Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Furio Lauri Medaglia d'oro al valor militare

Image from Ala Tricolore.

11 October 1918 – 2 October 2002

Date Decoration Note
??/??/45 Medaglia d’oro al valor militare 1943-45
??/??/41 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st) 1940-43
??/??/42 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd) 1940-43
??/??/42 Croce di guerra al valor militare 1940-43

Furio Lauri was born in Zara on 11 October 1918.

He was drafted into the Regia Aeronautica in 1939 and in September that year he flew the Fiat CR.42 for the first time.

In June 1940, Sottotenente Lauri served in the 368a Squadriglia of the 151o Gruppo. This unit was based at Casabianca, Italy, and equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

During the night between 25 and 26 August Tenente Giuseppe Zuffi took off from Bresso and intercepted a British bomber that escaped in the dark after receiving 100 rounds of 12,7 mm. Sottotenente Lauri of the same Squadriglia took off from Cameri (in Piedmont) and attacked another enemy bomber. After the first burst of fire (46 rounds of 12,7 mm and 106 rounds 7,7 mm) he saw under him a big fire on the ground and thought he had shot down the intruder, claiming it when back at base.
Subsequently was discovered that the fire seen by Lauri was caused by the incendiary bombs that the British raider jettisoned when attacked while Zuffi had caused some damage to his opponent’s bomb bay. In fact, on the ground at Taliedo airport (attacked by the night raiders) many British bomb were discovered with the fins pierced with 12,7 mm holes; one of them still with a 12,7 mm SAFAT round trapped on it.
Sottotenente Lauri was decorated with the Croce di guerra al valor militare for this action.

On the last day of August 1940, the 151o Gruppo C.T. (366a, 367a and 368a Squadriglie) was ordered to move in Libya with 30 CR.42s as a reinforcement for the attack against Sidi Barrani.
The unit under the command of Maggiore Carlo Calosso was one of the first equipped with CR.42s in 1939 and was based in Caselle Torinese near Turin, with sections and Squadriglie detached in different airbases of North Italy for local defence duties.
They departed Caselle Torinese in the morning of 6 September and at 18:20 on 8 September, the whole Gruppo landed in Tripoli Castel Benito.
The 366a Squadriglia formation was composed of ten aircraft: Capitano Bernardino Serafini (CO), Tenente Mario Ferrero (the Gruppo Adjutant), Sottotenente Amedeo Guidi, Maresciallo Giulio Cesare, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella, Sergente Maggiore Dino Carta, Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi, Sergente Maggiore Cesare Chiarmetta, Sergente Antonio Camerini, Sergente Eugenio Cicognani. Tenente Piero Veneziani and Maresciallo Giovanni Accorsi followed in the unit’s hack Caproni Ca.133 together with five ground personnel.
The formation of 367a Squadriglia comprised the Gruppo Commander Maggiore Carlo Calosso, the 368a Squadriglia’s pilot Sergente Piero Hosquet and nine other pilots for a total of eleven. Among them were Capitano Simeone Marsan (the CO), Tenente Irzio Bozzolan, Tenente Aldo Bonuti, Sergente Maggiore Gino Bogoni and Sergente Tolmino Zanarini. The Squadriglia’s other six pilots were Tenente Giuseppe Costantini, Maresciallo Bruno Castellani, Sergente Maggiore Rodolfo Benco, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Celotto, Sergente Renato Mingozzi and Sergente Maggiorino Soldati.
The 368a Squadriglia formation was composed of nine aircraft: Capitano Bruno Locatelli (CO), Tenente Giuseppe Zuffi, Sottotenente Lauri, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Maggiore Annibale Ricotti, Sergente Maggiore Alvise Andrich, Sergente Stefano Fiore, Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi, Sergente Mario Turchi. Tenente Orfeo Paroli and Maresciallo Guido Paparatti followed in the Ca.133 of the Squadriglia (Paroli and Fiore were just transferred from 367a Squadriglia).
On 25 September the 151o Gruppo transferred from Benghazi to El Adem where it replaced the 9o Gruppo C.T.

While coming back from a patrol over Sidi El Barrani on 8 October, Sottotenente Lauri hit the searchlight at the end of the landing strip of El Adem; the aircraft was classified RS.

