Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Mario Fabbricatore

The 13o Gruppo (77a, 78a and 82a Squadriglie) of the 2o Stormo C.T. was commanded by Maggiore Secondo Revetria and started the war based at Tripoli Castelbenito airfield with 25 CR.42s and eleven CR.32s on hand (the CR.32s, kept as a reserve, were later passed on to the 50o Stormo Assalto) to guard against a possible French attach from the west.
Pilots in the 77a Squadriglia were: Capitano Mario Fedele (CO), Tenente Eduardo Sorvillo (recently arrived from 4o Stormo), Tenente Giulio Torresi, Sottotenente Gian Mario Zuccarini, Sottotenente Mario Fabbricatore, Sergente Maggiore Ernesto Scalet, Sergente Maggiore Leone Basso, Sergente Maggiore Agostino Fausti, Sergente Raoul Scodellari, Sergente Ernesto Paolini, Sergente Enrico Botti (recently arrived from 53o Stormo), Sergente Amedeo Benati and Sergente Vincenzo Campolo. These pilots had twelve CR.42s (including Maggiore Revetria’s and Colonnello Federici’s) (eight combat ready and three still under assembly) and four CR.32quaters.

On 10 September 1940, ten SM 79s of the 33o Gruppo (including some borrowed crews of the 33o Stormo) attacked Mersa Matruh at 17:00. This time, after some days of ineffective interceptions, the British fighters were up in full strength with twelve Gladiators of 80 Squadron, helped by two Hurricanes of 274 Squadron (Flying Officer John Lapsley and Sergeant Clarke, who had flown up from Alexandria on attachment to 112 Squadron) and two Blenheim fighters of 30 Squadron. The Gladiators were from ‘B’ Flight and recently back from Sidi Haneish.
After the bombing (reportedly scoring direct hits) the SM 79s were intercepted at 5000 metres by the RAF fighters and a running battle began after which two Italian bombers failed to return. The returning Italian bomber crews claimed two Hurricanes and two Gladiators, which were later downgraded to two fighters confirmed and two probables.
The RAF pilots totally claimed four SM 79s. Flying Officer John Lapsley claimed two, Flight Lieutenant Frank Marlow (Blenheim K7096 with gunner Sergeant Lord) claimed one while the fourth was claimed by Pilot Officer Vincent Stuckey of 80 Squadron. The guns of Clarke jammed when he was in a very favourable position. In another combat later in the afternoon, Lapsley’s Hurricane got its windscreen completely shattered by return fire from the Italian bombers. Marlow recorded that after having taken off at 12:50, he joined Gladiators and Hurricanes in attacking six SM 79s in two flights of three. The leading aircraft of the second formation was shot down and the other two became stragglers. He attacked the starboard aircraft until he saw it falling into the sea. Pilot Officer Stuckey was up with Pilot Officer Samuel Cooper and Sergeant Donald Gregory when at 15:00, they intercepted a formation of five SM 79s in two sub-Flights of three and two, which was already under attack of a Hurricane. Gregory had to disengage with engine trouble while Cooper and Stuckey attacked the port aircraft of the sub-section of two SM 79s, which was damaged, seen to lose steadily height and finally followed in its final ditching at 15:20. Stuckey circled the wreck until it sunk 25 minutes later, and saw the five surviving members of the crew in their rubber boat, also giving them a thumbs up sign. During the attack his gun ceased to fire after he had silenced the rear and side gunners, so he tried to hit the Savoia from short distance shooting at it with four Very lights. From the very detailed description given by Stuckey and his wingmen it seems highly likely that one of Savoias of the 33o Stormo fell to his fire (perhaps double-claimed by a Hurricane pilot).
Both lost SM 79s were from the 46a Squadriglia, 33o Stormo (Tenente Felice Scandone, Sottotenente Alfonso Colpi, Sergente Maggiore Radiotelegrafista Francesco Minicillo, Primo Aviere Fotografo Ubaldo Spallone, Aviere Scelto Motorista Riccardo Leghissa and Aviere Scelto Armiere Ferdinando Muto) (Sottotenente Alfonso Magliacane, Sergente Maggiore Manfredo Fucile, Primo Aviere Motorista Ugo Rizzotto, Primo Aviere Armiere Ubaldo Esposito, Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Orazio Minotta and Allievo Aviere Fotografo Antonio Ferrero –a cadet) with both crews becoming MIA.
According with all existing British Squadron’s ORBs, the successful interception occurred at around 14:00. This is not consistent with Italian records, which didn’t record any action before that just described, which reportedly occurred later, at 17:00. The possibility of a gap in Italian records, however, remains.
Near Ain El Gazala the eight returning bombers were involved in an air battle between Bristol Blenheims (most likely from 113 Squadron) and 2o Stormo’s fighters. In the ensuing confusion CR.42s of the 13o Gruppo (77a and 78a Squadriglie) also attacked the SM 79 in error. In one of the first documented cases of “friendly fire” between units of Regia Aeronautica, Sottotenente Fabbricatore of the 77a Squadriglia attacked and before realising his error the SM 79 flown by Sottotenente Barion (second pilot Sergente Benvenuti) caught fire. In panic, two members (Primo Aviere Luigi Martini and Allievo Aviere Armiere Pietro Pinna) baled out of the burning aircraft but, being too low both were killed when they hit the ground. The rest of the crew was able to fight the fire and force-landed fifteen kilometres short of base.
In the end landing at Benina (just attacked by British bombers) was considered too dangerous and Tenente Pastorelli turned back and brought its surviving planes directly to Tmini.
A board of inquiry was immediately installed by the Comando di Squadra, its conclusions are not known, apart from that it was found that the Italian bombers too often had crews unnecessarily large, and this increased the losses on the - ever difficult to replace - personnel.
The British raid over Ain El Gazala caused no damage.

In November 1942, Tenente Fabbricatore served in the 46o Gruppo Assalto. This unit was still equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

In the morning on 28 November 1942, two Beaufighters of 227 Squadron took off from Takali, Malta, (06:25-10:50) to hunt for target in the Sicilian Channel. Due to a lack of cloud cover they departed from their initial instructions, heading instead along the Tunisian and Tripolitanian coastlines from Gabes to Luara. South of Sfax two CR.42 fighter-bombers from the 46o Gruppo, 15o Stormo Assalto, where seen and in a five-minute engagement one of these were claimed shot down south of Sfax by Flight Lieutenant D. W. Schmidt (Beaufighter If X8074/Y with navigator Flight Sergeant A. B. Campbell) at 09:27. Both Beaufighters returned safely.
In fact, both the Italian aircraft also returned to base, Tenente Fabbricatore claiming one twin-engined fighter as a probable near Gabes at 09:35 while Sergente Maggiore Carlo Coronato’s CR.42 was damaged and the pilot wounded.

Fabbricatore ended the war with 1probable biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  28/11/42 09:35 1 ”Twin-enginged fighter” (a) Probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   nr Gabes 460 Gruppo

Biplane victories: 1 probably destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 probably destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Beaufighters from 227 Squadron, which claimed 1 CR.42 destroyed without losses. The 46o Gruppo claimed 1 probable twin-engined fighters while suffering 1 damaged CR.42 (pilot WIA).

A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Three – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2016 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781910690000
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5

Last modified 04 August 2022