Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli Medaglia d'oro al valor militare
Leonardo Ferrulli was born in Brindisi on 1 January 1918.
He enrolled the air force in 1935 and entered the Flight School of Benevento before being 18 years old.
In March 1936 he was appointed military pilot as a Sergente Pilota and was assigned to 4o Stormo C.T.
In February 1937, he volunteered for the Aviazione Legionaria in the Spanish Civil War.
During the end of his time in Spain he served in the 101a Squadriglia of X Gruppo Caccia Baleari.
On 7 October 1937, Sergente Ferrulli shot down a Tupolev SB after a long chase in his CR.32. The Republican aircraft crashed into the sea off Palma di Majorca.
For this victory he was awarded the Medaglia d'argento al valor militare.
During the same month, he returned to Italy.
At the outbreak of the Second World War he was transferred to the Aviazione della Libia and joined 91a Squadriglia of 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo C.T. in Cirenaica.
On 12 June, the 2o Stormo’s fighters in North Africa were joined by those of the 10o Gruppo (84a, 90a and 91a Squadriglie) of the Gorizia based 4o Stormo C.T.. The Gruppo was commanded by Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino and started the war at Tobruk T2 with 27 CR.42s.
The 91a Squadriglia C.T. was composed of the following pilots: Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis (CO), Tenente Enzo Martissa, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Maresciallo Raffaele Chianese, Maresciallo Vittorio Romandini, Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato, Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito, Sergente Maggiore Elio Miotto, Sergente Aldo Rosa, Sergente Alessandro Bladelli, Sergente Guido Scozzoli and Sergente Luigi Ferrario. They had ten CR.42s on strength (including Piragino’s).
On 11 September, the 9o and 10o Gruppo were still employed in standing patrols over the troops. During the second patrol of the day, at 17:45 in the Sidi Omar – Bardia area, a Blenheim was discovered at 6000 metres.
The Italian formation was escorting three CR.32s and was led by Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli. It was composed of seven CR.42s from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Narciso Pillepich and Sergente Domenico Santonocito), five CR.42s from the 91a Squadriglia (Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli, Sergente Elio Miotto and Sergente Alessandro Bladelli) and six CR.42s from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Maresciallo Omero Alesi, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti).
Capitano Vanni, Tenente Aurili and Sergente Steppi attacked first, followed by other pilots of the formation. During the combat Vanni’s aircraft was hit by return fire and with the compressed air piping pierced, he was forced to turn back. His wingmen continued the pursuit and claimed the Blenheim shot down.
The bomber however was assigned as a shared to all the 10o Gruppo pilots presents (even if , for example, it is known that 90a Squadriglia pilots totally used only 140 rounds of ammunition so possibly only one of them was able to use his guns).
This claim can’t be verified with RAF sources but it is possible that it was a Blenheim from 113 Squadron since this unit’s ORB is lacking.
On 14 September, the 4o Stormo continued to protect the ground forces. A mixed formation of 23 CR.42s from the 9o Gruppo commanded by Maggiore Ernesto Botto with 15 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo as high cover, took off at 10:25. At 11:00, over Sollum some 10o Gruppo pilots discovered a formation of four Bristol Blenheims. They attacked and claimed one shot down in flames. The bomber was credited as a shared to the whole formation from the 10o Gruppo (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Tenente Franco Lucchini and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti of the 90a Squadriglia and Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sottotenente Carlo Albertini and Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli of the 91a Squadriglia and Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili, Tenente Paolo Berti and Sergente Domenico Santonocito of the 84a Squadriglia).
Sottotenente Albertini later told that that the Blenheim had been left behind by its squadron and he fired at it all the rounds he had, but he could not destroy it. At the beginning, the bomber returned fire, but after being hit several times, they stopped and no sign of life could be noticed. He followed the bomber for a while, once finished his rounds, but nothing happened, and the Blenheim continued on the same route.
This clam can’t be verified with RAF records. The only known British actions for the day were a couple of afternoon bomber raids. Four Blenheims of 55 Squadron with others from 211 Squadron were ordered to attack Italian troops in the Sollum area in the first afternoon. The 55 Squadron quartet came back at 16:45 without suffering losses. Its pilots reported slight and ineffective AA fire and the presence of Italian fighters (but no interception occurred). Eight machines of 211 Squadron led by Gordon-Finalyson also attacked, claiming many hits in the target area. However, no Italian fighters were seen and all the bombers were back at around 17:10.
On 8 December, four fighters from the 91a Squadriglia flown by Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato performed aerobatics over Benina for the cine-operator of the Istituto Luce.
On 11 December, the 91a Squadriglia of the 10o Gruppo finally arrived at El Adem with seven fighters (Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato, Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Casero, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli and Sergente Elio Miotto).
At 11:10 on 12 December, a mixed formation from the 4o Stormo took off for a free sweep in the Ogerin Bir El Kreighat area. After the sweep, they were to ground strafe targets of opportunity. Participating pilots from the 91a Squadriglia were Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli (CO 10o Gruppo), Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli, Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito and Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Casero. From 84a Squadriglia came Capitano Luigi Monti, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Roberto Steppi and Sergente Onorino Crestani.
Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta of the 90a Squadriglia was part of a formation taking off at 11:40 while his squadriglia mates Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Alfredo Sclavo suffered accidents on take off, which prevented them to take part (and probably wrote off the plane of Sclavo). Tenente Aldo Gon and Sergente Gustavo Minelli from the 96a Squadriglia, 9o Gruppo also took part in this action.
Bad weather prevented the discovery of ground targets, so Romagnoli led his fighters to the Bir Enba area where a formation of Gladiators surprised the 84a Squadriglia formation. A long dogfight started after which the CR.42 of Onorino Crestani was missing and the remaining pilots claimed two victories. Crestani was taken prisoner.
According to the squadriglia diaries, the two confirmed victories were shared among the 91a Squadriglia pilots plus Ceoletta (who used 120 rounds of ammunition during the combat) and the pilots from the 9o Gruppo. Gon and Minelli in fact only claimed a shared probable in a combat against a reportedly six Gladiators, while the 10o Gruppo’s Diary downgraded the victories to two probables. Monti, Prati and Steppi were credited with a damaged each while Ceoletta also claimed two damaged Gladiators (according to some Italian historians one Gladiator was shared between Monti, Prati and Steppi and the second shared between Gon and Minelli, while one or two other Gladiators were considered probably shot down but there is however no trace of such claims in the official diaries).
They had run into five Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron, which had taken off from ALG 74 at 11:25 to carry out an offensive patrol around Sofafi. The patrol intercepted a reported 16 to 18 CR.42 six miles north-west of Sofafi. During the ensuing combat three of the Italian fighters were claimed shot down, one apiece being credited to Flying Officers Alan Boyd, Wilfred Arthur and Alan Gatward, without loss. The Gladiators returned to base at 13:05.