In the afternoon on 9 December, SM 79s were out to bomb British troops at the Sidi Barrani - Bir Enba area. They were to be escorted by 19 CR.42s of the 9o Gruppo led by Maggiore Ernesto Botto, which had taken off from El Adem at 14:55. The fighters included seven from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo (CO), Tenente Giulio Reiner, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, Sergente Maggiore Guglielmo Biffani, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Valle and Sergente Santo Gino) seven from the 97a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO), Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Riccardo Vaccari, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Angelo Golino and Sergente Alcide Leoni) and four from the 96a Squadriglia (Tenente Aldo Gon and Sergente Giuseppe Tomasi together with two unknown pilots).
More Italian fighters were up to escort the bombers and at 15:10, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella of the 366a, 151o Gruppo, attached to a formation of nine CR.42s of the 368a Squadriglia (Capitano Bruno Locatelli, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Ernesto De Bellis, Sottotenente Lauri, Sergente Maggiore Annibale Ricotti, Tenente Orfeo Paroli, Sergente Piero Hosquet, Sergente Stefano Fiore, Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi) were out to escorted Italian bombers in the Bir Enba area.
The rendezvous with the bombers over A3 failed and after 20 minutes, the fighters of the 9o Gruppo arrived and together they proceeded towards the front on a free sweep. Three SM 79s were discovered and escorted for a while. Over Buq-Buq, a Hurricane strafing along the coastal road was discovered and the SM 79s were left to the 9o Gruppo while the CR.42s of the 151o Gruppo attacked the British fighter. The Hurricane was claimed shot down in flames and credited to the formation (but in fact only Locatelli, Lauri, Paroli and De Bellis fired their guns).
The 151a Gruppo fighters returned to base at 16:50.
Meanwhile the fighters from the 9o Gruppo continued and 30 km south of Bir Enba they spotted some Gladiators at a lower level and dived on them, but suddenly the CR.42s were jumped by a reported two Squadrons of Hurricanes or Spitfires, attacking respectively the 73a Squadriglia and the 96a Squadriglia with the 97a Squadriglia. A large dogfight started and after 20 minutes of combat many claims were submitted by the Italian pilots
Tenente Vaccari fought alone against four Hurricanes, claiming one destroyed (as a Spitfire) and damaging the others before his Fiat was hit in the fuel tank and in the engine. He crash-landed near Sollum, the aircraft turning over and caught fire; he was burned in the face and hands. Sergente Maggiore Salvatore claimed a Spitfire and several damaged before being wounded in his left arm. He managed however to return to base. Sergente Golino was hit in his back, but managed to claim his attacker before being compelled to evade and land at Amseat A3. Sergente Maggiore Biffani (Fiat CR.42 MM5599/73-9) claimed a Hurricane but was at the same shot down by his victim and was captured. He recalled:

