Capitano Franco Lucchini Medaglia d’oro al valor militare
24 December 1914 – 5 July 1943
|05/07/43||Medaglia d’oro al valor militare (Posthumous)||1940-43|
|??/??/38||Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st)||O.M.S.|
|??/??/41||Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd)||1940-43|
|??/??/41||Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (3rd)||1940-43|
|??/??/42||Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (4th)||1940-43|
|??/??/43||Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (5th)||1940-43|
|??/??/40||Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare||1940-43|
|??/??/??||Croce di guerra al valor militare (1st)|
|??/??/??||Croce di guerra al valor militare (2nd)|
|??/??/??||Croce di guerra al valor militare (3rd)|
|??/??/??||Croce di guerra al valor militare (4th)|
|??/??/??||Croce al merito di guerra||1940-43|
|??/??/??||Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna (1936-1939)||O.M.S.|
|??/??/??||Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna||O.M.S.|
|??/??/??||Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse||1940-43|
Franco Lucchini was born in Rome on 24 December 1914, son of a railway official. As a child, he was fascinated by aviation. At the age of sixteen, he took out a glider licence. At eighteen, he had his first, harmless, flying accident.
In 1935, he enrolled in Regia Aeronautica as a Reserve Officer, with the rank of Sottotenente Pilota di Complemento. In July, the following year he gained the military flight licence at Foggia flying school.
He was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo) on 13 August 1936 and was in the same month assigned to the 91a Squadriglia, X Gruppo, 4o Stormo C.T. at Gorizia. At this time, the unit was led by Capitano Mario Rossi and was passing from Fiat CR.30s to CR.32s.
In 1937, Lucchini volunteered for the Spanish Civil War, and on 22 July, he left Ostia to Cadiz on a cargo ship.
He was assigned to the 19a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo Caccia Aviazione Legionaria, based at Torrido.
This Gruppo had been formed on 22 April 1937, under the command of Maggiore Andrea Zotti. It was named ”Asso di Bastoni” (“Ace of Clubs”) after its badge. The three Squadriglie were the 18a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Nobili “Notabili”), the 19a Squadriglia (Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti “Tocci”) and the 20a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni “Laimo”).
In Spain, Franco Lucchini used nom de guerre “Franco Lunigiano”. He soon became renowned for having an exceptional sharpness of sight, which allowed him to spot the enemy far before his companions.
On 28 September, XXIII Gruppo transferred to Almaluèz, near Belchite.
On 12 October, the Republican Air Force intervened heavily to support International battalions and tanks in an attempt to break through the enemy lines at Fuentes del Ebro.
During the day, the VI Gruppo lost a good part of numerical, considering that part of the 31a Squadriglia had previously been detached to Córdoba. Therefore, immediately the same morning, the Comando dell’Aviazione Legionaria ordered the XXIII Gruppo to transfer to Sanjurio (Zaragoza).
At 10.30, 29 CR.32s led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, took off from Almaluèz and arrived over Sanjurio around noon. However, before landing, Maggiore Zotti decided to lead his pilots to explore the area between Villafranca and Fuentes del Ebro. Here they spotted four Polikarpov RZ “Natachas” escorted by nine I-16s “Ratas” (above them) and 15 I-15 “Curtiss” (below them). The Italian fighters attacked the Republican aircraft and at the end of the dogfight, that lasted about fifteen minutes, the Italians claimed seven (eleven according to other sources) fighters destroyed for no losses, although several CR.32s were hit and damaged. Combat was very hard for the Italians because their fighters were weighted by pilots’ personal luggage. Pilots that scored, either individually or jointly, were Maggiore Zotti (1 I-15), Sergente Giuseppe Mottet (20a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Giampiero Del Prete, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO of the 20a Squadriglia), Sergente Francesco Penna, Sottotenente Aldo Felici, Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti (CO of the 19a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Pio Tomaselli (19a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Lucchini (19a Squadriglia), Capitano Guido Nobili (CO of the 18a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Carmello, Sergente Carlo Dentis, Sottotenente Giuseppe Enrico Zuffi, Sergente Federico Tassinari (19a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Alfonso Mattei and Sottotenente Bruno Trevisan (19a Squadriglia). It seems that Lucchini’s, Tassinari’s and Mattei’s claims was a shared between these three pilots.
On 7 January 1938, he claimed a shared R-Z.
On 13 January 1938, the XXIII Gruppo transferred to Bello airfield.
On 21 February, all the serviceable Polikarpovs took off to try to oppose Nationalist bombers during the Battle of Alfambra.
At 10:20, Miguel García Pardo and Javier Allende Isasi of 2-G-3 took off on a routine reconnaissance flight over the Teruel front. There they discovered 20 I-15s and a similar number of I-16s in combat with a few Bf 109Bs. When García Pardo and Allende Isasi went to the assistance of the Messerschmitts, the German pilots failed to recognize them as allies and opened fire on them. They beat a hasty retreat, calling into battle another formation of Fiat CR.32s before continuing with their reconnaissance.
The new formation compromised 24 CR.32s of the XXIII Gruppo ”Asso di Bastoni” led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti. The pilots included the Spanish capitán Carlos Haya González who, after attending his mother’s funeral, arrived by car in Bilbao just as the group was about to take off. Despite Commander Zotti’s opposition, he insisted on taking his place in the formation.
At 11:04 over Teruel when they spotted about 40 Republican fighters split in three formations with I-15 “Chatos” at 3,500 and 4,000 meters, and I-16 “Moscas” at 5000 meters. The Republican fighters were already in combat with 17 Bf 109s. Zotti immediately chased them, and sent part of the Gruppo to attack the “Chatos”, which tried to evade as they were over Republican lines. At Puebla de Valverde, the “Moscas” intervened, but they were faced by the rest of the XXIII Gruppo, which at the end claimed two “Chatos” and a “Mosca” destroyed. One of the I-15s was claimed by Lucchini of the 19a Squadriglia. In attempting to destroy an I-15 that was attacking another aircraft of his squadron, Carlos Haya González approached too close and collided with the I-15, falling to his death. It seems that this was sargento Francisco Viñals Guarro (I-15 CA-013) of the 2a/26, who managed to return despite the almost total destruction of the rudder (according the Republic bulletin, it was teniente Manuel Orozoco Ovira, of the 4a/26, who collided with Haya). Viñals’ I-15 was found to have a shattered aileron, badly damaged upper port wing and missing cockpit door and gunsight. Viñals’ promotion, recommended by the coronel Jefe de Fuerzas Aéreas and the Minister of National Defence, Indalecio Prieto, was effective from 22 February. The order was gazetted in the Diario Oficial issue No 47, which noted, ’For his heroic conduct in yesterday’s combats near Teruel, sargento del arma de aviación Francisco Viñals Guarro is promoted to teniente.’
Juan Lario Sanchez witnessed this combat. Haya fell near Puerto de Escadiòn, and was posthumously awarded with a Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
The German pilots of J/88 claimed seven I-16s when 1 staffel claimed three near La Pueblé (Leutnants Fritz Awe, Hans-Karl Mayer and Erich Woitke) and 2 staffel claimed four near Sarrion and Teruel (Unteroffizier Herbert Ihlefeld, Leutnant Edgar Rempel, Unteroffizier Kurt Rochel and Staffelführer Oberleutnant Joachim Schlichting).
It seems that the Bf 109s had been in combat with twelve I-16s from 2a/21, which suffered three wounded pilots and one killed in combat with Messerschmitts and Fiats over Teruel in the morning while reporting 18 enemy aircraft downed (daily total?). Leitenant Aleksey Denisov (I-16 CM-034) claimed one Bf 109 before being shot down and had to bail out wounded. Leitenant Boris Adil’gireevich Takhtarov was wounded and badly burned when his aircraft (CM-123 or CM-239) caught fire after being hit by Bf 109s and he had to take to his parachute. When he jumped his parachute opened early, and on the way down the Germans tried to strafe him, but his comrades prevented them (he spent 35 days in the hospital and then returned home). The third wounded pilot was Andrey Belov. Leitenant Viktor Sergeevich Troshkin was killed while flying CM-032.
General Rojo advised Prieto, the Minister of Defence, that the Air Force had carried out three operations during the day, and that during the last of these they had been involved in a large-scale combat with the Nationalist Air Force. He later advised Prieto that according to information from Jerica (the Air Force’s command centre) five German aircraft – later stated to be five Bf 109s, seven Fiats CR.32s and one twin-engined aircraft had been destroyed. This message included the information that the ace pilot, Carlos Haya, who was reputed to have carried out the night attack on the War Ministry in Madrid, had been killed in this engagement. Their own losses were quoted as two I-16, which failed to return to base and two others, which were damaged and whose pilots were injured. Sergeant Manuel Orozco Ovira, who managed to fly his aircraft back to base after its tail had been destroyed, was recommended an award for outstanding bravery and skill.
The I-15s from the 2a/26 claimed three and two probable CR.32; these were claimed by Teniente Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio (CO) (1 probable), J. Mora Fauria, sargento Francisco Viñals Guarro, Fernando Villins León (1 probable) and C. Zuazo Garre. Francisco Montagut Ferrer from the 3a/26 claimed a Bf 109 while an unknown pilot from the 4a/26 claimed a CR.32. An unknown I-16 pilot from 1a/21 claimed a CR.32.
In March, the Squadriglia COs of the XXIII Gruppo were Capitano Marco Larker (18a Squadriglia), Capitano Ettore Foschini (19a Squadriglia) and Capitano Carlo Calosso (20a Squadriglia). The new Gruppo CO was Maggiore Ciro Ajello.
The following day, at 17:00 on 15 March, fighters of the XXIII Gruppo again led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, who had been called back to lead the unit, attacked twelve SBs escorted by 20 I-15s and 15 I-16s. The CR.32s claimed two I-15s and two I-16s. The bombers turned back without completing their mission, but one fell near Castelseras. During the combat, Lucchini was hit and shot down. He parachuted and hid in a cave, watching Republican militiamen looking for him. Only under the cover of darkness, he could reach Nationalist lines.
On 4 April, the Gruppo transferred to Puig Moreno.
On 20 July, XXIII Gruppo transferred to Teruel.
Sottotenente Lucchini while checking the route before a mission, at Teruel airfield in early summer 1938. His aircraft was "3-6" of the 19a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo.
During his tour in Spain, he is reputed to have flown 122 missions claiming 5 victories. He was also awarded with one Medaglia d'argento al valor militare and a promotion to Career Officer.
However his claims in Spain is surrounded with some controversy and resent research by Italian historians can only credit him with one victory and two shared during his time in Spain and this confirms a print clip, that appeared in Italian papers following his early successes in WW2, that speaks of him as a brave pilot with “a personal victory obtained in Spain plus other collective”. In a book dedicated to him (Le giovani aquile by A. Trizzino, published in 1972) there is a reference of a single victory in Spain. The Lucchini’s victories in Spain were possibly overestimated well after the end of the war, probably to establish him as the “Baracca della seconda guerra mondiale”.
When the civil war ended he came back to 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo C.T., at first with 91a Squadriglia, then with 90a Squadriglia from April 1940.
When Italy declared war on the Great Britain and France on 10 June 1940, he still served in the 90a Squadriglia.
On 12 June, the 2o Stormo’s fighters in North Africa were joined by those of the 10o Gruppo (84a, 90a and 91a Squadriglie) of the Gorizia based 4o Stormo C.T.. The Gruppo was commanded by Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino and started the war at Tobruk T2 with 27 CR.42s.
The 90a Squadriglia was composed of the following pilots: Capitano Renzo Maggini (CO), Tenente Lucchini, Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Maresciallo Omero Alesi, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini, Sergente Amleto Monterumici, Sergente Silvio Crociati, Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Paolo Guillet and Sergente Ernesto Keller. The last three pilots didn’t take part in the move to T2. The Squadriglia had nine Fiat CR.42s on strength.
14 June saw the first combats between opposing RAF and Regia Aeronautica fighters over North Africa. This was caused because the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own), joined by elements of 4th Armoured Brigade and 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, assaulted Fort Capuzzo and Fort Maddalena (the two most important Italian frontier posts). The offensive was supported by attacks by Blenheims from 45, 55, 113 and 211 Squadrons. During early morning on 14 June, the 4o Stormo recorded its first victory and maybe this was the first clash between fighters from the Regia Aeronautica and the RAF.
At 08:50, a patrol of four aircraft of the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Renzo Maggini, Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Lucchini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta) was up, heading for the border when, at 10:00 and at the height of 4000 metres over Buq-Buq, Lucchini, famous for his exceptional eyesight, saw in the distance some small dots going eastwards.
Slowly, one of the dots remained behind his colleagues and revealed itself as a Gladiator.
Maggini, Guiducci and Lucchini, flying in a “vic” formation, started to pursue the British fighter. Maggini and Lucchini on the flanks denied to him any evasive manoeuvre until he was left with the only option to nose dive. Guiducci, who occupied the central position in the formation and had an aircraft with the engine well tuned up, followed the Gloster in the dive, opening fire from the distance of 200 metres at the height of 1500 metres.
The British fighter caught fire and fell down in the sea off Sollum; the pilot was not seen to bale out. Initially the victory was assigned to the four pilots as a “shared”. In fact it was a victory of Guiducci. The pilots had together spent 500 rounds of ammunition.
At dawn on 21 June, a Short Sunderland appeared over Tobruk harbour. Sergente Roberto Steppi of the 84a Squadriglia took off immediately and intercepted the seaplane 20 kilometres north of Tobruk were it already was under attack of two CR.32s flown by Tenente Ranieri Piccolomini and Tenente Giorgio Savoia of the 92a Squadriglia, which had scrambled from Tobruk T2 at 04:30. Diving on the Sunderland, Steppi opened fire aiming at the cockpit but after two bursts of fire, his guns jammed and he was obliged to leave the pursuit.
Tenente Lucchini of the 90a Squadriglia took off after Steppi and joined the fight, following the Sunderland far out over open sea and leaving it off coast with two engines smoking.
Neither Lucchini nor Steppi claimed any victory but, two days later, on 23 June, news arrived from the Navy base at Bardia, that the Sunderland, heavily damaged, had been forced to ditch in the sea off the coast and had been captured with all the crew dead except from the pilot, who was wounded. The victory was assigned to the four pilots collectively although it should be attributed to Lucchini.
This was the first reported Italian meeting with the lumbering Sunderland and its overall dimensions made a strong impression on them. Asked about his feelings during the combat, the “Archduke”, as Piccolomini was playfully nicknamed by his comrades, stated graphically – “That was not a plane, that was a tram”.
According to British records, the intruder on the evening on 20 June was a 228 Squadron Sunderland (N9025/Y) piloted by Acting Flight Lieutenant T. M. W. Smith DFC and Flying Officer D. R. S. Bevan-John. The British crew reported heavy AA during an evening reconnaissance of Tobruk’s harbour and landed at Alexandria by night, undamaged.
Then the attack of the Bombay followed and finally at 02:20, Sunderland L2160/X of 230 Squadron piloted by Wing Commander G. Francis and Flight Lieutenant Garside, took off from Alexandria for a reconnaissance of Tobruk’s harbour. Over Tobruk they were intercepted by a reportedly four CR.32s or CR.42s claiming one of them shot down while the others broke off after a 15 minutes engagement. L2160 was however heavily damaged by explosive bullets (0.52’’ diameter), principal damage being a large hole in hull (6’’ x 8’’). The fuel tanks were also extensively holed but these were stopped in air with plasticize.
From Alexandria L2166/U took off at 08:05 piloted by Flight Lieutenant Alington to escort L2160 as a safety aircraft in case it was unable to make it back. It was however unable to join with “X”, which in turn landed in Alexandria at 08:30 and was immediately put on the slipway of Imperial Airways for repairs (the aircraft was back in action on 9 July).
L2160 was undoubtedly the plane attacked by Piccolomini, Savoia, Steppi and Lucchini while there is the strong possibility that the aircraft ditched off Bardia was in fact the 216 Squadron’s Bombay (perhaps previously hit by AA fire and in fact the AA defences of Tobruk was credited with a victory during the day) that was incorrectly reported as a Sunderland and originated the Italian fighter’s claim.
At 16:00 on 24 July, a formation of eleven CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo, backed by six more from the 13o Gruppo took off to patrol the Bir el Gobi – Sidi Omar – Sollum – Bardia area. Leading the 10o Gruppo formation was Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli (using an aircraft from the 91a Squadriglia) and with him were Tenente Lucchini, Maresciallo Omero Alesi and Tenente Giovanni Guiducci of the 90a Squadriglia, Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Aldo Lanfranco, Tenente Vincenzo Vanni and Tenente Giuseppe Aurili of the 84a Squadriglia, Tenente Enzo Martissa, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato and Sergente Luigi Ferrario of the 91a Squadriglia. Pilots from the 13o Gruppo were Tenente Giulio Torresi, Tenente Eduardo Sorvillo and Sergente Maggiore Ernesto Scalet of the 77a Squadriglia, Sergente Francesco Nanin of the 82a Squadriglia and Capitano Giuseppe Dall’Aglio with Sottotenente Dario Magnabosco of the 78a Squadriglia.
During the patrol, they met a British formation estimated to nine Blenheims, which was attacking Bardia, escorted by 15 Gladiators. The CR.42s attacked the bombers and were in turn attacked by the British escort. Tenente Lucchini was the first to enter combat and damaged three of the British bombers by using 510 rounds of ammunition while the others were dispersed. Tenente Guiducci claimed a Gladiator using 90 rounds of ammunition. The CR.42s of the 84a Squadriglia remained manoeuvring in close formation until a 90a Squadriglia aircraft (Lucchini?) drove them against the enemies breaking their formation. Three aircraft from the Squadriglia returned to base one by one. Tenente Giuseppe Aurili met three Gladiators and damaged one. Capitano Lanfranco became isolated and, attacked by a reported three enemy fighters, was shot down and obliged to bale out in the Sidi Azeiz area. A British patrol took him prisoner a little later. Lanfranco was one of the oldest pilots of the 4o and a few days later a British message was thrown down near Tobruk, telling that he was wounded in Alexandria hospital. Tenente Martissa forced an enemy fighter to force-land then, coming back to base, saw his wingman in difficulties against the determined attack of an enemy fighter and, even with his guns jammed, attacked it, forcing the Gladiator to break away. Sergente Ferrario returned to base with a damaged fighter. According to some sources Tenente Lucchini is credited with an additional Gladiator during the day, but this can’t be verified with the Squadriglie’s Diaries.