On 19 December, the 9o Gruppo flew its last mission before retirement from North Africa. Taking off from Ain El Gazala T4 at 15:00, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni led ten other aircraft from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sergente Mario Guerci and Sergente Pasquale Rossi), 96a Squadriglia (Sergente Maggiore Dante Labanti, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Gallerani and an unknown pilot) and 97a Squadriglia (Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Novelli and Sergente Alcide Leoni) to an escort mission together with 14 CR.42s of the 10o Gruppo. These had taken off from the Z1 landing ground (ten kilometres south-east of T4 on the opposite side of the “litoranea” road) where they had transferred the same morning. The 10o Gruppo pilots were led by Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli and included five fighters from the 91a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato, Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito and Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Casero), six from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sergente Luigi Contarini, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta) and two from the 84a Squadriglia (Sergente Domenico Santonocito and Sergente Piero Buttazzi).
They escorted twelve SM 79s of the 41o Stormo, which took off at 14:45 from Martuba M2 with Tenente Colonnello Draghelli and Tenente Colonnello d’Ippolito at their head. They were to attack Sollum harbour and then to proceed to attack vehicles 10 km off Ridotta Capuzzo aimed against the British supply system.
Some minutes after 15:45, above the Sollum area, they were surprised by a number of Hurricanes; Tenente Guiducci reported five of them, the 73a Squadriglia recorded the attack of about ten while some the 235a Squadriglia crews spoke of eight “Spitfires”. It seems that the Hurricanes were somewhat lately intercepted by the CR.42s from 73a and 96a Squadriglie and 10o Gruppo while the 97a Squadriglia stayed with the bombers. According to Guiducci, the reaction of the CR.42s saved the bombers, avoiding the interception but this was not the case.
In the following combat, the Italian claims were extremely confused. Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli was credited with a Hurricane destroyed (in one of the rare individual victories assigned by his unit) and another damaged, but his aircraft was hit in the engine and he had to make an emergency landing near Bardia (he was unhurt and returned to his unit on 22 December). The 90a Squadriglia claimed two shared victories and two Hurricanes forced to flee with the use of 1328 rounds of ammo. The 84a Squadriglia claimed one individual and one probable victory shared with the whole 10o Gruppo. The 97a Squadriglia also claimed one Hurricane confirmed and one probable shared with the 10o Gruppo. The 73a Squadriglia claimed two shared individual and two probables. Post-war studies stated that one of the shared victories of 73a Squadriglia was in fact an individual of Tenente Bonfatti while Sergente Rossi got a damaged and Sottotenente Oblach one probable and one damaged. In fact, the Italian Bulletin of 20 December claimed that in a savage battle two Hurricanes were shot down in exchange for an Italian fighter that failed to return This suggests that all the Squadriglia Commanders at the end claimed the same two victories, from the original documents we can see that in fact one was an individual achievement of Ferrulli while the other was most probably a shared or possibly an individual of Bonfatti. The CR.42 reported as lost was obviously Ferrulli’s.
Sergente Buttazzi had to land at T5 because of an engine breakdown, while a fighter from the 73a Squadriglia was heavily damaged. The Italian formation landed back at 17:05.
At least seven of the bombers were hit. Capitano Meille (CO of the 233a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Bresciani were wounded and the co-pilot Sergente Maggiore Musiani was forced to make an emergency landing at Tobruk T5. The SM 79 of Sottotenente Trolla force-landed (and was most probably lost) after being hit by 543 bullets; Primo Avieri Luigi Favale was killed while Primo Avieri De Pasquale and Primo Avieri Palmieri were wounded. Tenente Stancanelli’s (233a Squadriglia) aircraft received 162 hits and also made an emergency landing. Sergente Maggiore armiere Antonio Carta (part of Tenente Stancanelli’s crew), in the confusion of combat, erroneously believed that his aircraft was falling out of control, jumped with his parachute and became MIA. Tenente Colonnello Draghelli made an emergency landing at Tobruk T2bis with his co-pilot Tenente Premurù, Maresciallo motorista Scagliarini, Sergente Maggiore armiere Della Ciana and Sergente RT Maurelli injured. In addition, the SM 79 of Tenente Persico, which was the last to land at 16:45, was damaged. The bomber’s gunners spent about two thousand rounds of 7.7mm ammunition and five thousands of 12.7mm, claiming three British fighters and one probable.
They had been intercepted by Hurricanes from 274 and 33 Squadrons. The former unit was employed in patrols in the Sollum-Bardia-Gambut area. At 15:50, Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (V7293) was alone but another Hurricane was in the vicinity when, at 11,000 feet over Sollum, he discovered a mixed formation of 18 SM 79s plus CR.42s 12 miles ahead and slightly to starboard. He attacked the escort that engaged him mainly head on. He reported:
“one CR 42 dived into the ground about 30 miles west of Sollum. Being a bit late arriving after the bombing I found it impossible to engage the S79 due to the attentions of the CR 42s, about 30 CR 42s in vics of three making vics of nine both sides of the bombers and 3000 feet above them. The main force carried on being attacked by Flying Officer Weller 274 Squadron.”As a special comment, he remarked: “Enemy attacked in a most determined manner.”
“7 S79s fired at and damaged at least one engine on fire, one or two undercarriages fell out. Only noticed one formation of fighters to starboard of bombers [obviously Lapsley had drawn the attention of the rest of the escort] so attacked from port to line astern with plenty of extra speed. Took each sub leader in turn then his no 2. 7 aircraft altogether when work finished. Part of formation I had attacked was disorganized and impossible to see any missing. Owing to approach of CR 42s and no ammunition, I had to leave the fight. I noticed part of formation I had attacked to be in difficulties. Two a/c pulled up practically vertically and probably collided, impossible to see if any went down.”He didn’t reported suffering damage of any kind but back at base his machine was found riddled with bullets. Weller was subsequently credited with one damaged SM 79.
On 25 December, the 23o Gruppo flew its first escorting missions after its arrival in the theatre, one of these was at 15:00 with 12 CR.42s in collaboration with 22 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo, which had taken off at 14:35 to escort the 15o Stormo’s SM 79s bound to attack Sollum Harbour.
The fighters from the 23o included four from the 70a Squadriglia (Maggiore Tito Falconi, Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sottotenente Oscar Abello and Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani), four from the 74a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Bobba, Tenente Mario Pinna, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni and Sergente Emilio Stefani) and four from the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis and Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello). The fighters from the 10o Gruppo included six CR.42s from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato), seven from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Luigi Bagato and Sergente Enrico Botti) and nine from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Luciano Perdoni, Sergente Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Mario Veronesi and Capitano Mario Pluda (91a Squadriglia)).