"In the afternoon of 9 December we were flying between Mersa Matruh and Buq-Buq, when my wingman, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, warned me that we had enemies behind us. I alerted Botto by shooting a burst [Note that the CR.42 had no radio during this period], then I realized they were near my tail, so I made a 180-degree turn and I saw them pass: they were three Hurricanes. I climbed almost vertically and saw the 73a Squadriglia in front, the three Hurricanes behind it and 96a and 97a Squadriglia behind them, all in a vertical line that went down to the ground. Then I discovered a Hurricane that was breaking off from the combat, clearly he had seen the other Italian fighters on its tail. I continued to climb, now I was the highest fighter of them all, then I dived down at full throttle [towards the escaping Hurricane]. I arrived near it and then I reduced speed and put the revolutions between 1850 and 2250 because otherwise I would had cut my propeller as happened to Gon and others, because the airscrew went out of gear and the round was fired when it passed in front of the gun (…) . When I closed to it, I opened fire. I aimed and saw the explosive bullets that exploded on the wing. Why didn’t anything happen? Was there no fuel at all? I fired at the other wing but it was the same, the bullets exploded but nothing happened. I fired into the engine, nothing happened. I saw the tracers very well, and after all, it wasn’t the first time I was shooting. At Gorizia I used to hit the target balloon with ten rounds only. In the meantime, I was losing speed and falling behind, O.K. Goodbye! It passed and turned towards me again -so I hadn’t caused any damage to it- , and I did the same. We found ourselves face to face at a distance of around 500-600 metres. I started firing and saw my tracers hitting it, then its wings lit up and in the same moment my plane caught fire, it was just an instant. My plane was severely damaged and while I was trying to land I saw the Hurricane that dived into the ground and exploded. I saw no parachute. I force-landed among British MTs and was immediately taken prisoner. I went back home after 63 months of POW!"
Additional Hurricanes were claimed by Botto, Sergente Dallari, Sergente Valle and an unknown pilot of the 73a Squadriglia (it is possible that this was a shared claim). It seems possible that also Sergente Maggiore Perotti claimed a victory (this claim is disallowed in the 97a Squadriglia diary, who only credits him with some Spitfires damaged).
Sergente Gino claimed a probable before his aircraft was badly damaged and he made an emergency landing near the frontline. Additional probables were claimed by Sottotenente De Campo and Reiner. Sergente Alcide Leoni together with other pilots claimed several damaged fighters. Capitano Larsimont Pergameni was attacked but was able to evade without claiming any hits on any enemy aircraft. Tenente Viglione was soon hit by a Hurricane, but manoeuvred to shoot at and damage it; however he was hit again in the engine by another enemy fighter, so he had to made an emergency landing near Buq-Buq.
Totally the Italian pilots claimed seven shot down (
Biffani’s claim was not initially credited since he was taken POW) and three probables (it’s possible that some of the probables were claimed as shared). The Gruppo’s Diary reduced these claims to four confirmed and three probables.
Totally during the combat one Fiat was shot down (Biffani POW) and three CR.42s carried out emergency landings (Viglione, Vaccari and Gino). Three pilots were wounded; Vaccari, Golino and Salvatore. Both Reiner’s and Valle’s aircraft returned lightly damaged while Tenente Aldo Gon and Sergente Giuseppe Tomasi landed at Amseat due to lack of fuel.
It seems that they had clashed with fighter from at least two RAF Squadrons. 12 Hurricanes from 33 Squadron had taken off with 10 minutes intervals to ground strafe the enemy’s rear areas, concentrating on troops and motor transports. They reportedly caused much damage before they were intercepted by three formations of CR.42s. During the day, 33 Squadron’s pilots claimed three Italian fighters and reported another going down out of control. One of the Squadron’s Hurricanes had to force-land but the pilot was saved (this was probably claimed by the 151o Gruppo pilots). Considering that one of the claims should relate to the loss of Sergente Francesco Nanin in the morning then the other two are probably connected with this specific engagement. It is also known that Flying Officer Vernon Woodward shot down two of the Fiats claimed by his unit, one of them in flames, and damaged a third.
