Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Jacopo Frigerio

29 October 1913 - 3 October 1955

Jacopo Frigerio, in front of a Fiat CR.32, pre-war.

Jacopo Frigerio was born on 29 October 1913 in Milan.

He joined the Regia Aeronautica on 29 April 1936 as "Allievo Ufficiale Pilota di Complemento" and started in the flight school on 1 September 1936.
He gained the pilot license on 10 January 1937 on the Ca.100, he then passed to the fighter school of Castiglione del Lago and then Foligno, gaining his military wings on 26 August 1937.

Promoted to Sottotenente pilota on 2 December (with retroactive effect from 26 August), he joined the 4o Stormo at the end of 1937.
Although not a permanent officer he remained on active service until June 1938 when on 25 June 1938 he was sent in a "Missione Speciale Oltremare" (i.e. the Aviazione Legionaria in Spain).
During his service in Spain, he gained one Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare and the croce di guerra al valor militare, for his overall activity, together with a Spanish war cross.

Back in Italy in April 1939, again in the 4o Stormo, he received six additional months of commission, but in January 1940 he was hold on active service (the war was impending).

On 12 July 1940, the 9o Gruppo C.T. arrived at Tripoli from Comiso with thirty-three Fiat CR.42s under the command of Maggiore Ernesto Botto. The Gruppo consisted of 73a, 96a and 97a Squadriglie.
The 97a Squadriglia included Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO), Capitano Giuseppe Mauriello, Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Frigerio, Sottotenente Riccardo Vaccari, Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro, Maresciallo Vanni Zuliani, Sergente Maggiore Raffaello Novelli, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Francesco Putzu, Sergente Franco Sarasino, Sergente Alcide Leoni and Sergente Angelo Golino (assigned on 22 July).
Together with the 10o Gruppo they formed the 4o Stormo C.T.
The Gruppo’s Fiat CR.42s was wisely retrofitted with tropical kits for guns and engines, to avoid the problems suffered by the other Gruppi.

Jacopo Frigerio, in front of a Fiat CR.42 while serving in the 4o Stormo.

On 20 November, 208 Squadron despatched two Lysanders to reconnoitre an area bounded by Sollum, Sofali and Buq-Buq. They were L4724 piloted by Flight Lieutenant Burnard and L4728 piloted by Pilot Officer Waymark that took off from Qasaba at 14:20 and 14:15 landing back at 16:35 and 16:20 respectively (another Lysander, possibly L6874, an attached 6 Squadron aircraft piloted by Flying Officer T. H. Davison, was out in the same area). 33 Squadron provided nine Hurricanes (including Flying Officer Vernon Woodward (N2498), Flight Lieutenant Ernest Dean (P 3818), Flying Officer John Mackie (P3724), Squadron Leader Charles Ryley (P3970), Flight Sergeant Harry Goodchild (N2640), Flying Officer Frank Holman (P3724) and Pilot Officer Charles Dyson (N2640)) as escort. It is possible that the unaccounted pilots were one or two pilots from 274 Squadron since a quartet of Hurricanes from this Squadron, piloted by Flight Lieutenant R. V. Evers-Swindell, Pilot Officer Ernest Mason, Pilot Officer Thomas Patterson and Second Lieutenant Frederick Johannes Joubert, together with Pilot Officer Strange and Second Lieutenant Bester (who followed with the ground party) were detached on attachment to 33 Squadron on 14 November. On 21 November, Evers-Swindell, flew back from Fuka to have repairs on his fighter, reportedly damaged in a running fight with CR.42s. It seems almost sure that the “running fight” was the below described action, so it is possible that R. V. Evers-Swindell was present.
The escort took off from Fuka Satellite airfield at 14:15, with one section of three protecting each Lysander while a third section provided top cover. At the same time, a formation of six Gladiators from 112 Squadron would sweep the same general area.
East of Sidi Barrani, 18 CR.42s intercepted them and one Fiat half-rolled and dived away after being fired on by a Hurricane. It is possible that this aircraft later was credited as a destroyed to Flying Officer Mackie, who in a letter sent home to Canada on 4 December recalled:

