me, the fighter, a Mc.202, which commenced to smoke after the second attack, nosed over after the the third attack to a practically vertical dive earthwards until it impacted and exploded. In conclusion 6 Me 109s made an attempt to assist the fellow I was attacking by coming in a screaming dive through us on their way home.”
In the course of the battle that lasted six minutes the following aircraft were claimed by the 1 SAAF Squadron:
Major M. S. Osler claimed a MC.202 at 11:50 10 miles south-west of El Adem
Pilot Officer J. H. Galyer claimed a Bf 109F at 11:45 10 miles south-west of El Adem
Lieutenant Vivian Penberthy (Hurricane BD626) claimed a Bf 109 10 miles south of El Adem
Lieutenant W. L. L. Herbert claimed a damaged G.50 at 11:50 10 miles south-west of El Adem
23-years-old 2nd Lieutenant Charles Bryant Willson ((SAAF No. 103485) (Lieutenant Kershaw’s wingman), of the Blue section, was shot down in flames and killed at about 20 miles west of El Adem. Lieutenant Penberthy went missing; he was shot down while he was pursuing a Messerschmitt to the ground but he survived as a PoW. Captain ‘Corry’ van Vliet had to make an emergency landing 20 miles south of the base but survived unhurt. Lieutenant ‘Bob’ Kershaw’s Hurricane was badly damaged by cannon rounds and Lieutenant ‘Dicky’ Hojem’s Hurricane was also damaged but both pilots made it back to base.
The South Africans thought that the enemy formation had abandoned the battle in difficulty.
In its turn 274 Squadron sighted 33 enemy planes (15 Ju 87s, six Bf 109s and twelve Macchis) west of El Adem and immediately attacked them. Its pilots observed that the German planes as usual dived and immediately regained height, while the tactics of the Italian fighters were very shoddy. 274 Squadron claimed:
Squadron Leader Sidney Linnard (Z5064) claimed a MC.200 shot down, one probably destroyed and a third damaged
Pilot Officer G. C. Keefer (BD880) claimed a MC.200 and a second damaged
Pilot Officer Patrick Moriarty (Z4015) claimed a G.50 and a Ju 87
Pilot Officer R. N. Weeks (Z4000) claimed a MC.202 as probably destroyed
Sergeant C. R. Parbury (Z5117) claimed a damaged Ju 87 a second destroyed on the ground while it was landing to rescue the crew of another plane that had been shot down
26-years-old Flight Lieutenant Joseph Bedo Hobbs (RAF No. 41926) (BD783), 24-years-old Pilot Officer Frank Howie.Sutton (RCAF No. J/5027) (Z5260) and 35-years-old Pilot Officer John Sarto Gain (RCAF No. J/5043) (Z2395) were KIA..
The two Ju 87s claimed by 274 Squadron are confirmed in the German operational report and the three MC.200s and the G.50 claimed can be connected with the four MC.200s shot down. 1 SAAF Squadron had probably clashed with Bf 109s while 274 Squadron had probably only clashed with the Stukas and Italian fighters. The losses of the Macchis were very heavy, but they made the attackers pay a heavy penalty. There are some inaccuracies in the 1 SAAF and 274 Squadron diaries: the different estimates of the enemy planes encountered; the subdivision of 1 SAAF Squadron in two groups leads to think that it was operating alone. Moreover from 1 SAAF and 274 Squadrons reports only four fighters of Blue section had engaged the Bf l09s. However, this seems improbable seeing that there had probably been as many of 16 of the latter (providing that there wasn't an error in the German operational report). It is difficult to make a case for the two Bf 109s claimed because the only one shot down was Külp’s (8525) over Tobruk due to anti-aircraft fire.

