Biplane fighter aces


Sergente Maggiore Luigi Gorrini Medaglia d'oro al valor militare

12 July 1917 - 8 November 2014

© Archive D'Amico-Valentini
Photo kindly via Ferdinando D'Amico.

Luigi Gorrini was born in Alseno in the province of Piacenza, on 12 July 1917.

He joined the Regia Aeronautica in 1937.

He flew with a Fiat CR.32 for the first time 09.55 on 5 May 1939 at the Fighter School at Castiglione del Lagos airfield (Perugia).

His first flight with a CR.42 was at 16.15 on 8 November 1939 from Mondovis airfield (Cuneo). At this time he was attached to the 85a Squadriglia ”Ocio Che Te Copo”, 18o Gruppo, 3o Stormo as a Sergente Pilota. He was to serve at this unit until the Armistice in September 1943.
While at Mondovis he meet Giuseppe Ruzzin who had recently returned from the Spanish Civil War. Ruzzin was tasked with giving Gorrini more practice and training.

With his unit he took part in the short French campaign in 1940.

He was with the unit during its operations in the Battle of Britain as a part of C.A.I. when 18o Gruppo was temporarily assigned to the 56o Stormo. They were based at the Saturn base (Ursel).
While operating over Britain he took part in the big combat on 11 November over Harwich.

On the 23 November a fighter sweep was flown by 29 CR.42s of the 18o Gruppo led by Maggiore Ferruccio Vosilla with Sottotenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri as his wingman. The course was Dunquerque - Margate - Eastchurch - Folkestone - Calais while 24 G.50s of the 20o Gruppo covered them, operating a little further inland. At 11:40, 12 Spitfires Mk.IIs (P7550, P7597, P7311, P7496, P7529, P7388, P7289, P7543, P7389, P7449, P7528, and P7324) from 603 Squadron were scrambled from Hornchurch and headed south. Off Folkestone 603 Squadron spotted the Italian CR.42s travelling west and the Spitfires hit them from astern. The CR.42s were badly bounced and two of them were lost when MM5694 of the 83a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Guido Mazza and MM5665 of the 95a Squadriglia flown by Sergente Maggiore Giacomo Grillo were shot down into the sea and reported missing. On return to base Sergente Maggiore F. Campanile and Sergente P. Melano of the 83a Squadriglia had to force-land and both pilots were slightly injured. Later it was found out that Campanile had, due to the lack of armour plating, been saved by his parachute pack, which had stopped several machinegun bullets. During the combat Tenente Giulio Cesare Giuntella’s CR.42 was hit several times but he returned claiming hits on a Spitfire. Maresciallo Felice Sozzi of the 83a Squadriglia (83-15) attacked and chased off a Spitfire on the tail of Sergente Maggiore Gorrini’s aircraft, who in his turn were attacking other British Spitfires. Sozzi was however hit in return by two other Spitfires, who attacked him from behind. He was seriously wounded with three bullets in his lungs but he succeeded despite pain and a damaged aircraft, to return for an emergency landing on a Belgian beach. He survived his ordeal and recovered to receive the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare “in the field”.
603 Squadron claimed seven shot down and two probables. CR42s were claimed destroyed by Pilot Officer Archie L. Winskill (Spitfire Mk.II P7389)(his first two claims) and Sergeant A. S. Darling, who claimed two apiece and by Pilot Officers Ronald Berry (his 9th claim), B. R. MacNamara and Flying Officer Colin Pinckney (Spitfire Mk.II P7529)(his third claim). Berry also claimed a probable, as did Flying Officer John C. Boulter (Spitfire Mk.II P7597)(his last claim before being killed in an accident on 17 February 1941), while Pilot Officer F. David S. Scott-Malden (Spitfire P7278 (?) ‘D’) claimed two damaged when he saw strikes on these.
Squadron Leader George Denholm, CO 603 Squadron, described the combat:

The Italians looked quite toy-like in their brightly-coloured camouflage, and I remember thinking that it seemed almost a shame to shoot down such pretty machines. I must have been wrong, for the pilot who saw six going down at the same time said afterwards that it was a glorious sight. But I must say this about the Eye-ties: they showed fight in a way the Germans have never done with our squadron.
Denholm chased one Fiat halfway across the Channel, but had to let it limp home as his own engine started to splutter.
18o Gruppo claimed five enemy fighters. However it appears that only one Spitfire was actually damaged when Archie Winskill returned to base with the canopy shattered and the aircraft (P7389) damaged by return fire from the CR.42s. Winskill was however safe.
As 603 Squadron disengaged, more RAF units were alerted to the presence of furthers enemy units. 92 Squadron left Biggin Hill at 12:25 together with 74 Squadron. Aircraft identified as Bf 109s were sighted by 92 Squadron pilots some miles south of Dover, but these particular fighters avoided combat. It seems that it is likely that these were the Fiat G.50s of the 20o Gruppo. The Italian pilots reported sighting a formation of British fighters, but did not engage them.

When 18o Gruppo returned to Italy in January 1941 they were immediately sent to Africa. According to Gorrini the conditions there was horrible regarding logistics and weather. The dessert wind ”Ghibli” was devastating for the engines on the aircraft since they lacked dust filters.

On 16 April, Sergente Gorrini took off from Derna airfield (Cirenaica) at 07:30 for a fighter patrol over the coast and harbour at 3500 meters altitude. Two enemy aircraft was spotted and after intensive fights, one Blenheim was shot down in flames into the sea and the other damaged. He landed back at Derna at 09:15 after having spent 1100 rounds of ammunition.
No corresponding RAF claim has been possible to find for this claim but V Squadra’s Diary reported that Derna was attacked three times by the enemy. One Ju 87 of C.A.T. ( Corpo Aereo Tedesco – German Air Corps) was destroyed on ground, one of the raiding Blenheims was shot down by one of the Italian fighters (Gorrini) and fell into the sea and two of the crew jumped with parachute.

Around this time, his unit started to receive its first CR.42s fitted with bomb racks and soon they began to gradually transfer to the ground attack role.

During the day on 29 May, the 18o Gruppo were involved in patrols when 15 CR.42s performed protective cruises over the harbour of Benghazi from 05:30 to 19:50.
At 10:15, a CR 42 discovered, east of Coefia, two Blenheims going towards Benghazi and attacked the section leader that fell in flames into the sea off Driana, the second Blenheim (which escaped) was pursued but the CR.42 had to quit because both guns jammed.
At 11:05 another CR 42 performing a protective cruise discovered two Blenheims 15 km north of Benghazi. One was shot down into the sea while the other escaped heading north.
It seems that the first mission was flown by Sergente Spartaco Petrignani of the 85a Squadriglia and the second mission was flown by Sergente Gorrini from the same unit and who claimed one Blenheim shot down about 12 miles north-west of Benghazi and one more as damaged.
No corresponding RAF losses have been found.
Sergente Gorrini was decorated with a Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare for this combat.

On 29 June, Sergente Gorrini took off from Benghasi K2 (Cirenaica) at 16:10 for a fighter patrol over ships, harbour and the town of Benghazi at 8100 meters altitude. Over the radio he was notified of enemy presence. He pursued British Blenheims but lost conscious due to lack of oxygen. However he managed to return to base where he landed at 18:15 after having spent 1375 rounds of ammunition.

He didn’t claim any more victories until 2 January 1943 when he claimed a P-40 over Sirte and also a damaged Spitfire in the same combat while flying the Macchi MC.202 Folgore over Tunisia. While in Tunisia his unit had been attached to the 3o Stormo.