“Just before I went on leave we had one of two bits of fun up here. On one occasion, you may have heard about it on the radio, fifteen of us got mixed up with sixty wop fighters. We lost none, and got at least eight of them. I got one of these, although not in a very convincing way from my point of view, as I didn’t see it go in. Another pilot saw the start and the finish of it. Anyhow, it sure was a mix-up. I have never seen so many machines milling around in such a small amount of sky.”
However, after this both sides started to guard each other without giving battle with the Italians uncertain to tangle with the faster Hurricanes and the British finding it difficult to close in on their more manoeuvrable opponents.
The Hurricanes of the two sections dealing with the direct escort of the Lysanders now started to brake off since they were being out-manoeuvred by their opponents and at this moment a huge formation of a reportedly 25-30 Italian fighters was seen higher. The top cover section of 33 Squadron climbed to engage but reportedly without avail because the Italian turned back towards Libya without engaging.
The Italian formation was composed by 18 aircraft from all three Squadriglie of the 9o Gruppo led by Maggiore Ernesto Botto (at the head of the 73a Squadriglia). Six of the CR.42s were from the 96a Squadriglia (Capitano Roberto Fassi leading Tenente Aldo Gon, Sottotenente Carlo Agnelli, Sottotenente Armando Moresi and Sergente Vittorio Pozzati together with 4o Stormo’s adjutant, Capitano Mario Pluda), five were from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Maresciallo Mario Ruffilli, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Valle and Sergente Santo Gino) and six were from the 97a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni, Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Frigerio, Maresciallo Rinaldo Damiani, Sergente Francesco Putzu and Sergente Franco Sarasino). They had taken off from El Adem at 14:40 to cover Italian troops in the Bir Enba area (and probably indirectly escorting a reconnaissance plane) when Botto discovered a Bristol Blenheim escorted by several Hurricanes flying lower and attacked.
At this moment, with the 9o Gruppo’s attention focused elsewhere, the 112 Squadron’s Gladiators intervened and managed to surprise the Italian formation over Sidi Barrani. They claimed eight of the Fiats without losses. All of the six pilots made claims and Flight Lieutenant R. J. Abrahams claimed one and one shared with Pilot Officer Richard Acworth, who also claimed one additional. Flying Officer R. J. Bennett claimed one, Pilot Officer Alfred Costello claimed one, Pilot Officer Leonard Bartley claimed two and Sergeant 'Paddy' Donaldson finally claimed one. 112 Squadron didn’t record any losses in this combat even if Pilot Officer Acworth in his memories spoke of a couple of planes obliged to force-land and the unit’s aircraft retuned to Fuka between 16:20 and 17:25. For this one-sided action, they were noted in the press for the first time.
Richard Acworth remembered this combat in a short story written in the 1960’s but never published.
“The Lysanders were to be ‘covered’ against enemy air attacks by six Gladiators from my squadron… three flying at 12,000 feet, and three, led by myself, at 15,000 feet. ‘Top cover’ was to be provided by six Hurricanes, flying at 20,000 feet. The Hurricanes had strict orders to beat a hasty retreat if they met with enemy aircraft in large numbers, as it was thought at that time that they would be ‘easy meat’ for the move manoeuvrable C.R. 42’s, the single-seater Italian opposite number of the Gladiator.
We had been patrolling for about 10 minutes, when I reported forty CR 42s, in eight sections of five, flying from the direction of Libya, at approximately 25,000 feet, 5,000 feet higher that the Hurricane ‘top-cover’. To my dismay, the Hurricanes were soon speeding home, with a CR 42 sitting neatly on each tail. Our six Gladiators were left to finish the fight, for the Lysanders, their task completed, were heading for home, too.
There was not a friendly cloud in the sky, and the powerful desert sun made the enemy aircraft very difficult to see. Forthwith, they carried out the German tactics of remaining aloft, and sending down their more experienced men to finish us off one by one….but it was not to be!
With the first attacks, we broke formation, and it was every man for himself. I soon found myself very much alone, until unfriendly tracer bullets from behind, passed through the space between my right wings. I immediately steep-turned to the left, and caught sight of my attacker as he completed his dive and prepared to re-join his pals up higher, by means of a roll off the top of a loop.
Seizing my chance, I opened full throttle and followed him to the top of his loop, half rolled in formation with him, and was just about to open fire, when my aircraft stalled and flicked into a spin….not enough speed! I decided my best means of survival was to continue the spin, in the hope that he would think I had been badly hit. This was a fighter tactic from World War I, and it worked! Whilst I was spinning, I looked upwards and caught a glimpse of my adversary circling at his original height, waiting for me to crash into the desert. I came out of the spin at about 8,000 feet, no doubt much to his surprise, and didn’t have to wait long for him to dive down to finish me off.
So started a long tail-chasing session. At first, my mouth became rather dry, but after a second or two, my mind became crystal clear, and I was determined to turn the tables on him. Slowly I began to gain ground, and soon part of his tail was in my sights, but I realized it would not have been great enough. When his engine came into my sights, I pressed the firing button, and was immediately cheered to see pieces of fabric or metal ripping off his fuselage, just behind the cockpit.