The formation was attacked by some Hurricanes that were counter-attacked and obliged to flee. Two Hurricanes were claimed as probably shot down by the pilots of 90a and 91a Squadriglie (the 90a Squadriglia used 160 rounds of ammunition), which claimed them as shared with the 23o Gruppo even if the pilot from the 23o Gruppo in fact weren’t able to claim anything. Tenente Guiducci landed at T5 with engine trouble while the rest of the formation landed at Z1 between 16:50 and 17:00. No losses were suffered by the bombers, which claimed to have hit an aircraft carrier. In fact, they aimed their bomb load at a monitor, but it is not known if the ship was in fact hit.
The Hurricanes were probably machines of 33 Squadron with Flying Officer Peter Wickham and Flying Officer Vernon Woodward that encountered one SM 79 and one CR.42, damaging the CR.42. The action was however recorded in the morning.
On 4 January 1941, Hurricane Mk.Is of 33 and 274 Squadrons patrolled the battle area during the British push towards Tobruk in Cirenaica. A pilot from 33 Squadron claimed a CR.42 over Bardia-Tobruk, Pilot Officer S. Godden (V7558) of 274 Squadron claimed two more and Flight Sergeant T. C. Morris also of 274 Squadron claimed a forth. Morris’ aircraft (V7293) was however hit in the radiator and he made a forced-landing. Flying Officer T. L. Patterson (P2643) was also hit and obliged to force-land.
These actions had been fought against S.79-escorting CR.42s of 10o and 23o Gruppi. The Italian pilots returned reporting that they had attacked a large British formation and claiming two Hurricanes and a probable Blenheim. One Hurricane was claimed by Tenente Colonnello Carlo Romagnoli, 10o Gruppo commander, and the other by Maresciallo Ferrulli. Tenente Claudio Solaro, commander of 70a Squadriglia, returned claiming the probable Blenheim.
The Italians lost three aircraft, Sottotenente Ennio Grifoni of 91a Squadriglia was shot down in flames, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto force-landed at Tobruk’s T5 landing ground and Tenente Gino Battaggion of 70a Squadriglia was wounded and force-landed at Ain el-Gazala. Battaggion who had been escorting S.79s bombing armored cars in the Bardia area, recalled:
”At 18,000 feet I saw two Hurricanes in front of me. I began shooting. They shot at me too. Suddenly, I felt a hit. An explosive bullet broke the windshield into many pieces and I was slightly wounded in the head. The explosion broke my goggles and wounded me in one eye. With blood oozing down my face, I lost consciousness for some seconds, perhaps ten or twenty. I recovered consciousness due to the air rushing into the cockpit and found that the aircraft was spinning. I managed to recover from the spin and when I was near the ground fired a burst at some trucks. My wingman signalled to me that one wheel of my aircraft was damaged but I managed to land at Ain el-Gazala, near an ambulance. I landed at the slowest speed possible, holding the weight of the aircraft on the one serviceable wheel, and succeeded in stopping without overturning. The personnel near the ambulance recovered me and for about three months I could not fly because the eye gave me a lot of trouble. Some splinters had been extracted from my head – some of them are still there.”
On 5 January 1941, the HQ of the 14a Brigata Aerea Rex passed orders to the 10o Gruppo to retreat back to Italy. The fighters were handed over to the 23o Gruppo while the section at T5 (with Sottotenete Bruno Devoto) remained temporarily detached there (they followed back to Italy on 8 January). Pilots and aircraftmen moved from Ain el Gazala Z1 to Benghazi during the same morning.
For the 4o Stormo, the first North African campaign was definitely over. From the official documents collected in the proposal for the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare to be assigned to the Stormo for its first tour of duty, the unit from 10 June 1940 to 31 December 1941 claimed 95 British planes in 5480 sorties and 40 combats. Considering that in the short period up to 4 January the Stormo claimed another 5 victories in 101 sorties and four combats and that one of the claims (although possibly a “probable”) was made over Malta the total score for the Stormo in Africa was reputed between 99 and 100 confirmed victories. “Top gun” of the unit was the 91a Squadriglia’s Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli with a total of seven victories (six Hurricanes and one Blenheim for which he was awarded a second Medaglia d'argento) while one of the pilots, Sergente Lido Poli, was awarded the Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare as one of the very few such medals not awarded posthumously. The unit’s grand total looks for sure overestimated but together with the ten pilots killed (seven of them in action), four taken prisoners and 17 wounded (mainly in action) gives a clear indication of the intensity of the air combats to which the unit participated. Several of victories and combat took place at unknown time and places, this is mainly due to the general incompleteness and sometimes low accuracy of the unit’s record that were reconstructed in 1941 after the loss of the original documents during the sinking of the merchant vessel Città di Messina, which was returning the crewmen of the Stormo to Italy.
The 10o Gruppo re-equipped with the Macchi MC.200 and in April they operated from Ronchi with 23 MC.200s against Yugoslavia.
On 16 June 1941 10o Gruppo moved to Trapani, Sicily to take part in the attacks on Malta.
On 4 July he claimed a Hurricane over Malta.
On 11 July 1941 the Regia Aeronautica launched a big fighter sweep over Malta. Eleven MC.200s from the 54o Stormo attacked Hal Far airfield in three sections, while forty-two more gave cover. Twelve Hurricanes of 185 Squadron were scrambled, and possibly others from other units on the island, for the Italians reported thirty Hurricanes intercepting, four of which were claimed shot down by pilots of the 10o Gruppo. Capitano Franco Lucchini was credited with one and one shared while Maresciallo Ferrulli was credited with one shared. Either side in fact suffered no losses even if five MC.200s returned with damage.
On 17 July 1941, 49 MC.200s from the 7o, 10o and 16o Gruppi set off mid morning to escort one reconnaissance Z.1007bis over Malta. En route the 16o Gruppo fighters became separated and returned to base, but the rest of the formation reached the island where eight Hurricanes of 249 Squadron and eleven from 185 Squadron had been scrambled. The aircraft from the former unit made contact, Squadron Leader Robert Barton (Hurricane Z3262) claiming one MC.200 shot down in flames, while Pilot Officer P. G. Leggett claimed a second and Flying Officer C. C. H. Davis one damaged. Two MC.200s of the 10o Gruppo were in fact lost when Sergente Maggiore Enrico Botti (MC.200 MM6500) and Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito (MC.200 MM5217) where killed. In return the pilots of the 10o Gruppo claimed four Hurricanes and two probables. Tenente Colonnello Carlo Romagnoli and Capitano Franco Lucchini each claimed one Hurricane shot down and Sergente Maggiore Elio Miotto two. Maresciallo Ferrulli and Sergente Luigi Contarini each claimed probables. One Hurricane was lost when 22-year-old Sergeant Maurice Guest (RAF No. 920596) of 249 Squadron in Hurricane Z2818 failed to return.
