Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito


Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO.

When Italy declared war on the Great Britain and France on 10 June 1940, Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito served in the 91a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo C.T.

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 Leonardo Ferrulli, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato, Sergente Maggiore 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 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 Fiorito, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Casero, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo 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 Leonardo Ferrulli, Sergente Maggiore 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 22 December, a formation of 23 fighters from the 10o Gruppo took off at 10:15 from Z1 to escort SM 79s bound to attack the usual British forces in the Sidi Omar-Sidi Azeiz area. The formation included six CR.42s from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato, Sergente Maggiore Fiorito and Sergente Elio Miotto), seven from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Luigi Bagato and Sergente Luigi Contarini) and ten from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Mario Pluda (from the 91a Squadriglia but attached to the 84a Squadriglia), Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Giuseppe Scaglioni, Sergente Piero Buttazzi and Sergente Luciano Perdoni).
Capitano Monti, Sottotenente Prati and Sergente Scaglioni were forced to turn back due to engine problems.
During the return journey, a British aircraft, identified as a “Battle”, tried to attack the formation but was attacked and damaged by Sergente Perdoni, Sergente Steppi and Tenente Angeloni. The 91a Squadriglia formation attacked enemy aircraft (of unspecified type) over the front and claimed one of them confirmed. AA fire damaged Sergente Steppi’s CR.42. At 12:10, all the fighters landed back at Z1.
The bombers were part of the biggest operation by the Regia Aeronautica since the beginning of Operation Compass, consisting of ten bombers from the 41o Stormo under Colonnello Pezzi and ten more from the 15o Stormo under Capitano De Cecco. Enemy vehicles around the border area were attacked by Pezzi, who after releasing his bombs went down to strafe from 50 metres altitude using 6000 rounds of ammo. The only damage suffered was from light AA on Tenente Pandolfi’s aircraft. The bombers returned at 12:15.
The 15o Stormo attacked the Sidi Azeiz area with 90 100kg bombs but was intercepted by aircraft identified as Battles (!). The Italian didn’t have any escort, which had remained with the 41o Stormo and had to accept combat. Nine SM 79 landed normally at 12:05 but the tenth was shot down, being forced to crash-land 30 kilometres south-east of Tobruk with a dead and two wounded among its crew.
It seems that they “Battles” in fact were Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which reported that they flew offensive patrol together with 112 Squadron. During the day, they claimed two confirmed SM 79s shot down.

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 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 Leonardo 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.

At the time of his death, Fiorito was credited with 1 shared biplane victory.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  12/12/40 11:10- 1/9 Gladiator (a) Shared probable Fiat CR.42   Bir Enba area 91a Squadriglia
  12/12/40 11:10- 1/9 Gladiator (a) Shared probable Fiat CR.42   Bir Enba area 91a Squadriglia
  22/12/40 10:15-12:10 1/6 Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Omar-Sidi Azeiz area 91a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed, 2 shared probably destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed, 2 shared probably destroyed.
(a) 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).

Sources:
2o Stormo - Note storiche dal 1925 al 1975 - Gino Strada, 1975 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
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
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Additional information kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo




Last modified 30 November 2010