The Italian pilot turned so quickly in his mad effort to escape, that he pulled his aircraft into a spin, following a ‘high-speed stall’. I followed him down, and fired at him as he tried to recover, and he promptly went into another one. On recovering from his second spin, he must have pulled an emergency boost control to give him extra speed, for he left my Gladiator ‘standing’.
However, my opponent was not easily scared, and turned about a mile away to come back at me like a bull at a gate. We both opened fire, and when it seemed that a head-on collision was inevitable, he pulled out to my left in a climbing turn. For a second, I was able to fire at his exposed fuselage, and then, with throttle fully open, I climbed into the sun, into an advantageous position. To my horror, my engine stalled near the top of the climb, and I had to carry out the usual drill of closing the throttle and opening it again, slowly. Full power came back, and looking down, I could see my opponent looking for me. This time, I had the advantage of height, and I was nicely lining him up in my sights when he saw me, and tried to turn in underneath me.
Slowly twisting, and with the right deflection, I raked him with bullets from nose to tail, at almost point-blank range. I pulled out of my dive, to regain height, and saw him commence another spin from which he did not recover. I felt immensely relieved, somewhat shaken, and eventually joined up with two stray Gladiators, and returned to Mersa Matruh. I was pleased to learn later that seven aircraft had been shot down in the engagement, and that all the Gladiator pilots had survived the fight, although two had made forced landings.
I shall never forget that day. It was my first one-against-one air battle, and the longest time I had engaged a single enemy aircraft...”
The 9o Gruppo actually lost only three shot down and four damaged but two pilots were killed. The three shot down pilots were Sottotenente Carlo Agnelli of the 96a Squadriglia, who was killed, Sergente Francesco Putzu of the 97a Squadriglia, who was killed, and Tenente Gon (who usually flew CR.42 MM5605/96-2), who recalled:
“This day [strangely enough he recorded it as on 1 November but this is for certain an error] I lost the dearest of all my wingmen [Carlo Agnelli]. We were up with all the Gruppo and the three Squadriglie were stepped at different heights. The lowest escorting a reconnaissance plane, mine (96a Squadriglia) at 3000 metres while the third stay higher. The highest group had already engaged the enemy when I saw one of our planes diving almost vertically followed by a Gloster. I made a violent overturning that my wingmen were unable to follow [again without radio equipment the Italian formation was broken at the beginning of the combat and whatever numerical advantage was impossible to put into full use] when I reach a distance suitable to open fire I had to wait because there was the risk of hitting my comrade [with the same burst aimed at the fighter that was following him] I had to concentrate only on the aim [the wingmen were far away] so I couldn’t look around and was attacked by two Glosters. With the first burst of fire they shot away my propeller, so without propulsion I could only manoeuvre to avoid further damage. All the height lost I force-landed and the English pilots that had already stopped firing while I was gliding down for my final approach flew past me waving their hands.
[Gon, tried to burn his plane without success and succeeded to reach an Italian outpost the day after]
Back at base, I discovered that information about the missing pilots (we were three) were lacking.
A sergeant
[Sergente Francesco Putzu] was seen to jump with parachute and another of our planes was seen to crash after a hard fight, all believed it was mine because the other missing pilot (my dear wingman) was too “green” to be able to fight against three enemies as the pilot of the crashed plane did.
The encounter with Botto was tragicomically. I went to his room and he was waiting for me near the door and as just as he saw me he threw himself right into my arms through the three steps that divided us. But I was too weak and was unable to sustain him so we fell embraced on the ground.”
According to the official records of the 4o Stormo, however, it seems that during the dive Gon’s guns went out of synchronisation and when opening fire he cut his propeller with the first shots.
Seven confirmed and probable victories were credited to the pilots of the Gruppo after that they had landed at 16:30. This overclaiming was the result of that the Stormo’s records had to be re-recorded in 1941 after they had been lost. This re-recording was done by Tenente Giulio Reiner, who was then adjutant of the Gruppo. Obviously Reiner’s reconstruction was not as accurate as a complete debriefing immediately after the battle could be.
Roberto Fassi was credited with a Blenheim, a probable Gladiator and two damaged Gladiators. Pozzati, who was wounded on the right foot, was credited with a Gladiator while Gon was credited with a Gladiator (a victory that he didn’t mention at all in his memories). Pluda claimed another Gladiator and Moresi one probable Gladiator. The 73a and 97a Squadriglie claimed one Gladiator and two Hurricanes shot down and four fighters damaged, all shared. Final assessment of the combat was four Gladiators, two Hurricanes and a Blenheim confirmed and two Gladiators probably destroyed (the actual number of confirmed claims varies between the reconstructed Diari of the involved Squadriglias to seven or eight destroyed).