In order to support Rommel’s last advance, at 05:25 on 31 August 1942, twenty MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo took off to strafe three enemy airfields in the Burg el Arab area, 60 km beyond the frontline. The plan was for eight pilots to strafe, while the others were to cover them. The eight pilots were Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis with Capitano Franco Lucchini (CO), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Ezio Bevilacqua and Sergente Livio Barbera of the 84a Squadriglia, Capitano Carlo Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa (CO) and Tenente Orlando Mandolini of the 91a Squadriglia, and Sottotenente Daffara of the 97a Squadriglia, 9o Gruppo.
During the approach, off El Alamein and at 4000 m over the sea, Giannella saw that Bevilacqua, Lucchini’s wingman, had a water leakage in his cooler. Giannella notified Bevilacqua this by gestures (the Italian Allocchio-Bacchini radios were unreliable) and Bevilacqua turned back. Giannella decided to lead him home, so he gestured to his own wingman, Barbera, to continue to follow the Gruppo. However, Barbera misunderstood this communication, and he too followed Giannella. The engine on Bevilacqua’s fighter sized after a couple of minutes and he and parachuted from 600 m into the sea; he swam westward for three hours and reached the shore seven kilometres inside friendly lines. Unaware of this, Giannella landed at Fuka with Barbera (perhaps mistaking him for Bevilacqua).
With the strafing force reduced to five, Maggiore D’Agostinis went inland well before the target. Sottotenente Paolo Berti (84a Squadriglia) spotted two Spitfires below them, but the enemy fighters didn’t attack. The Italians first strafed the southern airfield, finding only few aircraft but an intense ground fire. Subsequently they attacked the other two fields with three passes, each one from a different direction, managing to make the last pass in northern direction towards the sea, in order to minimize ground reaction. Five Lysanders, five P-40s, three Gladiators, an Albacore and an unidentified monoplane were severely damaged, and a lot of material and trucks was destroyed. British fighters scrambled from Alexandria airfields and tried uneventfully to reach the intruders.
On the return flight, the 10o Gruppo’s pilots met and attacked two P-40s, one of which was damaged.

At around 09:00 in the morning on 26 October, seven MC.202s of the 9o and 10o Gruppi (Tenente Giulio Reiner (leader), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Giorgio Bertolaso (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Alessandro Bladelli, Sergente Ferruccio Terrabujo (91a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara (97a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici (90a Squadriglia)) took off to intercept a reportedly eighteen Bostons, escorted by thirty P-40s and ten Spitfires, heading to bomb Fuka. A few minutes earlier, at 08:50, twelve MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo, 3o Stormo, (four from the 70a Squadriglia, three of the 74a Squadriglia and five of the 75a Squadriglia) led by Capitano Mario Pinna (CO of the 75a Squadriglia) had taken off from Abu Aggag for a patrol mission (one of the aircraft was flown by Sottotenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri of the 83a Squadriglia, 18o Gruppo).
Both Italian formations spotted the enemy bombers at the same time and the attack of the 4o Stormo and the 23o Gruppo made the bombers aiming inaccurate, so most of the bombs fell out of the target. Daffara claimed the left wingman of the head formation of Bostons, and damaged two more. Reiner strafed the bomber leader, which began to slip out of formation sideways. He then climbed and found a Spitfire in front of him, fired and hitting it. The Spitfire exploded when hitting the ground 20 kilometres south-east Fuka. Another Spitfire was claimed as a probable by Bertolaso, who also damaged two Bostons. Squarcia, after having damaged several Bostons and a P-40, pursued another Curtiss together with pilots of the 23o Gruppo, and forced it to make a wheels-up landing south of El Daba (the pilot, Sergeant Emy Meredith, was subsequently rescued by the same Squarcia together with Maggiore Simeone Marsan in the Stormo's Fiesler Storch). Bladelli damaged four Bostons and a P-40, but was hit and had to made an emergency landing at Fuka. Another P-40, shared by many, was seen to explode when hitting the ground. Monterumici, after having fired at the bombers, was hit by three rounds from a P-40; one stopped against the head armour, one hit the armoured windshield and one destroyed the instrument panel. Monterumici recalled:

"A sharp overturn when my armoured windshield explode, whose splinters injured my face. Meanwhile, the canopy exploded too and I, while slowing down a bit to take breath, was attacked by five or six P-46 [Note: in the reports of the time, "P-46" probably meant the P-40F], that were firing at me from everywhere. Pieces of the rudder and of the right wing flew off, many bullets hit the fuselage. To escape, I decent to the ground until my propeller touched the ground. Then I shut off the engine, but the aircraft at 700 km per hour seemed to never end to skim over the desert; I'll never forget that endless run [...]"
Monterumici was rescued same day around 18:00 by a companion that was patrolling on a motorcycle, after being missed by an Italian Storch (probably that one of Squarcia).
From the 23o Gruppo formation Bordoni-Bisleri claimed one of the fighters, which crash-landed about 15 km south-east of Fuka and Pinna claimed one probable Boston and a damaged fighter while Sergente Antonio Franciosi claimed a probable Kittyhawk and two damaged Bostons. Sergente Maurizio Mandolesi damaged two fighters and two bombers and all of the Gruppo's pilots damaged twelve aircraft. Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella jumped and parachuted in the El Quteifiya area due to an engine failure. According to some sources Bordoni-Bisleri’s victim was Sergeant J. G. Meredith of 344 Squadron (i.e. the same pilot as was claimed by Squarcia).
It is possible that the Allied fighters were those of 2 Squadron SAAF, whose Flight Lieutenant Pearson claimed a "Bf 109", Flying Officer Burlus claimed a MC.202, Pilot Officer Blignault claimed a probable "Bf 109", Pilot Officer Allen-White and Pilot Officer Lowens damaged respectively a "Bf 109" and a MC.202. It is also possible that 260 Squadron RAF encountered the Italian fighters of the 23o Gruppo and Pilot Officer Aitchison and Meredith claimed a shared MC.202.
Meredith was taken to Fuka but the same evening the 4o Stormo was obliged to hand him over to the Germans by an order coming directly from the HQ.
The Luftwaffe claimed only two planes in these combats (one Kittyhawk each by Unteroffizier Erich Krainik of III/JG 27 and Leutnant Jürgen Harder of III/JG 53).
The Desert Air Force reported a general attack in the Fuka and Daba areas conducted by twenty-four Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron and 2 SAAF covering twelve Bostons and six Baltimores bound for Fuka while twelve Kittyhawks of 112 Squadron escorted bombers. Ten Hurricanes of 274 Squadron covered by others of 127 Squadron, six Kittyhawks of 450 Squadron and seventeen Spitfires of 92 and 601 Squadron were also up, the Spitfire doing a “delousing” sweep. These large formations reported widespread combat with enemy fighters and while no bombers were reported lost five fighters failed to return, one Hurricane of 274 Squadron (Flying Officer Graves MIA), two Kittyhawks of 112 Squadron (Pilot Officer Wright wounded and 21-year-old Flying Officer Keith Ronald Gardener (RAF No. 103554) KIA), and two Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron (Flying Officer Meredith POW and 22-year-old Pilot Officer Charles Edwin Ody (RAF No. 135396) KIA). The RAF claimed eight Bf 109s (in fact only a Messerschmitt and one Macchis were lost).

After a period of rest, on 24 February 1943, pilots of the 10o Gruppo re-joined to reorganize the unit at Bresso airfield, under the command of Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis.
Pilots in the 84a Squadriglia were Capitano Franco Lucchini (CO) (hospitalized), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sottotenente Francesco De Seta, Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Maggiore Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Livio Barbera.
Pilots in the 90a Squadriglia were Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (CO), Sottotenente Sforza Libera, Sottotenente Renato Baroni, Sottotenente Luigi Cima, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni.
Pilots in the 91a Squadriglia were Capitano Luigi Mariotti (CO), Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani, Tenente Alvaro Bondi, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli, Sottotenente Elio Miotto, Sottotenente Guerriero Silvestri, Sottotenente Daffara, Maresciallo Alessandro Bladelli, Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli, Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Terrabujo, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi and Sergente Giulio Fornalé.
On 20 April, the Gruppo transferred to Ciampino Sud for the defence of Rome.