The second Squadron was five Hurricanes (Squadron Leader Patrick Dunn (P3723), Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (V7293), Flying Officer Thomas Patterson (P3720), Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (V7300) and Pilot Officer Ernest ‘Imshi’ Mason (P3722)) from 274 Squadron, which had taken off at 15:00. They were flying in two vics at 15,000 feet when they spotted 27 CR.42s in tight vics (four main formations of 8, 7, 6 and 6 aircraft) over the Sidi Barrani-Sofafi area at 16:08. The Italian fighters were discovered at 9 o’clock, 10-12 miles away and stepped so that they were slightly above and 2000 feet below. The RAF pilots succeeded in approaching unobserved and then delivered a multiple direction attack followed by a general dogfight. The Hurricane pilots reporting five confirmed victories and three probables for one Hurricane damaged. In the unit’s ORBs Form 541 victories were claimed by Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes (plus one probable), Squadron Leader Dunn (plus two probables), Flying Officer Patterson, Flight Lieutenant Lapsley and Pilot Officer Mason. However, in the unit’s ORB Form 540, the number of confirmed victories raises to six with three more CR 42s severely damaged; the identity of the claimant of this last victory, however remained unknown even if the CFRs of the action would suggest Squadron Leader Dunn.
Squadron Leader Dunn (he delivered an aster attack) reported:
“The enemy engaged in dogfight. Claim one E a/c for certain (saw it hit the ground). Attacked two in tight vic and was at 200 yards point blank range and fell certain must have killed pilots. Got another good and point blank deflection shot at another. Closed from optimum to point blank range at first. Must (?) have shot down the first two but could not spare time to confirm. 3rd point blank deflection shot likely and fourth adversary saw it hit the ground (claim 1 confirmed and 2 others which I feel certain about but must go down as unconfirmed).”
Flight Lieutenant Lapsley (he delivered a head-on attack) reported:
“The enemy fired back. 1 CR 42 shot down and seen to hit the ground without burning. Several other machines were shot at individually. They can out manoeuvre a Hurricane but one can get away and then come back.”
Pilot Officer Mason (he was discovered during the approach and had to dogfight from the beginning) reported:
“The enemy tried to turn inside me. 1 CR 42 shot at short range from above into cockpit. Aircraft turned (unreadable) with sparks from it. Followed it down until attacked by others CR 42s. Using 15o flap climb (unreadable) but not quite equal to 42. Speed on level far superior. Possible when attacked from above to turn and deliver short head on burst.”
Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes reported:
“The enemy dog fought, during dogfight damaged two enemy and sent one down out of control but could not see it crash as another was in my tail. The enemy fairly aggressive.”
Flying Officer Patterson (he delivered a quarter attack from port side) reported:
“The enemy started a general dogfight. 1 CR 42 shot down and seen to burn out on the ground”.
The 274 Squadron Hurricanes all had landed at 17:00.
It is also highly likely that 112 Squadron’s Gladiators were present. They were up, patrolling the Bir Enba area, and were noted and attacked by 9o Gruppo’s pilots. The Squadron flew at least two patrols during the day but the unit’s ORB don’t report any engagement.
The escorted bombers were three SM 79s of the 29o Gruppo (one of 11a Squadriglia and two of 63a Squadriglia) commanded by Colonnello Mario Aramu that attacked at around 16:40 while the RAF fighters were busy with the CR.42s of 9o Gruppo. Aramu noted the combat between Italian and Commonwealth fighters and claime an effective bombing from 3000 metres coming back at Gambut at 17:50 while the other formation were four SM 79s of the 6a Squadriglia, 44o Gruppo, commanded by Maggiore Andrea Bosi who had taken off at 14:25 from Tmini M2. Before the mission Bosi had received order not to press home his attack (but to turn back) in case he failed the rendezvous with the escorting fighters over Sollum, so when the rendezvous with the escort failed he turned back and landed at Tmini M2 at 16:40. His were the bombers that were discovered by 9o Gruppo flying back towards Libya.