At 11:25 on 11 December, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni together with Sottotenente Frigerio and Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Novelli (all from the 97a Squadriglia) took off from El Adem as part of a Gruppo formation, which possibly also included fighters from the 10o Gruppo. They attacked British armoured cars claiming two destroyed in flames and four damaged. They returned at 13:45.
It is also known that Capitano Roberto Fassi of the 96a Squadriglia, with eight CR.42s made a successful strafing attack on armoured vehicles in the Der el Hamra area (along the escaping route of the Cirene Division).
The efforts of the 9o Gruppo were successful. According to the British Historian, Barrie Pitt:

“Cirene soldiers were harried during the early part of their flight by a Squadron of 11th Hussars, but the Hussars themselves were caught about noon by two excellently led and conducted flights of 5th Squadra fighters. The second flight was using armour-piercing explosive bullets which effectively put the Hussars out of action for the time being and allowed Sofafi garrison the rest of the day to continue a virtually uninterrupted retreat”.

At 09:45 on 13 December, Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio and Sergente Maggiore Raffaello Novelli of the 97a Squadriglia took off for a patrol over the Sollum-Sidi Azeiz area together with eight aircraft from the 96a Squadriglia. The fighters from the 9o Gruppo were attacked from astern by a Hurricane, which succeeded in disengaging before being counter-attacked.
Later, during the same patrol another Hurricane was met in the Capuzzo-Halfaya area and claimed hit by Novelli. The fighters returned at 11:45.

The 9o Gruppo returned from the desert and was re-equipped with Macchi MC.200s.

On 11 April 1941, he was promoted to Tenente with retroactive effect since 31 December 1940.

In July, the unit re-equipped again with MC.202s and they were sent to Sicily.
On 30 June, Sottotenente Frigerio flew Macchi MC.202 MM7712/’97-2’ for the first time when he ferried the fighter from Lonate Pozzolo to Gorizia.

On 20 September 1941, he received a permanent commission (in Servizion Permanente Effettivo) because of his performance in war (per meriti di guerra) but for this reason, the mature Tenente Frigerio returned back to the rank of Sottotenente (with retroactive effect from 20 December 1940).

On 29 September, the 9o Gruppo moved from Gorizia to Comiso, Sicily, to take part in the attacks on Malta.

In the afternoon on 30 September, five of 185 Squadron’s fighter-bomber Hurricanes attacked Comiso, escorted by six more of the unit’s aircraft. The Hurribombers were each carrying six 40-lb bombs and two 25-lb incendiaries. Three MC.202s from the 97a Squadriglia scrambled led by Sottotenente Frigerio. These intercepted the Hurricanes after their strike and Frigerio (MM7712/’97-2’) shot down 27-year-old Pilot Officer Donald William Lintern (RAF no. 60079), who was seen baling out of Z5265/GL-B just north of Gozo.
Lintern was unfortunately never found and reported lost.