Tenente Torresi claimed another Gladiator with 250 rounds of ammunition. No losses were suffered by the 13o Gruppo formation, which landed back at base between 17:25 and 18:05.
It seems that the Italian formation had been involved in combat with eight Blenheims from 55 Squadron tasked to attack targets in the Bardia area and five Gladiators from ‘B’ Flight of the 33 Squadron flown by Flying Officer Ernest Dean (Gladiator L9046), Pilot Officer Alfred Costello (N5776), Pilot Officer Vernon Woodward (N5768), Sergeant Ronald Slater (N5783) and Sergeant Shaw (N5775), which had taken off from Sidi Barrani at 17:40 and met a reported 18 CR.42s over Sollum at 18:30. In the combat Woodward claimed one of the enemy aircraft shot down and a second as a probable. Slater claimed a second CR.42 destroyed while Costello claimed a third. One more CR.42 was claimed by the other pilots and since Dean doesn’t seems to have claimed anything during the day it is possible that this was claimed by Shaw but it haven’t been possible to verify this. During the return flight Shaw was forced to land east of Buq-Buq with engine trouble probably caused by combat damage (probably the aircraft claimed by Martissa). Enemy bombing the day after destroyed his aircraft on the ground, although he rejoined his unit unharmed after a long walk across the desert. The other pilots from 33 Squadron landed back at base between 18:55 and 19:35.
Returning crews from 55 Squadron reported that after releasing their bomb load at 18:20, ‘A’ Flight was attacked by a single CR.42, which was part of a very open formation that didn’t attack. The Italian biplane attacked from out of the sun, damaging slightly Blenheim L8667 flown by Sergeant Vignaux. The British bomber was hit by two bullets (one explosive), one in each mainplane. At 18:35, ‘B’ Flight was also attacked by a single CR.42. The attack was made from above and astern twice but none of the British aircraft were hit. It seems that one or both of these attacks were made by Tenente Lucchini.
On 28 July Tenente Lucchini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta of the 90a Squadriglia and Giuseppe Scaglioni of the 84a Squadriglia took off from El Adem following an air alarm and intercepted three Bristol Blenheims. One bomber was shot down, another so heavily damaged that the Italian pilots claimed it would not made it back while the third escaped. While landing back at base Scaglioni’s aircraft, damaged in the engine and with a wheel pierced by the return fire of the Blenheims, capsized and was written off. The two victories were shared among the three pilots.
They had intercepted Blenheim Mk.IFs of 30 Squadron, which were out to escort Blenheim MK.IVs of 113 Squadron on reconnaissance missions over the border area. A couple of Blenheim Mk.IFs (K7099 piloted by Flight Sergeant Innes-Smith and K7178) escorted a reconnaissance Blenheim of 113 Squadron taking off at 06:10, while another couple (K7106 piloted by Flying Officer D. R. Walker and K7120 piloted by Pilot Officer S. N. Pearce) escorted another reconnaissance Blenheim of 113 Squadron. The first couple immediately became separated in low clouds and while Innes-Smith continued alone trying to rejoin his formation, the other two aircraft were intercepted by a reportedly five CR.32s. One of the 30 Squadron Blenheims (K7178) was shot down, killing the crew (pilot 21-year-old Flight Lieutenant Ian Cheesman Swann (RAF no. 39950), observer 32-year-old Pilot Officer Herbert Paul Greenwood Fisher (RAF no. 78443) and wireless operator/air gunner 23-year-old Sergeant John Young (RAF no. 523927)). The Blenheim from 113 Squadron returned to base badly damaged reportedly (incorrectly) by anti-aircraft fire. The other Blenheims became separated too and Walker, who remained with the reconnaissance Blenheim, met another reconnaissance aircraft “very badly damaged by machine gun and pom-pom fire” five miles from Bardia. He escorted it as far as 20 miles south of Sidi El Barrani, while at 07:40, Pearce encountered a CR.42, which he tried to attack but without success due to the manoeuvrability of his opponent. He was then chased for a short while by three CR.32s or CR.42s, landing finally at Ma’aten Bagush at 09:15.
On 1 August, Tenente Lucchini, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti, all of the 90a Squadriglia went to Tmini M2 airfield (around 100km west of Tobruk near the Gulf of Bomba) on alarm duty.
During the morning on 4 August, 80 Squadrons ‘B’ Flight received a signal from the headquarters to provide four Gladiators to escort a Lysander from 208 Squadron flown by Pilot Officer Burwell, which was to observe enemy troops movement at Bir Taieb el Esem on the other side of the Libyan border. 'Pat' Pattle (Gladiator Mk.I K7910) decided to lead the escort and took with him Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes (L8009), Pilot Officer Johnny Lancaster (K7923) and Sergeant Kenneth George Russell Rew (RAF no. 526687) (Gladiator K7908). They took off at 17:15 and reached the rendezvous point in ten minutes where they found the Lysander circling at 6000 feet. Wykeham-Barnes and Rew took up a position about 3000 feet above and immediately behind the Lysander, whilst Pattle and Lancaster climbed 1000 feet higher on the starboard flank. The aircraft crossed the border a few miles south of Sidi Omar twenty minutes later and followed the sand tracks leading to their target.
During the same morning eleven CR.42s of the 97a Squadriglia went from Benghazi-Berka to El Adem T3 to participate, together with twelve other CR.42s from the 96a Squadriglia, which had arrived the previous day, and with nine CR.42s of the 10o Gruppo, in an aerial covering flight of the 2a Divisione Libica of Regio Esercito. This Division was marching from Bir el Gobi to Gabr Saleh.
In the meantime, a concentration of British armoured vehicles was discovered in the Bir Sheferzen area, around 30 kilometres south-west of Sollum, near the border where a logistic outpost of the Western Desert Force was located and consequently an air attack was planned.
At 16:50, a formation of assault aircraft of the 50o Stormo took off together with an escorting group of Fiat CR.42 fighters of the 4o Stormo heading for it. The assault aircraft took off from Tobruk T2bis and were twelve aircraft of the resident 12o Gruppo Assalto. They included six Breda Ba.65/A80s of the 159a Squadriglia, armed with 2kg bombs (the Bredas could carry up to 168 of these small calibre bombs) commanded by the Squadriglia Commander Capitano Antonio Dell’Oro and flown by Tenente Adriano Visconti, Tenente Fioravante Montanari (who led the second section), Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Bianchelli, Sergente Maggiore Gianni Pappalepore and Sergente Maggiore Paolo Perno. The other six were Fiat CR.32quaters of the 160a Squadriglia, armed with eight 2kg bombs and divided in two groups of three. The first group led by Capitano Duilio Fanali (Squadriglia CO) included Sottotenente Giuseppe Mezzatesta and Sergente Maggiore Corrado Sarti as wingmen while the second group was lead by Sottotenente Giuseppe Rossi with Sottotenente Mirko Erzetti and Maresciallo Romolo Cantelli as wingmen.
The Italian fighter escort took off from El Adem T3 and was composed of 31 CR.42s (ten from the 97a Squadriglia, eleven from the 96a Squadriglia, one from the 73a Squadriglia and nine from the 10o Gruppo). At the head of the two formations were Maggiore Ernesto Botto (in the aircraft from the 73a Squadriglia) and Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli. Pilots from the 97a Squadriglia were Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni, Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro, Sergente Franco Sarasino, Sottotenente Riccardo Vaccari, Sergente Angelo Golino, Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Maresciallo Vanni Zuliani, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Novelli and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore. Pilots from the 10o Gruppo were apart from Maggiore Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis, Tenente Enzo Martissa, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato from the 91a Squadriglia, Capitano Luigi Monti and Tenente Giuseppe Aurili from the 84a Squadriglia and Tenente Lucchini and Sergente Amleto Monterumici from the 90a Squadriglia.
The two Italian formations met at a rendezvous point twenty kilometres east of El Adem and then headed for the target. The 4o Stormo’s aircraft flew at heights between 3500 and 4500 meters, the Fiat CR.32s at 1000 meters and the Bredas at 300 meters.
On the way towards the frontline, at 5000 m over Ridotta Capuzzo, they spotted a formation of nine Blenheims heading to El Adem, escorted by many Glosters Gladiators. Aircraft of the 96a Squadriglia and the 10o Gruppo attacked the bombers and then chased the fighters. In the fierce combat that followed, Tenente Lucchini claimed a Gladiator with the use of 385 rounds of ammunition. Pilots from the 91a Squadriglia claimed two Gladiators and three Blenheims as shared, with two additional Gladiators as shared probables (one of the Glosters was most probably the same claimed by Lucchini). Capitano Monti and Tenente Aurili claimed to have damaged two Blenheims each and then reported being credited with the three Blenheims shot down by the Stormo’s formation as shared. The pilots from the 90a Squadriglia claimed the same three Blenheims and a Gladiator jointly with the 96a Squadriglia and other pilots of the 10o Gruppo plus the individual victory of Lucchini and recorded “other Glosters shot down by pilots of 9o and 10o Gruppi”. At the end of the combat, Maggiore Botto, who personally claimed a damaged British bomber with the use of 200 rounds of ammunition, recorded ten enemy aircraft shot down together with other units. Apart from the five confirmed and two probables already detailed, the remaining victories should be those of the 50o Stormo, more prudently the 10o Gruppo’s Diary claimed only three Blenheims and a single Gloster shot down.
The 97a Squadriglia, covering at a higher altitude, spotted first six Blenheims, which were attacked by the other Squadriglie and then three other Blenheims that were heading towards Egyptian territory and dived to pursue them. Capitano Larsimont Pergameni and Sergente Sarasino chased them for a while, claiming hits on them.
The fighters from the 97a Squadriglia had most probably attacked a trio of Blenheim Mk.Is (L8667, L8391 and L8530) from 55 Squadron, which had been ordered on short notice to bomb up and meet two other flights from other squadrons over Ma’aten Bagush at 17:00 to attack an Italian M. T. convoy, 13 miles east of Bir El Gobi (obviously the Libyan division). Commanded by Pilot Officer T. O. Walker in L8667, they missed the rendezvous with the other Squadrons over Ma’aten Bagush and headed alone towards the front. After crossing the frontier, the trio spotted a big formation of about 25 CR.42s (4o Stormo’s formation). Twelve of these fighters started in pursuit as the Blenheims turned for home (the 97a Squadriglia formation). A running engagement, which lasted seven minutes started after which the Italian fighters broke off without having caused or suffered any damage. The other RAF Squadrons involved in this combat were 211 Squadron and most probably 112 and 113 Squadrons. 211 Squadron was up with two Blenheims piloted by Squadron Leader Bax (L8533) and Flight Lieutenant G. D. Jones (L8532), which were intercepted by a reportedly 40-50 fighters. Sergeant J. McIntosh, gunner of L8532, was wounded in the forearm and it seems that it was badly damaged and forced to land before reaching its base since it was salvaged by 51 RSU at Sidi Barrani on 10 August but Struck off Charge on 20 September. The total lack of records of 113 Squadron and the high level of incompleteness of those of 112 Squadron makes it quite difficult to reconstruct their contribution to the combat. It seems however probable that at least three Gladiators of 112 Squadron were around this area at the time, because it is known that Pilot Officers R. H. Clark, Homer Cochrane and B. B. E. Duff left Maaten Gerawla during the day for Sidi Barrani, with the task of patrolling over Sidi Omar (extremely close to the area where the evening combat developed). No encounters with the enemy are however recorded in the fragmentary reconstructed ORB of the unit.
The formation from the 50o Stormo continued alone towards the border, arriving over Bir Sheferzen (around thirty kilometres south and slightly east of the position where the escort left it) at 17:20, where they discovered numerous British vehicles that were immediately attacked by the Bredas and Fanali’s trio of CR.32s while Rossi’s stayed at 1000 meters as cover. The Italian aircraft performed two passes over the vehicles and while they were preparing the third the 208 Squadron Lysander and 80 Squadron Gladiators came into the area. The crew of the Lysander spotted the Italians first and alerted the escort with a red Very light before heading due east at low altitude to reach safety. Pilot Officer Burwell carried some bombs that he tried to aim at Italian transports that he saw in the vicinity but missed, then he was forced to return by the strong opposition encountered.
Pattle and Lancaster dived down but failed to spot any enemy aircraft. Wykeham-Barnes and Rew had also disappeared but a few seconds later Pattle heard Wykeham-Barnes over the radio ordering Rew to attack. Immediately afterwards Pattle saw a reported seven Breda Ba.65s in two separate flights - one containing three aircraft in vic formation and the other made up of two pairs, heading east hunting the Lysander.
Wykeham-Barnes and Rew attacked the formation of four Bredas before they could reach the Lysander and Wykeham-Barnes shot down one of them in flames immediately but at the same time was Rew shot down and killed. Pattle and Lancaster meanwhile attacked the other three Italians from astern. The Bredas dispersed and all four Gladiators separated as they each selected a different enemy machine as a target. Pattle attacked two aircraft, which kept close together and turned in a complete circle. The Bredas dropped to around 200 feet and each released two bombs. This reduced weight meant that they slowly began to creep away from Pattle’s slower Gladiator. Suddenly they however turned north towards the fighter base at El Adem. Pattle quickly cut inside their turn and closed in to 150 yards. He delivered a quarter attack on the nearest Breda but his two port guns almost immediately ceased firing. His aim had been good however and he had hit one of the Italians who slowed down considerably. He swung in directly astern of it and, after a few more bursts from his remaining two guns, saw a puff of white smoke from the starboard side of the engine. He continued to attack the Breda, which dropped lower and lower and finally force-landed on good grounds five miles further on. The second Breda got away. Lancaster had also been having trouble with his guns. After his initial burst, all four guns jammed and he spent the next ten minutes frantically pulling his Constantinescu gear pistons and aiming at various enemy aircraft, but without any further bullets leaving his guns. Eventually he was forced to go on to the defensive and got an explosive bullet in the left arm and shoulder. Because he feared the loss of blood would cause him to lose consciousness, he wriggled out of the fight and with his right thumb pressed tightly against his left radial artery, held the stick between his knees and waggled his way home. In spite of his wounds and the serious damage to his Gladiator, he made quite a smooth landing before losing consciousness. It is reported, that the fitter who came to examine the aircraft shortly afterwards pronounced it too damaged to repair in situ and ordered it to be burned forthwith! However, in fact it seems that even if 80 Squadron didn’t fly it any more, Gladiator Mk.I K 7923 was repaired and later in the year passed to the Greek Air Force.
After claiming the Breda, Wykeham-Barnes was attacked by the CR.32s. He claimed one of them before another, attacked him, which hit his Gladiator, in his Combat Fighter Report he recorded: “The left side of the instrument panel and most of the windscreen went and two bullets came through the back of the seat before I could close the throttle, and the CR 32 passed under me. My machine then fell into a dive and I abandoned it, landing me by parachute.” He had received a shrapnel wound. He was also to receive a swollen tongue and a pair of very painful blistered feet before being rescued by a detachment of 11th Hussars, who brought him back to Sidi Barrani.
Four of the Bredas were damaged and in particular that of Sergente Maggiore Perno, which was hit fifty times and the pilot was slightly wounded in the leg, before Fanali’s Fiats were able to intervene. In the meantime, it was the section of Sottotenente Rossi, which was waiting higher up for its turn to attack, that first fell over the RAF fighters, taking them by surprise. After the sharp initial attack of the Fiats the combat developed into a WW I style dogfight which lasted fifteen minutes. At the end all the Italian aircraft returned to base claiming three of the enemies; one by Fanali (probably Wykeham-Barnes) and two by Cantelli (probably Rew and Lancaster).
One of the damaged Bredas was piloted by Tenente Adriano Visconti who pressed home his attacks against the enemy armoured vehicles notwithstanding the enemy’s fighter opposition. The behaviour of Visconti in this particular combat deeply impressed his commander Capitano Dell’Oro who proposed him for a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare. The motivation of this award that Visconti received “in the field” stated that: ”During a strafing attack against enemy’s armoured vehicles he pressed home his attacks careless of an enemy fighter that was following him shooting at him from short distance (…) and with its last ammunitions he succeeded in burning one of the armoured cars of the enemy(…)”.
After Pattle had claimed the Breda he broke away while attempting, without much success, to clear his port fuselage gun. Immediately, he was attacked by five biplanes (identified as CR.42s) diving towards him from the direction of El Adem, which was approximately 10 miles north-west. He flew on, pretending that he had not seen the Italians, until they were almost in position to open fire and then, with a flick of the wrist and a sharp prod of the foot, shot up and away from the Fiats. The Italians split up and attacked him independently from all directions. The Fiats made repeated attacks simultaneously from the quarter and beam, using the speed they gained in the dive to regain altitude. After each attack Pattle was forced on to the defensive and turned away from each attack, occasionally delivering a short attack on the most suitably target as it dived past. One Fiat on completing its attack turned directly in front of his Gladiator, presenting him with an excellent deflection shot at close range. He fired a long burst with his remaining two guns, which caused the Italian fighter to turn slowly onto its back and then spin down towards the desert. Pattle last saw it spinning at 200 feet and didn’t claim it for sure, but was later credited with this victory. Soon after his starboard wing gun also jammed but fortunately, at the same time the remaining Italian fighters broke away. He was now 40 miles behind enemy lines with only one gun operational and he turned for home at 1000 feet altitude.
