Biplane fighter aces


Sottotenente Rinaldo Damiani

Date Decoration Note
??/??/38 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (1st) O.M.S.
??/??/40 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (2nd) O.M.S.

Rinaldo Damiani was born on 14 August 1910 and was from Vicenza.

Damiani served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil war where he served as a Sergente Maggiore in 130a Squadriglia. In this unit, he flew Macchi M.14bis off Majorca Island in the summer of 1937.

In November 1940, Maresciallo Rinaldo Damiani served in the 97a Squadriglia of the 9o Gruppo C.T., which was equipped with CR.42s.

On 20 November, 208 Squadron despatched two Lysanders to reconnoitre an area bounded by Sollum, Sofali and Buq-Buq. They were L4724 piloted by Flight Lieutenant Burnard and L4728 piloted by Pilot Officer Waymark that took off from Qasaba at 14:20 and 14:15 landing back at 16:35 and 16:20 respectively (another Lysander, possibly L6874, an attached 6 Squadron aircraft piloted by Flying Officer T. H. Davison, was out in the same area). 33 Squadron provided nine Hurricanes (including Flying Officer Vernon Woodward (N2498), Flight Lieutenant Ernest Dean (P 3818), Flying Officer John Mackie (P3724), Squadron Leader Charles Ryley (P3970), Flight Sergeant Harry Goodchild (N2640), Flying Officer Frank Holman (P3724) and Pilot Officer Charles Dyson (N2640)) as escort. It is possible that the unaccounted pilots were one or two pilots from 274 Squadron since a quartet of Hurricanes from this Squadron, piloted by Flight Lieutenant R. V. Evers-Swindell, Pilot Officer Ernest Mason, Pilot Officer Thomas Patterson and Second Lieutenant Frederick Johannes Joubert, together with Pilot Officer Strange and Second Lieutenant Bester (who followed with the ground party) were detached on attachment to 33 Squadron on 14 November. On 21 November, Evers-Swindell, flew back from Fuka to have repairs on his fighter, reportedly damaged in a running fight with CR.42s. It seems almost sure that the "running fight" was the below described action, so it is possible that R. V. Evers-Swindell was present.
The escort took off from Fuka Satellite airfield at 14:15, with one section of three protecting each Lysander while a third section provided top cover. At the same time, a formation of six Gladiators from 112 Squadron would sweep the same general area.
East of Sidi Barrani, 18 CR.42s intercepted them and one Fiat half-rolled and dived away after being fired on by a Hurricane. It is possible that this aircraft later was credited as a destroyed to Flying Officer Mackie, who in a letter sent home to Canada on 4 December recalled:

"Just before I went on leave we had one of two bits of fun up here. On one occasion, you may have heard about it on the radio, fifteen of us got mixed up with sixty wop fighters. We lost none, and got at least eight of them. I got one of these, although not in a very convincing way from my point of view, as I didn't see it go in. Another pilot saw the start and the finish of it. Anyhow, it sure was a mix-up. I have never seen so many machines milling around in such a small amount of sky."
However, after this both sides started to guard each other without giving battle with the Italians uncertain to tangle with the faster Hurricanes and the British finding it difficult to close in on their more manoeuvrable opponents.
The Hurricanes of the two sections dealing with the direct escort of the Lysanders now started to brake off since they were being out-manoeuvred by their opponents and at this moment a huge formation of a reportedly 25-30 Italian fighters was seen higher. The top cover section of 33 Squadron climbed to engage but reportedly without avail because the Italian turned back towards Libya without engaging.
The Italian formation was composed by 18 aircraft from all three Squadriglie of the 9o Gruppo led by Maggiore Ernesto Botto (at the head of the 73a Squadriglia). Six of the CR.42s were from the 96a Squadriglia (Capitano Roberto Fassi leading Tenente Aldo Gon, Sottotenente Carlo Agnelli, Sottotenente Armando Moresi and Sergente Vittorio Pozzati together with 4o Stormo's adjutant, Capitano Mario Pluda), five were from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Maresciallo Mario Ruffilli, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Valle and Sergente Santo Gino) and six were from the 97a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni, Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio, Maresciallo Damiani, Sergente Francesco Putzu and Sergente Franco Sarasino). They had taken off from El Adem at 14:40 to cover Italian troops in the Bir Enba area (and probably indirectly escorting a reconnaissance plane) when Botto discovered a Bristol Blenheim escorted by several Hurricanes flying lower and attacked.
At this moment, with the 9o Gruppo's attention focused elsewhere, the 112 Squadron's Gladiators intervened and managed to surprise the Italian formation over Sidi Barrani. They claimed eight of the Fiats without losses. All of the six pilots made claims and Flight Lieutenant R. J. Abrahams claimed one and one shared with Pilot Officer Richard Acworth, who also claimed one additional. Flying Officer R. J. Bennett claimed one, Pilot Officer Alfred Costello claimed one, Pilot Officer Leonard Bartley claimed two and Sergeant 'Paddy' Donaldson finally claimed one. 112 Squadron didn't record any losses in this combat even if Pilot Officer Acworth in his memories spoke of a couple of planes obliged to force-land and the unit's aircraft retuned to Fuka between 16:20 and 17:25. For this one-sided action, they were noted in the press for the first time.
Richard Acworth remembered this combat in a short story written in the 1960's but never published.
"The Lysanders were to be 'covered' against enemy air attacks by six Gladiators from my squadron - three flying at 12,000 feet, and three, led by myself, at 15,000 feet. 'Top cover' was to be provided by six Hurricanes, flying at 20,000 feet. The Hurricanes had strict orders to beat a hasty retreat if they met with enemy aircraft in large numbers, as it was thought at that time that they would be 'easy meat' for the move manoeuvrable C.R. 42 s, the single-seater Italian opposite number of the Gladiator.
We had been patrolling for about 10 minutes, when I reported forty CR 42s, in eight sections of five, flying from the direction of Libya, at approximately 25,000 feet, 5,000 feet higher that the Hurricane 'top-cover'. To my dismay, the Hurricanes were soon speeding home, with a CR 42 sitting neatly on each tail. Our six Gladiators were left to finish the fight, for the Lysanders, their task completed, were heading for home, too.
There was not a friendly cloud in the sky, and the powerful desert sun made the enemy aircraft very difficult to see. Forthwith, they carried out the German tactics of remaining aloft, and sending down their more experienced men to finish us off one by one .but it was not to be!
With the first attacks, we broke formation, and it was every man for himself. I soon found myself very much alone, until unfriendly tracer bullets from behind, passed through the space between my right wings. I immediately steep-turned to the left, and caught sight of my attacker as he completed his dive and prepared to re-join his pals up higher, by means of a roll off the top of a loop.
Seizing my chance, I opened full throttle and followed him to the top of his loop, half rolled in formation with him, and was just about to open fire, when my aircraft stalled and flicked into a spin .not enough speed! I decided my best means of survival was to continue the spin, in the hope that he would think I had been badly hit. This was a fighter tactic from World War I, and it worked! Whilst I was spinning, I looked upwards and caught a glimpse of my adversary circling at his original height, waiting for me to crash into the desert. I came out of the spin at about 8,000 feet, no doubt much to his surprise, and didn't have to wait long for him to dive down to finish me off.
So started a long tail-chasing session. At first, my mouth became rather dry, but after a second or two, my mind became crystal clear, and I was determined to turn the tables on him. Slowly I began to gain ground, and soon part of his tail was in my sights, but I realized it would not have been great enough. When his engine came into my sights, I pressed the firing button, and was immediately cheered to see pieces of fabric or metal ripping off his fuselage, just behind the cockpit.