By the end of 1941 the 4o Stormo re-equipped with Macchi MC.202s.
In May 1942, the 10o Gruppo returned to North Africa for a second desert tour.
On 4 June, twelve Ju 87s of I. and II./StG 3 attacked to the north of Bir Hacheim (07:05-08:45) in the mornings second attack escorted by the I./JG 27 (take off 07:48). One of the Ju 87s was shot down by AA over the fortress (Ju 87D-1 WNr 2465 S7+KM; one was seen to bale out but both Leutnant Robert Hübel and Unteroffizier Fritz Müller were killed).
Seven Tomahawks each from 4 SAAF and 5 SAAF Squadrons with Kittyhawks of 2 SAAF Squadron, were ordered to patrol over Bir Hacheim where the South African pilots got in a good attack on the Stukas before the escort could interfere, claiming eight shot down.
The 5 SAAF Squadron claimed four Ju 87s when at 08:55, Lieutenant Basil Thornhill-Cook (Tomahawk IIb AK380/GL-R) claimed one shared with Lieutenant Kenneth Whyte (AN313/GL-X) north-west of Bir Hacheim while Major ‘Jack’ Frost (AM385/GL-W) claimed three over Bir Hacheim at 09:00.
Major Frost reported:
“…Stukas were seen diving. They released their bombs and carried on the dive right down to ground level. We followed the 4 Sqn. to the attack. I fired at and hit a 109 just above the Stukas without result. I then closed on a Ju.87 from the rear, gave one burst and he burst into flames and crashed. I then closed on another from the starboard quarter. He then turned towards me and I got in a burst with deflection. I then got very close to him, gave him another burst and he went down to the ground. I gave him another burst and set the AC alight. I then closed on another Stuka, gave him a good burst from astern and he went down and crash landed. Three Ju.87s destroyed.”Major F. J. M. Meaker (AN388/GL-N), who was flying with 5 SAAF Squadron, had to force-land 16km south-east of Bir Hacheim at 09:25 when his aircraft was hit by the gunner in the Ju 87 he was attacking. He was picked up by Lieutenant C. J. C. Horne (AK415/I), and was flown back to base two-up in the Tomahawk.
“…Attacked from out of the sun and caught up with the Stukas at about 1000’ heading west. I attacked one Stuka from above and behind which was lagging and saw my shots splinter his canopy. He appeared to lose control and fell back considerably. Stuka was seen to be badly damaged. My next attack was across the formation from the north. I made a full deflection attack fired early and saw the latter shots strike the engine which emitted flames and black smoke. Then the airscrew slowed down jerkily as 1 passed over him. …the AC appeared to be losing height. I turned west again caught up with the fight got a number of bursts but saw no convincing results.”Major Hewitson reported:
“...Caught up with the Stukas about 15 miles west of Bir Hakeim and delivered attacks on two near Stukas one of which was hit in the engine and force-landed. I was then attacked by one 109F which I avoided. He flew past me and I delivered an attack from dead astern. No results observed. At end of fight only 4 or 5 Stukas were left in the formation. On the way home two of us fought a running fight with two 109s which eventually left us as we crossed into our territory.”Lieutenant Cohen (KJ-N) stated:
“…Pulled off with rest of section into 12+ Stukas heading north-west after releasing bombs. Got in a long burst on one aircraft from ¼ astern and then overshot him. I did a steep turn and attacked the same ac again from ¼ frontal and then saw wisps of black smoke coming from underneath the fuselage. At this stage one of my cannons jammed and I did a few beam attacks on several other Stukas without observing any direct result. 1 then had to wrath off as my ammunition supply was exhausted. I made for home in the company of three ac of 5 SAAF. We were attacked by two Me.109s and in trying to evade them I lost the other three ac. I was then attacked continuously for 10 mins by one Me.109 but was not able to return his fire although I was able to outmanoeuvre him every time he attacked. He eventually broke away…”Lieutenant Wheeler reported:
“…Got on the tail of one Stuka and gave him about four bursts. In the final attack I saw something break off which I thought came off the tail unit. At the same time black smoke started coming from below the root of the wings…”During this fight 4 SAAF Squadron lost four aircraft. Captain Morphew (AN393) was shot down in combat with four Bf 109s to become a PoW (he escaped in 1943). 2nd Lieutenant K. H. Lawler (AN461) was also shot down by Bf 109s to become a POW. Lieutenant J. de la H. Lane (AN460) was shot down by the rear gunner of a Ju 87 south of Tobruk; he was later picked up by a Hurricane from 274 Squadron, flown by Pilot Officer George Keefer. A fourth Tomahawk (AK509) was lost over Bir Hacheim but without details.
“I saw a 109F to port about 1000 feet below me and climbing. I peeled off, and got up speed, and started climbing after him. I closed rapidly and gave him a short burst at about 250 yards. He heeled over and I watched him go down. I looked away for a brief while and when I looked again I saw him go straight in and burst into flames.”Lieutenant Burdon reported:
“I saw two Kittyhawks attacked to port. I peeled off to port and as the 109 climbed up I managed to get m a full deflection shot, a burst of about three seconds, the result of which was white smoke pouring from the 109. This being confirmed (damaged) later. After my first burst another 109 climbed up to attack. We engaged head on; I pulled the tit and not one gun fired. The 109 must have realized this, so gave me all he had. My engine burst into flames. I eventually slipped down, and crash-landed, my under cart would not function. I did not bale out as I was approximately 800/1000’ and thought this too low.”260 Squadron claimed a Bf 109 destroyed and one damaged at 09:10, the latter aircraft crash-landing (unidentified pilots).
In poor weather conditions between 05:05-06:30 on 6 June, Tenente Orlando Mandolini was at the head of seven MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo (two from the 84a Squadriglia, one from the 90a Squadriglia and four from the 91a Squadriglia) on a free sweep between Acroma and Bel Harmat. Before arriving over the objective at an altitude of 3,500m, Tenente Mandolini spotted a formation of about twelve enemy fighters 1,000m lower. These were attacked from behind and the air combat lasted for five minutes with two enemy fighters claimed shot down, one probably and three damaged (780 rounds fired).
Tenente Mandolini (91a Squadriglia) claimed one P-40 over Bir Hacheim and fired on another (80 rounds)
Maresciallo Ferrulli (91a Squadriglia) claimed one P-40 over Bir Hacheim
Tenente Italo Alessandrini (90a Squadriglia) fired on three Spitfires
Maresciallo Luigi Bignami (84a Squadriglia) fired on a P-40
Between 06:10-07:05, eleven Kittyhawks of 250 Squadron (one had returned early) were on a reconnaissance mission between Acroma and Knightsbridge. They came up against a reported four Bf 109s and eight MC.202s. In the ensuing combat over Acroma, Squadron Leader Michael Judd (Kittyhawk Ia AL157/LC-B) claimed one damaged Bf 109 while Sergeant Desmond Cormack (AK799) and Sergeant F. M. Twemlow (AK921/T) claimed a damaged MC.202 each. No fighters from 250 Squadron was damaged.