When some miles north-west of Bir Taieb El Essem, he was again spotted and attacked by twelve CR.42s and three Breda Ba.65s. The Bredas broke away after a few dives while the CR.42s attacked. They used the same tactics as the five earlier had used with quarter and beam attacks. Within a few seconds Pattle’s remaining gun jammed because of an exploded round in the breach, so he attempted to make the border by evasive tactics and heading east at every opportunity. He soon discovered that one of the Italian pilots was an exceptional shot who made repeated attacks using full deflection with great accuracy. Each time this particular Italian came in, he had to use all his skill and cunning to keep out of the sights of the Fiat. The remainder of the Italians as a whole lacked accuracy and did not press home their attacks to a decisive range. Nevertheless, their presence and the fact that he had to consider each attack made the work of the more determined pilot very much easier. He managed to keep this up for fully fifteen minutes before the determined Italian came out of a loop directly above Pattle’s Gladiator and opened fire. Pattle turned away to avoid the bullets, but flew straight into the line of fire from another Fiat. The rudder controls were shot away, so he could no longer turn. He pulled back on the control column, climbed to about 400 feet and jumped. As he fell the pilot parachute caught his foot, but he managed to kick it free and the main chute opened just in time for him to make a safe landing off the first swing. The time was now around 19:00. He started to walk towards what he thought was Egypt during the night but found out at dawn to his horror that he had actually walked in the opposite direction, deeper into Libya. He turned around and crossed the border at around midday. At 16:00 on 5 August, he was rescued by a detachment from 11th Hussars, which brought him back to Sidi Barrani.
It is possible that Pattle was shot down by Tenente Lucchini.
During the morning on 6 August Tenente Lucchini and Sergente Amleto Monterumici scrambled without success against an enemy’s intruder which they failed to intercept. While landing Lucchini’s aircraft capsized and was heavily damaged. He thus missed the actions of the subsequent days.
On 11 September, the 9o and 10o Gruppo were still employed in standing patrols over the troops. During the second patrol of the day, at 17:45 in the Sidi Omar – Bardia area, a Blenheim was discovered at 6000 metres.
The Italian formation was escorting three CR.32s and was led by Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli. It was composed of seven CR.42s from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Narciso Pillepich and Sergente Domenico Santonocito), five CR.42s from the 91a Squadriglia (Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli, Sergente Elio Miotto and Sergente Alessandro Bladelli) and six CR.42s from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Lucchini, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Maresciallo Omero Alesi, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti).
Capitano Vanni, Tenente Aurili and Sergente Steppi attacked first, followed by other pilots of the formation. During the combat Vanni’s aircraft was hit by return fire and with the compressed air piping pierced, he was forced to turn back. His wingmen continued the pursuit and claimed the Blenheim shot down.
The bomber however was assigned as a shared to all the 10o Gruppo pilots presents (even if , for example, it is known that 90a Squadriglia pilots totally used only 140 rounds of ammunition so possibly only one of them was able to use his guns).
This claim can’t be verified with RAF sources but it is possible that it was a Blenheim from 113 Squadron since this unit’s ORB is lacking.
On 14 September, the 4o Stormo continued to protect the ground forces. A mixed formation of 23 CR.42s from the 9o Gruppo commanded by Maggiore Ernesto Botto with 15 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo as high cover, took off at 10:25. At 11:00, over Sollum some 10o Gruppo pilots discovered a formation of four Bristol Blenheims. They attacked and claimed one shot down in flames. The bomber was credited as a shared to the whole formation from the 10o Gruppo (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Tenente Lucchini and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti of the 90a Squadriglia and Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sottotenente Carlo Albertini and Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli of the 91a Squadriglia and Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili, Tenente Paolo Berti and Sergente Domenico Santonocito of the 84a Squadriglia).
Sottotenente Albertini later told that that the Blenheim had been left behind by its squadron and he fired at it all the rounds he had, but he could not destroy it. At the beginning, the bomber returned fire, but after being hit several times, they stopped and no sign of life could be noticed. He followed the bomber for a while, once finished his rounds, but nothing happened, and the Blenheim continued on the same route.
This clam can’t be verified with RAF records. The only known British actions for the day were a couple of afternoon bomber raids. Four Blenheims of 55 Squadron with others from 211 Squadron were ordered to attack Italian troops in the Sollum area in the first afternoon. The 55 Squadron quartet came back at 16:45 without suffering losses. Its pilots reported slight and ineffective AA fire and the presence of Italian fighters (but no interception occurred). Eight machines of 211 Squadron led by Gordon-Finalyson also attacked, claiming many hits in the target area. However, no Italian fighters were seen and all the bombers were back at around 17:10.
At 10:45 on 1 December, Tenente Lucchini, suffered a bad flying accident at the end of a test flight on a recently repaired CR.42. The fighter (MM5516) was written off after overturning on landing but the pilot was practically unhurt.
On 16 December and in a last futile attempt to help the garrison at Sidi Omar, six SM 79s from the 29o Gruppo led by Colonnello Mario Aramu took off from Derna at 14:40 for a low-level strike. The formation of what was to become one of the most famous ill-fated missions of the Regia Aeronautica was as follows:
|SM 79 from the 63a Squadriglia (shot down)
Colonnello Mario Aramu (KIA)
Sergente Maggiore Paolo La Torraca (KIA)
Capitano Pilota Victor Hugo Girolami (acting bomb aimer) (KIA)
Primo Aviere Motorista Bruno Zottarel (KIA)
Aviere Scelto Armiere Giorgio Menna (KIA)
Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Carlo Magno (KIA)
|SM 79 from the 63a Squadriglia
Primo Aviere Motorista Galli
Primo Aviere Armiere Giuseppe Tassoni (KIA)
Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Malara
|SM 79 from the 63a Squadriglia (shot down)
Sottotenente Tonachella (POW)
Sergente Maggiore Filippo Cipriani (KIA)
Sergente Motorista Ugo Ferroni (KIA)
Primo Aviere Armiere Giovanni Musumeci (KIA)
Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Verna (KIA)
|SM 79 from the 62a Squadriglia (shot down)
Tenente Colonnello Guglielmo Grandjacquet (KIA)
Tenente Giacomo Padrone (POW)
Tenente Marco Sciavertini (KIA)
Aviere Scelto Motorista Luciano Lanzoni (KIA)
Primo Aviere Armiere Radames Medori (KIA)
Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Enrico Materazzo (KIA)
|SM 79 from the 63a Squadriglia
Primo Aviere Motorista D’Angeli
Primo Aviere Armiere Giuseppe Vincenzi (KIA)
Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Diotallevi
|SM 79 from the 62a Squadriglia
Aviere Scelto Motorista Cinti
Primo Aviere Armiere Bachini
Sergente Radiotelegrafista Ascione
The Savoias were intercepted by a reportedly 20 Hurricanes at 1200 meters altitude, in sight of their intended target, after an hour of flight. The two vics of SM 79s tightened up their formation, trying to fight back. The first to go down was the plane of Grandjacquet. The SM 79 of Tenente Timolati then closed formation with the leading vic only to witness the demise of Colonnello Aramu’s bomber and shortly after that Sottotenente Tonachella’s. The three surviving SM 79s fled towards the sea with Hurricanes on their tail and suffered the last damage, which caused the death of some crewmembers before the Hurricanes disengaged (due to the intervention of some fighters of the 10o Gruppo). The SM 79 then released their bomb-load into the open sea and returned to Derna where at 16:30 Sottotenente Martemucci’s bomber broke its landing gear and crash-landed, damaging the wing. Timolati reported that Aramu’s SM 79, the dorsal gunner was immediately killed and his place was taken by Capitano Girolami, who was killed soon after when a well placed burst hit the Savoia’s cockpit killing him and causing the demise of the aircraft. The returning crews claimed five Hurricanes in return.
Sottotenente Tonachella and Tenente Padrone were the only survivors of the missing SM 79s. They both escaped with parachute and were captured by British patrols. Padrone, back in Italy after the war left a description of the events:
“the morning of 16 December 1940 three SM79 planes led by Colonello Aramu (I don’t remember the left hand wingman but I was the right hand) attacked with small calibre bombs and strafed from very low level British mechanized vehicles south-west of Bardia.(…). Back at base, Aramu knew that another mission was to be flown in the afternoon, to attack armoured concentrations around Sollum. Two section of three planes in line astern one 500 metres from the other were to be employed. The overall formation had to be commanded by Tenente Colonnello Gradjacquet leading the first section while Capitano Girolami had to lead the second section. Aramu decided to take part also in this action so he took the lead of the first section with Girolami acting as a bomb aimer and Grandjacquet took the lead of the second section. The two sections could attack independently because they all had a bomb aimer. The formation took off at 15.00 and when over Tobruk waited without avail for some minutes for the escort fighters, then directed toward the target flying deep inside the desert to avoid interception. When in the area between Sidi Omar and Capuzzo, when I was preparing to turn on the intercom with the bomb aimer I heard the guns of our plane shooting so I understood that we were under attack. The enemy planes most likely arrived from astern because in front of us I could see only the section of Aramu. Immediately after a burst of fire hit our plane silencing the dorsal gun and also hitting the instrument panel. I tried to assess the damage suffered but saw Grandjacquet busy in flying the plane and the wingmen at their place. Then a fire started in the rudder pedals area. I tried to give the alarm shouting but nobody moved, neither Tenente Colonnello Grandjacquet that didn’t move even after I shook him (probably he was already dead and kept in position by the seat belts). Therefore, unable to take command of the plane because of the fire and fearing that the flames could ignite my clothes I open the emergency door on the roof and jumped with parachute. I immediately saw my plane falling on ground engulfed by flames, not so far two other planes were falling in flames. Once on ground I noticed two other parachutes (…). I walked in a north-westerly direction for two days and then I was captured by a British patrol. Two month later in Cairo a RAF Officer asked me about the fate of Colonnello Aramu, so I understood what happened to him, Capitano Girolami and their crew (…).The loss of these three COs was a terrible blow for the bomber force of Va Squadra and in particular the loss of the forty-years-old Aramu. He was a beloved leader, previously part of the “Atlantici” having crossed the northern Atlantic under Italo Balbo in 1933. He had then fought during the Spanish Civil War where on 21 May 1937 he had disabled the Republican Battleship Jaime Io in Almeria harbour with a well-aimed salvo of bombs from 4000 metres. The three officers were immediately awarded posthumous Medaglie d’Oro al valor militare but in fact such was the severity of the loss suffered that 29o Gruppo was immediately ordered back to Italy.
“in the fading light of twilight Lucchini discovered something on his port side, something like the striking of three wax matches. He left the formation and went in that direction. Gradually closing he better understood what had happened. Three S 79s were falling, burning like torches and four Hurricanes were orbiting over as if they were recomposing formation before turning back home. He attacked the last one and shot it down.”The 10o Gruppo fighters were back at 16:40; Sergente Sclavo’s CR.42, damaged in the engagement, was classified R.S.
“Arrived late in combat, 1 S79 fired on, guns silenced. A/c dropped and starboard engine set on fire. Confirmed shot down by Flight Lieutenant Smith. While attacking 79 1 CR 42 got on my tail and fired on me. Two other overhead. Didn’t see them approach. Obliged to break off [unreadable].”Flying Officer Patterson was flying with another Hurricane (Sergeant Marshall) when at 15:45 they discovered six SM 79s flying in two vics of three (obviously Colonnello Aramu’s formation). He was flying at 17,000 feet while the bombers appeared to be at 4,000 feet. He approached unseen until he was half a mile away and delivered an astern attack while they return fire diving towards the ground. He reported:
“3 S79 shot down and burnt out on ground (confirmed by Sergeant Marshall) our casualties nil.”Sergeant Marshall remembered:
“after breakfast and meeting Flying Officer Patterson of 274, we flew up to Sidi Barrani, where we refuelled and took off on an Offensive Patrol. I flew with Pat and at 17,000 feet west of Sollum we spotted some 79s at about 5000 feet. We dived and engaged them and I got two in flames, Pat two and Smithy 1. There were congratulations from Collishaw (AOC) on our return, but I still wished it was all over and I could get back to UK – my cold was still bad, which didn’t help, plus the food and conditions were awful with half a gallon of water per day per man (Perhaps!).”They were highly likely the victors of Aramu, Grandjacquet and Tonachella.
“Enemy pulled up and spun. A further burst was fired by Sergeant Willis. Enemy observed to spin to a low height until lost sight of. Possible presence of other a/c precluded following down to see it hit the ground.”Pilot Officer McFadden, was chased “up country” by two Italian CR.42s where he force-landed reportedly owing to lack of fuel. He returned to Sidi Haneish the day after and Sergeant Marshall noted:
“McFadden came back from Mersa after breaking his kite – What a prize pilot he is!”Pilot Officer MacFadden’s Hurricane (V6737) was later recovered and repaired. Considering the 90a Squadriglia’s records it seems possible that the crash-landing of McFadden was not due only to lack of fuel but perhaps also to damage suffered from the fire of Tenente Lucchini.
On 18 December, Tenente Lucchini of the 90a Squadriglia was tasked with a special mission, being sent to Ponticelli airstrip with special instructions to send to Generale Bergonzoli. He took off from T4 at 07:30 and successfully landed inside the Bardia area. At 12:30 he took off again and made a reconnaissance flight over Sollum, Capuzzo and Sidi Omar before landing back at Ain El Gazala where he had to tell about what he saw in and around Bardia to the HQ.
On 23 December, 17 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo took off at 08:30 to escort ten bombers from the 15o Stormo, which had taken off from T4 and bound to attack armoured vehicles around Sidi Azeiz. The escort included five fighters from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Maresciallo Giorgio Di Giulio, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Casero and Sergente Luigi Ferrario), four from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Lucchini, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo and Sergente Luigi Contarini) and eight from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Corrado Patrizi and Sergente Piero Buttazzi).
The formation was attacked by six Hurricanes and the Italian pilots claimed one confirmed shot down, another as a probable and a third was obliged to force-land among its own armoured vehicles (the 90a Squadriglia’s pilots expended 455 rounds of ammo). The three victories were credited as shared among all the participating pilots. The Italian fighters landed back at Z1 at 11:05 with Sergente Ferrario’s aircraft damaged. The bombers (led by Colonnello Napoli) landed back at base at 10:30, with only one machine damaged by the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes were from 274 Squadron, which was out on a morning patrol to cover a line Sidi Omar-Sollum-Buq-Buq with twelve machines taking off with 15 minutes intervals. From the reports of the returning pilots, it seems that fighters from 73 Squadron were present even if this is not reported in 73 Squadron documents.
Pilots taking part were Pilot Officer Stanley Godden (P2638) (06:15-09:15), Pilot Officer Ernest Mason (P3722) (06:30-09:30), Second Lieutenant Bester (N2624) (06:45-09:35), Flying Officer Thomas Patterson (P2544) (07:00-09:45), Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (V7293) (07:20-09:50), Sergeant Dean (V7423 (07:30-10:30), Second Lieutenant Robert Talbot (P3721) (07:45-11:05), Pilot Officer Garland (P 3977) (08:10-11:15), Sergeant John Clarke (N2627) (08:20-11.00), Flying Officer C. F. Greenhill (P5176), Pilot Officer Strange (N2628) (09:50-12:50) and Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (P2638) (10:00-13:00).
Pilot Officer Mason had a field day; firstly, he intercepted ten SM 79s in two vics of five at 07:30 (strangely enough he wrote 09:30 in his CFR) when he was 10 miles south-west of Gambut at the height of 12,000 feet. He discovered the ten bombers 2000 feet below and dived from above, past the escort on no. 4 of the rear vic. He reported:
“ no4 of rear vic dropped back but later observed to rejoin formation. Small a/c seen burning on ground (unreadable) miles south of Bir Chleta. Believed to be CR 42 claimed by 2nd Lieutenant Talbot. 12 CR 42s in 4s and 2s were on port flank 1000 feet above and behind. After carrying out this attack I climbed above and carried out another attack.”Now he was at 10,000 feet and dived from above on four SM 79s of the rear vic. He reported:
“enemy aircraft damaged. Unable to observe further as I got involved with the escort and was also fired on by our own troops. Burning S79 observed on ground in this approximate position by Pilot Officer McFadden no 73 Squadron. 12 CR 42s in 2s and 4s were 1000 feet above on port flank. The escort had observed my approach as this was my second attack and closed in on main force that jettisoned bombs. After breaking off attack I got involved with 2 of the escort at 1000 feet and was considerably embarrassed by tracers and pom-pom fire from our own troops.”Then at 09:15, 20 miles north-east of El Gubbi, when flying at 17,000 feet together with another Hurricane, he discovered a Caproni Ca.310 at ground level that he attacked from astern.
“port engine caught fire a/c climbed to 200 feet and then hit ground with wheels and flaps up. Bounced twice and went on nose. I circled a/c (E) and only one man (pilot) emerged from front exit.”It is possible that the two claims made by Mason the previous days are included in these combat reports and that he thus claimed two SM 79s, one damaged and one additional Ca.310 (in fact it seems that no SM 79s were shot down).
“1 CR 42 shot down later burst in flames 1 S79 initial attack dropped out of formation and did not rejoin. Determined attacks from escort prevented me from observing results of combats with S 79. While the CR 42s attacked immediately the main formation increased speed but kept formation and opened fire.”During the engagement, Flying Officer Greenhill force landed south of Taifa Rocks, reportedly with engine trouble. From the overall description of the combats, it seems likely that bullets from the escorting Fiats caused the engine trouble.
On 25 December, the 23o Gruppo flew its first escorting missions after its arrival in the theatre, one of these was at 15:00 with 12 CR.42s in collaboration with 22 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo, which had taken off at 14:35 to escort the 15o Stormo’s SM 79s bound to attack Sollum Harbour.