The Italian pilot turned so quickly in his mad effort to escape, that he pulled his aircraft into a spin, following a 'high-speed stall'. I followed him down, and fired at him as he tried to recover, and he promptly went into another one. On recovering from his second spin, he must have pulled an emergency boost control to give him extra speed, for he left my Gladiator 'standing'.
However, my opponent was not easily scared, and turned about a mile away to come back at me like a bull at a gate. We both opened fire, and when it seemed that a head-on collision was inevitable, he pulled out to my left in a climbing turn. For a second, I was able to fire at his exposed fuselage, and then, with throttle fully open, I climbed into the sun, into an advantageous position. To my horror, my engine stalled near the top of the climb, and I had to carry out the usual drill of closing the throttle and opening it again, slowly. Full power came back, and looking down, I could see my opponent looking for me. This time, I had the advantage of height, and I was nicely lining him up in my sights when he saw me, and tried to turn in underneath me.
Slowly twisting, and with the right deflection, I raked him with bullets from nose to tail, at almost point-blank range. I pulled out of my dive, to regain height, and saw him commence another spin from which he did not recover. I felt immensely relieved, somewhat shaken, and eventually joined up with two stray Gladiators, and returned to Mersa Matruh. I was pleased to learn later that seven aircraft had been shot down in the engagement, and that all the Gladiator pilots had survived the fight, although two had made forced landings.
I shall never forget that day. It was my first one-against-one air battle, and the longest time I had engaged a single enemy aircraft..."
The 9o Gruppo actually lost only three shot down and four damaged but two pilots were killed. The three shot down pilots were Sottotenente Carlo Agnelli of the 96a Squadriglia, who was killed, Sergente Francesco Putzu of the 97a Squadriglia, who was killed, and Tenente Gon (who usually flew CR.42 MM5605/96-2), who recalled:
"This day [strangely enough he recorded it as on 1 November but this is for certain an error] I lost the dearest of all my wingmen [Carlo Agnelli]. We were up with all the Gruppo and the three Squadriglie were stepped at different heights. The lowest escorting a reconnaissance plane, mine (96a Squadriglia) at 3000 metres while the third stay higher. The highest group had already engaged the enemy when I saw one of our planes diving almost vertically followed by a Gloster. I made a violent overturning that my wingmen were unable to follow [again without radio equipment the Italian formation was broken at the beginning of the combat and whatever numerical advantage was impossible to put into full use] when I reach a distance suitable to open fire I had to wait because there was the risk of hitting my comrade [with the same burst aimed at the fighter that was following him] I had to concentrate only on the aim [the wingmen were far away] so I couldn't look around and was attacked by two Glosters. With the first burst of fire they shot away my propeller, so without propulsion I could only manoeuvre to avoid further damage. All the height lost I force-landed and the English pilots that had already stopped firing while I was gliding down for my final approach flew past me waving their hands.
[Gon, tried to burn his plane without success and succeeded to reach an Italian outpost the day after]
Back at base, I discovered that information about the missing pilots (we were three) were lacking.
A sergeant
[Sergente Francesco Putzu] was seen to jump with parachute and another of our planes was seen to crash after a hard fight, all believed it was mine because the other missing pilot (my dear wingman) was too 'green' to be able to fight against three enemies as the pilot of the crashed plane did.
The encounter with Botto was tragicomically. I went to his room and he was waiting for me near the door and as just as he saw me he threw himself right into my arms through the three steps that divided us. But I was too weak and was unable to sustain him so we fell embraced on the ground."
According to the official records of the 4o Stormo, however, it seems that during the dive Gon s guns went out of synchronisation and when opening fire he cut his propeller with the first shots.
Seven confirmed and probable victories were credited to the pilots of the Gruppo after that they had landed at 16:30. This overclaiming was the result of that the Stormo's records had to be re-recorded in 1941 after they had been lost. This re-recording was done by Tenente Giulio Reiner, who was then adjutant of the Gruppo. Obviously Reiner s reconstruction was not as accurate as a complete debriefing immediately after the battle could be.
Roberto Fassi was credited with a Blenheim, a probable Gladiator and two damaged Gladiators. Pozzati, who was wounded on the right foot, was credited with a Gladiator while Gon was credited with a Gladiator (a victory that he didn't mention at all in his memories). Pluda claimed another Gladiator and Moresi one probable Gladiator. The 73a and 97a Squadriglie claimed one Gladiator and two Hurricanes shot down and four fighters damaged, all shared. Final assessment of the combat was four Gladiators, two Hurricanes and a Blenheim confirmed and two Gladiators probably destroyed (the actual number of confirmed claims varies between the reconstructed Diari of the involved Squadriglias to seven or eight destroyed).