Sergeant Twemlow (AK921) was on top cover at 4500 feet flying right under the clouds. Proceeding west, he saw a single MC.202 coming out of the clouds and flying on his starboard slightly below heading east. It seems that it was a decoy that had not been attacked, and so the latter pulled up into the clouds. Immediately four MC.202s (though their identity was not ascertained) came down approximately from the same position and attacked in pairs. The Kittyhawks made a turnabout and the attack was broken off. They then turned west again. Another attack of four MC.202s followed and again the British pilots turned about. Twemlow saw a Macchi attacking a Kittyhawk and turned on him for a frontal quarter attack, hitting him on the fuselage. The Macchi turned and dived, presenting its belly; Twemlow delivered two more short bursts, seeing strikes on its underside, and the Macchi broke off the engagement, diving slightly. Following this, a general dogfight developed.
Squadron Leader Judd was flying at 3000 feet when enemy fighters were reported at 6 o’clock. He saw the engagement of the top cover and attacked a Bf l09, shooting from 400 yards with no visible effects. Then he was attacked from above by a MC.202 which followed him for two complete turns. Finally, the Macchi dived, tightening its turn and opening fire, with its bullets going behind the Kittyhawk’s tail. As the Macchi straightened out, Judd turned the other way so the Macchi crossed behind his tail. He got in a two second burst while he was climbing away almost vertically and was hit on the starboard wing. Then the Macchi entered the clouds.
Between 09:05-10:30 on 8 June, seven MC.202s from the 10o Gruppo (including three from 91a Squadriglia) with Maggiore Paolo Maddalena (CO 10o Gruppo) in the lead were in action over Bir Hacheim.
At 09:35, they were at an altitude of 4,500m when the pilots spotted a formation of a reported 20 P-40s 500m below on the left. They attacked and an air combat for about 15 minutes followed. It ended at low altitude a little to the east of Bir el Harmat. There had probably also been another mixed formation of Hurricanes and P-40s at around 500m that also were attacked.
The Italian pilots claimed three P-40s and one probable while returning without losses. These where claimed by Maggiore Maddalena, Maresciallo Ferrulli (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore (90a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini (90a Squadriglia) (one probably destroyed).
Many RAF, RAAF and SAAF fighters were in the air in the cauldron of Bir Hacheim at the time but no losses seems to match these claims.
At 10:05 on 3 July, eight MC.202s of the 91a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli, took off for a free sweep over the El Alamein area. Flying in pairs at 15,000 feet, the formation was attacked by fighters south of El Alamein. At the end of the combat five P-40s were claimed by the Italian pilots. Then a formation of 16 Bostons escorted by 30 P-40s was reported and engaged, a bomber and another P-40 being claimed shot down for no losses. The claimants in this combat was Capitano Ruspoli (1 and 2 shared P-40s), Maresciallo Ferrulli (1 and 2 shared P-40s), Sergente Alessandro Bladelli (1 and 2 shared P-40s) and Sergente Ferruccio Terrabuio (1 and 2 shared P-40s). The claimant of the Boston remains unknown. The Italian fighters returned to base at 11:30.
The Hurricane IIcs of 213 Squadron had taken off at 10:47, reporting being jumped at 12,000 feet by 11 Bf 109s at 11:00, which were probably in fact the 10o Gruppo Macchis Three of the unit’s aircraft were shot down. Lost Hurricanes were Hurricane IIc BM972, which crash-landed 30 miles west of Burg el Arab with Pilot Officer W. R. Henderson safe, Hurricane IIc BN128, which was shot down near El Alamein where Pilot Officer L. O. H. Boucher parachuted WiA and Hurricane IIc BN569, which force-landed at Amiriya with Pilot Officer J. M. Cochrane safe. One of the attacking fighters (reported as a Bf 109F) were claimed damaged by Sergeant Henry Aitken (BN537/J) north of the El Alamein line.
On 10 July, the 9th Australian Division launched an attack in the northern sector of the El Alamein line. This was backed by all the Commonwealth Wings that targeted ground targets and the airfields of LG 20, LG 21 and LG 102, which resulted in heavy aerial fighting.
At 08:25, six CR 42s of 50o Stormo took off to attack enemy vehicles in the Bir Abu Gorya area. They were escorted by eleven MC.202 from the three Squadriglie of 10o Gruppo (take off 08:55 - landing 10:10) led by Capitano Franco Lucchini (84a Squadriglia). The MC.202s where then to continue on a free hunt mission.
In the target area, Capitano Lucchini (MC.202 MM7901) spotted a formation of 15 P-40s approaching from the east at 2,600 meters. After a short attack made with height advantage (the Italian fighters were at 4,000 meters), the P-40s went into a ’Lufberry’ circle. The combat ended after 30 minutes when the ammunition was exhausted and they were low on fuel.
The pilots from the 10o Gruppo returned claiming eight P-40s destroyed. Lucchini, Sottotenente Luigi Giannella (84a Squadriglia in MM7815), Tenente Virgilio Vanzan (90a Squadriglia) and Sergente Amleto Monterumici (90a Squadriglia) claimed one P-40 each while four more were claimed by the pilots from the 91a Squadriglia; two by Maresciallo Ferrulli and one each by Sergente Elio Miotto and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato. Monterumici remained to defend the CR.42s from the attacks from the P-40s and this he made so successfully that the formations leader, Capitano Torquato Testerini (CO 236a Squadriglia) later visited them at Fuka to show his gratitude.
It seems that they have clashed with the Hurricane IIcs from 274 Squadron on their second mission of the day 09:15-11:15 when they performed a free sweep over El Alamein with eight planes covering nine machines of 1 SAAF Squadron. 15 miles south-west of El Alamein they were attacked by a reportedly at least twelve Messerschmitts and Macchis (probably only the latter) and they formed a defensive circle. They were attacked from all sides but didn’t suffer any loss and with only BP398/NH-H flown by Sergeant P. G. Hemmer being damaged and the pilot slightly wounded. The pilots of 274 Squadron claimed a Macchi and a Bf 109 probably shot down and five Macchis and two Bf 109s damaged. Claiming pilots were:
Flight Sergeant H. Garwood (BD750/NH-W) one probable Bf 109 and one damaged
Flight Lieutenant Walter Conrad (BF698/NH-J) one damaged MC.202
Squadron Leader James Hayter (BE487/NH-F) one probable MC.202
Sergeant R. W. Henderson (BE826/NH-G) one damaged MC.202
Flight Lieutenant G. C. Keefer (BN111/NH-D) two damaged MC.202
Sergeant B. Ott (BN107/NH-B) one damaged Bf 109
Flight Lieutenant from 123 Squadron (BG949/Y) one damaged MC.202
Four pilots of 1 SAAF Squadron were able to fire some rounds but were unable to appreciate any result.