The fighters from the 23o included four from the 70a Squadriglia (Maggiore Tito Falconi, Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sottotenente Oscar Abello and Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani), four from the 74a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Bobba, Tenente Mario Pinna, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni and Sergente Emilio Stefani) and four from the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis and Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello). The fighters from the 10o Gruppo included six CR.42s from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato), seven from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Luigi Bagato and Sergente Enrico Botti) and nine from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Luciano Perdoni, Sergente Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Mario Veronesi and Capitano Mario Pluda (91a Squadriglia)).
The formation was attacked by some Hurricanes that were counter-attacked and obliged to flee. Two Hurricanes were claimed as probably shot down by the pilots of 90a and 91a Squadriglie (the 90a Squadriglia used 160 rounds of ammunition), which claimed them as shared with the 23o Gruppo even if the pilot from the 23o Gruppo in fact weren’t able to claim anything. Tenente Guiducci landed at T5 with engine trouble while the rest of the formation landed at Z1 between 16:50 and 17:00. No losses were suffered by the bombers, which claimed to have hit an aircraft carrier. In fact, they aimed their bomb load at a monitor, but it is not known if the ship was in fact hit.
The Hurricanes were probably machines of 33 Squadron with Flying Officer Peter Wickham and Flying Officer Vernon Woodward that encountered one SM 79 and one CR.42, damaging the CR.42. The action was however recorded in the morning.
At 09:15 on 26 December, eight Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron took off from the LG south-west of Sollum to escort a Lysander doing artillery reconnaissance over Bardia. The Lysander failed to appear. At approximately 14:05 (obviously during a third patrol) two flights of five SM 79s escorted by a number of CR.42s were observed a few miles north-east of Sollum Bay. A separate formation of 18 CR.42s was following the bomber formation and escort 2,000 feet higher as top cover. Two Gladiators attacked the bomber formation whilst the remainder climbed to meet the higher formation. The attack on the bombers was broken off when the higher formation attacked the Gladiators. In the ensuing combat, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege and Flying Officer Wilfred Arthur each claimed a destroyed (seen to fall into the sea) and a damaged CR.42. Flying Officer Peter Turnbull, Flying Officer John Perrin and Flying Officer Alan Rawlinson each claimed one probable.
The CR.42s were 14 fighters from the newly arrived 23o Gruppo led by the CO, Maggiore Tito Falconi and 22 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo. The CR.42s from the 23o Gruppo included three from the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sergente Pardino Pardini and Tenente Gino Battaggion), five from the 74a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Bobba, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca (forced to return early due to a sudden illness) and Sergente Manlio Tarantino) and five from the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Monti, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni and Maresciallo Carlo Dentis). The fighters from the the 10o Gruppo included seven from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Capitano Mario Pluda, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato and Sergente Elio Miotto), nine from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Mario Veronesi) and six from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta), which had taken off at 13:00.
They were escorting ten SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello Draghelli and five SM 79s 216a Squadriglia, 53o Gruppo, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Stringa. The SM 79s had taken off from M2 at 12:25 and attacked Sollum harbour’s jetty (reportedly hit) and two destroyers inside Sollum Bay (with poor results because of the heavy AA fire). AA from the ships hit four bombers from the 34o Stormo; one of them, piloted by Sottotenente Bellini had to force land close to Ain El Gazala with the central engine out of action. Returning pilots reported an attempt to intercept by some Gladiators but the escort repulsed the British fighters. They landed without further problems at 15:15.
Over the target, immediately after the bombing, the Italian fighters reported the interception of “enemy aircraft” alternatively “many Glosters” or “Hurricanes and Glosters”. The 70a Squadrigli pilots claimed a shared Hurricane, this was possibly an aircraft from 33 Squadron. This unit’s ORB reported that during the day’s patrols many SM 79s and CR.42s were intercepted with one CR.42 believed damaged. Two Gladiators confirmed and two probables were shared between the whole 10o Gruppo. Another Gladiator was assigned to the 23o Gruppo (in the documents of 75a Squadriglia but this is not confirmed by the other two Squadriglie). Many Glosters were claimed damaged by Tenente Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Schiroli, Sergente Tarantino, Sottotenente Marangoni, Tenente Calistri, Tenente Monti and Sottotenente Villa. The CR.42s were back between 14:30 and 15:05.
No Gladiators were lost even if three of them were damaged (all repairable within the unit). The Australians had done a very good job indeed, facing a formation four times more numerous (even if it seem improbable that all the Italian fighters were able to join the combat). From the Italian reports it seems that only the front sections of the escort (including the 74a, 75a and the 84a Squadriglie) were engaged in a sharp dogfight with the Gladiators. The Australians were able to shot down the CO of the 74a Squadriglia, Capitano Guido Bobba, who was killed when his fighter fell in flames into the sea and damaged Tenente Lorenzoni’s fighter, who landed at T2 (and came back to Z1 the day after). Three more CR.42s were damaged when Tenente Angeloni was forced to land at T5 before reaching Z1, Sergente Veronesi’s fighter was damaged and Sottotenente Prati was forced to make an emergency landing short of T2 (his fighter was reportedly undamaged and only suffering for a slight engine breakdown). Maggiore Falconi’s fighter was also heavily damaged but managed to return. The morning after Angeloni was able to return to Z1 with his aircraft.
Capitano Guido Bobba was awarded a posthumously Medaglia d’Argento al valor militare. He was replaced as CO of the 74a Squadriglia by Tenente Mario Pinna.
The last Italian bombing mission of the day on 27 December was again against Sollum. Four SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello D’Ippolito and four bombers from the 216a Squadriglia, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Romanini took off from Tmini at 14:30.
They were escorted by fighters from the 23o Gruppo and 10o Gruppi. Maggiore Tito Falconi was at the head of the formation of the first unit, which also included Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sottotenente Oscar Abello and Sergente Ubaldo Marziali from the 70a Squadriglia, Tenente Mario Pinna, Sottotenente Milano Pausi and Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli from the 74a Squadriglia and Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Sergente Leo Mannucci and Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni from the 75a Squadriglia.
It seems that the bomber formation split and the 41o Stormo attacked British mechanized units in Halfaya and Gabr Bu Fares under heavy AA that damaged, although slightly, all the aircraft. The SM 79s of the 34o Stormo attacked ships in Sollum harbour and were intercepted by many Hurricanes. The SM 79s were totally unable to defend themselves because of icing on all the guns and one of them was shot down. This was Sottotenente Aldo Peterlini’s bomber and Peterlini was killed together with three of his crew (Sergente Maggiore Arturo Scagnetti (second pilot), Aviere Scelto Motorista Alcide Frizzera and Aviere Scelto Radiotelegrafista Gioacchino Scuderi). The other two members of the crew (Primo Aviere Armiere Ciancilla and Primo Aviere Montatore Fiore) where able to bale out. Tenente Pandolfi’s aircraft was riddled by enemy bullets (probably RD) while the other two SM 79s were less seriously damaged although suffering some wounded among their crews.
They had been intercepted by 33 Squadron which claimed three SM 79s and one probable and probably two CR.42s during offensive patrols performed by pairs of Hurricanes over Sollum. They also claimed one SM 79 and one CR.42 damaged. Vernon Woodward claimed one of the probable CR.42s and the damaged CR.42.
Falconi’s pilots recorded combat with many Hurricanes, one of which was claimed as probable by the 70a Squadriglia and six more were damaged. Tenente Solaro and Sottotenente Abello returned with damaged fighters. Solaro had been hit by AA fire and Sottotenente Abello by British fighters. Calistri and his men claimed a shared Hurricane and four more damaged. They landed back at 16:55. A shot down Hurricane was also recorded by the 74a Squadriglia, which also recorded a SM 79 shot down by AA fire.
The CR.42 escort from the 10o Gruppo was composed of seven fighters from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti and Sergente Enrico Botti), six from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli, Sergente Domenico Santonocito and Sergente Piero Buttazzi) and six from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Orlando Mandolini, Sottotenente Ennio Grifoni and Sergente Elio Miotto). Tenente Guiducci reported that the heavy AA immediately hit one of the SM 79s, which was shot down. Then five monoplanes (Hurricanes and Spitfires(!)) tried to attack but were immediately counterattacked and one of them was shot down. Later, another attempt by a lone British fighter failed after the intervention of the Italian escort. The 90a Squadriglia pilots expanded 320 rounds of ammunition and it seems that in the end the victory was assigned to the whole formation as a Gruppo victory. It seems that it was the same aircraft claimed independently by the two Squadriglie of the 23o Gruppo.
On 30 December, the 10o Gruppo didn’t carry out any operations during the day but Generale Felice Porro arrived to Z1 and personally decorated some pilots.
Giovanni Guiducci received a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare for bravery. The motivation spoke of at least one individual and six shared victories and the medal was granted in particular for his action on 8 August 1940.
Lucchini, Angelo Savini and Giovanni Battista Ceoletta received the Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare for bravery. The motivation to Lucchini’s spoke of three victories obtained with other pilots in three combats (Buq-Buq 16 June, Tobruk 21 June and El Adem 28 July). Savini received his in particular for his behaviour on 8 August and Ceoletta received his for his overall activity over the front up to 15 September during which period he was credited with two shared victories.
During the first tour of operations in North Africa, in seven months he flew 94 missions with 13 air combats and three strafing attacks against enemy armoured vehicles during which he claimed 3 victories and 15 shared victories. He was also awarded with one Medaglia d'argento al valor militare and two Medaglie di bronzo al valor militare.
Image from Ali di Guerra 1941.
In early 1941, the 10o Gruppo moved back to Italy to re-equip with Macchi MC.200s.
On 19 May 1941, Lucchini was promoted to Capitano.
On 16 June 1941 10o Gruppo moved to Trapani, Sicily to take part in the attacks on Malta.
Early on 25 June a large incoming raid was plotted on the radar at Malta. Nine Hurricanes each from 46 and 249 Squadrons took off and climbed hard. Only 46 Squadron was to intercept the incoming formation, which was reported as one S.79 and 24 MC.200s at 21,000 feet, 15 miles south of Sicily. The force, which had left the coast of that island, included a lone S.79 of the 58a Squadriglia, 32o Gruppo B.T. flown by Colonnello Ranieri Cupini, the Stormo commander, with an escort of no less than 48 MC.200s, ten from the 10o Gruppo and 12 from the 16o Gruppo in the lead. Twelve of these fighters were forced to return almost at once with various technical troubles, but the bomber and the remaining 36 fighters continued.
Squadron Leader A. C. Rabagliati (Hurricane Z2481) led the attack straight into the formation, concentrating his own fire on the Savoia. Several pilots saw the undercarriage fall into the ‘down’ position and the bomber was last seen heading home, losing height and streaming oil; Rabagliati was credited with a probable.
Pilot Officer Anderson, flying No. 2 to Rabagliati, fired at one Macchi, then attacked two more, firing at them continually in a dive from 18,000 feet to sea level, where one crashed into the sea 20 miles south of Delimara Point. Sergeant Copp attacked an MC.200 at 10,000 feet, hitting it with a four-second burst from dead astern, and then a two-second burst from the starboard beam. The fighter turned hard to port, pulling its nose up high. This allowed Copp to get another good burst into the cockpit and it dropped “like a plummet, apparently out of control”. It was seen to go into the sea 11 miles south of Cap Religione. Meanwhile Pilot Officer Main, having fired at the Savoia briefly, dived on seven Macchis, firing many bursts from beam and astern at 250 yards’ range into one. He was then attacked by a second, but turned on this and chased it to within ten miles of the Sicilian coast. He last saw it going down steeply towards land at 8,000 feet after he had fired four short bursts into it, and he was awarded a confirmed destroyed for this bringing the number of Macchis believed to have been shot down to three.
Actually losses to the Italians amounted to two Macchis of the 16o Gruppo; Maresciallo Giovanni Bravin was killed, but Maresciallo Olindo Simionato came down in the sea 20 miles from the coast, and was rescued by a Z.506B. One Hurricanes was claimed as a shared by Tenente Lucchini, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, all from the 90a Squadriglia. Other pilots claimed a shared probable. On this occasion, no British losses were suffered.
During the late morning on 27 June, nine Hurricanes from 46 Squadron were scrambled, meeting one reconnaissance S.79 with an escort of an estimated 29 MC.200s between 20,000 and 25,000 feet over Takali. This seems to have been a formation composed of a S.79 from the 193a Squadriglia and 22 escorting Macchis. 20 MC.200s from the 10o Gruppo, 12 from the 7o Gruppo and nine from the 16o Gruppo had originally set out, but 19 had returned early.
Squadron Leader Sandy Rabagliati (Hurricane Z2593) led the Hurricanes in a stern chase of the formation, firing a two burst at the S.79, which he claimed damaged. He was then attacked by three MC.200s, turned into one head-on and fired a short burst from 100 yards. This aircraft burst into flames and crashed into the sea ten miles east of the island. He reported that he saw two more Macchis crash, one on the island and one in the sea nearby. Sergeant William Copp claimed:
“Engaged Macchi at 16,000 feet above Grand Harbour. Fired two two-second bursts (beam attack). Macchi went down in a dive. Engaged a second Macchi over the island at 12,000 feet. Fired a three second burst (beam attack). Macchi went down and pilot baled, chute did not open.”The first was claimed as a probable while the second was Sergente Alfredo Sclavo of the 90a Squadriglia who’s body was found near Ta’Karach, not far from Ghaxaq. He had been wounded in the face, but killed by the fall in which his parachute had not opened. His aircraft fell near Birzebbugia.
“I got on the tail of a Macchi and got in several bursts into the cockpit as the Macchi was doing a stall turn. It spun down with smoke coming out. Seen to crash by Sgt Hackston.”Meanwhile Pilot Officer Leslie Barnes, who was acting as ‘weaver’ 4,000 feet above the rest of the squadron, climbed to 27,000 feet and attacked the high escort which was stepped up to 26,000 feet, with two aircraft at approximately 30,000 feet. Diving from the beam on one Macchi, he closed to quarter astern and saw the aircraft go down in an inverted dive, watching it go straight into the sea as he circled down. He then attacked another at 23,000 feet head-on, seeing the pilot of this carry out a forced-landing on the sea. Barnes radioed the position, and the pilot, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, was picked up by a Swordfish floatplane from the Kalafrana Rescue Flight; Barnes later met his victim. Sergeant Arnold Jolly, on attachment from 185 Squadron, also claimed one MC.200 shot down and one probable during this action.
After 12 missions and three dogfights in which he had claimed 3 shared victories and 5 more probables, on 11 July the Regia Aeronautica launched a big fighter sweep over Malta. Eleven MC.200s from the 54o Stormo attacked Hal Far airfield in three sections, while forty-two more gave cover. Twelve Hurricanes of 185 Squadron were scrambled, and possibly others from other units on the island, for the Italians reported thirty Hurricanes intercepting, four of which were claimed shot down by pilots of the 10o Gruppo. Capitano Lucchini was credited with one and one shared while Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli was credited with one shared. Lucchini claimed his Hurricanes with his wingmen, after that he and another pilot had been bounced at low level by eight Hurricanes from 185 Squadron. Either side in fact suffered no losses even if five MC.200s returned with damage. Lucchini also claimed five shared destroyed Wellingtons and 3 shared damaged Blenheims on the ground.
On 17 July 1941, 49 MC.200s from the 7o, 10o and 16o Gruppi set off mid-morning to escort one reconnaissance Z.1007bis over Malta. En route the 16o Gruppo fighters became separated and returned to base, but the rest of the formation reached the island where eight Hurricanes of 249 Squadron and eleven from 185 Squadron had been scrambled. The aircraft from the former unit made contact, Squadron Leader Robert Barton (Hurricane Z3262) claiming one MC.200 shot down in flames, while Pilot Officer P. G. Leggett claimed a second and Flying Officer C. C. H. Davis one damaged. Two MC.200s of the 10o Gruppo were in fact lost when Sergente Maggiore Enrico Botti (MC.200 MM6500) and Sergente Maggiore Natale Fiorito (MC.200 MM5217) where killed. In return the pilots of the 10o Gruppo claimed four Hurricanes and two probables. Tenente Colonnello Carlo Romagnoli and Capitano Lucchini each claimed one Hurricane shot down and Sergente Maggiore Elio Miotto two. Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Luigi Contarini each claimed probables. One Hurricane was lost when 22-year-old Sergeant Maurice Guest (RAF No. 920596) of 249 Squadron in Hurricane Z2818 failed to return.
On 19 August twelve Hurricanes from 126 Squadron were scrambled to intercept twelve MC.200s near Cap Passero at 23,000 feet. The Hurricanes chased the Italian fighters in over the Sicilian coast and during the ensuing combat 126 Squadron claimed 4 destroyed and 1 probable and 10o Gruppo claimed 2 destroyed and one probable. In fact neither side sustained any losses. In this combat Lucchini claimed one shared destroyed together with Sergente Giambattista Ceoletta.
On 4 September he claimed two Hurricanes during the day’s heavy fighting over Malta.
On 27 September 1941 ten of 10o Gruppos MC.200s provided covering patrols for Italian naval units. In a string of bad luck they ran out of fuel in bad weather and all had to ditch. Two pilots were killed and two were injured. One of the injured was Lucchini whose face was badly hurt. All those who survived were subsequently picked up safely.
By September 1941, he had flown 37 more missions claiming 14 enemy aircraft shared and 16 more probables. For this he was awarded with another Medaglia d'argento al valor militare.
Lucchini was also the first pilot to successfully fly a photoreconnaissance mission over Malta with a specially modified Macchi MC.200 (prototype of several more).
On 30 November 1941, Capitano Lucchini took command of the 84a Squadriglia, 4o Stormo, after Capitano Luigi Monti.