In the morning of 12 November 1941, four Hurricanes from 249 Squadron strafed Gela airfield on Sicily. This raid was soon followed by eleven bomb-carrying Hurricanes out for the same airfield. Six of the Hurricanes were drawn from 249 Squadron, the other five from 126 Squadron, while an additional four and six respectively provided escort. As the twenty-one Hurricanes approached they were met by three MC.202s of the 9o Gruppo, which had been scrambled from Comiso during the previous raid. Tenente Frigerio attacked one Hurricane without result, but this was then attacked by Sottotenente Giovanni Deanna and Sergente Massimo Salvatore who shot it down into the sea near the coast. This was one of the Hurribombers (Z3158/HA-K), flown by Australian Sergeant Peter Simpson of 126 Squadron.
Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan of the 90a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo took off in a CR.42 to search for the downed pilot, who he spotted, and who was then picked up by a launch and taken prisoner.
During the raid, one MC.202 was claimed shot down by Flight Lieutenant J. M. V. Carpenter, but no Italian loss was recorded.

At 07:15 on 21 November 1941, five MC.200s of 54o Stormo and ten 9o Gruppo MC.202s strafed Hal Far, presumably attracted by the presence of 242 and 605 Squadron’s Hurricanes based there. Seven Hurricanes from 185 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Pike were scrambled to intercept. They attacked five Macchis initially (probably the MC.200s), five more then jumping the British fighters (probably some of the MC.202s). No firm claims were made by the Hurricane pilots, but it was believed that three of the Italian fighters had been damaged. Sergeant Bill Nurse’s Hurricane was badly hit in return.
The Italians reported fighting twelve Hurricanes and ‘Spitfires’, and claimed two ‘Spitfires’ shot down, one by Sottotenente Frigerio, Sergente Raffaello Novelli and Sergente Angelo Golino, and one by Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro and Sergente Massimo Salvatore (all of them from the 97a Squadriglia), while two more were claimed as probables. Four were claimed destroyed on the ground plus a Blenheim, damage to the latter being credited to Maresciallo Rinaldo Damiani. Two Macchis returned damaged.

In the afternoon on 21 November, eighteen MC.202 from the 9o Gruppo were out to strafe Hal Far. On their way, they met four Hurricanes from 185 Squadron, which were engaged in a convoy patrol. The Italians reported meeting twelve Hurricanes and claimed five of these shot down into the sea, one each by Maggiore Antonio Larsimont, Sergente Raffaello Novelli, Maresciallo Rinaldo Damiani, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci and Sergente Maggiore Pasquale Rossi, plus two probables by Sottotenente Pietro Bonfatti and Tenente Frigerio. They then carried on completing their strafe, returning without loss.
One Hurricane was in fact lost, 20-year-old Flight Sergeant Richard Cousens (RAF no. 970365) being killed in Hurricane Z2813 “GL-L”.

On 23 November 1941, Sottotenente Frigerio took command of the 97a Squadriglia after Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni.

The British offensive Operation Crusader was launched in North Africa on 18 November 1941. Italian reinforcements were rushed to Libya including the 9o Gruppo (minus the 73a Squadriglia), which arrived at Martuba on 25 November with their MC.202s and Tenente Frigerio as CO of the 97a Squadriglia.