On 11 January 1943 MC.200s from 13o Gruppo attacked British airfields in the Uadi Tamet area. These fighter-bombers were escorted by MC.202 from 18o Gruppo. Acting as close escort on this mission were four aircraft from 95a Squadriglia under the command of Capitano Giorgio Solaroli. A little bit higher up were Maggiore Gustavo Garetto with six aircraft. As top cover at 6000 to 7000 metres were six MC.202s from 23o Gruppo under the command of Capitano Mario Rigatti and above these were six more under the command of Tenente Colonello Tito Falconi.
The Italian aircraft were attacked by RAF and 18o Gruppo managed with difficulties to defend the fighter-bombers. During the combat were Sotto Tenente Telleschi and Maggiore Garetto shot down together with a MC.200 from 13o Gruppo. All three pilots managed to escape by parachute. The pilot from 13o Gruppo managed to reach the Italian lines but the other two pilots were captured. It is probable that Telleschi and Garetto were claimed by the British ace Flying Officer Neville Duke of 92 Squadron in Spitfire Mk.Vb EP338 ‘QJ-S’ (victory 8 and 9).
The Italian attack were however a success and a fuel depot, a transport aircraft, which was surprised while taxiing, and several parked aircraft were destroyed in the British airfield. Also six British Spitfires were claimed in the combat. One of them were claimed by Solaroli, one by Sergente Gorrini (who also claimed one damaged) and a third by Maresciallo Felice Longhi, who returned with his aircraft damaged by enemy fire on several places. The Italians also claimed hits on 9 additional enemy aircraft.

His unit was withdrawn from Tunisia in early April 1943 but he had already returned to Italy since at 15.00-17.45 on 9 March 1943 he flew a CR.42 for the last time. The flight, which was a transportation flight, were from Alitalia airfield (Torino) to Ciampino airfield (Rome) at an altitude of 1500 meters. Gorrini describes the CR.42 as a tough aircraft and good up till 5000-6000 meters but slow.
Back in Italy 85a Squadriglia was re-equipped with the Macchi MC.205 Veltro and assigned to the defence of Rome.

He was grounded for a while due to an irritating eye injury.

On 19 July he claimed a B-24 and a P-38 and a P-38 damaged over Rome.

Next day on 20 July he claimed another P-38 destroyed and a P-38 damaged.

On 13 August he claimed a B-24 off the coast at Ostia, in the Lazio region, but he was also shot down by defensive fire from the bomber, bailing out safely.

He claimed a Spitfire on 26 August.

The next day, on 27 August, the whole Stormo scrambled to intercept four-engine bombers, which were attacking Cerveteri. During the combat, Gorrini claimed two B-24s.
One wing of his MC.205 was damaged after that an overheating machinegun-muzzle exploded and after running out of gasoline he glided back to his base for a powerless landing.

Two P-38s was claimed destroyed and two more were claimed damaged on 29 August.

He claimed a B-17 over Frascati on 30 August.

He was mentioned in dispatches on 30 August:

“ Sergente Maggiore Luigi Gorrini da Alsen (Piacenza) of 3o Stormo Caccia has distinguished himself during the aerial battles of the 27th and 29th, during which he has shot down two four-engined bombers and a twin-engined fighter.”

On 31 August he took off from Palidoro airfield (Rome) at 12.00 in a MC.205V. They flew in the direction of Naples to engage enemy bombers over this town. At 8500 meters they became involved in heavy dogfights with escorting Spitfires. He shot down one Spitfire and damaged a P-38.His aircraft was however badly hit by machine-gun fire and he was forced to make a forced-landing away from his airfield at 12.50.
He was seriously wounded, hospitalised and was out of the fighting when Italy surrendered to the Allies on 8 September 1943. 85a Squadriglia claimed 3 Spitfires and 5 damaged during this combat.

On 23 December 1943 Gorrini joined the Italiana Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR) where he was assigned to 1a Squadriglia, 1o Gruppo and continued to fly MC.205 fighters. At this time this unit was under the command of Capitano Adriano Visconti and based at Lagnasco airfield (Cuneo). On this day Gorrini flew up in a MC.205V at 10.15 and was declared fit for combat.