By the end of 1941 10o Gruppo re-equipped with MC.202s and returned to Sicily on 2 April 1942. The unit flew in to Castelvetrano from Rome/Ciampino with 26 new MC.202 led by Capitano Lucchini.
At 17:45 on 9 May 1942, five Z.1007bis from the 210a Squadriglia BT were out to attack Malta. They were escorted by 16 MC.202s, eight from each 9o Gruppo and 10o Gruppo. To meet this threat, 33 Spitfires were scrambled, and eleven of these from 126 Squadron intercepted, led by Squadron Leader A. R. H. Barton. Barton’s single section engaged the escort while Pilot Officer M. A. Graves led the rest to attack the bombers. During the following combat Spitfires were claimed by Capitano Lucchini, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi (91a Squadriglia) and Sergente Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia), while Maggiore Antonio Larsimont (9o Gruppo) claimed one damaged. No RAF aircraft was even damaged. RAF claimed three Z.1007s (two by Flight Sergeant Schade and one by Sergeant Goldsmith), one MC.202 (by Pilot Officer Bisley) and three damaged (claimed by Flight Sergeant Schade, Squadron Leader Barton and Pilot Officer Graves). Regia Aeronautica only got one Z.1007bis and one MC.202 damaged when Tenente Luigi Giannella’s Macchi was hit by a 20mm shell.
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 Lucchini claimed one shot down and one damaged. Other Spitfires then came in over Gozo, and three of these were claimed by Tenente Jacopo 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 19 May 10o Gruppo flew their last mission over Malta.
Having tested their MC.202s in action, they returned to Italy to modify the fighters with sand filters.
On 24 May 1942, the 54 MC.202s of the 4o Stormo C, which had been operating over Malta, arrived at Martuba, led by Tenente Colonnello Armando François.
They joined 1o Stormo (CO Colonnello Alfredo Reglieri), forming a force of more than 100 MC.202s, the largest concentration of these fighters ever to be achieved in Libya.
Next day a Comando Caccia (Fighter Command) was established at Martuba under the 1o Stormo commander, to co-ordinate the activities of the four MC.202-equipped units:
6o Gruppo (1o Stormo); CO Maggiore Mario Larcher
17o Gruppo (1o Stormo); CO Maggiore Domenico Sciaudone
9o Gruppo (4o Stormo); CO Maggiore Antonio Larsimont Pergameni
10o Gruppo (4o Stormo); CO Maggiore Paolo Maddalena
The three squadriglie of the newly arrived 9o Gruppo were led by Sottotenente Alvaro Querci (73a Squadriglia), Capitano Ezio Viglione Borghese (96a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio (97a Squadriglia), who would be replaced by Tenente Fernando Malvezzi on 1 June. The commanders of the three squadriglie of 10o Gruppo were Capitano Lucchini (84a Squadriglia), Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (90a Squadriglia) and Tenente Orlando Mandolini (91a Squadriglia).
From April to 17 June 1942 he flew 47 missions over Malta at first and then on the North African front, being awarded another Medaglia d'argento al valor militare for having scored three individual victories, one probable and three shared ones.
Between 13:00-14:30 on 4 June, Capitano Lucchini led seven MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo (three of 84a Squadriglia, two of 90a Squadriglia, and two of 91a Squadriglia) on a free sweep over Bir Hacheim. Three of these returned ahead of time.
At 13:20, they spotted an enemy fighter formation of about 30 aircraft split between Hurricanes and P-40s at an altitude of 5500 m (they were at 3500). As they were not seen by the enemy, they managed to climb up to altitude and attack them from an advantageous position. When they returned they were credited with two P-40s and four Hurricanes with three Hurricanes machine-gunned (2240 rounds fired). Capitano Lucchini (CO 84a Squadriglia) (MC.202 MM7797/84-0) claimed one P-40 and fired at four while Sergente Luciano Perdoni (84a Squadriglia) (MM7805/84-2) claimed the second P-40.
The Macchis had intercepted 24 Hurricanes of 33 and 274 Squadrons again in action over the front. In addition, two Spitfires were protecting the formation at high level but returned early. 33 Squadron, on top cover, was attacked by a reportedly 4-5 MC.202s and Bf l09s; several pilots managed burs at them but no claims were made. Pilot Officer Rolls was hit but suffered no serious damage.
Between 13:45-15:10 on 8 June, Capitano Lucchini led ten MC.202s from the 10o Gruppo (six from the 84a Squadriglia, two from the 90a Squadriglia and two from the 91a Squadriglia) on a sweep over Bir Hacheim. At 14:20, a formation of 15 P-40s was spotted lower down from an altitude of 4,000m over Bir Hacheim. They were attacked and engaged in an air battle for ten minutes. In total, three P-40s were credited shot down, one probable, and three machine-gunned (1507 rounds). All the claims for destroyed P-40s were made by the 84a Squadriglia. One was claimed by Tenente Luigi Giannella (MC.202 MM7803), the second was claimed by Sergente Luciano Perdoni (MM7919; who also claimed the probable) while the third was shared between Capitano Lucchini (MM7797; he fired on three more P-40s), Tenente Paolo Berti (MM7937; he fired on three more P-40s) and Sergente Piero Buttazzi (MM7933).
It seems that the 10o Gruppo had encountered 233 Wing, that reported combat over Bir Hacheim when 2 SAAF Squadron with four Kittyhawks flew as the leader squadron on a wing sweep between 14:35-16:10. The fighters were flying at an altitude of between 8,000ft and 6,000ft but they broke away from the formation and were not involved in the fight. Eight Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron (14:45-16:00) were top cover and were flying at 8,000ft with eight Tomahawks of 4 SAAF Squadron (14:30-16:15) as medium cover. 4 SAAF reported over twenty enemy aircraft and Lieutenant G. H. Kaufmann (4 SAAF Squadron) claimed a damaged Bf 109 at 15:30 but the back of his plane’s canopy was hit by a shell. This badly damaged the fighter (Cat. II) but the pilot was unhurt. At the same time was Lieutenant John Lindbergh (5 SAAF Squadron, Tomahawk IIb AN309/GL-O) was flying at 8,000ft when he saw seven Bf 109s attacking from above:
“... I saw Me.109s attacking left-hand section of medium cover. I gave warning by R/T and turned towards the EA. At this moment I saw another 109 coming almost head-on and slightly below. I aimed a bit in front of him and fired. Almost immediately he started smoking from the top of its cowling, near the nose. ... I saw another 109, about 1000’ below me climbing steeply. I intercepted his climb at my own level and fired a long burst, following him up. I saw the explosive ammunition hitting the 109’s rudder and starboard wing. As I was turning away I had to take violent avoiding action to avoid another 109 on my tail. … One Me. 109 damaged.”
In the morning on 12 June, 14 MC.202s from the 10o Gruppo (six from the 84a Squadriglia (09:20-10:40), four from the 90a Squadriglia (take-off 09:15) and four from the 91a Squadriglia) led by the Gruppo commander Maggiore Paolo Maddalena, together with German Bf 109s were escorting Luftwaffe Ju 87s to attack targets south-east of Acroma.
The Italian formation, which acted as indirect escort, was divied into two groups, one at an altitude of 4,500 metres with Capitano Lucchini and the other at an altitude of 4,000 metres with Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini. The MC.202 reached and went beyond the Ju 87s and their direct escort of Bf 109s over Menelao. Halfway between Gazala and Acroma, the patrol of the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Lucchini, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Sergente Roberto Ugazio and Sergente Piero Buttazzi) was surprised by two Spitfires and broke up formation even if there was no damage. Only Sergente Maggiore Veronesi managed to fire at an attacking fighter.
The two attacking Spitfires belonged to 145 Squadron on a patrol (10:00-11:00) during which Flight Lieutenant J. J. P. Sabourin (Spitfire Vb AB339/ZX-M) claimed a Bf 109 destroyed and a second damaged.
Capitano Lucchini, who remained alone with Sergente Maggiore Veronesi and Sergente Buttazzi, continued the mission and came up against an enemy formation of about twelve fighters divided between Spitfires and P-40s north-east El Adem. These were attacked and one P-40 was shared destroyed while some others were machine-gunned.
Eleven Hurricanes from 73 Squadron (10:15-11:25, one had returned early) were on a sweep south-east of El Adem. Three Bf 109s attacked but made off quickly but not before Pilot Officer G. R. Wolston (Hurricane IIc BN363) managed to claime two damaged Bf 109s 10 miles west of Gambut. It seems that it was these fighters that was attacked by Lucchini’s section.
The formation from the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Piccolomini, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan and Sergente Gregorio Taverna) counter-attacked and twarted the attacking Spitfires but the formations were scattered. Soon after this, Capitano Piccolomini spotted a lone P-40 and his section gave chase. It was hit several times but continued it flight heading towards, the east. Piccolomini followed the P-40 up to Gambut where it made a wheels-up landing. The P-40 claimed as a shared victory (reported as south-east of Acroma). During the chase over Tobruk, Sottotenente Vanzan (MM7906/90-8) suddenly noticed that Sergente Taverna (MM7397) wasn’t with them anymore. Taverna had been shot down by the South African Bofors guns at Gambut. He baled out at 100ft but was badly injured and did not survive. Vanzan was also hit by anti-aircraft fire but managed to get back to Martuba.
Between 08:00-09:35 on 17 June, twelve MC.202s from the 10o Gruppo (six from the 84a Squadriglia, three from the 90a Squadriglia and three from the 91a Squadriglia), led by Maggiore Paolo Maddalena (CO 10o Gruppo), were on a free sweep over Sidi Rezegh. The fighters from the 84a Squadriglia and Maggiore Maddalena himself flew at an altitude of 4,000/4,500 metres while the remainder served as top cover at 6000 metres. Nine bombers with a strong escort of 25 fighters split between P-40s and Spitfires (35 according to another source) were sighted at an altitude of 2000 metres south-west of Tobruk at 08:55 and they were attacked. After a while, a patrol from a higher altitude also intervened.
In the ensuing combat, five fighters were claimed shot down while nine Bostons and twelve fighters were machine-gunned (2782 rounds fired). Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini (90a Squadriglia) claimed two P-40s. Tenente Luigi Giannella (84a Squadriglia in MM7815) claimed one P-40 (or Spitfire) individually and a shared P-40 with Capitano Lucchini (84a Squadriglia in MM7797/84-0; he additionally fired at three Bostons and one P-40), Tenente Italo Alessandrini (84a Squadriglia; he additionally fired at four P-40s), Sergente Piero Buttazzi (84a Squadriglia in MM7919; he additionally fired at one Boston and four P-40s) and Sergente Roberto Ugazio (84a Squadriglia in MM7928; he additionally fired at three Spitfires). Tenente Orlando Mandolini (91a Squadriglia) claimed one P-40. Maggiore Maddalena fired at one Boston and two P-40s. Sergente Barbera took part in the battle even though his fighter’s guns were not working.
Four Bf 109Fs from 2./JG 27 was on a Freie Jagd and they also claimed two P-40s in the same area (east of Sidi Rezegh) and at the same time. These were claimed by Leutnant Friedrich Körner (08:50) and Leutnant Karl von Lieres und Wilkau (08:59).
Nine Bostons from 12 SAAF Squadron were in action attacking armoured vehicles and motor transports between Sollum and Tobruk (take off 09:32). Their formation was of three vics of three at 8000 feet, while as usual the escort was provided by 233 Wing; three Tomahawks of 4 SAAF Squadron were close cover (09:40-10:40) and four Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron were top cover (09:30-10:30) along with four Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron (09:35-10:15).
12 SAAF Squadron stated that at 09:55 the formation was attacked by six enemy fighters. They came down one by one from 6500/7000 feet, two of them penetrating the escort and attacking K.711 from starboard quarter five times for four or five minutes. Successive diving attacks from above on starboard quarter were followed by steep climbing turns to port. The pilot of the bomber kept height and formation, while the top gunner opened fire from 300 yards, closing in on 200 yards. The bomber was hit by a cannon shell and seven bullets; there were no casualties (.303-400). The report by 12 SAAF Squadron continued:
“... the Bostons were pounding away steadily at enemy transport in the Sidi Rezegh area, only 30 miles away, so close that from Baheira main it was possible to hear the bombs bursting from our main raids. The armourers at least had the satisfaction of hearing the results of their labour.”Close tight to the bombers, the three pilots of 4 SAAF Squadron sighted six enemy fighters divided between Bf l09s and MC.202s. At least four of these, upon coming out of the sun, attacked at the same moment as the bombers had reached their objective. The attacks lasted from 09:55 to 10:20 but they didn't manage to break up the formation.
“9.55. I was flying on the left of the Bostons on the way to the target when enemy ac were reported attacking us…approximately: 445408. We were then attacked from then onwards until we reached about 10 miles W of Bahira main. At 10.20, after warding off two attacks from behind the bombers I saw a MC202 coming in from 6 o’clock below me. I was then flying on the port quarter of the Bostons and above them; the 202 went straight for the bombers. I peeled off to the right and attacked him from his rear port quarter; I gave him a long burst and pulled up to the left. As he pulled up I came from dead astern and into the sun and gave him another long burst. Black smoke and pieces of ‘something’ flew off the a/c at the wing roots; I could then have been no more than 100 yards behind at this stage, facing dead into the sun. I peeled off on the left and rejoined the bombers. I did not see what happened to the 202… 50-200 ball, 50 tr, .3-500 ball.”The 5 SAAF Squadron cover was also attacked by eight Bf l09s twelve miles north-west of Gambit at 10:00. 22-year-old Squadron Leader Louis Cecil Botha (SAAF No. P/102722 in AK519/GL-A) and 21-year-old Lieutenant Kenneth Colin Morgan (SAAF No. 205417 in AN3097GL-O), where both shot down in flames and did not return. Lieutenant Charles Sommerville’s fighter (AN420/GL-P) was also shot down but he managed to return safely. No claims were made.
On 3 July 1942, Capitano Lucchini took temporarily command over the 10o Gruppo after that Maggiore Paolo Maddalena had been shot down in MC.202 MM7797/84-0(?). He was initially reported as MiA but was subsequently declared KiA.
Between 09:30-10:30 on 4 July, Capitano Lucchini led five MC.202s of the 84a Squadriglia and six of the 90a Squadriglia on a free sweep over the El Alamein area. At 4,500 metres, they met 20 Bostons escorted by many P-40 and Spitfires; at a lower level flew a formation of Hurribombers (around 20 enemy fighters were reported). Led by Capitano Lucchini, the Italians attacked both formations with success. After a 30-minutes fight, claims for one Boston and a probable, one Hurricane, one P-40 and two Spitfires (plus two probables) were submitted by the Italian pilots. Many fighters were also claimed damaged. The claims were made by:
Maresciallo Angelo Savini (90a Squadriglia) one Boston destroyed
Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi (90a Squadriglia in MC.202 MM7789/84-5) one Boston probably destroyed and one Spitfire destroyed
Maresciallo Pietro Del Turco (90a Squadriglia) one Hurricane destroyed
Tenente Luigi Giannella (84a Squadriglia in MM7815/84-6) one Spitfire destroyed
Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (90a Squadriglia) one Spitfire probably destroyed
Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan (90a Squadriglia) one Spitfire probably destroyed
The P-40 was claimed as a shared between all twelve pilots.
Additional damaged fighters were claimed by Sergente Livio Barbera (84a Squadriglia), Tenente Paolo Berti (90a Squadriglia), Capitano Lucchini (temporarily CO 10o Gruppo) and Sottotenente Sforza Libera (90a Squadriglia), who in his first combat mission, damaged a Spitfire.
The Italian pilots returned without losses.
It seems that they at least had encountered Hurricane IIcs from 33 Squadron, which reported combat with MC.202 at 09:15 in the El Alamein area. Flight Lieutenant F. J. Aldrige (Hurricane IIc BE134/Y) claimed one MC.202 destroyed and two more were claimed as shared probably destroyed by five pilots of the flight. However, Hurricane IIc BE469 was shot down and 19-year-old Pilot Officer Anthony George Merritt (RAF No. 108955) was KiA. Three more Hurricanes were damaged but the pilots Pilot Officer K. C. Rolls (BN348/E), Pilot Officer H. S. Woods (BN473) and Sergeant Wilson (BN358) were safe.
No Bostons were lost during the day.
Between 16:00-17:30, the MC.202 from the 10o Gruppo were again in the air when six aircraft of the 84a Squadriglia led by Capitano Lucchini and six of the 90a Squadriglia led by Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, covered CR.42s of the 50o Stormo, following which they were to undertake a free sweep over the El Alamein area. These pilots reported a formation of about 20 fighters, the 84a Squadriglia claiming two P-40s (one by Capitano Lucchini (MC.202 MM7896/84-8) and one shared between Tenente Paolo Berti (MM7803/84-1) and Sergente Corrado Patrizi (MM7789)) shot down and a third probably (Tenente Luigi Giannella (MM7815/84-6)). All MC.202s landed safely at Fuka.
At 12:30 on 9 July, Capitano Lucchini (MM7789/84-5) led 12 MC.202s from the 10o Gruppo to cover CR.42s active in the Kalakh area. Near El Alamein 12 fighter-bombers were encountered; these were protected by a strong formation of about 35 fighters. Capitano Lucchini and his pilots attacked and claimed a P-40 shared among four of the pilots from 84a Squadriglia after a 15-minute combat. Claimants in this shared was Lucchini, Sergente Livio Barbera (MM7933/84-10), Tenente Paolo Berti (MM7803/84-1) and Domenico Santonocito (MM7805/84-2).
Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani, a pilot just arrived from Italy, was hit and wounded.
It seems that no Allied fighters were lost in this combat.
On 10 July, the 9th Australian Division launched an attack in the northern sector of the El Alamein line. This was backed by all the Commonwealth Wings that targeted ground targets and the airfields of LG 20, LG 21 and LG 102, which resulted in heavy aerial fighting.