At 10:40 on 8 December, eight MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo led by Capitano Ezio Viglione Borghese commenced a patrol of the Gazala-Tobruk area. They were followed by eleven MC.202s from the 17o Gruppo (six from the 71a Squadriglia, two from the 72a Squadriglia and three from the 80a Squadriglia), which took off at 11:30 to protect the coastal road between El Gazala and Tobruk. These Macchis flew in vics disposed in echelon right at the height of 4000 metres.
It seems that both formations encountered the same Allied formation, which comprised 18 Blenheims drawn from two squadrons, escorted by Hurricanes from 274 and 1 SAAF Squadrons.
The situation at this time was very confusing. However, at 10:30, 84 Squadron Blenheims took off, targeting a very important concentration of vehicles in the area of El Adem. Cover was granted by eleven Hurricane IIB from 274 Squadron (take-off at 11:30), together while others from 1 SAAF Squadron (take-off at 11:30) were up to escort 18 Blenheims targeting the area of El Adem. The mission was considered very successful because 53 vehicles (of some 250 reported) were thought to be destroyed.
5-10 miles south-west of El Adem, 274 Squadron pilots saw a reported 30 Axis fighters; Bf 109s, MC.200s and MC.202s, coming from south-east while 1 SAAF Squadron continued to fly towards base with the bombers without seeing the enemy fighters. 274 Squadron even if they thought to be heavily outnumbered, engaged the enemies. The Commonwealth pilots reported that the Macchis preferred to dogfight with the Hurricanes while the Bf 109s dove continuously.
The 9o Gruppo attacked first and back at base, they reported they had met a dozen Hurricanes that were strafing Italian vehicles, claiming two of them shot down (one shared between Capitano
Viglione (96a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro (97a Squadriglia) and the second by Sergente Alfredo Bombardini (97a Squadriglia)). Nine more Hurricanes were claimed as damaged (three by Sottotenente Barcaro, two by Maresciallo Otello Perotti (97a Squadriglia) and four by Sottotenente Frigerio (97a Squadriglia)). Alfredo Bombardini’s fighter (MM7739) was damaged and had to land at Ain el Gazala but the airfield had to be evacuated and the Macchi had to be destroyed there.
As 274 Squadron sought to return to base, they were hit by the 17o Gruppo, which reported that they at 12:00 met a formation of fighters claiming six of them shot down (Tenente Renato Talamini (80a Squadriglia) (Hurricane), Sottotenete Renato Bagnoli (80a Squadriglia) (Tomahawk), Tenente Mario Carini (72a Squadriglia) (Hurricane), Sottotenete Vittorio Bacchi Andreoli (71a Squadriglia) (Tomahawk), Maresciallo Achille Martina (71a Squadriglia) (Tomahawk) and Sottotenete Guido Modiano (72a Squadriglia) (Hurricane). Sottotenente Ottorino Capellini (71a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Mario Host (80a Squadriglia) claimed a probable Tomahawk each. Totally the Gruppo used 1698 round of ammunition. Tenente Carini (MM7758), hit in the cooling system, crash-landed near Bir le Fa while Tenente Talamini’s MC.202 was damaged. The Italian fighters were back between 12:50 and 12:55.
The hard-pressed 274 Squadron claimed one Bf 109, one MC.202 (both by Sergeant James Dodds) and two probables (Sergeant Robert Henderson and Sergeant R. H. N. Walsh and five damaged (between Squadron Leader Sidney Linnard (2 MC.200s), Pilot Officer Patrick Moriarty (2 MC.202s) and Pilot Officer George Keefer (1 Bf 109)).
Three Hurricanes were lost with one being seen going down vertically and one in flames. 26-year-old Flight Lieutenant Owen Vincent Tracey (RAF no. 42774) (Hurricane IIb BD885) and Sergeant Haines (Hurricane IIb Z5066) were missing while Sergeant John Paterson McDonnell was hit during the combat and crash-landed at Tobruk writing off his Hurricane IIb BE347. A fourth Hurricane IIb (Z5130) flown by Pilot Officer Thompson was also forced to land in Tobruk. 84 Squadron recorded that the escort lost four aircraft of the twelve present.
It is necessary to point out that the combat area reported in the documents of 274 Squadron and the 17o Gruppo are different, however errors and misidentifications of locations were always possible and there were no matching German claims. For this reasons it seems likely that 274 Squadron fought against the 17o Gruppo. The identification of Italian fighters as the opponents of 274 Squadron during this combat seems to be corroborated also by the account of Squadron Leader Linnard who while engaged by a Bf 109, saw a MC.200 attacking a Hurricane, both aircraft making steep turns and losing height. Linnard shook free from his own combat and tried to shot the Macchi off the other Hurricane's tail, but was too late, bullets from the Italian fighter, which was turning inside the Hurricane, striking the area of the cockpit. The stricken aircraft then turned over at low level and dived into the ground several miles south of El Adem, bursting into flames. A little later squadron personnel met South African soldiers who reported that they had found a grave beside a wrecked Hurricane, and that on this was a flying helmet and the identity disc of Flight Lieutenant Tracey; it therefore seem probable that he had been the victim of the Macchi. The 20o and 153o Gruppi, which flew radial engined fighters, didn’t meet any Commonwealth fighter during the day even if they escorted Stukas three times and the MC.202 was a new machine in North Africa skies, easy to be confused with other types. It is interesting that 1 SAAF Squadron wasn’t aware of the combat. The number of enemy fighters estimated by 274 Squadron leads to think that probably other axis fighters were up together with the MC.202s, in fact they could had been 15 Bf 109s that at taken off at 11:45 to escort Ju 87 even if they didn’t record encounters with enemy fighters.
It is also possibly that 80 Squadron was involved in this combat since Hurricane Is of 80 Squadron had taken off at 10:55 from LG 133 to attack axis vehicles in the Acroma area. 40 of them, going west, were discovered and bombed by all Hurricanes. Afterwards six of these dived for strafing while the rest of the formation remained high to give cover. This high section attacked a formation of twelve enemy fighters (Bf 109s and MC.202s) protecting fighter-bombers that could go on with their action. Back at base the returning pilots were very pleased by the outcome of the action where they had claimed two Bf 109Fs confirmed (Flying Officer R. Reynolds and Sergeant Frank Mason) and a MC.202 probable and two damaged (Sergeant G. H. Whyte) without suffering any loss. It is possible that these were in combat with the 9o Gruppo, which reported ground-strafing Hurricanes.