On 30 January 1944, heavy bombers from the 15th AF attacked targets in the Udine area. B-17s hit airfields and landing grounds at Villaorba, Maniago, and Lavariano. B-24s bombed Udine airfield and Fier radar station. P-38s escorted the B-17s on the Villaorba and Maniago missions, and P-38s and some RAF Spitfires escorted the B-24s on the Udine mission. Additional P-47s from 325th FG carried out sweep over the Villaorba area. The bombers and the fighters claimed over 60 airplanes shot down and a number destroyed on the ground (the US fighters alone claimed 45 destroyed, 11 probables and 2 damaged). It seems that the 15th AF losses were 9 aircraft (2 B-17s, 3 B-24s, 1 P-38 and 2 P-47s).
This heavy raid was intercepted by a mix of German and Italian fighters. The German fighters from JG 53 and JG 77 claimed at least 14 heavy bombers (9 B-24s and 5 B-17s) and three fighters (2 P-38s and 1 P-47) between 11:56 and 12:44.
Around 12:30, the 1o Gruppo ANR was involved in this combat and the 1a Squadriglia claimed five enemy aircraft when Sergente Maggiore Also Burei claimed one B-24, Sergente Maggiore Gorrini claimed a P-47, Tenente Giuseppe Re claimed a P-47 and Maresciallo Carlo Magnaghi claimed two P-47s. These were claimed over Grado with the exception for one of Magnaghi’s claims, which was made over Palmanova. Natalino Stabile of the 3a Squadriglia claimed a B-24 over Udine during the day.
However, the Italian fighters suffered hard and the MC.205 of Tenente Re was shot down and the pilot bailed out. At the end of the fighting three more MC.205s had been shot down with the pilots KIA; Capitano Marco Marinone (born 31 August 1914 in Vercelli), Tenente Luigi Torchio (3a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Luciano Cipiciani (born 23 September 1918 in Gubbio).

Next day, 31 January, he claimed a P-38 over Commachio.

A B-17 was claimed on 11 March and another P-47 on 6 April thus reaching 19 victories.

On 25 May he claimed a B-17 damaged.

He was again shot down during a dogfight with P-47 Thunderbolts and seriously wounded on 15 June 1944.
He did not fly again during World War II.

During his time with the A.N.R. he flew in combat with the Macchi MC.205V and Fiat G.55.
Gorrini was shot down four times and wounded twice during the war.
He was awarded with two Medaglie di bronzo al valor militare and the German Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd Class. In 1958 he received the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare. Gorrini is the only pilot who has served in the A.N.R. to be awarded with the Italian highest military award after the war for his accomplishments obtained before the Armistice of 8 September 1943!

Gorrini ended the war with 2 biplane victories and a total of 19. 15 of his claims were with the Regia Aeronautica and 4 were with the A.N.R. Please note that all Gorrini’s claims were and are unofficial, as up to date there isn’t any official confirmed listing of Italian aces.

Following the war he joined the rebuilt Italian Air Force and served with it until 1979, when he retired, being nominated Ufficiale on retirement.