At 08:25, six CR 42s of 50o Stormo took off to attack enemy vehicles in the Bir Abu Gorya area. They were escorted by eleven MC.202 from the three Squadriglie of 10o Gruppo (take off 08:55 - landing 10:10) led by Capitano Lucchini (84a Squadriglia). The MC.202s where then to continue on a free hunt mission.
In the target area, Capitano Lucchini (MC.202 MM7901) spotted a formation of 15 P-40s approaching from the east at 2,600 meters. After a short attack made with height advantage (the Italian fighters were at 4,000 meters), the P-40s went into a ’Lufberry’ circle. The combat ended after 30 minutes when the ammunition was exhausted and they were low on fuel.
The pilots from the 10o Gruppo returned claiming eight P-40s destroyed. Lucchini, Sottotenente Luigi Giannella (84a Squadriglia in MM7815), Tenente Virgilio Vanzan (90a Squadriglia) and Sergente Amleto Monterumici (90a Squadriglia) claimed one P-40 each while four more were claimed by the pilots from the 91a Squadriglia; two by Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli and one each by Sergente Elio Miotto and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato. Monterumici remained to defend the CR.42s from the attacks from the P-40s and this he made so successfully that the formations leader, Capitano Torquato Testerini (CO 236a Squadriglia) later visited them at Fuka to show his gratitude.
It seems that they have clashed with the Hurricane IIcs from 274 Squadron on their second mission of the day 09:15-11:15 when they performed a free sweep over El Alamein with eight planes covering nine machines of 1 SAAF Squadron. 15 miles south-west of El Alamein they were attacked by a reportedly at least twelve Messerschmitts and Macchis (probably only the latter) and they formed a defensive circle. They were attacked from all sides but didn’t suffer any loss and with only BP398/NH-H flown by Sergeant P. G. Hemmer being damaged and the pilot slightly wounded. The pilots of 274 Squadron claimed a Macchi and a Bf 109 probably shot down and five Macchis and two Bf 109s damaged. Claiming pilots were:
Flight Sergeant H. Garwood (BD750/NH-W) one probable Bf 109 and one damaged
Flight Lieutenant Walter Conrad (BF698/NH-J) one damaged MC.202
Squadron Leader James Hayter (BE487/NH-F) one probable MC.202
Sergeant R. W. Henderson (BE826/NH-G) one damaged MC.202
Flight Lieutenant G. C. Keefer (BN111/NH-D) two damaged MC.202
Sergeant B. Ott (BN107/NH-B) one damaged Bf 109
Flight Lieutenant from 123 Squadron (BG949/Y) one damaged MC.202
Four pilots of 1 SAAF Squadron were able to fire some rounds but were unable to appreciate any result.
Between 10:35-12:00 on 16 July, Capitano Lucchini (84a Squadriglia) led ten MC.202s of the 84a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Luigi Giannella (MM7805/84-2), Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi (MM7928/84-9), Maresciallo Luigi Bignami and Sergente Corrado Patrizi), the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, Sottotenente Renato Baroni, Sottotenente Sforza Libera, Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Giambattista Ceoletta) and the 91a Squadriglia (Tenente Paolo Benedicti) to escort CR.42s from the 50o Gruppo.
With their mission carried out, they intercepted ten Hurribombers over Deir el Qattara flying at 500 m, covered by ten P-40s at 2000 m, 15 P-40s at 5000 m and six Spitfires at 6000 m. A 20-minute running fight followed and the returning Italians claimed four P-40s; Sottotenente Berti and Sergente Maggiore Veronesi one each, one shared by Capitano Lucchini, Sottotenente Giannella, Sottotenente Berti and Tenente Benedicti while the fourth was claimed as a shared by Maresciallo Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Veronesi, Capitano Piccolomini, Sottotenente Baroni and Sergente Maggiore Monterumici. Many others were damaged. Four MC.202s returned damaged and Baroni was wounded in the combat and with his MC.202 damaged, made an emergency landing at El Daba (MM7906/90-8 was later recovered). Bignami (MM7896/84-8) was hit in the wings and on the windscreen. Berti (MM7803/84-1) was attacked by P-40s while returning home, but escaped. Lucchini’s aircraft was hit by five bullets, one of them piercing a fuel tank in left wing root but he was able to land at Qotaifiya, although stunned by fuel vapour (MM7901/84-3 was later recovered). He returned to Fuka in the afternoon in a car.
At 11:10 eight Hurribombers and four fighters of 274 Squadron took off to strafe vehicles, but during this attack two were shot down by Flak. At the same time, other Hurricanes of 213 Squadron took off on a sweep. 33 Squadron was supposed to provide top cover, together with some Spitfires of 601 Squadron, but on take-off from LG 154 Hurricane BP179 and Spitfire V BR479 collided. 19-year-old Canadian Pilot Officer Erle Walter Ollen-Bittle (RCAF no. J/6495) from 33 Squadron and 22-year-old Canadian Flight Sergeant Querino Di Persio (RCAF no. R/76376) from 601 Squadron were both killed. The wreckage then blocked the runway, preventing any further aircraft taking off. Consequently, 213 Squadron was bounced by one MC.202 and one Bf 109, one Hurricane BN378 being shot down at 11:35 and Flight Sergeant John Fernie Cullen Ballantyne (RAF no. 777890) being killed.
At 11:50 1 SAAF and 238 Squadrons took off with 238 Squadron as top cover. At 12:15, four Bf 109s and two MC.202s were seen below but were deemed by the South Africans to be decoys, and were left alone by them. 238 Squadron’s pilots also spotted them, “tally-ho”-ed, and dived straight through 1 SAAF Squadron’s formation to get at them. Several South Africans then peeled off and followed them. “Shambles! ” recorded the squadron diary. 238 Squadron reported that west of El Alamein, Squadron Leader R. G. A. Barclay claimed a Bf 109 and Flight Sergeant G. H. Borham (Hurricane IIb ‘X’) a Macchi probable, but during the return flight Barclay’s Hurricane (‘F’) was attacked and damaged. L. R. S. Waugh (BG764/AX-W) from 1 SAAF Squadron claimed a probable Bf 109F north-west of El Alamein.
Eight Kittyhawks of 250 Squadron on a mission at 11:45 were jumped by four MC.202s at 12:15, one of the British fighters being shot-up when Kittyhawk Ia AK824 was badly damaged south-west of El Alamein but Pilot Officer J. E. Collier returned safely. Sergeant D. W. Cairns (Kittyhawk Ia ET513/A) claimed to have shot down one of the attackers north-west El Mreir.
Between 06:45-08:15 on 18 July, eight MC.202s; four of the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Lucchini, Sottotenente Luigi Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi and Sergente Piero Buttazzi) and four of the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici), led by Lucchini, flew a “free hunt” mission off from Bu Amud. Over the front at 12,000 feet, they spotted nine P-40s escorted by eleven Hurricanes. The P-40s jettisoned their bombs over the El Qasaba area and tried to escape home eastward. The Italian fighters caught the Allied aircraft over Burg el Arab, 50 km east of El Alamein. After a 15-minute combat a P-40 was claimed as a shared destroyed by Lucchini (MC.202 MM7803/84-1) and Buttazzi (MM7896/84-8), a second was claimed as a shared by Giannella (MC.202 MM7805/84-2) and Veronesi (MM7928/84-9), a third was claimed by Savini and a fourth was claimed jointly by Piccolomini, Vanzan and Monterumici. All Italian fighters returned safely to base.
It seems that they had been in combat with Hurricane IIcs from 274 and 80 Squadrons, which reported that between 07:21-09:45 twelve Hurricanes of 274 Squadron, covered by others of 80 Squadron, patrolled north and south over El Alamein. Two Bf 109s jumped the top cover, followed by six more and some MC.202s. Claims for five fighters damaged were submitted by the two RAF units:
Squadron Leader James Hayter (Hurricane IIc BE487/F) from 274 Squadron claimed one damaged Bf 109E
Pilot Officer R. H. Hunter (BE229/S) from 274 Squadron claimed one damaged MC.202
Sergeant S. Lerche (BE683/O) from 274 Squadron claimed one damaged Bf 109
Flight Lieutenant Russell Foskett (BP235/J) from 80 Squadron claimed two damaged Bf 109s at 08:00.
Hurricane Z5064/Z from 274 Squadron was shot down by a Macchi but Flight Sergeant T. B. Hamilton was safe while BN348 from 80 Squadron received a bullet in the cooling system which caused the pilot to crash-land.
Between 17:30-18:40 in the afternoon on 24 July, eleven MC.202 of the 9o Gruppo (six from 96a Squadriglia and five from 97a Squadriglia) led by Maggiore Roberto Fassi and ten of the 10o Gruppo led by Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis flew an uneventful sweep over El Alamein. When returning they intercepted a reported twelve P-40s covered by twelve Spitfires at 6000 meters. Capitano Lucchini (MM7896) and Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi (MM7789) claimed a probable P-40 each. One more P-40 was claimed by an unknown pilot of the 9o Gruppo. Several others were claimed as damaged.
It seems that this was claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 260 Squadron, which had scrambled six fighters on an interception patrol at 18:50. They reported seeing six Bf 109s and MC.202s. On the return flight they were jumped by the fighters from 10o Gruppo and Kittyhawk Ia ET857/W flown by Sergeant D. W. C. England was shot down. When England later returned, he reported that he had been shot down by a Bf 109 but no Luftwaffe claims were made at this time.
1 SAAF Squadron took off at 10:05 on 5 August as top cover to 127 Squadron, followed 50 minutes later by 80 Squadron, which provided top cover for the whole formation. Eight Bf 109s reportedly attacked the latter unit near El Alamein, which lost one aircraft which crash-landed; 29-year-old Pilot Officer Peter Douglas Keeping (RAF No. 134508) in Hurricane IIc BP187 was badly wounded and died later in the l8th Field Hospital. Pilot Officer E. Hill (BN870) attacked one fighter, but this turned on him and he was shot down also, carrying out a force-landing. Sergeant Christopher House (BE350) was cut off from the squadron and forced out over the sea by four fighters but managed to return safely, claiming one shot down and one damaged. His Hurricane received Cat. I damaged in the wing during the combat. The South Africans reported that near the end of the patrol a lone MC.202 dived on the squadron and this was claimed to have been damaged by Lieutenant Barry Haynes (Hurricane BP350/Z). It seems that there was some confusion during this engagement as to whether the Axis fighters were Messerschmitts or Macchis - or both. A Kittyhawk Ia was also badly damaged by reportedly MC.202s over El Alamein during the day but Pilot Officer E. G. Aitchison was safe.
After an alarm from the Freya radar in the morning, Capitano Lucchini (CO 84a Squadriglia) and Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (CO 90a Squadriglia) scrambled at 09:40 with twelve MC.202s to intercept bombers. The fighters were radio-guided eastward over the sea, until 20 km from Alexandria, without having found any aircraft. On the way home, they met fifteen Hurricanes and P-40s at 4000 meters in the El Hammam - El Amirya area and attacked them. Capitano Lucchini (MC.202 MM7905), Capitano Piccolomini and Sottotenente Paolo Berti (84a Squadriglia in MM7803/84-1) claimed a P-40 each. A fourth was claimed as a shared between Sergente Natale Molteni (90a Squadriglia in MM7803), Tenente Luigi Giannella (84a Squadriglia in MM7815), Sergente Maggiore Domenico Santonocito (84a Squadriglia in MM7805/84-2), Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi (84a Squadriglia in MM7919) and Sergente Livio Barbera (84a Squadriglia in MM7789). Tenente Luigi Giannella also claimed a P-40 as a probable. 10o Gruppo landed back at 11:20 without suffer any losses in this combat.
Meantime, two Bf 109s of 4./JG 27 had scrambled to intercept 12 bombers and 20 fighters near Alam el Halfa, Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Bendert claiming one P-40 shot down at 10:08.
Four Bf 109s of III./JG 53 were scrambled mid-morning on 11 August, joined by twelve MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo (six from the 84a and six from the 90a Squadriglie), led by the Gruppo’s commander Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis (new CO of the 10o Gruppo after the death of Maggiore Maddalena). Directed by Freya radar. At 10:32, they intercepted ten Curtiss fighters at 5000 meters between Hammam and Burg el Arab. The Germans made no claims but Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini claimed one P-40 and Capitano Lucchini one probable.
It seems likely that they had intercepted nine Tomahawk IIbs of 5 SAAF Squadron which reported being jumped by Bf 109s and MC.202s 15 miles south-west of Burg el Arab; 2nd Lieutenant B. A. Kearns (AK559/S) claimed a MC.202 during this engagement.
Neither side suffered any losses in this combat.
In order to support Rommel’s last advance, at 05:25 on 31 August, twenty MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo took off to strafe three enemy airfields in the Burg el Arab area, 60 km beyond the frontline. The plan was for eight pilots to strafe, while the others were to cover them. The eight pilots were Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis with Capitano Lucchini (CO), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Ezio Bevilacqua and Sergente Livio Barbera of the 84a Squadriglia, Capitano Carlo Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa (CO) and Tenente Orlando Mandolini of the 91a Squadriglia, and Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara of the 97a Squadriglia, 9o Gruppo.
During the approach, off El Alamein and at 4000 m over the sea, Giannella saw that Bevilacqua, Lucchini’s wingman, had a water leakage in his cooler. Giannella notified Bevilacqua this by gestures (the Italian Allocchio-Bacchini radios were unreliable) and Bevilacqua turned back. Giannella decided to lead him home, so he gestured to his own wingman, Barbera, to continue to follow the Gruppo. However, Barbera misunderstood this communication, and he too followed Giannella. The engine on Bevilacqua’s fighter sized after a couple of minutes and he and parachuted from 600 m into the sea; he swam westward for three hours and reached the shore seven kilometres inside friendly lines. Unaware of this, Giannella landed at Fuka with Barbera (perhaps mistaking him for Bevilacqua).
With the strafing force reduced to five, Maggiore D’Agostinis went inland well before the target. Sottotenente Paolo Berti (84a Squadriglia) spotted two Spitfires below them, but the enemy fighters didn’t attack. The Italians first strafed the southern airfield, finding only few aircraft but an intense ground fire. Subsequently they attacked the other two fields with three passes, each one from a different direction, managing to make the last pass in northern direction towards the sea, in order to minimize ground reaction. Five Lysanders, five P-40s, three Gladiators, an Albacore and an unidentified monoplane were severely damaged, and a lot of material and trucks was destroyed. British fighters scrambled from Alexandria airfields and tried uneventfully to reach the intruders.
On the return flight, the 10o Gruppo’s pilots met and attacked two P-40s, one of which was damaged.
At 13:25 on 31 August, eleven CR.42s from the 101o Gruppo (six of 238a and five of 208a Squadriglie) attacked strongpoints in the Alam el Haifa area. CR.42 MM8903 of the 238a Squadriglia was shot down, Sergente Maggiore Nicolò Gentile baling out and being taken prisoner; however, he had been badly wounded and died next day.
It seems that they had been escorted by MC.202s from 84a Squadriglia, which were in the air 13:40-15:10 on an escort mission. During the mission, Capitano Lucchini (MM7901/84-3) claimed a Spitfire over Deir el Hima. This claim can’t be verified with any corresponding Commonwealth losses at the time. Sergente Livio Barbera (MM7933/84-10) from the same unit made a safe forced-landing at Qotifiya at 14:50 (cause unknown).
Early in the morning on 2 September, the 4o Stormo was back in action. At 06:10, Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis led 18 MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo over Bir Mseilik area. A formation of twelve Spitfires was intercepted and subsequently two large formations of Bostons, Spitfires and P-40s were met. The combat developed into many individual dogfights, lasting about 15 minutes. Six Spitfires and one Boston were claimed for the loss of Maresciallo Pietro Del Turco (MM7785) from 90a Squadriglia. Claiming pilots were Capitano Lucchini (84a Squadriglia; MC.202 MM7901/84-3), who claimed one Spitfire and one Boston, Capitano Carlo Ruspoli (91a Squadriglia) one Spitfire, Maggiore D’Agostinis (flying an MC.202 from 91a Squadriglia) one Spitfire, Sottotenente Luciano Barsotti (91a Squadriglia) one Spitfire, Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli (91a Squadriglia) one Spitfire and finally Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini and Tenente Luigi Padovani (both 91a Squadriglia), which claimed one Spitfire as a shared. The Italian fighters were back at base at 07:45.
Ten Spitfire Vcs of 92 Squadron took off on an offensive sweep at 07:20, meeting MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo in the El Alamein area. Lieutenants “Bill” Rabie (BR475/QJ-A) and J. M. Faure (BR479/QJ-E), both on attachment from 1 SAAF Squadron, claimed an MC.202 and a Bf 109F respectively. Rabie was then shot down, baling out from 15,000 feet; Rabie arrived back with the squadron during the afternoon. Flight Sergeant R. Hempstead (BR573/QJ-T) claimed one Bf 109 damaged while Flight Lieutenant John Morgan (BR525/QJ-S) claimed two more Bf 109s as damaged. The Canadian, Pilot Officer Louis Bavincourt (RCAF no. J/15767) was killed in combat when he failed to return (Spitfire Vc BR515/QJ-D).
The Italian pilots were clearly delighted with their success, claiming six Spitfires shot down as well as a Boston; there is no record of a Boston being lost on this date, however.
The combat appears to have been witnessed by eight Messerschmitt pilots of III./JG 53, who were escorting Stukas and reported seeing a British bomber formation with a strong escort, including four Spitfires as top cover. They recorded that as they watched, one Spitfire crashed
Shortly after lunch on 3 September a number of engagements took place in the El Alamein area with Italian fighters involved.
Seven Bf 109s of III./JG 53 escorted Jabos at 12:25, fighting 20 British fighters near El Alamein. Twelve Macchis suddenly appeared and made a reportedly spirited attack, but without success.