At 14:55 on 11 December, the 151o Gruppo was out again to escort Ba.65s bound to attack British troops south of Buq-Buq.
One formation from the 366a Squadriglia included nine CR.42s (Capitano Bernardino Serafini, Tenente Guglielmo Chiarini, Sottotenente Amedeo Guidi, Sergente Maggiore Dino Carta, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella, Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi, Sergente Rosario Di Carlo, Sergente Antonio Camerini and Segente Eugenio Cicognani). Twenty-five minutes before this formation, the 367a Squadriglia (Capitano Simeone Marsan, Capitano Giuseppe Costantini, Sergente Maggiore Rodolfo Benco, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Celotto and Sergente Tolmino Zanarini) had taken off from A3 together with the 368a Squadriglia (Capitano Bruno Locatelli, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Stefano Fiore, Sottotenente Lauri and Sergente Ernesto De Bellis), for the same type of mission. It seems that one of the formations escorted Ba.65/A80s from the 159a Squadriglia, 12o Gruppo, while the other escorted Ba.65/K14s from the 168a Squadriglia, 16o Gruppo.
The Bredas from the 159a Squadriglia (Tenente Adriano Visconti, Maresciallo Enio Sagliaschi, Sergente Maggiore Paolo Perno and Sergente Maggiore Pietro Scaramucci) were surprised by a bombing attack by reportedly twelve British aircraft while taxiing before take off at A3. The four pilots after a brief consultation decided to remain inside their aircraft and wait for the end of the bombardment and then took off, avoiding the holes in the runway. For this reason they received a written commendation from Colonnello Moresco together with their colleagues from the 16o Gruppo for their activity on 9-11 December. The attacking aircraft were eight Blenheims Mk.IVs from 55 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Dudgeon (T1995) that arrived over their intended target “a landing ground on the Capuzzo-Bardia road” (obviously Amseat) at 15:00. Weather was very poor and bombs were dropped from 10,000 feet through cloud (6/10 at 7000 feet). Results were difficult to appreciate due to the bad visibility but a fire was seen burning on ground with a long flame of black smoke. While the Blenheims were making out to sea, a reportedly twelve CR.42s were seen climbing below clouds and following the Blenheim formation although they didn’t catch up with it.
Visconti’s four Ba.65s finished the mission attacking the enemy near Buq-Buq and then returned directly to T2 since A3 had to be evacuated. They were all damaged by AA fire.
While the 366a Squadriglia was climbing over A3, a lone British monoplane came out of the clouds and attacked the last CR.42 in the formation, flown by Sergente Cicognani. The young Sergente was wounded in the leg, in the right arm and in the head and had to bale out. He was immediately taken to Bardia hospital but his arm couldn’t be saved and it was amputated. Later in the campaign, the 151o Gruppo put a rhomboidal badge on the fin of its CR.42s representing an iron arm drawing a bow made of a naked girl stretching her back, to commemorate Cicognani.
In the meantime, over Bardia, the other CR.42s of the formation were reacting with Sottotenente Guidi and Sergente Maggiore Carta starting in pursuit of the now fleeing Hurricane. After a brief period, Carta abandoned the chase because he was being distanced by the Hurricane but Guidi stubbornly continued. Bernardino Serafini and his men completed the escort and strafed enemy troops after the Breda’s attack.
Some miles away the Bredas escorted by the 367a and 368a Squadriglie had finished their attack. While the 367a Squadriglia returned directly to T2, two CR.42s from the 368a Squadriglia (Locatelli and Colauzzi) went down to finished the work and destroyed three trucks. While still at low altitude, they were attacked by a lone Hurricane but in a matter of minutes, they were able to turn the tables against their opponent with the help from Sottotenente Guidi, who was already following it and finally shot it down in flames. In the meantime, another Hurricane appeared and Sottotenente Lauri after being heavily damaged by it, succeeded in shooting it down (using 180 rounds of 12,7mm and 300 rounds of 7,7mm ammunition).
It seems that Locatelli, Colauzzi and Guidi had shot down Flying Officer Charles ‘Deadstick’ Dyson DFC (Hurricane P3726) from 33 Squadron. Dyson returned safely six days later with an amazing story. He later retold the ”Egyptian Mail” that while returning from a lone patrol to base at Mersa Matruh, in Egypt:

“I was alone, 12,000 feet up, between Bardia and Sollum, when I saw a flight of six Bread 65s.
I was going to attack the last three when, coming through the clouds, I saw two CR 42s in front of me and three more lower down. They were stepped up, escorting the Bredas. I at once attacked the two CR42s, giving each a burst, and both pilots, turning their aircraft on their backs, “baled out”.
I had dived to the attack and I carried on to the next three. With two bursts I got the leader and the starboard aircraft and each pilot “baled out”. Three of the four aircraft had long trails of smoke coming from them when their pilots jumped. For a moment I lost sight of the last of the three CRs but when I rolled off the top of a loop, I saw him a considerable distance bellow me, and travelling in the same direction as myself.
I dived at him and gave him a long burst. He too “baled out” – the fifth off the reel.”
As soon as he had disposed of his victim, he was attacked by three more CR.42s.
“I put everything forward and touched 400 miles an hour, and I got away. My dive brought me down to 3,000 feet and I was over Sollum Bay. There I saw two more CRs making their way homeward. The leader saw me manoeuvring and the parted. Both the leader and I stall-turned and we faced each other head on. I don’t think he had much ammunition left as I saw only small bursts of incendiaries pass me. I held my burst to a very short distance and just managed to clear him. Turning back I saw him going down vertically. I then managed to get a quick burst at the other enemy aircraft and I believe my bullets went into him.”
Deciding to call it a day, Dyson started for his base but was attacked by three more CR.42s, who got on his tail. Then he realised that his glycol tank was pierced. The glycol poured into the cockpit.
“I opened the hood and hung my head outside. I carried on, still pursued, hoping that my aircraft would not catch fire. I did not know whether I was over enemy or friendly territory. Suddenly we were fired upon from the ground and I believe this saved me, for my pursuers broke off. Owing to the smoke and fumes I had been flying blind for three or four minutes, but I managed to put my aircraft down in a cross wind.”
British troops in reconnaissance trucks appeared and he spent the night as the guest of a Brigadier General. The next day, from Tummar, where there was a big concentration of Italian prisoners, he led a convoy of Italians across the desert, using only a small field compass. The truck on which he was riding passed over a land-mine, without harm, but a car following immediately behind, blew up. When he returned to his Squadron on 17 December, he claimed six CR.42s and probably a seventh (not confirmed). This claim was at first treated with some scepticism, but the Army, which had witnessed the whole fight, more than confirmed his claim. Unseen by him, one of the falling CR.42s crashed into a Ba.65, bringing this down too, a total of seven confirmed in one sortie – a record that was never to be broken in the RAF. The Army also reported that three Italian pilots were taken to 64 General Hospital in Cairo, were by coincidence, Dyson’s wife worked as a nurse! For this performance, Dyson was awarded a Bar to his DFC, which he had won in Palestine in 1938.
Even if the Italian records for the day aren’t totally complete (in particular those of the 9o Gruppo), those of the 151o Gruppo are not only complete but also among the best kept and permit to reconstruct with a fair degree of certainty Dyson’s action, giving also the hour and place of the engagement: around 14:55 over A3 or somewhere east of Amseat. In particular some details (the lone British monoplane coming out of a cloud and attacking from aster the 366a Squadriglia formation) are in good accordance with the British description. Even if in this way six out of seven of Dyson’s claims have to be rejected this, should not result in a general discredit on accuracy of RAF claims (that remained fairly precise along all the campaign, particularly those of the Hurricanes) nor on Dyson himself, because he remains however a pilot brave enough to attack single handed nine (not only six) enemy planes and, while retreating from this attack, bold enough to try to attack two more found on his path. The first swift attack could have left him with the impression of having hit all the six CR.42s he was able to aim at (instead of only that of Cicognani), while the subsequent fast escape shouldn’t have left him with sufficient time to properly check the result of his attack. In this way, the only mistake of Dyson was to have claimed six destroyed instead of six probables or damaged.
It is possible that the Hurricane, which damaged Lauri’s fighter was the one flown by Pilot Officer Ernest Mason of 274 Squadron since at 14:45, ten Hurricanes from 274 Squadron took off to patrol the Barrani area. Involved pilots were Flying Officer Greenhill (Hurricane N2627), Lieutenant Talbot (P2652), Pilot Officer Garland (P2651), Pilot Officer Strange (P5176), Squadron Leader Patrick Dunn (P3723), Flying Officer Patterson (P3720), Flight Lieutenant Lapsley (V 7293), Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (V7300), Pilot Officer Mason (P 3722) and Pilot Officer Godden (N2624).
At 15:40, near Sollum, Mason claimed a CR.42. In his combat report, he wrote that he part of a three aircraft formation, which at 15,000 feet over Sollum discovered to the port side and 8 miles away a low flying CR.42 going towards Libya. Mason closed unobserved on his victim and delivered an astern attack from very close range.
“The enemy turned over and dived down and then pulled up into cloud. Followed and fired a/c [unreadable] and then flamed. Aircraft seen going down by P/O Godden who was behind me. No damage to own aircraft. Pilot of C.R. 42 showed little or no air nerve (verve) in that he allowed me to approach unobserved on a long chase.”
He later detailed the victory in a letter to his parents:
“…late in the afternoon three of us were on patrol when I saw a speck on the horizon going towards Libya. I chased after it, the other two following, and eventually saw it was a lone CR 42 making for home (probably after ground strafing our own troops). I chased behind him without him noticing me and waited until I was right behind him at point blank range and put a burst into him. The other two saw him going down burning”.
The identity of this fighter remains unknown even if at the hour and in the place recorded by Mason makes it probable that the fighter was from the 151o Gruppo, which was operating in the area at the same time.