Gorrini lived in retirement in Alseno before passing away on 8 November 2014.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 16/04/41 07:30-09:15 1 Beaufighter (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Derna 85a Squadriglia
  16/04/41 07:30-09:15 1 Beaufighter (a) Damaged Fiat CR.42   Derna 85a Squadriglia
2 29/05/41 11:05 1 Blenheim (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   12m NW Benghasi 85a Squadriglia
  29/05/41 11:05 1 Blenheim (b) Damaged Fiat CR.42   12m NW Benghasi 85a Squadriglia
3 02/01/43   1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   Sirte 85a Squadriglia
  02/01/43   1 Spitfire Damaged MC.202   Sirte 85a Squadriglia
4 11/01/43   1 Spitfire Destroyed MC.202   NNW Tamet 85a Squadriglia
  11/01/43   1 Spitfire Damaged MC.202   NNW Tamet 85a Squadriglia
5 19/07/43   1 B-24 (c) Destroyed MC.205V   Rome 85a Squadriglia
6 19/07/43   1 P-38 (c) Destroyed MC.205V   Rome 85a Squadriglia
  19/07/43   1 P-38 Damaged MC.205V   Rome 85a Squadriglia
7 20/07/43   1 P-38 (d) Destroyed MC.205V     85a Squadriglia
  20/07/43   1 P-38 Damaged MC.205V     85a Squadriglia
8 13/08/43   1 B-24 (e) Destroyed MC.202   off Ostia 85a Squadriglia
9 26/08/43   1 Spitfire Destroyed MC.205V     85a Squadriglia
10 27/08/43   1 B-24 Destroyed MC.205V   Cerveteri area 85a Squadriglia
11 27/08/43   1 B-24 Destroyed MC.205V   Cerveteri area 85a Squadriglia
12 29/08/43   1 P-38 Destroyed MC.205V     85a Squadriglia
13 29/08/43   1 P-38 Destroyed MC.205V     85a Squadriglia
  29/08/43   1 P-38 Damaged MC.205V     85a Squadriglia
  29/08/43   1 P-38 Damaged MC.205V     85a Squadriglia
14 30/08/43   1 B-17 (f) Destroyed MC.205V   Frascati 85a Squadriglia
15 31/08/43   1 Spitfire Destroyed MC.205V   Naples 85a Squadriglia
  31/08/43   1 P-38 Damaged MC.205V   Naples 85a Squadriglia
16 30/01/44 12:30 1 P-47 (g) Destroyed MC.205V   Grado area 1a Squadriglia ANR
17 31/01/44   1 P-38 (h) Destroyed MC.205V   Commachio 1a Squadriglia ANR
18 11/03/44   1 B-17 (i) Destroyed MC.205V     1o Gruppo ANR
19 06/04/44   1 P-47 (j) Destroyed MC.205V     1o Gruppo ANR
  25/05/44   1 B-17 (k) Damaged MC.205V     1o Gruppo ANR

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 19 destroyed, 10 damaged.
(a) Not verified with Commonwealth records.
(b) Not verified with Commonwealth records.
(c) 18o Gruppo claimed five B-24s and two P-38 over Rome during this day. No USAAF B-24s or P-38s were actually lost.
(d) It seems that no USAAF P-38s were actually lost during this combat.
(e) It seems that no USAAF B-24s were actually lost during this combat.
(f) It seems that no USAAF B-17s were actually lost during this combat.
(g) Claimed in combat with fighters from 15th AF, which lost 2 P-47s during the day. Axis fighters claimed 5 P-47s during this combat. This claim is not credited to him in ANR or Luftwaffe sources.
(h) This claim is not credited to him in ANR or Luftwaffe sources. No P-38s were lost over Italy during this day.
(i) This claim is not credited to him Luftwaffe sources (but in ANR sources).
(j) This claim is not credited to him in ANR or Luftwaffe sources. No P-47s were lost over Italy during this day.
(k) This claim is not credited to him in ANR or Luftwaffe sources.

Personal letter from Luigi Gorrini kindly translated by Birgitta Hallberg-Lombardi
Personal letter from Giuseppe Ruzzin kindly translated by Martina Sandberg
3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - C. Lucchini and E. Leproni, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala with translations kindly provided by Birgitta Hallberg-Lombardi
Aces - W. Wayne Patton, 1998
Aces’ Aircraft, Two aces of 18 Gruppo (Aero Album Volume 5 Number 1 Spring 1972) - Christopher Shores, 1972 kindly provided by Santiago Flores
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
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998
Macchi MC.205 Veltro - Maurizio Di Terlizzi, 1997 IBN Editore Aviolibri No. 1, Roma, ISBN 88-86815-55-7
Storia Aeronautica Italiana
Additional information kindly provided by Ferdinando D'Amico, Stefano Mencarelli and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 24 August 2015