Six Kittyhawks of 3 RAAF Squadron and five of 450 Squadron (13:52-15:09) escorted 18 Baltimores to Deir el Raghil at 13:55 but were attacked by 16 Bf 109s and 13 MC.202s, Sergeant W. W. Thomas of 3 RAAF being severely wounded and his aircraft (Kittyhawk I EV167) badly damaged, but he reached base where he crash-landed. Flight Sergeant Raymond Dyson (EV158) and Sergeant H. R. Hannaford (EV367) of 450 Squadron each claimed to have probably shot down a Bf 109E, but Hannaford was also wounded, and his aircraft damaged, crash-landing at base like Thomas.
MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo were involved in actions between 11:40-13:20. Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis (CO) led 13 fighters on a free sweep mission over the El Alamein area; a formation of 12 Hurricanes, covered by ten P-40s was engaged and two ‘Hurribombers’ were claimed. One of them was credited to Tenente Luigi Padovani south-east of El Alamein and the second was credited over El Alamein as a shared between eight pilots including Capitano Lucchini (MM7901/84-3). At the end of this combat another formation was encountered comprising 12 Bostons escorted by ten P-40s and eight Spitfires. A long fight followed and two P-40s were claimed by Maggiore D’Agostinis and Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta (90a Squadriglia) plus one Boston probable by Tenente Luigi Giannella (84a Squadriglia), for no losses.
Following an uneventful morning sortie 19 MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo had taken off again at 12:40 to patrol over the front line. A large formation of 18 twin-engined bombers, identified as Bostons, escorted by about 35 P-40s, was reported and three of the fighters were claimed as destroyed, plus two probables. Attacks were made on several others and one more was claimed damaged. Three of the claims were made by the 75a Squadriglia 30 kilometres south of El Alamein when Sergente Luigi Bozzolan claimed one destroyed, Maggiore Luigi Filippi one damaged and Sergente Aldo Orsucci a second destroyed. 70a Squadriglia made two claims over El Alamein when Sergente Carlo Papa claimed one probable and Capitano Claudio Solaro claimed one destroyed. The last claim, also over El Almein, was claimed as a probable by Tenente Giorgio Solaroli di Briona of 70a Squadriglia. The MC.202 flown by Sergente Papa was damaged and force-landed south of El Alamein. The 23o Gruppo landed again at 14:25
It is possible that 3 RAAF Squadron took part in this engagement since Sergeant G. G. Scribner (Kittyhawk Ia AL167/F) claimed a probable MC.202 over Deir el Raghil at 14:30.
Around this time seven Bf 109s of II./JG 27 carried out a Freie Jagd, first engaging ten Curtiss fighters, followed by 15 more Curtiss or Hurricanes, and 15 Spitfires. Oberleutnant Sinner claimed one P-40 at 14:25 south of El Hammam and a Spitfire south of Bir Ibrahim at 14:35.
Three Kittyhawks of 4 SAAF Squadron provided top cover to 15 Bostons and six B-25s, 260 and the 66th US Squadron flying close and medium covers. Six plus enemy aircraft were reported and three were seen, Pilot Officer J. C. Joerns (Kittyhawk I EV352) failing to return, his aircraft last being seen going down at 15:15 pouring black smoke. He was reported safe in hospital next day.
At 09:15 on 20 October. Capitano Lucchini to lead four MC.202s of the 84a Squadriglia and one of the 91a Squadriglia to face 25 Hurribombers raiding Fuka, covered by 20 P-40s. One Hurribomber was claimed by Tenente Orlando Mandolini (91a Squadriglia), one P-40 was claimed by Capitano Lucchini and a second P-40 was claimed by Tenente Paolo Berti.
The fighters landed again at 10:20
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 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 Jacopo Frigerio, Tenente 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 (MM7905/84-4) was hit when a 20mm shell tore off the aircraft’s spinner and he was forced to make an emergency landing at 11:30.
Totally the 4o Stormo claimed 25 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. The 9o Gruppo reported the mission as between 10:55 and 12:20 while the 10o Gruppo reported it as between 11:00 and 12:30
The 23o Gruppo also scrambled (11:00-12:30) and they also made a number of claims. From 70a Squadriglia, Sottotenente Luigi Bandini and Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella each claimed a P-40 over El Daba while Tenente Antonio Maccanti claimed a probable P-40 in the same area. 74a Squadriglia was in combat south of El Alamein, and Sergente Maggiore Felice Papini claimed a Boston and Sergente Maggiore Emilio Stafano claimed a Spitfire while Tenente Giorgio Solaroli claimed a shared Spitfire together with Sergente Maurizio Mandolesi (75a Squadriglia). Tenente Carlo Moruzzi claimed a probable P-40.
At 13:55 on 23 October Capitano Lucchini (MC.202 MM7919/84-12) led a formation of eleven MC.202s from the 10o Gruppo (five from the 84a Squadriglia and six from the 90a Squadriglia) to intercept raiders heading for Fuka. Twenty P-40s and twenty Spitfires were met and engaged. Capitano Lucchini and Tenente Francesco De Seta (from 84a Squadriglia but flying MC.202 MM7916/97-5 from 97a Squadriglia) claimed one shared P-40 while Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi (84a Squadriglia in MM7933) claimed one P-40 probably destroyed.
Sergente Roberto Ugazio (84a Squadriglia in MM7808/91-9) baled out of his fighter and was wounded. He returned the next day.
The remaining fighters landed again at 15:45.
Between 09:00-10:10 on 24 October, Capitano Lucchini (MC.202 MM7919/84-12) led nine MC.202s (three from 84a Squadriglia and six from 96a Squadriglia) on a free sweep west of El Alamein. A formation of 25 B-25s, covered by about 40 P-40s, was intercepted, and at the end of a combat lasting 20 minutes one Mitchell and two P-40s were claimed, plus several other damaged. The B-25 was claimed as a shared among six pilots: Capitano Lucchini, Tenente Paolo Berti (84a Squadriglia in MM7805/84-2), Sottotenant Francesco De Seta (84a Squadriglia in MM7907/91-7), Tenente Emanuele Annoni (96a Squadriglia), Tenente Anselmo Maggini (96a Squadriglia) and Sottotenant Alberto Giampaoli (96a Squadriglia). One shared P-40 was claimed by Capitano Lucchini, Tenente Berti and Sottotenant De Seta while the second P-40 was claimed as a shared by Tenente Annoni, Tenente Maggini and Sottotenant Giampaoli.
Two MC.202s returned early after the pilots had experienced heavy vibrations in the tailplane of their aircraft. Capitano Lucchini crash-landed MM7919/84-12 after being hit in the combat and he was wounded.
The remaining six fighters refuelled as soon as the landed and took off again at 10:30. Led by Tenente Annoni, they again engaged the B-25s and the escort with Sergente Maggiore Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia) claiming one B-25 and one P-40 shot down.
Lucchini was subsequently evacuated to Italy on a hospital ship. At this time, he had flown 59 missions and 21 combats, claiming 6 individual victories, 2 probables and 8 shared ones. He had also been awarded with the German 2nd Class Iron Cross and also forced to make two more emergency landings.
As of 8 November 1942 (on the launch of Operation Torch in North Africa), Capitano Lucchini served as CO of the 84a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo CT. The unit was based at Martuba, Libya, and equipped with MC.202s.
After the battle of El Alamein, the Axis forces gradually retreated. In early December, the 10o Gruppo was at Castelbenito to be sent back to Italy.
During the period January 1942 – January 1943, the 4o Stormo flew 7202 hours on missions, took part in 133 combats, claimed 289 aircraft destroyed (totally 501 from the beginning of the war) and lost 24 pilots KIA or MIA with 29 wounded and 2 POWs.
After a period of rest, on 24 February 1943, pilots of the 10o Gruppo rejoined to reorganize the unit at Bresso airfield, under the command of Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis.
Pilots in the 84a Squadriglia were Capitano Lucchini (CO) (hospitalized), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sottotenente Francesco De Seta, Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Maggiore Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Livio Barbera.
Pilots in the 90a Squadriglia were Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (CO), Sottotenente Sforza Libera, Sottotenente Renato Baroni, Sottotenente Luigi Cima, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni.
Pilots in the 91a Squadriglia were Capitano Luigi Mariotti (CO), Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani, Tenente Alvaro Bondi, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli, Sottotenente Elio Miotto, Sottotenente Guerriero Silvestri, Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara, Maresciallo Alessandro Bladelli, Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli, Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Terrabuio, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi and Sergente Giulio Fornalé.
On 20 April, the Gruppo transferred to Ciampino Sud for the defence of Rome.
After several months at hospital and rest Lucchini rejoined his unit in July 1943 and took part in the defence of Sicily with a mixed array of MC.202s and (few) MC.205s.
On 20 June 1943, Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis passed the command of the 10o Gruppo to Capitano Lucchini.
Capitano Luigi Giannella took at the same time command of the 84a Squadriglia, after Lucchini.
The 5 July 1943 was to become a tough day for the Macchis of 9o and 10o Gruppi with heavy combat and serious losses.
From 07:15 to 09:25 Tenente Giorgio Bertolaso and Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi of the 91a Squadriglia flew a reconnaissance mission from Sigonella over the sea, searching enemy shipping or signs of sunken ships.
At 10:25, 27 MC.202s and MC.205s of the 4o Stormo scrambled to intercept 52 bombers escorted by about 20 Spitfires, that were heading to bomb the airfields around Catania. The 9o Gruppo was led by Capitano Giulio Reiner, while Capitano Lucchini was leading the 10o Gruppo. The 10o Gruppo consisted of the 84a Squadriglia (Lucchini, Sottotenente Francesco Palma, Sottotenente Enzo Dall'Asta and Capitano Luigi Giannella (CO of the 84a Squadriglia) flying MC.202s and Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi and Sergente Livio Barbera flying MC.205s), the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Luigi Cima, Maresciallo Massimo Salvatore and Sergente Maggiore Giambattista Ceoletta flying MC.202s) and 91a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Mecatti (CO), Sottotenente Giovanni Silvestri and Sottotenente Elio Miotto).
Giannella and Palma was a few minutes late to take-off because the ground crew were checking their weapons.
The Italian fighters made a frontal attack over Gerbini ignoring the escorting Spitfires. Two B-17s were claimed by Salvatore and Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) together with some Bf 109s. Lucchini claimed a Spitfire while Reiner, Salvatore and Mecatti claimed a probable bomber each. Three bombers were claimed damaged by Lucchini, Giannella, Mettimano, Dall’Asta and Buttazzi. Additional damaged bombers were claimed by Reiner, Salvatore, Mecatti (who also claimed a damaged Spitfire), Sergente Ettore Chimeri (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia), Cima and Ceoletta.
When the Italian fighters landed again at 11:55, Lucchini was missing. He had been seen by Dall’Asta attacking the bombers against heavy defensive fire and then diving into the ground east of Catania. During the alarm, some of the ground crew also reported to have seen a MC.202 falling with the canopy closed, some kilometres east of the airfield. A car from the unit tried to reach the place, but it couldn't go on due to the bombing of the area. Lucchini’s body wasn’t found until two days later.
Taking part in this interception were also more than 100 Bf 109Gs from I, II and III/JG 53 and I and II/JG 77. They claimed twelve bombers for the loss of four Bf 109s including Major Johannes Steinhoff, Kommodore of JG 77, who force-landed his stricken aircraft.
It seems that the Italian fighters had been in combat with USAAF B-17s from 99th Bomber Group, which were out to attack Gerbini. They were intercepted near Ragusa at 23,000 feet but the escorting Spitfires from 72 and 243 Squadrons intervened. The Spitfires claimed one and one damaged Bf 109 while the bombers gunner claimed 45 enemy fighters shot down! According to American records, three B-17s from the 99th BG (42-29486 and 42-29483 of the 348th BS and 42-29492) were lost during the day.
After this combat, an American pilot of a shot down bomber was brought to San Salvatore airfield.
At 11:55, four aircraft from the 91a Squadriglia scrambled. Tenente Vittorino Daffara damaged two four-engined bombers, claimed a P-38 shot down and hits on two Spitfires. Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli damaged two four-engined bombers while Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani damaged a P-38.
At 13:00, Tenente Renato Baroni of the 90a Squadriglia scrambled from San Salvatore and had an in-conclusive contact with enemy fighters, returning to land at 15:00.
At 13:25 there was a new alarm and three MC.202s and two MC.205s of the 84a Squadriglia took off flown by Capitano Luigi Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Segente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi. At least three additional Macchis flown by Sottotenente Sforza Libera (90 a Squadriglia), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli (91a Squadriglia) also scrambles.
During the alarm an enemy formation released bombs on San Salvatore airfield; luckily, only a few bombs hit the strip but many others exploded around it and the tent of the 90a Squadriglia became surrounded by large craters. The American pilot quivered during the bombing and showed a little fear; to excuse himself, he stated that he was unaccustomed to be at the receiving end of bombers. More huge formations passed over the heads and bombed the other airfields.
The eight Macchis intercepted a reported 70 four-engined bombers escorted by 30 P-38s in the area between Gela, Enna and Caltagirone. The Allied aircraft were returning from a bombing mission over Catania.
Sottotenente Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Veronesi, Sottotenente Libera and Tenente Mettimano each claimed a P-38 in this in combat. Two probables were claimed by Mettimano and Sergente Patrizi. Mettimano, Patrizi, Squarcia and Martelli damaged several bombers. Libera was subsequently shot down and killed in this combat while Veronesi, after receiving hits in the engine and in the water cooler, made a gear-up emergency landing near Comiso.
The Italian fighters landed back at 13:55.
It is possible that they had been involved in combat with P-38Gs from 96th and 97th Fighter Squadrons, which returned claiming five enemy fighters at 13:30. First Lieutenant Gerald Lynn Rounds and Second Lieutenant Russell C. Williams from 97th FS claimed one Bf 109 each. First Lieutenant William Judson Sloan of 96th FS claimed one Bf 109 and one Re.2001 while Second Lieutenant James V. O’Brien from the same unit claimed a second Re.2001.
While the aircraft were refurbished with fuel and ammunition, a MC.202 flown by Sergente Maggiore Patrizi, scrambled. He took off at 14:15 and didn’t return.
At 14:20, three MC.202s from 91a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Bertolaso, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Giulio Fornalé took off for another scramble. It seems that they became involved in combat with B-17s, which were out to bomb Gebrini in the afternoon with a close escort of P-38s while 20 Spitfires from 126 and 1435 Squadrons provided top cover. Bf 109s and Macchis tried to intercept over Gerbini. A Bf 109 was claimed damaged by Flight Sergeant F. K. Halcombe (JK368/V-J) of 1435 Squadron, Pilot Officer Chandler (JK139/V-X) similarly claimed a Macchi damaged, while Flying Officer Geoff White (JK611/MK-M) of 126 Squadron shot down a Macchi. His victim was possibly Sergente Patrizi of the 84a Squadriglia who baled out of his disabled MC.205V near Gibrini. In the combat Leonardo Ferrulli was seen to shoot one of the bombers down, from which three men baled out, along with an escorting P-38 before he was in turn jumped by a flight of Spitfires that had been patrolling over the B-17s. Ferrulli baled out of his damaged MC.202 but was to low, his parachute failing to deploy before he hit the ground near Scordia, killing him. Tenente Bertolaso returned claiming damage to four four-engined bombers while Sergente Fornalé claimed hit on a bomber.
At 15:35 there was a new scramble with Capitano Giannella in a MC.202 and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi in a MC.205. They returned after 30 minutes with no news.
At 17:35, there was again a new scramble by a MC.202 (pilot unknown) and Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini in a MC.205. These two fighters returned at 18:00.
In the late afternoon, a German car arrived at San Salvatore airfield, and Sergente Maggiore Patrizi got out of it, aching all over and with scratches on many parts of his body; the pilot was welcomed with happiness by the personnel that crowded round him to listen to his adventure. He told that he chased a formation of Spitfires; while he was shooting at one of them, another one attacked him at six-o'-clock, and did not let him go, forcing him to jump from his burning aircraft and parachute. He touched down near Gerbini and was picked up by the Germans.
Towards the evening an aircraft from Comiso landed, carrying Sergente Maggiore Veronesi.
From 17:30 to 17:55, Tenente Fabio Clauser of the 90a Squadriglia flew a sortie together with Marescialo Salvatore but they didn’t encounter any enemy aircraft.
Tenente Clauser flew another sortie from 20:00 to 20:15 over San Salvatore.
After Lucchini’s death, command of the 10o Gruppo was given to Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, who retained command until the Armistice on 8 September 1943.
Lucchini was posthumously awarded with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare.
He was mentioned in the Bollettino di Guerre (despatches) on 5 September 1942 and 6 July 1943.
At the time of his death Lucchini was credited with 4 biplane victories (1 of them in the Spanish Civil War) and a total of 20 making him one of the highest-ranking Italian ace. These claims were claimed in 294 missions (alternatively 262 missions) and 70 aerial combats. He was also credited with 52 shared claims.
Please note that Lucchini wasn't positively and officially awarded of any individual claim until May 1942 (exception the Spanish Civil War) since Regia Aeronautica weren't very willing to award individual claims from 1940 well into 1942, favouring "collective" victories. All at once, this policy changed and from 1943 there were also money prizes for the individual pilot claims. All this makes it very difficult to state his final number of claims.
He was called " Baracca della seconda guerra mondiale".