On 20 December, the 366a Squadriglia discovered that most of its fighters needed a thoroughly engine revision at a S.R.A.M and were not repairable in the Squadriglia. The 367a Squadriglia detached its only three combat ready CR.42s to Z1, to fly with the 4o Stormo; five pilots accompanied the fighters with Capitani Simeone Marsan and Giuseppe Costantini leading them. Two fighters of the 368a Squadriglia (one flown by Tenente Lauri) were also detached to Z1.

On 4 February, four Blenheims (Flight Lieutenant Paine, Flight Sergeant Overell, Pilot Officer Collins and Pilot Officer Allen) from 45 Squadron took off at 09:20 to bomb the railway station at Barce. Pilot Officer Collins and Pilot Officer Allen found no activity at all over the target and instead bombed motor transports between Barce and Tocra. Flight Lieutenant Paine and Flight Sergeant Overell were intercepted by Italian fighters and Paine’s Blenheim Mk.I L8538 was shot down. A few weeks later Paine returned to base stating that his crew (Sergeant Harry Cecil Thomas Holmans (RAF no. 581388) and 19-year-old Sergeant Colin Pryce Edwards (RAF no. 552544)) had both been shot and that after baling out, he had been helped by a friendly Senussi to escape through the Italian lines.
The Italian fighters were five CR.42s from the 368a Squadriglia (Tenente Giuseppe Zuffi, Sergente Mario Turchi, Sottotenente Lauri, Sergente Maggiore Ezio Masenti and Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi) and one from the 366a Squadriglia (Sergente Audibert). They had taken off at 07:25 to make an offensive reconnaissance over the front area. Near El Hamana, Tenente Zuffi and Sergente Turchi had strafed two armoured cars claiming one stopped, in fact 1Tp, “A” Sqn. of 11th Hussars was strafed at 08:15 by two CR 42s that holed the tank of the Rolls Royce armoured car. While coming back to base, Sottotenente Lauri discovered a British bomber and started in pursuit and claimed it shot down, reporting that one of the crew had been able to jump and had landed a few kilometres north-east of El Abiar (apparently Flight Lieutenant Paine). Some Hurricanes were in the meantime discovered higher and attacked by Tenente Zuffi, Sergente Turchi, Sergente Maggiore Colauzzi and Sergente Audibert, but the British monoplanes reportedly escaped on seeing the Italian fighters.
The CR.42 flown by Sergente Ezio Masenti, suffered big loss of oil from the engine and landed at Barce. British troops were in the area and, as soon as returning pilots reported on Masenti's plight, a Ca.133 being used as a hack by the 151o Gruppo CT took off from Agedabia in the hands of Maresciallo Giovanni Accorsi of the 366a Squadriglia, who was accompanied by an engineer, 1oAv Mot. Callerani. Three CR.42s of the 366a Squadriglia led by Tenente Guglielmo Chiarini and including Maresciallo Giulio Cesare and Sergente Antonio Camerini, volunteered to provide escort. Over Barce, the Ca.133 was intercepted at low-level by a section of 73 Squadron Hurricanes.
This was ‘B’ Flight’s second patrol and consisted of the leader Pilot Officer George Goodman (V7716/TP-U), Pilot Officer J. B. 'Chips' McColl (V7372/TP-W) and Pilot Officer Ken M. Millist (V7941). The Ca.133 was shot down by Pilot Officer McColl at about 500 feet above the ground. Maresciallo Accorsi notwithstanding the desperate situation caused by the heavy damage suffered by his Caproni, reportedly didn’t parachute but instead tried to crash-land the aircraft, with the aim of saving the life of Callerani. His gallant effort failed and they both died in the subsequent crash.
As the CR.42s dived down in a vain attempt to assist the doomed transport, the Hurricanes turned to engage. In the ensuing combat Chiarini was shot down in flames and killed by Pilot Officer George Goodman (victory number 7 of 10 totally), who claimed a CR.42 that was attacking McColl.
Meanwhile, Sergente Antonio Camerini succeeded in damaging a Hurricane that he last saw escaping trailing black smoke. The Hurricanes disappeared after the short combat while the Italians started to mourn two of their most valued pilots. Unknown to them, the Hurricane flown by Pilot Officer Millist had been shot down in a head-on attack.
Millist was posted missing at the end of the action, believed shot down because his mates had seen about five unidentified aircraft above him (!). His aircraft was hit in the engine and he made a forced-landing ten miles north-east of Benina, running far away from his aircraft to avoid capture. For two days, without food or water, Millist – known as ‘Tiny’ due to his height, in excess of six feet – walked and hid, being chased on one occasion by an Italian motorcyclist whom he successfully evaded. On the third day, he met an Australian army sergeant who gave him food and water before helping him to obtain a lift to Derna. He finally arrived at Gazala on 6 February. Of Millist’s plight, his colleague Pilot Officer Bill Eiby recalled:

“Tiny Millist was a short service Australian and when he was shot down by the vintage biplane everyone laughed their bloody heads off. He went in head-on. We were told not to tackle them head-on, but Tiny did and got hit in the radiator for his pains. He got back from that one.”
Camerini, who most probably shot down Millist, initially claimed the Hurricane as a probable.
Both Accorsi and Chiarini were posthumously awarded with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare.
The unlucky Sergente Maggiore Masenti had to burn his fighter (368-4/MM6257) and left Barce with some armoured troops only to go missing during the following Italian retreat at Beda Fomm.