The 9o Gruppo returned from the desert and was re-equipped with Macchi MC.200s. In July 1941 they re-equipped again with MC.202s and they were sent to Sicily, arriving in the end of September 1941, to take part in the operations against Malta

At 07:15 on 21 November 1941, five MC.200s of 54o Stormo and ten 9o Gruppo MC.202s strafed Hal Far, presumably attracted by the presence of 242 and 605 Squadron's Hurricanes based there. Seven Hurricanes from 185 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Pike were scrambled to intercept. They attacked five Macchis initially (probably the MC.200s), five more then jumping the British fighters (probably some of the MC.202s). No firm claims were made by the Hurricane pilots, but it was believed that three of the Italian fighters had been damaged. Sergeant Bill Nurse's Hurricane was badly hit in return.
Flying Officer Peter Thompson recorded in 185 Squadron's diary:

"The raid came in at dawn. Some Macchis shot up Hal Far and Takali, doing hardly any damage. A Flight jumped part of the high cover at about 12,000 feet [3,700 meters] and a general dogfight ensued. During the fight five more Macchis joined in, making the odds 10-7 in their favour. Although A Flight did not claim any definitely destroyed, it is a safe bet to say that some little Macchi pilots did not have any breakfast this morning. The fight was watched from the ground with great interest. The Italians were seen to do some amazing evasive manoeuvres, including rolls off the top and bunting. The Italians on this particular occasion showed considerable initiative. They split up into two formations, one formation acting as stooges and the other as jumpers - they might have met with more success but for the skill of our pilots and the handling qualities of the old Hurricane. Sgt Nurse was attacked by an enemy 'Hurricane' (fitted with .5s) and received considerable damage to his ailerons and port petrol tank. Nurse landed OK."
Sergeant Nurse, whose aircraft was damaged in the skirmish, wrote:
"One Macchi pulled up in front of me and I gave him a long burst from 200-150 yards [180-140 meters] and I saw my bullets appear to enter the fuselage. He rolled over and went down, presumably evasive tactics. I was later attacked by another machine which I thought was a Hurricane and sustained hits in the tail and wings."
Squadron Leader Pike also thought the aircraft which attacked him were Hurricanes with "red noses and a white roundel, rest of fuselage all black".
The Italians reported fighting twelve Hurricanes and 'Spitfires', and claimed two 'Spitfires' shot down, one by Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Novelli and Sergente Angelo Golino, and one by Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro and Sergente Massimo Salvatore (all of them from the 97a Squadriglia), while two more were claimed as probables. Before the Hurricanes had been able to engage the Italian aircraft, four Hurricanes were claimed destroyed on the ground plus a Blenheim, damage to the latter being credited to Maresciallo Damiani (97a Squadriglia). Two Macchis returned damaged.
Pilot Officer Sonny Ormrod wrote about this attack in his journal:
"We arose to the sound of much noise. The Italians were indulging in a low-flying attack on this aerodrome at 7:15 a.m. We went out to view the fun and were much pleased by the magnificent spectacle of the 'flaming onions' fired by the Bofors guns. Saw one stream of 'onions' pass through a vie of three Macchis. When the ack-ack had died down we witnessed a dogfight between seven of 185 Squadron and some Macchis. Apparently, the 185 boys had jumped some of the enemy and had then been jumped in turn by more of the Italians. The Macchis powered by Daimler-Benz engines are superior to our Hurricanes in performance."

In the afternoon on the same day, 18 MC.202 from the 9o Gruppo were out to strafe Hal Far. On their way, they met four Hurricanes from 185 Squadron, which were engaged in a convoy patrol. The Italians reported meeting twelve Hurricanes and claimed five of these shot down into the sea, one each by Maggiore Antonio Larsimont (97a Squadriglia), Sergente Raffaele Novelli (97a Squadriglia), Maresciallo Damiani (97a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Alvaro Querci (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Pasquale Rossi (73a Squadriglia), plus two probables by Tenente Pietro Bonfatti (73a Squadriglia) and Tenente Jacopo Frigerio (97a Squadriglia).
One Hurricane was in fact lost; 20-year-old Flight Sergeant Richard Cousens (RAF no. 970365) being killed in Hurricane Z2813/GL-L.
The Italian fighters then carried on completing their strafe on Luqa, returning without loss.
At Luqa Corporal John Alton recalled:

Four Hurricanes were scrambled and, as was customary, the fitters and riggers sat around on the starter trollies awaiting the return of the aircraft. Four aircraft were seen approaching, which at a glance looked like our Hurricanes. This was a gross mistake, because they were Macchi 202s and, before anyone could move, explosive bullets were churning up the ground. Then, just as quickly, they were gone. Not a soul was so much as scratched.