In the winter of 1941-42 the 9o Gruppo enjoyed a brief rest from fighting, before returning to operations over Malta in the spring and early summer of 1942.

On 19 January 1942, Capitano Roberto Dagasso took command of the 97a Squadriglia after Sottotenente Frigerio.

On 23 April 1942 the 9o Gruppo was back on Sicily and based at Sciacca, for a third tour against Malta.

On 10 May 1942, Sottotenente Frigerio again took command of the 97a Squadriglia after Capitano Roberto Dagasso.
Frigerio was relieved as CO of the 97a Squadriglia by Tenente Fernando Malvezzi on 1 June.

At 09:15 on 15 May 1942, three S.84bis of 4o Gruppo BT, escorted by 30 MC.202s of 4o Stormo CT, were out to attack barracks at St Paul’s Bay, Malta (probably Fort Cambell). A dozen Spitfires from 249 and 603 Squadron were scrambled and engaged the formation shortly after it had bombed. Flight Lieutenant N. W. Lee and from 249 Squadron each claimed damaged to one of the Savoias. The Italians reported that five Spitfires attacked over the target and Capitano Franco Lucchini claimed one shot down and one damaged. Other Spitfires then came in over Gozo, and three of these were claimed by Tenente Frigerio, Tenente Ferruccio Zarini and Sergente Maggiore Mario Guerci; the latter and Sottotenente Alvaro Querci also each claimed one probably destroyed. The two pilots from the 73a Squadriglia reported that they fired on two Spitfires, which dived towards the sea, leaving smoke trails. The two pilots were engaged in the battle, and they couldn’t follow the Spitfires until the end, so these were considered probably destroyed. None of the Spitfires were however seriously hit. Pilot Officer Lawrie Verrall of 249 Squadron shot down one MC.202, killing the 91a Squadriglia commander Capitano Alberto Argento (MM7813).

On 20 May, the 9o Gruppo, with twenty-eight MC.202s, took off for a third tour of duty in North Africa. After a call in Pantelleria, they reached Castel Benito.
The following day, after intermediate landings at Tamet and Benghasi K3, they reached their new base at Martuba 4.

Following the Axis advance, the 9o Gruppo transferred to El Adem on 23 June, then to Sidi el Barrani two days later and finally to Fuka on 1 July 1942.

He gained back the rank of Tenente (in S. P. E.) on 27 June 1942 while he was in North Africa.

Jacopo Frigerio in North Africa.
Picture kindly provided by Gustavo Frigerio.

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 Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Maggiore Alessandro Bladelli), and 97a Squadriglia (Tenente Frigerio, Sottotenente 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 was hit when a 20mm shell tore off the aircraft’s spinner and he was forced to make an emergency landing.
Totally the 4o Stormo claimed 24 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.

In 1943, he still served in the 4o Stormo.

In June 1943 he apparently left active service (perhaps for some sort of illness).

During the September 1943-April 1945 period, he was apparently in Northern Italy but didn't join the A. N. R.

Frigerio ended the war with 3 shared biplane victories and a total of 5.
During the war, Frigerio was decorated with three Medaglie d’argento al valor militare, one Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (in Spain) and the croce di guerra al valor militare (in Spain). He was also decorated with the German Iron cross second class.

In July 1945 he returned to the Italian Air Force and was promoted Capitano in May 1946.

From June 1946 to January 1949 he commanded the 90a Squadriglia C.T.

