Sottotenente Pasquale Faltoni
In January 1941 Pasquale Faltoni served in 150o Gruppo Autonomo C.T. in the Greek campaign. This unit was at the time equipped with Fiat CR.42 and operated from Albania.
At 09.40 on 6 January 1941 nine Blenheims from 211 Squadron appeared over Valona, bombing the foreshore from 4000 feet. CR.42s of 150o Gruppo and G.50bis from 154o Gruppo were scrambled, intercepting as the bombers left the target.
154o Gruppo claimed two of the Blenheims shot down, one of them apparently being Flying Officer R. D. Cambell’s L1487. All three of the Blenheim crew were captured.
Meanwhile the CR.42 pilots had kept up the pursuit, returning to claim four more Blenheims shot down, three of them by Sergente Osvaldo Bertolaccini and one by Sottotenente Faltoni.
Sergeant J. R. Marshall's L1542 had been slightly damaged in the tail by AA when a CR.42 attacked, but the gunner, Sergeant Bill Baird, drove this off, reporting that smoke poured from its engine as it broke away. L8536, flown by Flying Officer L. S. Delaney, was badly hit, although Sergeant T. A. McCord in the turret claimed that he believed he had shot down a 'Macchi' in flames. As the bomber headed away, the port engine stopped, but it headed on, accompanied by the formation leader, Flight Lieutenant Doudney, whose Blenheim had also been heavily damaged. Near the frontier Delaney indicated that he was going down to land. As he attempted to bring the aircraft down on its belly, it struck some boulders and cartwheeled. The crew were killed outright. Doudney almost reached Menidi, but he too was obliged to crash-land short of this base. Two more Blenheims also received damage, Flying Officer L. B. Buchanan reaching Menidi, while Pilot Officer J. C. Cox put down at Eleusis for temporary repairs.
Losses were thus one Blenheim over the target and two crash-landed, one of them totally destroyed as a result, plus two more damaged against Italian claims for six destroyed and one damaged.
At 10:30 on 9 February 1941, Squadron Leader "Tap" Jones led off 14 of 80 Squadron's Gladiators on an offensive patrol over the Tepelene area. They took off in four sub-flights led by Jones, Flight Lieutenant "Pat" Pattle, Flying Officer 'Shorty' Graham and Flight Lieutenant "Timber" Woods. During the take-off Flying Officer W. B. Price-Owen, in the last section, experienced engine stoppage as his Gladiator became airborne and he was forced to glide back to the airfield.
Near Tepelene a trio of S.79s were seen, but lost in cloud. It is however possible that Pilot Officer William Vale claimed that he damaged one of these since he did claim one damaged during the day.
Jones took the Squadron round in a wide arc just north of Kelcyre and led them back towards Tepelene. His engine had been running rough for the last fifteen minutes and now it was beginning to vibrate. He called Pattle over the radiotelephone and told him to take over the lead. Then he throttled right back to ease the shuddering. Within a few seconds he was joined by Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower, who was also having trouble with his engine and together they flew back to Yanina.
Meanwhile, the Squadron continued their patrol and just before midday five CR.42s were seen far away off the port beam by Pattle, followed by many more, 30-40 being reported. In fact there were just 16 fighters of the 150o Gruppo, led by Capitano Edmondo Travaglini, commander of the 365a Squadriglia. The Italian pilots also overestimated the opposition, identifying the eleven Gladiators as 20 strong.
Many individual dogfights developed between Tepelene and Argyrokastron. Pattle shot down one Fiat CR.42, which crashed into the ground at speed on the outskirts of Tepelene, while Flying Officer Nigel Cullen put four bursts into another and reported seeing it crash into the hillside and burst into flames. The Squadron returned to claim four definitely shot down and three probables, but the Greek authorities provided confirmation next day that all seven had crashed, and victories were credited to Flight Lieutenant George Kettlewell, Pilot Officer Vale, Pilot Officer C. H. Tulloch, Sergeant Donald Gregory and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, as well as Pattle and Cullen.