On 14 July, Capitano Carlo Ruspoli led eleven MC.202 from the 10o Gruppo on a free sweep over El Alamein between 07:45-09:35. A formation of twelve Bostons escorted by about 20 P-40s, twelve Hurricanes and six Spitfires, flying at higher altitude, was econtered. A long and confused combat followed during which five P-40s were claimed destroyed, plus two probables without losses to the Italian fighters. Maresciallo Luigi Bignami (MC.202 MM7896), Sergente Maggiore Luciano Perdoni (MM7805) and Sergente Maggiore Domenico Santonocito (MM7815) (all from the 84a Squadriglia) claimed a P-40 destroyed each. Capitano Ruspoli (91a Squadriglia) claimed a probable Hurricane and Maresciallo Ferrulli (91a Squadriglia) claimed a destroyed P-40. The remaining two claims were made by unstated pilots from the 91a Squadriglia.
It seems that they had been in combat with at least twelve Hurricane IIbs from 238 Squadron, which flew a mission between 09:15-10:25. They reported combat with half a dozen of MC.202 over El Alamein at 09:45 and the British pilots claimed four damaged; three by Flight Sergeant G. H. Borham (Hurricane IIb ‘X’) and one by Pilot Officer B. Nordon (‘V’). One Hurricane was shot down and Pilot Officer E. Winterbottom was declared MiA but he returned the next day.
In the late afternoon on 15 July, MC.200s of the 13o Gruppo escorted an S.79 flown by Benito Mussolini personally on a visit to front-line units. During this he awarded the Medaglie d’Argento for outstanding acts of valour in North Africa to Tenente Giorgio Savoia, Tenente Camillo Luglio and Sottotenante Raffaele Velenzano. Several 4o Stormo pilots were also awarded decorations: notably, Capitano Franco Lucchini, Tenenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Paolo Berti, Maresciallo Ferrulli, Tenenente Emanuele Annoni, Sottotenante Alvaro Querci and Tenenente Fernando Malvezzi.
Early in the morning on 2 September, the 4o Stormo was back in action. At 06:10, Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis led 18 MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo over Bir Mseilik area. A formation of twelve Spitfires was intercepted and subsequently two large formations of Bostons, Spitfires and P-40s were met. The combat developed into many individual dogfights, lasting about 15 minutes. Six Spitfires and one Boston were claimed for the loss of Maresciallo Pietro Del Turco (MM7785) from 90a Squadriglia. Claiming pilots were Capitano Franco Lucchini (84a Squadriglia; MC.202 MM7901/84-3), who claimed one Spitfire and one Boston, Capitano Carlo Ruspoli (91a Squadriglia) one Spitfire, Maggiore D’Agostinis (flying an MC.202 from 91a Squadriglia) one Spitfire, Sottotenente Luciano Barsotti (91a Squadriglia) one Spitfire, Maresciallo Ferrulli (91a Squadriglia) one Spitfire and finally Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini and Tenente Luigi Padovani (both 91a Squadriglia), which claimed one Spitfire as a shared. The Italian fighters were back at base at 07:45.
Ten Spitfire Vcs of 92 Squadron took off on an offensive sweep at 07:20, meeting MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo in the El Alamein area. Lieutenants “Bill” Rabie (BR475/QJ-A) and J. M. Faure (BR479/QJ-E), both on attachment from 1 SAAF Squadron, claimed an MC.202 and a Bf 109F respectively. Rabie was then shot down, baling out from 15,000 feet; Rabie arrived back with the squadron during the afternoon. Flight Sergeant R. Hempstead (BR573/QJ-T) claimed one Bf 109 damaged while Flight Lieutenant John Morgan (BR525/QJ-S) claimed two more Bf 109s as damaged. The Canadian, Pilot Officer Louis Bavincourt (RCAF no. J/15767) was killed in combat when he failed to return (Spitfire Vc BR515/QJ-D).
The Italian pilots were clearly delighted with their success, claiming six Spitfires shot down as well as a Boston; there is no record of a Boston being lost on this date, however.
The combat appears to have been witnessed by eight Messerschmitt pilots of III./JG 53, who were escorting Stukas and reported seeing a British bomber formation with a strong escort, including four Spitfires as top cover. They recorded that as they watched, one Spitfire crashed
Five MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo, led by Maggiore Luigi Filippi, were scrambled at 11:50 from Abu Haggag on 9 October 1942. Twenty kilometres south of Daba, they met a formation of 18 ‘Bostons’ (as the British twin-engined bombers were invariably identified by the Italians) and fighters. A fight occurred during which Maggiore Filippi claimed a P-40 and Tenente Carlo Brigante Colonna a Spitfire probable. The 23o Gruppo landed again at 13:00.
At the same time (11:55-13:05), three MC.202s from the 91a Squadriglia were scrambled from Fuka and Maresciallo Ferrulli claimed a ‘P-46’ south of Qutaifiya.
At 12:15, eight MC.202s from the 96a Squadriglia led by Tenente Emanuele Annoni scrambled from Fuka. They headed to Daba were a formation of 20 Bostons, escorted by Kittyhawks and Spitfires was engaged. Tenente Annoni claimed a Spitfire with a ‘P-46’ reportedly shot down by Sottotenante Alberto Giampaoli. The Italians suffered no losses.
Seven Bf 109s of II.Gruppe JG 27 were scrambled. This time the German fighters claimed three fighters when Feldwebel Alfred Heidel (4./JG 27) claimed a Spitfire south-east of Daba at 12:05, Feldwebel Fritz Lüer (6./JG 27) claimed a P-40 north-east of Daba at 12:15 and Oberleutnant Ernst Börngen (5./JG 27) claimed a Spitfire north of Sanyet Qotaifiya at 12:20. Unteroffizier Jens Bahnsen from 8./JG 53 seems to have scrambled somewhat later and he claimed a P-40 north-west of Sanyet Qotaifiya at 13:15. Four Bf 109s were lost during the day:
Bf 109 F-4 trop WNr 8598 White 9 from 6./JG 27 was shot down by P-40s over Fuka – Qotaifiya. The aircraft was destroyed and Oberfeldwebel Hans Wurschunger was KiA.
Bf 109 F-4 trop WNr 8572 from 7./JG 27 crashed at Fuka due to combat with the pilot baling out safely.
Bf 109 F-4 trop WNr 13019 White 6 from 7./JG 27 was shot down in combat with P-40s 20-25km south-east of El Alamein. Feldwebel Werner Fingerhuth baled out to become a PoW.