By late 1941, Lauri had claimed 11 victories.
Also during this year he flew the Fiat CR.42 for the last time before converting to Fiat G.50bis.

In early January 1943, the 368a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Mario Ferrero, was posted to Sfax, in Tunisia, and tasked with flying ground attack missions and convoy escort patrols. During the unit's operational tour in Tunisia, its G.50bis carried out numerous bombing and strafing sorties in cooperation with German aircraft, despite poor coordination between the Axis partners.

On 22 January, five Fiat G.50bis fighter-bombers of the 368a Squadriglia, escorted by five MC.202s, set off from Sfax at 12:10 to attack American vehicles south of Sidi bou Zid. There, they dropped 18 bombs, but heavy anti-aircraft fire brought down G.50bis MM6148 flown by Tenente Lauri. Wounded, he baled out behind American lines where, helped by Arabs, Lauri managed to return to Axis lines and was later repatriated.

By the beginning of March, the 368a Squadriglia was down to seven serviceable G.50s. Removed from the Tunisian front, it left Sfax for Pantelleria.

He continued to fly in the defence of Italy until the Italian surrender in September 1943.

After the Italian surrender he continued to fly in the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force.

During the winter and spring of 1945 Lauri flew several liaison flights with partisan units behind the Gothic Line, on behalf of Captain Charles McIntosh of No. 1 Special Force. The aircraft used in these sorties was Fieseler Fi156C-3 Storch (MM12822).
Lauri was decorated with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare for these missions.

MM12822 preserved at Vigna di Valle.
© Håkan Gustavsson

Lauri ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 11.
During the war he flew the CR.42, G.50bis, MC202, MC.205, Bf 109, FW 190, Spitfire and Mustang. He also flew Fieseler Storch in special operations for the Allied 5th Army in Italy.
He was shot down twice during the war.

He served in the Air Force until 1947 when he retired as a Tenente Colonello.

In 1947 he founded the METEOR S.p.A company, which became a worldwide leading industry in the production of unmanned aircraft.
The company sold its military production to the Italian Government and is presently devoted only to manufacturing civilian aircraft (Sky Arrow). The company is today called INIZIATIVE INDUSTRIALI ITALIANE (METEOR) S.p.A and is based in Rome.

Furio Lauri passed away in Rome on 2 October 2002.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  09/12/40 15:10-16:50 1/10 Hurricane (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Buq-Buq 368a Squadriglia
1 11/12/40 14:55- 1 Hurricane (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Bardia area 368a Squadriglia
2 04/02/41 07:25- 1 Blenheim (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   NE El Abiar 368a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 and 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 11 destroyed.
(a) Probably claimed in combat between 9o and 151o Gruppi and 33 and 274 Squadrons. 9o Gruppo claimed eight shot down, three probables and several damaged while losing two CR.42s and four force-landed. The 151o Gruppo claimed one Hurricane without losses. 33 and 274 Squadrons claimed seven or eight CR.42s and three probables while one Hurricane (33 Squadron) had to force-land and a second (274 Squadron) was damaged.
(b) Probably claimed in combat with Pilot Officer Ernest Mason of 274 Squadron, who returned safely claiming one CR.42.
(c) Blenheim L8538 of 45 Squadron shot down. The pilot Flight Lieutenant Paine baled out but rest of the crew was KIA.

Personal letter from Furio Lauri
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
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 366a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 1 Volume A - L
Fighters over Tunisia - Christopher F. Shores kindly provided by Con O'Neill
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Regia Aeronautica vol. 2 1943-45 - Ferdinando D’Amico and Gabriele Valentini, 1986 Squadron/Signal Publications, Carrollton kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
Storia Aeronautica Italiana
Stormi d'Italia – Giulio Lazzati, 1975 Mursia, Milan, ISBN 88-425-1946-4, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro. Additional information kindly provided by Jean Schadskaje, Ludovico Slongo and Gianmaria Spagnoletti.

Last modified 17 April 2023