The 5 July 1943 was to become a tough day for the Macchis of 9o and 10o Gruppi with heavy combat and serious losses.
From 07:15 to 09:25 Tenente Giorgio Bertolaso and Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi of the 91a Squadriglia flew a reconnaissance mission from Sigonella over the sea, searching enemy shipping or signs of sunken ships.
At 10:25, 27 MC.202s and MC.205s of the 4o Stormo scrambled to intercept 52 bombers escorted by about 20 Spitfires, that were heading to bomb the airfields around Catania. The 9o Gruppo was led by Capitano Giulio Reiner, while Capitano Franco Lucchini was leading the 10o Gruppo. The 10o Gruppo consisted of the 84a Squadriglia (Lucchini, Sottotenente Francesco Palma, Sottotenente Enzo Dall'Asta and Capitano Luigi Giannella (CO of the 84a Squadriglia) flying MC.202s and Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi and Sergente Livio Barbera flying MC.205s), the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Luigi Cima, Maresciallo Massimo Salvatore and Sergente Maggiore Giambattista Ceoletta flying MC.202s) and 91a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Mecatti (CO), Sottotenente Giovanni Silvestri and Sottotenente Elio Miotto).
Giannella and Palma was a few minutes late to take-off because the ground crew were checking their weapons.
The Italian fighters made a frontal attack over Gerbini ignoring the escorting Spitfires. Two B-17s were claimed by Salvatore and Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) together with some Bf 109s. Lucchini claimed a Spitfire while Reiner, Salvatore and Mecatti claimed a probable bomber each. Three bombers were claimed damaged by Lucchini, Giannella, Mettimano, Dall’Asta and Buttazzi. Additional damaged bombers were claimed by Reiner, Salvatore, Mecatti (who also claimed a damaged Spitfire), Sergente Ettore Chimeri (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia), Cima and Ceoletta.
When the Italian fighters landed again at 11:55, Lucchini was missing. He had been seen by Dall’Asta attacking the bombers against heavy defensive fire and then diving into the ground east of Catania. During the alarm, some of the ground crew also reported to have seen a MC.202 falling with the canopy closed, some kilometres east of the airfield. A car from the unit tried to reach the place, but it couldn't go on due to the bombing of the area. Lucchini’s body wasn’t found until two days later.
Taking part in this interception were also more than 100 Bf 109Gs from I, II and III/JG 53 and I and II/JG 77. They claimed twelve bombers for the loss of four Bf 109s including Major Johannes Steinhoff, Kommodore of JG 77, who force-landed his stricken aircraft.
It seems that the Italian fighters had been in combat with USAAF B-17s from 99th Bomber Group, which were out to attack Gerbini. They were intercepted near Ragusa at 23,000 feet but the escorting Spitfires from 72 and 243 Squadrons intervened. The Spitfires claimed one and one damaged Bf 109 while the bombers gunner claimed 45 enemy fighters shot down! According to American records, three B-17s from the 99th BG (42-29486 and 42-29483 of the 348th BS and 42-29492) were lost during the day.
After this combat, an American pilot of a shot down bomber was brought to San Salvatore airfield.
At 11:55, four aircraft from the 91a Squadriglia scrambled. Tenente Daffara damaged two four-engined bombers, claimed a P-38 shot down and hits on two Spitfires. Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli damaged two four-engined bombers while Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani damaged a P-38.
At 13:00, Tenente Renato Baroni of the 90a Squadriglia scrambled from San Salvatore and had an in-conclusive contact with enemy fighters, returning to land at 15:00.
At 13:25 there was a new alarm and three MC.202s and two MC.205s of the 84a Squadriglia took off flown by Capitano Luigi Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Segente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi. At least three additional Macchis flown by Sottotenente Sforza Libera (90 a Squadriglia), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli (91a Squadriglia) also scrambles.
