Biplane fighter aces


Maresciallo Antonio Giardinà

Date Decoration Note
??/??/38 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st) O.M.S.
??/??/46 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd) 1940-43
??/??/41 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare 1940-43

Antonio Giardinà was from Massignano (Ascoli Piceno).

He served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War and was decorated for this.

In the beginning of the East African campaign of 1940-41, Giardinà served with the 410a Squadriglia, equipped with Fiat CR.32s.

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 Vincenzo Forcheri, Sottotenente Alberto Veronese, Sottotenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi, Sergente Maggiore Giardinà, Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli, Sergente Maggiore Alberto Puliti, Sergente Maggiore Athos Tieghi, Sergente Giovanni Tellurio and Sergente Ugo Zoino.

On 20 June, between 08:15 and 09:15, Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani of the 413a Squadriglia claimed one of a reported seven Blenheims shared probably destroyed together with Sergente Maggiore Giardinà (who spent 320 rounds of 7.7mm).
Five Blenheims of 8 Squadron had attacked Diredawa with no appreciable results but reported being intercepted by three CR.42s, which attacked the outside aircraft. They disengaged easily due to their faster speed, and returned home with no damage.

Around midday on 24 June 1940, four Blenheims of 39 Squadron (take-off from Sheikh Othman at 11:15) and two of 11 Squadron in two flights of three approached Diredawa for the fifth raid on this airfield. Sergente Maggiore Giardinà was up on a standing patrol in his CR.32. He dived out of the sun on the leading flight and attacked them very effectively, all three bombers being damaged. He was seen by his unit commander to pass over the area in pursuit of the bombers, one of which was trailing white smoke and another appeared to be losing oil. Blenheim L4920 flown by Pilot Officer D. G. Hunter of 39 Squadron began to lag behind with one engine stopped, but Giardinà's guns now jammed and he was forced to retire.
Meanwhile, Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani of the 413a Squadriglia and another CR.32 had scrambled, and continued to attack on Pilot Officer Hunter's aircraft. It was seen losing height steadily and was later found by British troops force-landed 95km north-east of Hargeisa in Italian Somaliland. Hunter and his observer, Sergeant R. G. D. Ellis, were both injured but were assisted by Somalis to reach Allied ground forces, while 23-year-old Leading Aircraftsman Reginald Olley (wireless operator/air gunner) (RAF no. 520817), who had gone to seek assistance were missing. Olley was later found but died of his injuries on 29 June.
Tenente Cacciavillani declared three Blenheim spotted and one destroyed in his logbook, his mission lasting from 12:40 to 13:25.

On 11 July 1940, Blenheim L8505 of 8 Squadron, flown by Flying Officer P. A. Nicholas, from Aden, made a reconnaissance over Jigga. Here CR.32s of the 410a Squadriglia flown by Sottoten Veronese and Sergente Maggiore Giardinà, intercepted and attacked the bomber, claiming to have probably hit it. The aircraft was in fact badly damaged and force-landed at Jibuti.
Nicholas and Pilot Officer James (observer) were injured and taken to hospital; the wireless operator/air gunner, Sergeant Hannan was uninjured. The aircraft was recovered.

On 15 March, Hurricanes of 3 SAAF Squadron attacked Diredawa. During the night, Blenheims of 8 Squadron from Aden had bombed the airfields there, and in the morning six fighters from Dogabur approached the main airfield at the same time as Junkers Ju86s of 12 SAAF Squadron arrived to bomb. There the Hurricane pilots found three Fiat CR.32s of the 410a Squadriglia in the air, the South African pilots identified these as two CR.32s and one CR.42. One of the CR.32 pilots, Sergente Maggiore Giardinà, had just begun an attack on a Ju86 when he suddenly spotted a Hurricane approaching to attack him, and a dogfight began. Sottotenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi rushed to Giardinà’s aid without checking his own tail, next moment hearing an explosion and being hit in the face and neck by splinters. He immediately broke away and began turning with his attacker, avoiding two more bursts of fire. He landed with 188 holes in his aircraft, but no serious damage. Bartolozzi, normally on loan to 413a Squadriglia, equipped with CR.42s, had just landed at Diredawa before the raid because his aircraft was in need of repair. At the outset of the attack he had taken off again in one of 410a Squadriglia’s CR.32s.
Giardinà meanwhile fought on for several minutes, returning fire, and at last the Hurricane left. He was then able to land, his aircraft also exhibiting a few holes in the fabric. The third CR.32 escaped undamaged.
In this combat the South Africans considerable overestimated the result of their fire against the nimble Fiats, Captains Theron and Frost each claiming a CR.32 shot down, while Lieutenants Morley and Venter claimed a shared CR.42. The Hurricanes then strafed the aircraft seen on the ground and claimed S.79s in flames and one damaged, one CR.32 or Romeo in flames and four CR.32s or Romeos damaged. One fighter and two Ro.37bis aircraft were actually damaged.