Pilot Officer Vale reported:
"I was slightly behind the main formation … I observed about six or more formations of five CR42s [each] above us and so I gave ‘Tally-ho!’ and I immediately climbed. A dogfight started and from my position the policy of the e/a seemed to be diving attacks and gaining height straight away. One CR42 dived on me from above but I managed to evade his fire by pulling round and up towards him. I fired a short burst, which seemed to scare him away. I then saw a CR42 diving down on another Gladiator and so carried out a diving quarter attack and he pulled away, which left me in an astern position close in. I carried on firing until the e/a turned over on its back and the pilot left the machine. I saw his parachute open and so gained height and fired a long burst at a CR42, which dived down on me from above. I then broke away from the combat and owing to shortage of ammunition and fuel returned to base with F/O Cullen, who came up and formatted with me. We landed at 1240 and on inspecting aircraft found no damage.The initial claims had been nearer the truth, for four CR.42s were in fact hit. Sergente Romano Maionica (365a Squadriglia) and Sergente Danilo Birolo (364a Squadriglia) both failed to return, the latter being believed to have baled out (Maionica was KIA and Birolo landed in Yugoslavian territory), while Tenente Enzo Rovetta (364a Squadriglia) was wounded and crashed while attempting to land at base, and Capitano Travaglini force-landed near Tirana. In return, the Italians claimed four Gladiators destroyed and nine damaged. 364a Squadriglia pilots Tenente Alberto Spigaglia, Sottotenente Faltoni and Maresciallo Ugo Guidi were each credited with a victory.
At 15:00 on 27 February, nine Blenheims, six from 211 Squadron and three from 11 Squadron, set off to bomb Valona, escorted by five 80 Squadron Hurricanes and four more from 33 Squadron. An hour later, as the formation arrived over Valona, 13 CR.42s of the 150o Gruppo attacked as the Blenheims were bombing. Although the Hurricane escort engaged them at once, some got through to the bombers and damaged five of them, including all three of the 11 Squadron machines. Two of these (N5379 and T2399) would crash-land on return to Paramythia, both having suffered heavy damage to their hydraulic systems and both were written off. The Hurricanes meanwhile had become involved in a heavy battle with the Fiats during which seven of the Italian fighters were claimed shot down, and two more were reported to have collided with each other after being attacked by Sergeant Edward Hewett and crashed. Claims were made by Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle, Flying Officer Nigel Cullen, Sergeant Hewett (two), Flying Officer Richard Acworth, and Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower, who shared one with a 33 Squadron pilot, believed to have been Flying Officer H. J. Starrett. The seventh claim was believed to have been made by 33's Flight Sergeant Leonard Cottingham.
In the event it seems that only two CR.42s were lost but it hit the 364a Squadriglia, which had scrambled three fighters since both of them were from the unit. Sottotenente Faltoni, the formation leader, baling out after suffering wounds, as did Sergente Osvaldo Bertolaccini, who was almost dead when he hit the ground. Sergente Bertolaccini later succumbed to his wounds. The Italians made no claims and believed that their attackers had been Spitfires (this indicates that Bertolaccini actually shot down two Blenheims and thus made an ace before dying). Pattle’s Hurricane suffered a single bullet through the petrol tank - the only damage recorded to the British fighters. A further CR.42 of the Gruppo's 364a Squadriglia was destroyed on the ground by the Blenheims’ bombs, and several others were damaged. A dozen drums of fuel went up in flames, and two airmen were wounded.
Pilot Officer Geary, gunner in Blenheim L1481 of the 211 Squadron, recorded his impressions of the raid:
“I had a grandstand view of the whole affair. It was lovely bombing - direct hits all over the aerodrome and on buildings. A large formation of CR42s took of to intercept us. One got on my tail, so I put a burst into him, and he fell away. Then two Hurricanes appeared in a flash, and well, he just fell to pieces. The Hurricanes wheeled and proceeded to deal with the others. The sky was full of crashing aircraft - and they were all enemy. We had a most pleasant tour home, and the scenery looked more lovely than ever.”
Faltoni ended the war with 2 biplane victories.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|1||06/01/41||1||Blenheim (a)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Valona||364a Squadriglia|
|2||09/02/41||10:30-12:40||1||Gladiator (b)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Tepelene-Argyrokastron||364a Squadriglia|
Biplane victories: 2 destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Blenheims from 211 Squadron, which lost one Blenheim over the target and two crash-landed, one of them totally destroyed as a result, plus two more damaged against Italian claims for six destroyed and one damaged.
(b) Claimed in combat with 80 Squadron, which claimed 7 CR.42s while losing 2 Gladiators. The 150o Gruppo claimed 4 Gladiators destroyed and 9 damaged while losing 4 CR.42s.
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Ministero della Difesa
Additional information kindly provided by Giovanni Massimello.