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|12/10/37||10:30-||1/3||I-15||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.32||Villafranca-Fuentes del Ebro||19a Squadriglia|
|07/01/38||1||R-Z||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.32||19a Squadriglia|
|1||21/02/38||11:04-||1||I-15||Destroyed||Fiat CR.32||Teruel front||19a Squadriglia|
|14/06/40||1/4||Gladiator (a)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Buq Buq||90a Squadriglia|
|2||21/06/40||04:30-||1||Sunderland (b)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Bardia area||90a Squadriglia|
|24/07/40||16:00-||1||Blenheim (c)||Damaged||Fiat CR.42||Bardia area||90a Squadriglia|
|24/07/40||16:00-||1||Blenheim (c)||Damaged||Fiat CR.42||Bardia area||90a Squadriglia|
|24/07/40||16:00-||1||Blenheim (c)||Damaged||Fiat CR.42||Bardia area||90a Squadriglia|
|3||24/07/40||16:00-||1||Gladiator (d)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Bardia area||90a Squadriglia|
|/FONT>||28/07/40||1/3||Blenheim (e)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||El Adem||90a Squadriglia|
|/FONT>||28/07/40||1/3||Blenheim (e)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||El Adem||90a Squadriglia|
|4||04/08/40||16:50-||1||Gladiator (f)||Destroyed||Fiat CR.42||30 km SW Sollum||90a Squadriglia|
|04/08/40||16:50-||1||Gladiator (f)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Ridotta Capuzzo area||90a Squadriglia|
|04/08/40||16:50-||1||Blenheim (f)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Ridotta Capuzzo area||90a Squadriglia|
|04/08/40||16:50-||1||Blenheim (f)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Ridotta Capuzzo area||90a Squadriglia|
|04/08/40||16:50-||1||Blenheim (f)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Ridotta Capuzzo area||90a Squadriglia|
|11/09/40||1/19||Blenheim (g)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sidi Omar - Bardia area||90o Squadriglia|
|14/09/40||11:00-||1/15||Blenheim (h)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||90a Squadriglia|
|16/12/40||14:40-16:40||1/9||Hurricane (i)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Bardia area||90a Squadriglia|
|23/12/40||08:30-11:05||1/17||Hurricane (j)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sidi Azeiz area||90a Squadriglia|
|23/12/40||08:30-11:05||1/17||Hurricane (j)||Shared probable||Fiat CR.42||Sidi Azeiz area||90a Squadriglia|
|23/12/40||08:30-11:05||1/17||Hurricane (j)||Shared damaged||Fiat CR.42||Sidi Azeiz area||90a Squadriglia|
|25/12/40||14:35-17:00||1/13||Hurricane (k)||Shared probable||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||90a Squadriglia|
|25/12/40||14:35-17:00||1/13||Hurricane (k)||Shared probable||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||90a Squadriglia|
|26/12/40||13:00-15:05||1/22||Gladiator (l)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||90a Squadriglia|
|26/12/40||13:00-15:05||1/22||Gladiator (l)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||90a Squadriglia|
|26/12/40||13:00-15:05||1/22||Gladiator (l)||Shared probable||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||90a Squadriglia|
|26/12/40||13:00-15:05||1/22||Gladiator (l)||Shared probable||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||90a Squadriglia|
|27/12/40||14:30-||1/19||Hurricane (m)||Shared destroyed||Fiat CR.42||Sollum area||90a Squadriglia|
|25/06/41||1||Hurricane (n)||Shared destroyed||MC.200||Malta||90a Squadriglia|
|5||27/06/41||morning||1||Hurricane (o)||Destroyed||MC.200||90-2||Valetta area||90a Squadriglia|
|27/06/41||morning||1/7||Hurricane (o)||Shared destroyed||MC.200||90-2||Valetta area||90a Squadriglia|
|6||11/07/41||1||Hurricane (p)||Destroyed||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1||Hurricane (p)||Shared destroyed||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1||Wellington||Shared destroyed on the ground||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1||Wellington||Shared destroyed on the ground||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1||Wellington||Shared destroyed on the ground||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1||Wellington||Shared destroyed on the ground||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1||Wellington||Shared destroyed on the ground||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1||Blenheim||Shared damaged on the ground||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1||Blenheim||Shared damaged on the ground||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|11/07/41||1||Blenheim||Shared damaged on the ground||MC.200||Hal Far||90a Squadriglia|
|7||17/07/41||mid-morning||1||Hurricane (q)||Destroyed||MC.200||Capo Passero||90a Squadriglia|
|19/08/41||1/2||Hurricane (r)||Shared destroyed||MC.200||Sicily||90a Squadriglia|
|9||04/09/41||1||Hurricane||Destroyed||MC.200||Capo Passero||90a Squadriglia|
|10||09/05/42||1||Spitfire (s)||Destroyed||MC.202||Hal Far||84a Squadriglia|
|11||15/05/42||1||Spitfire (t)||Destroyed||MC.202||St. Paul’s Bay||84a Squadriglia|
|15/05/42||1||Spitfire (t)||Damaged||MC.202||Malta||84a Squadriglia|
|12||04/06/42||13:20-14:15||1||P-40 (u)||Destroyed||MC.202||MM7797/84-0||Bir Hacheim||84a Squadriglia|
|08/06/42||14:20-15:10||1||P-40 (v)||Destroyed||MC.202||MM7797/84-0||Bir Hacheim||84a Squadriglia|
|12/06/42||09:20-10:40||1/3||P-40 (w)||Shared destroyed||MC.202||NE El Adem||84a Squadriglia|
|17/06/42||08:55-09:35||1/5||P-40 (x)||Shared destroyed||MC.202||MM7797/84-0||Sidi Rezegh||84a Squadriglia|
|04/07/42||09:30-10:30||1/12||P-40 (y)||Shared destroyed||MC.202||El Alamein area||84a Squadriglia|
|04/07/42||09:30-10:30||1||Enemy fighter (y)||Damaged||MC.202||El Alamein area||84a Squadriglia|
|13||04/07/42||16:00-17:30||1||P-40 (z)||Destroyed||MC.202||MM7896/84-8||El Alamein area||84a Squadriglia|
|09/07/42||12:30-14:00||1/4||P-40 (aa)||Shared destroyed||MC.202||MM7789/84-5||El Alamein||84a Squadriglia|
|14||10/07/42||08:55-10:10||1||P-40 (bb)||Destroyed||MC.202||MM7901||El Alamein area||84a Squadriglia|
|16/07/42||10:35-12:00||1/4||P-40 (cc)||Shared destroyed||MC.202||MM7901/84-3||Deir el Qattara area||84a Squadriglia|
|18/07/42||06:45-08:15||1/2||P-40 (dd)||Shared destroyed||MC.202||MM7803/84-1||Burg el Arab area||84a Squadriglia|
|24/07/42||17:30-18:40||1||P-40 (ee)||Probable||MC.202||MM7896/84-8||El Alamein||84a Squadriglia|
|15||05/08/42||09:40-11:20||1||P-40 (ff)||Destroyed||MC.202||MM7905||El Hammam - El Amirya||84a Squadriglia|
|11/08/42||10:32||1||P-40 (gg)||Probable||MC.202||El Hammam – Burg el Arab||84a Squadriglia|
|16||31/08/42||13:40-15:10||1||Spitfire (hh)||Destroyed||MC.202||MM7901/84-3||Deir El Hima||84a Squadriglia|
|17||02/09/42||06:10-07:45||1||Boston (ii)||Destroyed||MC.202||MM7901/84-3||Bir Mseilikh area||84a Squadriglia|
|18||02/09/42||06:10-07:45||1||Spitfire (jj)||Destroyed||MC.202||MM7901/84-3||Bir Mseilikh area||84a Squadriglia|
|03/09/42||11:40-13:20||1/8||Hurricane||Shared destroyed||MC.202||MM7901/84-3||El Alamein||84a Squadriglia|
|20/10/42||11:00-12:30||1||Hudson||Damaged||MC.202||MM7905/84-4||Fuka area||84a Squadriglia|
|23/10/42||13:55-15:45||1/2||P-40||Shared destroyed||MC.202||MM7919/84-12||Fuka||84a Squadriglia|
|24/10/42||09:00-10:10||1/3||P-40||Shared destroyed||MC.202||MM7919/84-12||W El Alamein||84a Squadriglia|
|24/10/42||09:00-10:10||1/6||B-25||Shared destroyed||MC.202||MM7919/84-12||W El Alamein||84a Squadriglia|
|20||05/07/43||1||Spitfire (kk)||Destroyed||MC.202||S. Salvatore||10o Gruppo|
|05/07/43||1/4||Enemy bomber||Shared damaged||MC.202||Gerbini area||10o Gruppo|
|05/07/43||1/4||Enemy bomber||Shared damaged||MC.202||Gerbini area||10o Gruppo|
|05/07/43||1/4||Enemy bomber||Shared damaged||MC.202||Gerbini area||10o Gruppo|
Biplane victories: 4 and 17 shared destroyed, 5 shared probably destroyed, 3 and 1 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 20 and 52 shared destroyed, 2 and 5 shared probably destroyed, at least 6 and 4 shared damaged, 5 shared destroyed and 3 shared damaged on the ground.
(a) Actually shot down by Tenente Giovanni Guiducci. This loss has not been possible to verify with RAF records.
(b) Sunderland L2160/X of 230 Squadron, which returned to base damaged.
(c) Possibly claimed in combat with Blenheims from 55 Squadron, which reported one damaged aircraft.
(d) Claim not verified in the Squadriglia diary.
(e) Claimed in combat with two Blenheim Mk.IFs of 30 Squadron and a Blenheim MK.IV of 113 Squadron. One aircraft of 30 Squadron was lost with its crew while the aircraft from 113 Squadron was badly damaged.
(f) Claimed in combat with bombers probably from 55 and 211 and/or 113 Squadrons and probably Gladiators from 112 Squadron. One Blenheim from 211 Squadron seems to have force-landed and was lost in this combat. None of other RAF units reported any losses or claims. The Italian fighters from the 9o and 10o Gruppi totally claimed 3 Blenheims and 2 and 2 probable Gladiators.
(g) This claim can’t be verified with RAF sources.
(h) This claim can’t be verified with RAF records.
(i) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 274 and 73 Squadron. 90a Squadriglia claimed one shot down Hurricane for one damaged CR.42. The RAF claimed one damaged CR.42 while suffering one force-landed Hurricane (V6737) from 73 Squadron due to lack of fuel.
(j) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 274 Squadron, which claimed one CR.42 while suffering one damaged Hurricane. 10o Gruppo claimed one, one probable and one damaged Hurricanewhile suffering one damaged CR.42.
(k) Possibly claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed one damaged CR.42 without any losses. The CR.42s from 10o claimed two probables without losses.
(l) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron, which claimed 2 and 3 probables without any losses, and possibly Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed a damaged CR.42 during the day. The 23o Gruppo claimed 1 Hurricane and 1 Gladiator and the 10o Gruppo claimed 2 and 2 probable Gladiators while losing one CR.42 and getting five more damaged.
(m) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed two probable CR.42s and one damaged without losses. The 10o and 23o Gruppi claimed 3 Hurricanes and 1 probably shot down with another 10 damaged while suffering 3 damaged CR.42s.
(n) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 46 Squadron, which claimed three victories without suffering any losses. The Italian fighter claimed one and one probalbes while losing two MC.200s.
(o) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 46 Squadron, which claimed five victories without losses. The 10o Gruppo claimed three and one shared Hurricanes and four probables while losing two MC.200s.
(p) 10o Gruppo totally claimed four Hurricanes. RAF lost none.
(q) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 249 and 185 Squadrons. 10o Gruppo totally claimed four Hurricanes and two probables for the loss of two MC.200s. 249 Squadron claimed two MC.200 destroyed and one damaged for the loss of one Hurricane from 249 Squadron; Sergeant Maurice Guest (Hurricane Z2818) being killed.
(r) Claimed together with Sergente Ceoletta in combat with 126 Squadron. 126 Squadron claimed 4 destroyed and 1 probable and 10o Gruppo claimed 2 destroyed and one probable. In fact neither side sustained any losses.
(s) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 126 Squadron which claimed three Z.1007s, one and one damaged MC.202 without losses. The 4o Stormo claimed three Spitfires and one damaged while getting one MC.202 damaged. One Z.1007 from the 210a Squadriglia B.T. was also damaged.
(t) 4o Stormo claimed four Spitfires, 2 probables and 1 damaged. RAF didn’t suffer any losses in this combat.
(u) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 and 274 Squadrons, which didn’t claim anything nor lost anything. The 10o Gruppo claimed six fighters without losses.
(v) Probably claimed in combat with Tomahawks from 4 and 5 SAAF Squadrons, which claimed 2 damaged while getting 1 P-40 damaged. The 10o Gruppo claimed 3 P-40s and 1 probable without losses.
(w) Claimed in combat with 145 and 73 Squadrons which claimed 1 destroyed and 2 damaged without losses. 10o Gruppo claimed 2 P-40s without losses.
(x) Claimed in combat with P-40s from 4 SAAF, 5 SAAF and 260 Squadrons, which claimed 1 damaged fighter while losing 3 Tomahawks (2 pilots KIA). The 10o Gruppo and 2./JG 27 claimed 7 fighters without losses.
(y) Claimed in combat with at least Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed 1 and 2 probable MC.202s while losing 1 Hurricane (pilot KiA) and getting 3 more damaged. 10o Gruppo claimed 4 fighters, 2 probables and at least 4 damaged without losses.
(z) Not verified with Allied records.
(aa) This claim can’t be verified with Allied records.
(bb) Claimed in combat with Hurricane IIcs from 274 Squadron, which claimed 2 probable fighters and 7 damaged with one Hurricane damaged. The 10o Gruppo claimed 8 P-40s without losses.
(cc) Claimed in combat with fighters from 213, 238, 250 and 1 SAAF Squadrons, which claimed 2 destroyed and 2 probables while losing 1 Hurricane (pilot KIA) and getting 2 fighters damaged. 10o Gruppo claimed 4 fighters destroyed while suffering 4 damaged MC.202s.
(dd) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 80 and 274 Squadrons, which claimed 5 damaged fighters while losing 2 Hurricanes. 10o Gruppo claimed 4 fighters destroyed without losses.
(ee) Claimed in combat with 260 Squadron, which lost 1 Kittyhawk (pilot safe). 9o and 10o Gruppi claimed 3 probable P-40s without losses.
(ff) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 1 SAAF and 80 Squadrons and Kittyhawks from 260 Squadron, which lost 2 Hurricanes and got 1 more Hurricane and 1 Kittyhawk damaged while claiming 1 enemy fighter destroyed, 1 probably and 4 damaged. 10o Gruppo and 4./JG 27 claimed 5 P-40s and 1 probably without losses.
(gg) Claimed in combat with Tomahawks from 5 SAAF Squadron, which claimed 1 MC.202 without losses. 10o Gruppo claimed 1 P-40 and 1 probable without losses.
(hh) Can’t be verified with any Allied losses.
(ii) Can’t be verified with any Allied losses.
(jj) Probably claimed in combat with Spitfire Vcs from 92 Squadron, which claimed 1 MC.202 and 1 Bf 109 destroyed and 3 Bf 109s damaged while losing 2 Spitfires (1 pilot KIA). 10o Gruppo claimed 6 Spitfires and 1 Boston while losing 1 MC.202 (pilot KIA).
(kk) This claim can’t be verified with RAF records.
2o Stormo - Note storiche dal 1925 al 1975 - Gino Strada, 1975 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
33 Squadron Operations Record Book kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
55 Squadron Operations Record Book
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
Air War over Spain - Jesus Salas Larrazabal, 1974 Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0521-4
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Ali in Spagna - Giuseppe Federico Ghergo and Angelo Emiliani, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Ali nella tragedia - Giulio Lazzati, 1970 Mursia, Milan, ISBN 88-425-2132-9, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - Giovanni Massimello, 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan
Aviatori Italiani - Franco Pagliano, 1964 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Aviobrigada X - Alfredo Lagoluso, 2001 no. 97, 98 and 99 of Storia Militare (October-December 2001), kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
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 77a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 78a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 82a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 84a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 90a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Diario Storico 91a Squadriglia kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Eagles over Gazala: Air Battles in North Africa May-June 1942 – Michele Palermo, IBN Editore, ISBN (10) 88-7565-168-X
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell' A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
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
Gli Assi Italiani Della Caccia - Santi Corvaja kindly provided by Santiago Flores
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
Gloster Gladiator in action - W. A. Harrison, 2003 Squadron/Signal Publications, Carrollton, ISBN 0-89747-450-3
GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO
Guerra di Spagna e Aviazione Italiana - Ferdinando Pedriali, 1992 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Hurricanes over Malta - Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2001 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-91-8
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Il 23o Gruppo Caccia - Nicola Malizia, 1974 Bizzarri, Roma
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
L’8oGruppo caccia in due conflitti mondiali - Giuseppe Pesce, 1974 S.T.E.M. Mucchi, Modena kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
La Battaglie Aeree In Africa Settentrionale: Novembre-Dicembre 1941 – Michele Palermo, IBN, ISBN 88-7565-102-7
Le giovani aquile - A. Trizzino, 1972 kindly provided by Giovanni Massimello
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
Soviet airmen in the Spanish civil war 1936-1939 - Paul Whelan, 2014 Schiffer Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7643-0
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
Storia di 10.000 aeroplani – Franco Pagliano, 2003 Ugo Mursia, Milano kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Sunderland Squadrons of World War 2 – Jon Lake, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-024-2 kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Gloster Gladiator - Francis K. Mason, 1964 Macdonald & Co. Ltd. London
The Legion Condor - Karl Ries and Hans Ring, 1992 Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0-88740-339-5
Those Other Eagles – Christopher Shores, 2004 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904010-88-1
USAAF (Mediterranean Theater) Credits For The Destruction Of Enemy Aircraft In Air-To-Air Combat World War 2 - Frank Olynyk, 1987 Victory List No.6
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Woody - A Fighter Pilot's Album - Hugh A. Halliday, 1987 Canav Books, Toronto, ISBN 0-9690703-8-1
Additional info kindly provided by Ferdinando D’Amico, Stefano Lazzaro, Giovanni Massimello, Flavio Silvestri and Ludovico Slongo.