On 29 March, five CR.42s of the 413a Squadriglia (Tenente Franco De Micheli, Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani, Sergente Maggiore Danesin and two more pilots) and two CR.32s of the 410a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Silvano and Sergente Maggiore Giardinà) took off from Ganami at 06:05.
At 07:00, four of the aircraft (including Cacciavillani) strafed the main landing ground of Jijiga airport while the other three circled overhead as top cover. In the first pass a Ju 52/3m (No. 660), a Valentia (No. 264) and a Hartbeeste were set on fire; two of the Ju 52/3ms that were damaged in an attack on the 26th were also shot up again (three was claimed by the Italian pilots as damaged according to Cacciavillani's logbook), as was a Leopard Moth of the Communcation Squadron (not claimed by the Italian pilots).
The Italians did not discover the fighter satellite strip and two stand-by Hurricanes of 3 SAAF Squadron flown by Captain S van Breda Theron and Lieutenant Venter at once took off. Theron was no sooner in the air than his aircraft received a bullet in the cooling system (from an airfield defence Lewis gun, it was suspected); he went in to land again, but as he did so he was attacked by Sergente Maggiore Giardinà in a CR.32. The Hurricane was set on fire and Theron was wounded in the leg. As soon as Giardinà saw Theron leap out on to the wing, which he did the moment his Hurricane touched the ground, the Fiat pilot ceased firing. A CR.42 then arrived on the scene and opened fire on the Hurricane, although to the personnel on the ground it appeared that it was the fleeing pilot who was the target.
Tenente Cacciavillani reported being attacked by Hurricanes and at the end of the fight, he claimed two of them destroyed and one more probable shared.
Lieutenant Venter meanwhile was attacked by three Fiats and his aircraft was riddled with bullets, but he managed to shot down one Fiat, which fell in flames and crashed, the pilot, Sottotenente Silvano (This aircraft was claimed as a CR.42, but was in fact one of the CR.32s). AA gunners of the 5th Battery, SAA, claimed to have shot down a CR.42 also, but only Silvano’s aircraft was lost during the attack. During the attack on the main airfield a 41 SAAF Squadron gunner had climbed into the rear cockpit of a Hartbeeste to return fire, while more Hurricanes were now scrambling, giving chase as the enemy fighters sped away towards the hills around Diredawa. Captain Frost chased two CR.42s flown by De Micheli and Sergente Maggiore Danesin, following them through valleys and over peaks, finally getting close enough to them without being seen, to shoot down Danesin’s aircraft, the pilot being killed.

Giardinà was then attached to 412a Squadriglia on CR.42s.

On the 28 May 1941, he caught Captain D.R. Clyde-Morley, flight leader 'A' Flight of 3 SAAF Squadron, and shot down his Hurricane over Jimma. Clyde-Morley, thinking he had been hit by ground fire, force-landed and hurt his head, wandering for hours until picked up by patriots and returned safely.

On 2 July 1941 Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Mottet and Giardinà claimed one shared Vickers Wellesley. This was Wellesley L2713 of 47 Squadron, which was shot down over Gondar, the aircraft falling in flames. The pilot Sergeant Alexander George Brown (RAF No. 564096) and his crew were all killed.
Brown, aged 28, and his crew are buried at Asmara War Cemetery, Eritrea.

Later in the war he served in the 300a Squadriglia in the night defence of Rome.

Giardinà ended the war with 5 biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  20/06/40 08:15-09:15 ½ Blenheim (a) Shared probably destroyed Fiat CR.32   Diredawa area 410a Squadriglia
  24/06/40 11:15- 1 Blenheim (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Diredawa 410a Squadriglia
  24/06/40 11:15- 1 Blenheim (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Diredawa 410a Squadriglia
  24/06/40 11:15- 1/3 Blenheim (c) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Diredawa 410a Squadriglia
  11/07/40   ½ Blenheim (d) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Jigga 410a Squadriglia
? 28/03/41 07:00- 1 Hurricane (e) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Jijiga 410a Squadriglia
? 28/05/41   1 Hurricane (f) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Jimma 412a Squadriglia
  02/07/41   ½ Wellesley (g) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gondar 412a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 5 destroyed and 3 shared destroyed, 1 shared probably destroyed, 2 damaged.
TOTAL: 5 and 3 shared destroyed, 1 shared probably destroyed, 2 damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with Blenheims from 8 Squadron, which didn't suffer any damage.
(b) Blenheims of 39 and 11 Squadrons; two damaged.
(c) Blenheim L4920 of 39 Squadron shot down; two of the crew rescued and one KIA.
(d) Blenheim L8505 of 8 Squadron, flown by Flying Officer P. A. Nicholas, badly damaged and force-landed. Nicholas and Pilot Officer James (observer) were injured. The aircraft was recovered.
(e) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 3 SAAF Squadron, which lost 1 Hurricane and got another damaged while claiming 2 CR.42s shot down. 413a and 410a Squadriglie claimed at least 3 and 1 probable Hurricanes while losing 1 CR.32 and 1 CR.42.
(f) Hurricane of 'A' Flight 3 SAAF Squadron flown by Captain D.R. Clyde-Morley; destroyed, pilot returned safely.
(g) Wellesley L2713 of 47 Squadron shot down over Gondar. The pilot Sergeant A. G. Brown and his crew were all killed.

Luciano Cacciavillani's personal logbook courtesy of Cacciavillani family (Luciano jr and Alberto)
410a Squadriglia war diary (1940) kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro.
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999
Comando Aeronautica Africa Orientale war diary (June 1940) kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro.
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
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
Royal Air Force Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean, Volume 1: 1939-1942 - David Gunby and Pelham Temple, 2006 Midland Publishing, ISBN 1-85780-234-9
Springbok Fighter Victory: East Africa Volume 1 1940 – 1941 – Michael Shoeman, 2002 African Aviation The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history – Graham Warner, 2002 Crécy Publishing Limited, Manchester, ISBN 0-947554-92-0
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Roger Juglair, Stefano Lazzaro, Michele Palermo and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 16 June 2023