Bf 109 F-4 trop WNr 8648 from 7./JG 27 crash-landed after combat at Bir el Abd and was destroyed. The pilot was safe.
At 12:10, twelve Kittyhawks of 250 Squadron with other aircraft of 239 Wing escorted twelve Baltimores and six B-25s over LGs. 21 and 104, nine Spitfires of 92 Squadron providing top cover. After the bombing 20 Bf 109s and MC.202s attacked the formation. Sergeant A. A. W. Orr from 250 Squadron (Kittyhawk III FR287) claimed one Bf 109 E shot down over Daba at 13:20 but one was Kittyhawk shot down when Pilot Officer D. W. M. Rogerson (Kitthawk FL898) was shot down by MC.202s over Daba and Rogerson became a PoW. Two more were damaged; Kittyhawk FR287 with Sergeant A. A. W. Orr WiA and Kittyhawk FR238, which crash-landed at base at 13:45 but with the pilot Flying Officer C. W. Tribken safe. One Spitfire of 92 Squadron was also lost when Pilot Officer T. Harvey (Spitfire V BR479/E) failed to return and Harvey was posted as MiA.
The high number of aircraft flying in the area during these days caused such confusion that the German Freya radar personnel had troubles to identify friend or foe aircraft. So, many times the alarm was delayed, and Axis fighters scrambled late.
This happened on 20 October when at 10:55, 14 MC.202s of the 4o Stormo hurriedly scrambled to intercept 24 Bostons and Hudsons above Fuka, escorted by 30 P-40s and 20 Spitfires. The bombers were still releasing their cargo over the airfield when the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Tenente Vittorio Squarcia, Sergente Armando Angelini and Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi), 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Franco Lucchini, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano and Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi), 91a Squadriglia (Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, Sergente Maggiore Ferrulli and Sergente Maggiore Alessandro Bladelli), and 97a Squadriglia (Tenente Jacopo Frigerio, Tenente Giovanni Barcaro, Sottotenente Leo Boselli and Maresciallo Giovanni Bianchelli), attacked them. The escort intercepted the Italian fighters, and a number of claims were made. Ruspoli, Oblach and Ferrulli claimed two P-40s each, Bladelli, Frigerio, Barcaro and Boselli claimed one P-40 each while Bianchelli claimed one Spitfire. Another Spitfire was claimed as a probable by Bladelli. Mettimano, in his first combat mission, damaged four Hudsons and a P-40 while Angelini, Rinaldi and Squarcia jointly claimed four damaged P-40s. Buttazzi claimed three damaged P-40s and Lucchini claimed a Hudson as a damaged. Lucchini’s MC.202 (MM7905/84-4) was hit when a 20mm shell tore off the aircraft’s spinner and he was forced to make an emergency landing at 11:30.
Totally the 4o Stormo claimed 25 enemy aircraft shot down during the day, but of the 57 fighters (43 of which were combat-ready) on charge in the morning, only eleven were serviceable in the evening. The 9o Gruppo reported the mission as between 10:55 and 12:20 while the 10o Gruppo reported it as between 11:00 and 12:30
The 23o Gruppo also scrambled (11:00-12:30) and they also made a number of claims. From 70a Squadriglia, Sottotenente Luigi Bandini and Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella each claimed a P-40 over El Daba while Tenente Antonio Maccanti claimed a probable P-40 in the same area. 74a Squadriglia was in combat south of El Alamein, and Sergente Maggiore Felice Papini claimed a Boston and Sergente Maggiore Emilio Stafano claimed a Spitfire while Tenente Giorgio Solaroli claimed a shared Spitfire together with Sergente Maurizio Mandolesi (75a Squadriglia). Tenente Carlo Moruzzi claimed a probable P-40.
Ferrulli remained in North Africa until the end of October 1942.
After this, he went to the Air Academy in Caserta where he was promoted to Sottotenente (Warrant Officer) in December. He then re-joined his unit in Sicily at the beginning of 1943.
After the battle of El Alamein, the Axis forces gradually retreated. In early December, the 10o Gruppo was at Castelbenito to be sent back to Italy.
During the period January 1942 – January 1943, the 4o Stormo flew 7202 hours on missions, took part in 133 combats, claimed 289 aircraft destroyed (totally 501 from the beginning of the war) and lost 24 pilots KIA or MIA with 29 wounded and 2 POWs.
After a period of rest, on 24 February 1943, pilots of the 10o Gruppo rejoined 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 Ferrulli, Sottotenente Elio Miotto, Sottotenente Guerriero Silvestri, Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara, Maresciallo Alessandro Bladelli, Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli, Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Terrabuio, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi and Sergente Giulio Fornalé.
On 20 April, the Gruppo transferred to Ciampino Sud for the defence of Rome.
At the beginning of July, Allied forces started to attack Sicily.
On 4 July sixty USAAF bombers, escorted by thirty-six P-38s and Spitfires, attacked the airfield of Gerbini Sud and the railway stations of Catania and Misterbianco.
Twenty-one MC.202s and MC.205s were scrambled and intercepted the bombers and their escort between Catania, Syracuse and Cape Passero. Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini and Sottotenente Renato Baroni (90 a Squadriglia) claimed a shared P-38 in this combat while Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Sottotenente Mario Squarcina (90 a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Ferrulli claimed a P-38 each. Many other Allied aircraft were claimed damaged. No losses were suffered by the Italian fighters.
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 Vittorino 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 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 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.
Ferrulli was posthumously decorated with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare.
He had also been decorated with a third Medaglia d'argento during the war.