On 1 December, 21 German Ju 87s and 8 Italian (from the 239a Squadriglia), were in action 20 km north-east of Gobi at 11:30. They were being escorted by ten Bf 109s and Italian fighters. Seven MC.200s of the 153o Gruppo provided the close cover (take off 11:30 and landing 13:30). This group's diary notes the attack south-east of Bir El Gobi. The top cover of twelve MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo, six from the 96a Squadriglia and six from the 97a Squadriglia, took off at 11:35 under the command of Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni. One of the 96a Squadriglia aircraft returned early because of engine trouble.
The German operational report mentions the clash of Bf 109s with three Hurricane IIs being claimed shot down; Unteroffizier Hans Niederh fer of 5./JG 27 claimed one at 12:30 south-west of Sidi Rezegh, Oberleutnant Gustav R del of 4./JG 27 claimed one 12:40 south-west of El Adem and Hauptmann Wolfgang Redlich of 1./JG 27 claimed one at 12:55 over Bir El Gobi, at 12.55. No German fighters were lost and it seems that none suffered any damage.
According to the diaries of the 9o Gruppo the formation was getting ready to return when it sighted about 20 enemy fighters, divided between Hurricanes and Tomahawks, which were escorting bombers south of Bir El Gobi at 4,000m at 11:40. The commander manoeuvred to gain altitude and launched into the attack.
All in all the pilots of the 97a Squadriglia thought that they had definitely shot down four aircraft, probably another five and machine gunned ten. Capitano Larsimont machine gunned some enemy aircraft (using 155 rounds of ammunition). It was thought that one of them was hit by a long burst on the tail and was claimed as probably shot down. Maresciallo Damiani fired a burst at the tail of an enemy monoplane which then lost height leaving a long trail of smoke and crashed into the ground and was burnt up. He returned after having used 105 rounds of ammunition claiming two Hurricanes destroyed. Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio fired a long burst at a Hurricane, saw it start to catch fire and claimed it as a destroyed. Subsequently he machine gunned another two without managing to notice any visible results (totally he used 249 rounds). Sergente Alfredo Bombardini machine gunned two enemy aircraft hitting them with effective bursts but without noticing any visible results and returned claiming both as probably destroyed with the use of 303 rounds. Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro machine gunned three enemy aircraft in successive episodes but wasn't able to see any results. Subsequently he got on the tail of an enemy aircraft and hit it with long bursts until he saw it leaving a long trail of black smoke losing altitude in a spin. He then got on the tail of another Hurricane and machine gunned it with long bursts from close in. The enemy aircraft left a long trail of whitish smoke coming from the water radiator. He couldn't spend much time looking at the results of his bursts since he had to get clear of an enemy aircraft that was firing at him from behind. He noticed he had been hit on the water radiator and prepared to return to base, but was forced to make a crash landing with the undercarriage retracted because his plane's engine had seized up. This happened 12 km from Ain El Gazala at 13:05. He returned to base by car at night claiming one Hurricane and another as probable with the use of 630 rounds of ammunition. Finally, Maresciallo Otello Perotti machine gunned some enemy aircraft, hitting them with long bursts; one of them was believed to have probably been shot down with the use of 188 rounds.
The pilots of the 96a Squadriglia also claimed to have shot down four fighters (and a fifth damaged). Capitano Ezio Viglione Borghese (1 Hurricane), Tenente Fernando Malvezzi (1 Tomahawk), Maresciallo Dante Labanti (1 Hurricane), Tenente Emanuele Annoni (1 Tomahawk) and Sergente Maggiore Bruno Spitzl (1 damaged Tomahawk). Tenente Annoni's MC.202 was damaged during the combat. The battle lasted 10 minutes, during which 2250 rounds were fired altogether. The Macchis returned between 13:15 and 13:20.
The enemies were the escort of 23 Blenheims of the 14, 45, 84 and "Lorraine" Squadrons, which were heading west of El Adem. They were escorted by the Hurricanes of 1 SAAF Squadron (take off 11:45 - the second mission of the day) and 274 Squadron (take off 11:50). Subsequently the escort would carry out a free sweep above El Duda. 1 SAAF Squadron with twelve Hurricanes provided the close cover, while 274 Squadron with twelve Hurricanes provided top cover. When they were above the target they encountered a reportedly twenty fighters divided between Bf 109s and G.50s and a battle ensued with them.
274 Squadron declared three Bf 109s shot down, one probable and two damaged; Pilot Officer "Wally" Conrad (one and one probable Bf 109 in Hurricane IIb Z5064), Sergeant James Dodds (1 Bf 109 in Z5117), Sergeant Harrington (1 and 1 damaged Bf 109 in Z5347) and Pilot Officer R. N. Weeks (1 damaged Bf 109 in Z4008)). However they suffered three shot down Hurricanes and a fourth force-landing. Pilot Officer Weeks was shot down but was picked up by ground force and returned, Sergeant G. W. F. Pearse (Z2817) was shot down 25m south-west of El Adem at 13:00 and WIA (he was picked up by armoured cars and returned on 3 December) and Sergeant Alman (Z2510) was shot down and became MIA. Lieutenant W. H. Hoffe (Z5310) made a force-landing after that his Hurricane had been hit in the glycol tank, causing the engine to blow up. Flight Lieutenant Owen Tracey (BD821), one of the 274 Squadron flight commanders, landed and picked him up, flying him back to base.
1 SAAF Squadron pilots identified six G.50s, presumably the seven MC.200s of the 153o Gruppo, during the escort but didn't attack them because they were engaged in escorting the bombers; they noticed that not even the G.50s attacked, probably for the same reason. 1 SAAF Squadron returned at 13:10.
Considering 274 Squadron's difficult situation, it seems surprising that the close cover for the bombers didn't intervene, as had happened on several other occasions. The escort had probably been given very precise orders; these were, in fact, pilots who didn't hold back when called upon to take on the enemy.
274 Squadron would have spotted the Stuka escort: 20 divided between Bf 109s and Italian monoplanes with radial engines. However the latter divided between the close cover of Bf 109s and MC.202s were about 30 altogether. Therefore it would seem that 274 Squadron had clashed with only one formation of planes with in-line engines; either Bf 109s or MC.202s. At the same time the 9o Gruppo estimated that about 20 enemy planes had been encountered. It has been ascertained that the Macchis of the 9o Gruppo were engaged in a big battle; on the other hand it seems likely that the Bf 109s also were involved. There could have been the participation of a third Commonwealth unit, although documentation in this regard is missing. To back up this, during the day also AIR 22.401 reported the loss of 3 Tomahawks and of a fifth damaged Hurricane as well as a Beaufort.
When the details of the battles were reported the Macchis always tried to put themselves on the tails of enemy planes, not an easy tactic but one that was thought to be essential to have any chance of shooting down an enemy fighter.

In the winter of 1941-42 the 9o Gruppo enjoyed a brief rest from fighting, before returning to operations over Malta in the spring and early summer of 1942.

Soon after midday on 14 May 1942, three Ju 88s of KGr. 806 targeted Takali. They were escorted by Bf l09s, MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo and Re.2001s from the 2o Gruppo. 17 Spitfires and four Hurricanes were sent off, Flight Lieutenant D. A. Barnham leading a force from 126, 601 and 603 Squadrons to attack the bombers; four 185 Squadron aircraft engaged the Italian fighters. Flight Sergeant D. L. Ferraby (BR294/GL-E) and Sergeant J. L. 'Tony' Boyd attacking eight of these from below. Ferraby put a four second burst into one Macchi, which spun away pouring black smoke and some pieces fell off; he claimed a probable. Boyd's Spitfire Vc BR349/C was seen to spin out of the fight, however, and it crashed near Takali. One Spitfire was claimed shot down by Maresciallo Damiani (97a Squadriglia), and two others by Tenente Carlo Seganti (MM7245) and Sottotenente Leonardo Venturini (both 358a Squadriglia). However, Boyd may equally have fallen victim to one of the Messerschmitts. Pilot Officer Tilley watched the fight while his Spitfire was being refuelled:

"A dogfight started overhead - some three Ju88s came in with 109 escort - ack-ack going like mad, bursts all over the sky - then I saw a 109 sit on a Spitfire's tail and I heard the brrr of cannon. The Spit rolled over and dived vertically in what appeared to a controlled evasive manoeuvre, doing a series of aileron turns; there was no smoke trail and apparently he was OK but for some reason I felt he d had it. Sure enough, he started to pull out too late, at 100 feet [30m], then, when it looked as if he would make it, the pilot either died or lost consciousness and ploughed into the deck on the far side of the drome at 300mph [480km/h]. So at 13:05 hours the career of Sgt Pilot Tony Boyd came to an abrupt and spectacular end - just a terrific explosion and a long sheet of flame."
Meanwhile, the main force of Spitfires attacked the bombers and claimed all three shot down. Flight Lieutenant Barnham (BP975/1-K) and Pilot Officer Bruce Ingram (2-P) reported attacking one, which Barnham hit in the port engine and wing:
"With the 88s parading past in vic formation I m diving fast on to the tail of the nearest, black against the blue sea, black against the white houses of Valetta - 109s alive to our attack? No - still flying steadily. Harbour barrage - shells burst red and black, friendly shells fired by our side. Bomber growing larger, backwards towards me - gun sight spot on his port wing - 200 yards - on his port engine - fire now; quick white flashes along the wing, one, two, three, four on the engine - a great burst of black smoke gushing back. Swerving right and tilting - enemy fighters? No. Over my left shoulder the sky filled with shell bursts; Spitfires behind other bombers; 109s breaking up too late from their tidy formation. Nearest Spit sliding up behind my burning bomber - strikes all down the bomber's fuselage, strikes along the wing, starboard engine splits into flame, bomber dropping below, tumbling downwards, pyre of blackness."
Flight Sergeant John Hurst of 603 Squadron also reported shooting down a Ju88 as it dived on Takali. This crashed on the edge of the runway, although AA gunners also claimed a share in this success. It seems probable that all involved had fired on Feldwebel G nther Schwerdt's Ju 88 A-4 WNr. 140166 M7+CH from 1./KGr 806, which did indeed crash at Takali. Although the pilot had attempted to crash-land the burning bomber, he and his crew (observer Gefreiter Rudolf Hertzler, radio operator Feldwebel Paul Stahl and air gunner Unteroffizier Johannes Meinel) perished in the wreck. One crewmember was seen to be seriously injured but could not be reached. It was alleged that Wing Commander Gracie drew his revolver and put the man out of his misery. Flight Lieutenant L. V. Sanders and Flying Officer R. A. 'Mitch' Mitchell of 603 Squadron claimed a second Ju88 shot down into the sea, Sanders additionally reporting strikes on a Bf l09. Pilot Officer E. S. 'Dicky' Dicks-Sherwood of this unit also claimed a bomber, shared with Sergeant A. P. 'Tim' Goldsmith (BR290) of 126 Squadron, who reported:
"Scrambled with 601 by mistake. Fired everything at a Ju88 - 150 yards [140m]. Set both engines and fuselage on fire; knocked off some lumps."
It would seem that all four pilots attacked the same aircraft, a second Ju 88 (Ju 88 A-4 WNr. 5664) crash-landing at Catania on return in a badly damaged condition; it was also probably fired on by Flying Officer Hone (3-R) of 601 Squadron, who reported inflicting damage to the port engine of the bomber he attacked..
Squadron Leader Douglas-Hamilton, who was on the ground at Takali, witnessed the Ju 88s heading for the airfield:
"They had not far to go, when I saw the rear one break away with smoke streaming from it. Then I saw Spitfires attacking, and another 88 broke away with smoke and flames pouring from it. The leader was now just starting his dive on my end of the aerodrome when I saw a Spitfire above it with its cannons puffing away. Almost immediately the wing of the 88 became a mass of flame; the petrol tank had been hit. The 88 jettisoned its bombs at the edge of the aerodrome, then did a drunken swoop across the aerodrome, and one of its engines fell out. It crashed just beside the landing ground and burned furiously with columns of black smoke. We got out of our slit trench and cheered. I went round to look at the wreckage. It was well smashed up. The pilot was reclining backwards in the front of the wreckage, quite dead, but still grasping the control column. He had evidently been trying to control the aeroplane until the end. Soon there was little left of him or the 88. I felt quite unmoved; he had just been trying to bomb me. Everybody else on the scene felt much the same. To my delight, I learnt that all the 88s were shot down by the Squadron, Johnny Hurst having got the last one."

On 16 May, five Cant Z.1007bis of 210a Squadriglia raided Takali under the cover of 30 Macchis and 15 Messerschmitts, including a number of Jabos. On the airfield one Spitfire was destroyed and another slightly damaged, while two airmen were killed. Nonetheless 16 Spitfires succeeded in getting airborne to intercept. At their head was Flight Lieutenant Denis Barnham of 601 Squadron, although he was suffering from ‘Malta Dog’ and had been ordered not to fly; however, with Squadron Leader John Bisdee and Flight Lieutenant H. Parry still ill, he decided he should lead. He ordered Blue Section to take on the bombers while he led his section up to great height to engage the fighter escort, but at 10,400 meters the cold was so intense that one pilot, the South African A. Bartleman, suffered frostbite to his fingers!
Although given a clear run at the bombers, Blue Section failed to gain any significant success; Flying Officer C. M. Hone (BR125/3-P) and Pilot Officer W. J. E. Hagger jointly claimed one of the Cants probably destroyed, and Sergeant J. N. McConnell a Macchi probable. Four 603 Squadron aircraft engaged Bf 109s, Squadron Leader D. Douglas-Hamilton and Pilot Officer Geoffrey ‘Geoff’ Northcott (‘C’) each claiming one damaged, but Sergeant Fred R. Johnson’s aircraft was shot up and the Australian crash-landed at Takali.
It seems possible that Sergeant Johnson’s aircraft had been shot up by Leutnant Ernst Klager of 7./JG 53, who claimed a Spitfire at 11:50.
The 4o Stormo Macchi pilots claimed four Spitfires shot down, two by Sergente Maggiore
Massimo Salvatore (97a Squadriglia) – one reportedly as it was landing – and one each by Sottotenente Mario Squarcina (73a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Damiani (97a Squadriglia). Gunners in the bombers claimed one more.
It seems that no Italian losses were suffered in this combat.

On the same day (16 May 1942), he was promoted to Sottotenente.

In 1943, he served in the Scuola Addestramento C.T. (fighter school).

Damiani ended the war with 3 shared biplane victories and a total of 5.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Gladiator (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Hurricane (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Hurricane (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Enemy fighter (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Enemy fighter (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Enemy fighter (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Enemy fighter (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  21/11/41 07:15 1 Blenheim Damaged on the ground MC.202   Hal Far 97a Squadriglia
1 21/11/41 p.m. 1 Hurricane (b) Destroyed MC.202   off Malta 97a Squadriglia
2 01/12/41 11:35-13:20 1 Hurricane (c) Destroyed MC.202   Bir el Gobi area 97a Squadriglia
3 01/12/41 11:35-13:20 1 Hurricane (c) Destroyed MC.202   Bir el Gobi area 97a Squadriglia
4 14/05/42 p.m. 1 Spitfire (d) Destroyed MC.202   Malta 97a Squadriglia
5 16/05/42 a.m. 1 Spitfire (e) Destroyed MC.202   Takali 97a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 3 shared destroyed, 4 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 5 and 3 shared destroyed, 4 shared damaged, 1 damaged on the ground.
(a) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 and 274 Squadrons and Gladiators from 112 Squadron. 9o Gruppo claimed seven victories and two probables while losing three CR.42s, getting four more damaged and losing two pilots KIA. 112 Squadron claimed eight victories for no losses, 274 Squadron possibly suffered one damaged Hurricane while 33 Squadron possibly claimed a CR.42 without losses.
(b) Claimed in combat with 4 Hurricanes from 185 Squadron, which didn't claim anything while losing 1 Hurricane (pilot KiA). 9o Gruppo claimed 5 Hurricanes destroyed and 2 probably without losses.
(c) 274 Squadron claimed 3 destroyed, 1 probable and 2 damaged for the loss of four Hurricanes (1 pilot MIA). Axis fighters claimed 11 destroyed, 5 probables and 1 damaged in this combat while getting 2 MC.202s damaged.
(d) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 126, 185, 601 and 603 Squadrons, which claimed 3 Ju 88s, 1 probable MC.202 and 1 damaged Bf 109 while losing 1 Spitfire (pilot KiA). The 2o and 9o Gruppi claimed 3 Spitfires without losses. 1 Ju 88 from KGr. 806 was lost (crew KiA) and 1 damaged.
(e) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 601 and 603 Squadrons, which claimed 1 probable Z.1007bis, 1 probable MC.202 and 2 damaged Bf 109s while getting one Spitfire damaged (603 Squadron). The 4o Stormo and JG 53claimed 5 Spitfires and 1 probable and the 210a Squadriglia B.T. claimed one without any Italian losses.

33 Squadron Operations Record Book
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Cr cy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
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
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forrze Armate Del Regno D Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica - 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Deutsche Luftwaffe Losses & Claims -series - Michael Balss
Diario Storico 73a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 97a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell' A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 1 Volume A - L
Fighters over Malta - Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2018 Fonthill Media, ISBN 978-1-78155-663-4
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Gloster Gladiator - Alex Crawford, 2002 Mushroom Model Publications, ISBN 83-916327-0-9
Hurricanes over the sands: Part One - Michel Lavigne and James F. Edwards, 2003 Lavigne Aviation Publications, Victoriaville, ISBN 2-9806879-2-8
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
La Battaglie Aeree In Africa Settentrionale: Novembre-Dicembre 1941 - Michele Palermo, IBN, ISBN 88-7565-102-7
La Regia Aeronautica - volume I: Dalla non belligeranza all'intervento - Nino Arena, 1981 USSMA, Rome kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Macchi C.202/C.205V Units In Combat - Marco Mattioli, 2022 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-4728-5068-3
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-16-X
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Spitfires over Malta - Brian Cull with Frederick Galea, 2005 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904943-30-6
Stormi d'Italia - Giulio Lazzati, 1975 Mursia, Milan kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
The Desert Air War 1939 - 1945 - Richard Townshend Bickers, 1991 Leo Cooper, London, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Woody - A Fighter Pilot's Album - Hugh A. Halliday, 1987 Canav Books, Toronto, ISBN 0-9690703-8-1
Additional information kindly provided by Ian Acworth, Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo

Last modified 27 March 2024