During the alarm an enemy formation released bombs on San Salvatore airfield; luckily, only a few bombs hit the strip but many others exploded around it and the tent of the 90a Squadriglia became surrounded by large craters. The American pilot quivered during the bombing and showed a little fear; to excuse himself, he stated that he was unaccustomed to be at the receiving end of bombers. More huge formations passed over the heads and bombed the other airfields.
The eight Macchis intercepted a reported 70 four-engined bombers escorted by 30 P-38s in the area between Gela, Enna and Caltagirone. The Allied aircraft were returning from a bombing mission over Catania.
Sottotenente Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Veronesi, Sottotenente Libera and Tenente Mettimano each claimed a P-38 in this in combat. Two probables were claimed by Mettimano and Sergente Patrizi. Mettimano, Patrizi, Squarcia and Martelli damaged several bombers. Libera was subsequently shot down and killed in this combat while Veronesi, after receiving hits in the engine and in the water cooler, made a gear-up emergency landing near Comiso.
The Italian fighters landed back at 13:55.
It is possible that they had been involved in combat with P-38Gs from 96th and 97th Fighter Squadrons, which returned claiming five enemy fighters at 13:30. First Lieutenant Gerald Lynn Rounds and Second Lieutenant Russell C. Williams from 97th FS claimed one Bf 109 each. First Lieutenant William Judson Sloan of 96th FS claimed one Bf 109 and one Re.2001 while Second Lieutenant James V. O’Brien from the same unit claimed a second Re.2001.
While the aircraft were refurbished with fuel and ammunition, a MC.202 flown by Sergente Maggiore Patrizi, scrambled. He took off at 14:15 and didn’t return.
At 14:20, three MC.202s from 91a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Bertolaso, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Giulio Fornalé took off for another scramble. It seems that they became involved in combat with B-17s, which were out to bomb Gebrini in the afternoon with a close escort of P-38s while 20 Spitfires from 126 and 1435 Squadrons provided top cover. Bf 109s and Macchis tried to intercept over Gerbini. A Bf 109 was claimed damaged by Flight Sergeant F. K. Halcombe (JK368/V-J) of 1435 Squadron, Pilot Officer Chandler (JK139/V-X) similarly claimed a Macchi damaged, while Flying Officer Geoff White (JK611/MK-M) of 126 Squadron shot down a Macchi. His victim was possibly Sergente Patrizi of the 84a Squadriglia who baled out of his disabled MC.205V near Gibrini. In the combat Leonardo Ferrulli was seen to shoot one of the bombers down, from which three men baled out, along with an escorting P-38 before he was in turn jumped by a flight of Spitfires that had been patrolling over the B-17s. Ferrulli baled out of his damaged MC.202 but was to low, his parachute failing to deploy before he hit the ground near Scordia, killing him. Tenente Bertolaso returned claiming damage to four four-engined bombers while Sergente Fornalé claimed hit on a bomber.
At 15:35 there was a new scramble with Capitano Giannella in a MC.202 and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi in a MC.205. They returned after 30 minutes with no news.
At 17:35, there was again a new scramble by a MC.202 (pilot unknown) and Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini in a MC.205. These two fighters returned at 18:00.
In the late afternoon, a German car arrived at San Salvatore airfield, and Sergente Maggiore Patrizi got out of it, aching all over and with scratches on many parts of his body; the pilot was welcomed with happiness by the personnel that crowded round him to listen to his adventure. He told that he chased a formation of Spitfires; while he was shooting at one of them, another one attacked him at six-o'-clock, and did not let him go, forcing him to jump from his burning aircraft and parachute. He touched down near Gerbini and was picked up by the Germans.
Towards the evening an aircraft from Comiso landed, carrying Sergente Maggiore Veronesi.
From 17:30 to 17:55, Tenente Fabio Clauser of the 90a Squadriglia flew a sortie together with Marescialo Salvatore but they didn’t encounter any enemy aircraft.
Tenente Clauser flew another sortie from 20:00 to 20:15 over San Salvatore.