In October 1955, he was in the United States, Nellis airbase in Nevada, to train on the North American F-86D.
During a shooting training session on 3 October (alternatively on 30 October), at high height and very far from the base, the engine of his fighter stopped and he tried to bring it back to base without jumping with parachute. During the last stages of the force-landing the commands of the plane apparently ceased to work and the plane crashed, killing him.
For this act of valor he was decorated with a posthumous Medaglia d’oro al valor aeronautico.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Gladiator (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Hurricane (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Hurricane (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Enemy fighter (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Enemy fighter (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Enemy fighter (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  20/11/40 14:40-16:30 1/12 Enemy fighter (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sidi Barrani area 97a Squadriglia
  1941                
1 30/09/41 p.m. 1 Hurricane (b) Destroyed MC.202 MM7712/’97-2’ N Gozo 97a Squadriglia
  21/11/41 07:15- 1/3 Spitfire (c) Shared destroyed MC.202   Hal Far area 97a Squadriglia
  21/11/41 p.m. 1 Hurricane (d) Probably MC.202   off Malta 97a Squadriglia
  08/12/41 11:00- 1 Hurricane (e) Damaged MC.202   Ain el Gazala-Tobruk 97a Squadriglia
  08/12/41 11:00- 1 Hurricane (e) Damaged MC.202   Ain el Gazala-Tobruk 97a Squadriglia
  08/12/41 11:00- 1 Hurricane (e) Damaged MC.202   Ain el Gazala-Tobruk 97a Squadriglia
  08/12/41 11:00- 1 Hurricane (e) Damaged MC.202   Ain el Gazala-Tobruk 97a Squadriglia
  1942                
? 15/05/42 09:15- 1 Spitfire (f) Destroyed MC.202   Gozo area 97a Squadriglia
? 20/10/42 10:55- 1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   Fuka area 97a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 3 shared destroyed, 4 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 5 and 4 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed, 4 and 4 shared damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 and 274 Squadrons and Gladiators from 112 Squadron. 9o Gruppo claimed seven victories and two probables while losing three CR.42s, getting four more damaged and losing two pilots KIA. 112 Squadron claimed eight victories for no losses, 274 Squadron possibly suffered one damaged Hurricane while 33 Squadron possibly claimed a CR.42 without losses.
(b) Pilot Officer Donald William Lintern (Hurricane Z5265/GL-B) of 185 Squadron KIA.
(c) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 185 Squadron. The 97a Squadriglia claimed two ‘Spitfires’ and two probables while two Macchis were damaged. 185 Squadron claimed three damaged Macchis while Sergeant Bill Nurse’s Hurricane was badly hit in return.
(d) Claimed in combat with four Hurricanes from 185 Squadron. 9o Gruppo claimed five Hurricanes and two probable without losses. 185 Squadron lost one Hurricane (Flight Sergeant Cousens killed) but didn’t claim any opponents.
(e) Possibly claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 80 and or 274 Squadron, which claimed 4 enemy fighters, 3 probables and 7 damaged while losing 4 aircraft. 9 and 17o Gruppi claimed 8 fighters while losing 1 MC.202 and getting two damaged.
(f) 4o Stormo claimed four Spitfires, 2 probables and one damaged. RAF didn’t suffer any losses in this combat.

Sources:
33 Squadron Operations Record Book
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume One – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN 978-1908117076
Ali d'Africa - Michele Palermo and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 IBN Editore, ISBN 88-7565-060-8
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
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 73a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 97a 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
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Gloster Gladiator - Alex Crawford, 2002 Mushroom Model Publications, ISBN 83-916327-0-9
GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO
Hurricanes over Malta - Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2001 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-91-8
Hurricanes over the sands: Part One - Michel Lavigne and James F. Edwards, 2003 Lavigne Aviation Publications, Victoriaville, ISBN 2-9806879-2-8
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 Regia Aeronautica - volume I: Dalla non belligeranza all'intervento – Nino Arena, 1981 USSMA, Rome kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-16-X
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Stormi d'Italia - Giulio Lazzati, 1975 Mursia, Milan kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Desert Air War 1939 – 1945 – Richard Townshend Bickers, 1991 Leo Cooper, London, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Woody - A Fighter Pilot's Album - Hugh A. Halliday, 1987 Canav Books, Toronto, ISBN 0-9690703-8-1
Additional information kindly provided by Ian Acworth, Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo




Last modified 30 October 2013