Biplane fighter aces


Sottotenente Vincenzo Forcheri

25 May 1910 -

Date Decoration Note
??/??/41 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare 1940-43

Vincenzo Forcheri was born on 25 May 1910 and was from Tortona (Alessandria).

When the war started in East Africa on 10 June 1940, the 410a Squadriglia was equipped with nine Fiat CR.32s and based at Diredawa. Pilots in the unit were Colonnello Mario Pezzi, Capitano Corrado Ricci, Tennete Elio Pesce, Sottotenente Forcheri, Sottotenente Alberto Veronese, Sottotenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Giardinà, Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli, Sergente Maggiore Alberto Puliti, Sergente Maggiore Athos Tieghi, Sergente Giovanni Tellurio and Sergente Ugo Zoino.

On 5 August, the Italian invasion of British Somaliland commenced. Trios of Blenheims from 8 Squadron attacked a motor convoy west of Hargeisa on three occasions; during the third mission Blenheim L8375 was shot down in flames by a patrolling CR.32 flown by Forcheri. The crew consisting of Pilot Officer Roy Kingsley Felstead (pilot) (RAF no. 41786), 19-year-old Sergeant Aubrey Douglas Wright (RAF no. 747992) and Pilot Officer Tom McKenzie Mitchell DFC (RAF no. 44180) were all killed.

On 10 October 1940, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo) and received the rank of Sottotenente.

From Aden two Blenheim IVFs of 203 Squadron, flown by Squadron Leader J. M. N. Pike and Flight Lieutenant J. P. D. Gethin, made a low-level strafing attack on Makale airfield, on 4 February.
Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani of the 413a Squadriglia together with two CR.32s from the 410a Squadriglia flown by Sottotenente Alberto Veronese and Sottotenente Forcheri, scrambled at 10:30 under the enemy strafing and attacked the two Blenheims, which were both badly damaged, one losing a propeller and crash-landing at its base. Notwithstanding this, they claimed a CR.42 shot down. Indeed, hit by defensive fire in his engine, Cacciavillani was forced to land. He had fired 120 rounds of 7.7mm and 74 of 12.7mm.

On 23 February 1941, seven Hurricanes of 1 SAAF Squadron flew forward to Tole where they refueled. At noon, Major Lawrence Wilmot (V7733?) led Captain Brian Boyle and Lieutenant Andrew Duncan to strafe Makele airfield while Captain K. W. Driver, Lieutenant Servaas de K. Viljoen, Lieutenant E. A. Jarvis and Lieutenant Leonard le Clues Theron provided top cover to the Vickers Wellesley acting as the navigation leader and which was intended to distract the Italians from the three low-flying Hurricanes as they went in. However, the RAF bomber lost its way soon after take-off, being dutifully followed by the top cover formation. In the target area, Major Wilmot realised that something was wrong when he saw a rising dust cloud to his left. He led his two companions toward this.
Finding Makele, the trio went in to strafe. Major Wilmot set fire to a CR.32, which was on the ground with its pilot Sottotenente Forcheri of the 410a Squadriglia in the cockpit, about to take off. He leapt out under fire and managed to reach a trench.
Without their top cover, the Hurricanes were vulnerable to surprise attack, and at that moment reportedly three CR.32s arrived (the dust had been the sign of their scramble). Two fled but Sottotenente Alberto Veronese made good use of their advantageous position and dived on Major Wilmot’s aircraft, shooting it down. Lieutenant Duncan was on him like a flash and shot him down in flames. Veronese managed to parachute to safety, slightly wounded.
Wilmot had in the meantime carried out a crash-landing after that his Hurricane had been hit in the radiator, and became a POW.
Captain Driver, leading the four top-cover Hurricanes, now saw smoke rising, and dived down to join the strafing, the formation claiming five S.79s and three CR.32s set on fire and three S.79s as damaged.

Forcheri ended the war with 1 victory, this one being claimed while flying Fiat CR.32s.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 05/08/40   1 Blenheim (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   W Hargeisa 410a Squadriglia
  04/02/41 10:30- 1/3 Blenheim (b) Shared damaged Fiat CR.32   Makale airfield 410a Squadriglia
  04/02/41 10:30- 1/3 Blenheim (b) Shared damaged Fiat CR.32   Makale airfield 410a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed, 2 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed, 2 shared damaged.
(a) Blenheim L8375 of 8 Squadron shot down in flames. Pilot Officer R. K. Felstead and his crew (Sergeant A. D. Wright and Pilot Officer T. M. Mitchell) were killed.
(b) Blenheim IVFs of 203 Squadron, flown by Squadron Leader J. M. N. Pike and Flight Lieutenant J. P. D. Gethin; both damaged and one had to crash-land at base in Aden.

Luciano Cacciavillani's personal logbook courtesy of Cacciavillani family (Luciano jr and Alberto)
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 1 Volume A - L
The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history – Graham Warner, 2002 Crécy Publishing Limited, Manchester, ISBN 0-947554-92-0
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro, Giovanni Massimello, Michele Palermo and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 19 September 2023