At 17:50 on 16 August, four Spitfires from 92 Squadron led by Flying Officer Brendan Baker (EN449) set off to escort to US Warhawks of the 65th FS on an armed reconnaissance north of Messina; two of the Spitfires returned early, one escorting the other which had developed engine problems.
Flying Officer Barker and his Canadian companion Flying Officer Gordon Wilson (JF354) remained with the Warhawks and, five miles south-west of Palmi, sighted five MC.202s or MC.205Vs, which attempted to attack the American fighter-bombers. Wilson diced with three for several minutes until they dived away and were lost in the haze. Meanwhile, Baker was fighting for his life:

"Almost immediately I saw a 205 dive to attack a Warhawk. I closed on this enemy aircraft and after a chase got in bursts which sent it into a spiral dive. It crashed about two miles inland near Rosarno. Three MC205s then made a determined attack on me, one staying 500 feet above all the time, so that I was prevented from climbing, whilst the other two made individual attacks from astern and full beam simultaneously. In one head-on attack my Spitfire was hit, whilst I was wounded in the right leg. I flicked onto the tail of a Macchi and gave it my remaining ammunition. The enemy aircraft burst into flames and disintegrated. During all this time the other two Macchis had clung to my tail, shooting away pieces from behind the cockpit and wings. The engine then threw out glycol and explosions started in the cockpit. I could do nothing but bale out. I was down to 1,000 feet and though my parachute did not open until I was at 300 feet, I landed safely in the sea, two miles off Gioia Tauro..."
Flying Officer Baker was subsequently captured and became a PoW.
Italian records reveal that a dozen MC.205Vs of the 4o Stormo from Castrovillari led by Capitano Mario Mecatti were involved in this action. At 18:30, the pilots reported meeting 15 Spitfires in two sections - obviously mistaking the Warhawks for Spitfires - strafing targets over the Gioia Tauro plain. Four Spitfires were claimed shot down by Capitano Mecatti, Sottotenente Renato Baroni, Tenente Daffara and one jointly by Sottotenente Fabio Clauser and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, the latter also claiming a probable. On returning to base, the nose of Clauser's aircraft was found to be covered in oil from his victim, which he reported crashed near the Stromboli volcano. No Macchi losses were recorded.

Daffara ended the war with 6 biplane victories and a total of 13.

Joining the post-war Italian Aeronautica Militare in 1949, Daffara was transferred to the military reserve in 1987 with the rank of General.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 16/11/36 afternoon 1 SB (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Madrid area 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
2 19/11/36 afternoon 1 I-15 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Madrid area 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
3 19/11/36 afternoon 1 I-15 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Madrid area 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  18/02/37 evening 1/2 I-16 (c) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Jarama area 2a Squadriglia
? 07/12/41 11:30 1 Hurricane (d) Destroyed MC.200   20km NW Bir El Gobi  
? 07/12/41 11:30 1 Hurricane (d) Destroyed MC.200   Giof el Baar area (SW El Adem)  
? 26/10/42 09:00- 1 Boston Destroyed MC.202   Fuka area 97a Squadriglia
  05/07/43 11:55- 1 Enemy bomber Damaged MC.202   Sicily 91a Squadriglia
  05/07/43 11:55- 1 Enemy bomber Damaged MC.202   Sicily 91a Squadriglia
? 05/07/43 11:55- 1 P-38 Destroyed MC.202   Sicily 91a Squadriglia
  05/07/43 11:55- 1 Spitfire Damaged MC.202   Sicily 91a Squadriglia
  05/07/43 11:55- 1 Spitfire Damaged MC.202   Sicily 91a Squadriglia
? 16/08/43 18:30 1 Spitfire Destroyed MC.205   Gioia Tauro plain 91a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 6 and 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 13 and 1 shared destroyed, 4 damaged.
(a) The CR.32s claimed 2 fighters and 1 SB while one Italian pilot was wounded but managed to reach his base. The Republicans claimed 5 victories while losing 1 I-15.
(b) 7 fighters claimed shot down for the loss of 1 Ju 52/3m. The Republicans claimed 4 aircraft destroyed (3 fighters and 1 Ju 52/3m) with 2 more damaged Ju 52/3ms for the loss of 2 fighters.
(c) Not verified with any Republican losses.
(d) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 1 SAAF and 274 Squadrons, which claimed 6 fighters destroyed, 2 probably destroyed and 3 damaged, and 2 Ju 87s (one on the ground) and 1 damaged while losing 6 Hurricanes and 2 damaged (4 pilots KIA and 1 PoW). The 153o Gruppo and I. and II.JG 27 claimed 9 fighters and 8 probables while losing 1 Bf 109 and 5 MC.200 and 1 damaged (3 pilots KIA and 1 PoW). 1 Ju 87 from 5./StG 2 was lost.

A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume One – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN 978-1908117076
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
La Battaglie Aeree In Africa Settentrionale: Novembre-Dicembre 1941 – Michele Palermo, IBN, ISBN 88-7565-102-7
Regia Aeronautica: The Italian Air Force 1923-1945 - An Operational History - Chris Dunning, 2009 Ian Allan Publishing, Hersham, Surrey, ISBN 978-1-906537-02-9
Additional information kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso.

Last modified 23 January 2020