Biplane fighter aces


Maresciallo Giuseppe Desideri

Date Decoration Note
??/??/41 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare A.O.I.

Giuseppe Desideri was from Ponte Buggianese (Pistoia).

He took part in the campaign in the Italian East Africa (A.O.I.) and was decorated for this.

Desideri served with the 160o Gruppo during the Greek campaign. The unit was at this time equipped with Fiat CR.42s

On 16 March 1941, Sergente Maggiore Desideri and Sergente Maggiore Francesco Penna of 160o Gruppo C.T. flew a night interception in their Fiat CR.42s. During this mission they shot down Wellington R1387 from 37 Squadron, which had attacked Tirana airfield, Albania. Two other aircraft, T2580 and T2895, managed to return to Menidi despite being seriously damaged during this mission.

On 5 November 1941, three CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo piloted by Tenente Giuliano Fissore (393a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Carlo Piccone (394a Squadriglia), and Sottotenente Renato Baroni (393a Squadriglia), together with a G.50 from the 360a Squadriglia piloted by Sottotenente Calzoni were on a defence patrol above K2 (Benghazi). At 14:10, they were warned via radio of the presence of an enemy formation. At the same time Maresciallo Desideri (375a Squadriglia), who was also at the controls of a G.50 of the 360a Squadriglia, scrambled. There were six enemy bombers identified as Blenheims, which having attacked K2 from an altitude of 4,500 m then went on to K1. Therefore they continued over Benina, Regima and the El Abiar area before changing route to go south-southeast.
The CR.42s fired 710 rounds from 7.7 mm machine guns and 1440 from 12.7 mm ones.
Baroni made a frontal attack on the first patrol, and then all four fighters attacked from stern all the formation and in particular the 2nd flight. After a series of attacks carried out one after the other by the four fighters, two bombers were claimed shot down in flames. They crashed into the ground south-east of El Abiar - Regina (confirmed by the DICAT - anti aircraft defences). Calzoni had to make an emergency landing near El Abiar because of the total loss of oil. The aircraft was damaged and the pilot injured.
In his turn, Desideri managed to reach the enemy aircraft after a chase of 45 minutes, which was favoured by moving nearer to the enemy formation and the reduction of altitude. He shot down a third plane, presumably the one already damaged in the previous action (400 rounds fired). This aircraft was shot down east of Antelat. All five pilots were credited with the victories.
It seems that American bombers were mistaken for Blenheims, in fact they were six Maryland IIs of 21 SAAF Squadron, which had taken off at 11:40 (from LG 75 near the front for refuelling) to attack the depots at Berka airport. They had to lower altitude to 15,000 feet to carry out the bombing because of clouds. Notwithstanding the heavy flak and the presence of enemy fighters the approach was perfect and all the bombs fell on the target. Photos confirm the good results.
Immediately on leaving the target, reportedly two CR.42s attacked the formation. These two fighters flying wide of the formation had been in attendance since the Marylands first crossed the sea, A running fight ensued, for about 15 miles, the enemy being reinforced by another CR.42 and three Bf 109s (in fact G.50s).

Various types of attack were delivered but the favourite was from the beam and dead astern. The tactics appeared to be for one or two 42s to draw fire from the rear gunners and then for a 109 to make a quick beam or quarter attack. Repeated attacks were made over a period of some 6 or 7 minutes. The gunners all gave a very good account of them-selves and all 3 42s were seen to be hit repeatedly. One, which presented a non-deflection shot, was undoubtedly shot down and last seen spinning near the ground. It is highly probable that another was sent down.
One gunner reported seeing a blazing aircraft on the ground when some distance away. Air Sergeant gunner Stewart who was responsible for shooting down the first CR.42, described the combat:
We were attacked by 2 42s from the stern. The method of their attack was for one of the aircraft to overshoot the other at about 30 seconds' interval. In this manner they closed in on us and then the lower of the two darted forward until about 100 or 150 yards away from us. Here I began to open fire on him with short accurate bursts. I saw my tracers hit him head-on. All of a sudden his tail shot up and he went headlong towards earth. I shouted: I got him . Then he went into a violent spin out of control .
Air Sergeant gunner Tucker who was responsible for hitting the second CR.42 said he had observed that it had taken up a position on the starboard side of the Maryland and below the tail wheel at a distance of about 200 yards.
I immediately opened up with both my guns and emptied the two pans with four or five long bursts. My bullets streamed toward him and I must have hit him, but he continued to fire and I could plainly see his twin-guns flashing. Just as I had ceased firing and removed my spent pans, I saw my adversary turn steeply to my left and dive down towards the earth.
At 14:10 while it was near the target and following the interception of enemy fighters, Maryland II AH392/K, piloted by Second Lieutenant N. C. Blake (SAAF no. 103446V), came down with its left engine and rear gunner's cockpit in flames. There were no survivors among the crew, which also included Air Sergeant L. R. G. Brand (SAAF no. 102128), Air Sergeant P. H. Clarence (SAAF no. 102420) and Second Lieutenant F. R. Meintjes (SAAF no. 102097).
The other five were all damaged by hits received from anti-aircraft artillery and fighters. The most badly hit had to land at LG 70. The others returned at 16:40. They claimed to have shot down an enemy fighter and probably a second.

In the afternoon on 12 July 1944, four of IIo Gruppo s Bf 109s made a single pass on some French P-47s and Maresciallo Desideri (3a Squadriglia) was mistakenly credited with a victory.

Desideri ended the war with 1 shared biplane victory and a total of 1.

Kill no. Date time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  16/03/41   1/2 Wellington (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   near Tirana 160o Gruppo
  05/11/41 14:10 1/5 Blenheim (b) Shared destroyed Fiat G.50   SE El Abiar-Regina 375a Squadriglia
  05/11/41 14:10 1/5 Blenheim (b) Shared destroyed Fiat G.50   SE El Abiar-Regina 375a Squadriglia
  05/11/41 14:10 1/5 Blenheim (b) Shared destroyed Fiat G.50   E Antelat 375a Squadriglia
1 12/07/44 afternoon 1 P-47 (c) Destroyed Bf 109G     3a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 and 4 shared destroyed.
(a) Wellington R1387 of 37 Squadron shot down.
(b) Claimed in combat with Marylands from 21 SAAF Squadron, which lost one and getting five damaged.
(c) Not verified with allied records.

Air War Italy 1944-45 - Nick Beale, Ferdinando D'Amico and Gabriele Valentini, 1996 Airlife Publishing, Shrewbury, ISBN 1-85310-252-0
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 1 Volume A - L
La Battaglie Aeree In Africa Settentrionale: Novembre-Dicembre 1941 Michele Palermo, IBN, ISBN 88-7565-102-7
La caccia notturna Italiana 1940-1942 - Giancarlo Garello, 1996 Aerofan nr. 57 apr-giu 1996 kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
Additional information kindly provided by Giovanni Massimello.

Last modified 13 November 2023