At the time of his death, Ferrulli was credited with 3 biplane victories and a total of 22.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|1||07/10/37||1||SB||Destroyed||Fiat CR.32||off Palma di Majorca|
|11/09/40||1/19||Blenheim (a)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sidi Omar - Bardia area||91a Squadriglia|
|14/09/40||11:00-||1/15||Blenheim (b)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||91a Squadriglia|
|12/12/40||11:10-||1/9||Gladiator (c)||Shared probable||Fiat CR.42||Bir Enba area||91a Squadriglia|
|12/12/40||11:10-||1/9||Gladiator (c)||Shared probable||Fiat CR.42||Bir Enba area||91a Squadriglia|
|2||19/12/40||15:45||1||Hurricane (d)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||91a Squadriglia|
|19/12/40||15:45||1||Hurricane (d)||Damaged||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||91a Squadriglia|
|25/12/40||14:35-17:00||1/13||Hurricane (e)||Shared probable||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||91a Squadriglia|
|25/12/40||14:35-17:00||1/13||Hurricane (e)||Shared probable||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||91a Squadriglia|
|3||04/01/41||1||Hurricane (f)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Bardia-Tobruk||91a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1/?||Hurricane (g)||Shared destroyed||MC.200||Hal Far||91a Squadriglia|
|17/07/41||mid-morning||1||Hurricane (h)||Probable||MC.200||Cape Passero||91a Squadriglia|
|5||??/??/41||1||Hurricane||Destroyed||North Africa||91a Squadriglia|
|6||??/??/41||1||Hurricane||Destroyed||North Africa||91a Squadriglia|
|7||??/??/41||1||Hurricane||Destroyed||North Africa||91a Squadriglia|
|8||??/??/41||1||Blenheim||Destroyed||North Africa||91a Squadriglia|
|9||04/06/42||08:05-08:50||1||P-40 (i)||Destroyed||MC.202||S Bir Hacheim||91a Squadriglia|
|10||04/06/42||08:05-08:50||1||P-40 (i)||Destroyed||MC.202||S Bir Hacheim||91a Squadriglia|
|11||06/06/42||05:05-06:30||1||P-40 (j)||Destroyed||MC.202||Bir Hacheim||91a Squadriglia|
|12||08/06/42||09:35-10:30||1||P-40 (k)||Destroyed||MC.202||E Bir el Harmat||91a Squadriglia|
|13||03/07/42||10:05-11:30||1||P-40 (l)||Destroyed||MC.202||S El Alamein||91a Squadriglia|
|03/07/42||10:05-11:30||1/4||P-40 (l)||Shared destroyed||MC.202||S El Alamein||91a Squadriglia|
|03/07/42||10:05-11:30||1/4||P-40 (l)||Shared destroyed||MC.202||S El Alamein||91a Squadriglia|
|14||10/07/42||08:55-10:10||1||P-40 (m)||Destroyed||MC.202||El Alamein area||91a Squadriglia|
|15||10/07/42||08:55-10:10||1||P-40 (m)||Destroyed||MC.202||El Alamein area||91a Squadriglia|
|16||14/07/42||07:45-09:35||1||P-40 (n)||Destroyed||MC.202||El Alamein||91a Squadriglia|
|17||02/09/42||06:10-07:45||1||Spitfire (o)||Destroyed||MC.202||Bir Mseilikh area||91a Squadriglia|
|18||09/10/42||11:55-13:05||1||’P-46’ (p)||Destroyed||MC.202||S Qutaifiya||91a Squadriglia|
|21||04/07/43||1||P-38||Destroyed||MC.202||Catania - Syracuse - Cape Passero||91a Squadriglia|
|22||05/07/43||1||B-17 (q)||Destroyed||MC.202||Sicily||91a Squadriglia|
|23||05/07/43||1||P-38 (r)||Destroyed||MC.202||Sicily||91a Squadriglia|
Biplane victories: 3 and 2 shared destroyed, 4 shared probably destroyed, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 23 and 5 shared destroyed, 1 and 4 shared probably destroyed, 1 damaged.
(a) This claim can’t be verified with RAF sources.
(b) This claim can’t be verified with RAF records.
(c) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron, which claimed 3 CR.42s without suffering losses. The 4o Stormo claimed 2 probables while losing one CR.42 (Sergente Crestani PoW).
(d) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 and 274 Squadrons, which claimed 5 CR.42s while getting 1 Hurricane from 274 Squadron damaged. The 9o and 10o Gruppi claimed at least 2 Hurricanes, 1 probable and 2 damaged while suffering 2 damaged CR.42s.
(e) Possibly claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed one damaged CR.42 without any losses. The CR.42s from 10o claimed two probables without losses.
(f) Flight Sergeant T. C. Morris (V7293) or Flying Officer T. L. Patterson (P2643) which both were obliged to force-land after sustaining combat damage.
(g) 10o Gruppo totally claimed four Hurricanes. RAF lost none.
(h) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 249 and 185 Squadrons. 10o Gruppo totally claimed four Hurricanes and two probables for the loss of two MC.200s. 249 Squadron claimed two MC.200 destroyed and one damaged for the loss of one Hurricane from 249 Squadron; Sergeant Maurice Guest (Hurricane Z2818) being killed.
(i) Claimed in combat with fighters from 2, 4 and 5 SAAF Squadrons and 260 Squadron, which claimed 2 and 3 damaged Bf 109s, while losing 7 P-40s (2 by Ju 87s and 1 by AA). Fighters from 10o Gruppo and II./JG 27 claimed 7 P-40s and 2 probables without losses.
(j) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 250 Squadron, which claimed 3 damaged fighters without sustaining any damage. The 10o Gruppo claimed 2 fighters destroyed and 1 probable and 3 damaged without losses.
(k) Not verified with Allied records.
(l) Probably claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 213 Squadron, which claimed 1 damaged fighter while losing 3 Hurricanes (1 pilot WIA). The 10o Gruppo claimed 6 P-40s without losses.
(m) Claimed in combat with Hurricane IIcs from 274 Squadron, which claimed 2 probable fighters and 7 damaged with one Hurricane damaged. The 10o Gruppo claimed 8 P-40s without losses.
(n) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 238 Squadron, which claimed 4 damaged MC.202s while losing 1 Hurricane. The 10o Gruppo claimed 5 P-40s destroyed, 1 probable and 1 probable Hurricane without losses.
(o) Probably claimed in combat with Spitfire Vcs from 92 Squadron, which claimed 1 MC.202 and 1 Bf 109 destroyed and 3 Bf 109s damaged while losing 2 Spitfires (1 pilot KIA). 10o Gruppo claimed 6 Spitfires and 1 Boston while losing 1 MC.202 (pilot KIA).
(p) Claimed in combat with fighters from 92 and 250 Squadrons, which claimed 1 Bf 109 while losing 1 Spitfire (pilot MiA) and 1 Kittyhawk (pilot PoW) and getting two more Kittyhawks damaged. II./JG 27, 8./JG 53 and 9o, 10o and 23o Gruppi claimed 8 destroyed and 1 probable without losses.
(q) Possibly claimed in combat with B-17s from 99th Bomber Group, which seems to have lost three B-17s during the day.
(r) This claim can’t be verified with USAAF records.
2o Stormo - Note storiche dal 1925 al 1975 - Gino Strada, 1975 USSMA, Rome
55 Squadron Operations Record Book
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Desert Prelude: Operation Compass - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2011 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-61421-18-4
Diario Storico 84a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 90a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 91a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Eagles over Gazala: Air Battles in North Africa May-June 1942 – Michele Palermo, IBN Editore, ISBN (10) 88-7565-168-X
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Hurricanes over Malta - Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2001 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-91-8
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
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
USAAF (Mediterranean Theater) Credits For The Destruction Of Enemy Aircraft In Air-To-Air Combat World War 2 - Frank Olynyk, 1987 Victory List No.6
Much additional information kindly provided by Ferdinando D'Amico, Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo