Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Renzo Maggini

12 June 1908 - 8 December 1940

Renzo Maggini was born in Firenze on 12 June 1908.

Tenente Maggini left the command of the 368a Squadriglia, 151o Gruppo, in December 1937, when Tenente Giuseppe Aurili took command of the unit (from January 1938).

On 1 July 1939, Capitano Maggini took command of the 90a Squadriglia, 4o Stormo.

When Italy declared war on the Great Britain and France on 10 June 1940, he still served as the CO of 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 Maggini (CO), Tenente Franco 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 Maggini, Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco 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 17:12 on 28 June, a formation of fifteen Blenheims consisting of nine from 55 Squadron (led by Flight Lieutenant R. B. Cox) and probably six from 211 Squadron made a surprise attack on Tobruk T2 with very good results. The aircraft of the 90a Squadriglia suffered worst and even if only one CR.42 was burnt out completely, not a single plane of the Squadriglia escaped unscathed. Two aircraft of the 84a Squadriglia and some of the 91a Squadriglia were damaged to (RS). It seems that some Ro.37s were damaged (RS) as well in this attack and many fuel drums burned. In fact 55 Squadron’s returning crews reported that one or more bombs hit what was probably a bulk petrol store as dense smoke rose to a height of 1000 feet..
A 90a Squadriglia trio of pilots (Capitano Maggini, Sergente Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Silvio Crociati) was on alarm duty and, notwithstanding the bombing, tried to take off. The three pilots were showered a rain of splinters. Maggini was seriously wounded in the leg while he was trying to jump into his aircraft and wounded with him was Aviere Scelto Francesco Macina, who was following his commander with the compressed air bottle necessary to start the Fiat A.74 RC38 engine of the CR 42. Crociati was wounded by a splinter and sprayed with burning fuel. Taken to Tobruk hospital in critical condition he died during the night. Together with him five personnel of the 90a Squadriglia died (Primo Aviere Martino Cardascia, Aviere Scelto Rocco Madri, Aviere Giuseppe Bassanini, Aviere Pietro Cappelletti, Aviere Nando Fuini) and six soldiers of the Army. Monterumici was also wounded and didn’t succeed in taking off. Together with him two personnel of the 90a Squadriglia were wounded (Primo Aviere di Governo Ugo Nante and Aviere Alessandro Balistro) and one from the 84a Squadriglia (Aviere Armiere Fausto Mainardis).
Capitano Maggini was replaced by Tenente Giovanni Guiducci as CO of the 90a Squadriglia.
This bombing attack represented the end of operations for the 10o Gruppo because together with the destruction of the 90a Squadriglia, the Blenheims also destroyed all the spare parts for the CR.42s of the Gruppo that just had arrived in T2. With aircraft already worn out by the first twenty days of operations and no spare parts at all left, the Gruppo had to withdraw.

Capitano Maggini was partially recovered from his wounds and returned at the head of the 90a Squadriglia on 11 October, replacing Tenente Giovanni Guiducci.

On 2 December, Tenente Giovanni Guiducci again took temporarily command of the 90a Squadriglia after Capitano Maggini.

At 17:55 on 8 December, twelve British bombers identified as Bristol Blenheims, arrived over Benina airfield without any alarm. From 1500 metres altitude they attacked the airstrip, the hangars and the dispersed fighters. Despite the low visibility (due to the clouds covering the twilight lights and the rising moon), Capitano Giuseppe Aurili, CO of the 90a Squadriglia, took off alone, avoiding many incendiary bombs that were burning amidst the airstrip. When he reached the same height as the British bombers, which were starting on a second pass, Aurili attacked and fired on the first two vics of enemy bombers (six aircraft). One of the bombers was seen to crash south of Regima by two land observers.
At 18:40, Aurili tried to land in total absence of light. Arriving too fast he lost his landing gear and crash-landed. He was slightly wounded in the face and the CR.42 was RD.
Some minutes after Aurili’s landing, Benina suffered another heavy air attack made by a reportedly 20 Vickers Wellingtons attacking in subsequent waves until 20:30. The damage to the airstrip and that suffered by the fighters of the alarm section prevented any scramble against these raiders.
The British bombers were in fact long-range Blenheim Mk.IVs of 113 Squadron, followed by seven Wellingtons of 37 Squadron led by Wing Commander Merton and Squadron Leader Collard, eight bombers of 38 Squadron led by Wing Commander Thomson who flew aboard P9250, which was piloted by Squadron Leader Gosnell and finally six Wellingtons from 70 Squadron led by Wing Commander Webb. The British bombers attacked from 19:00 to 20:00, claiming buildings destroyed and aircraft bombed and machine-gunned from low altitude. They were heavily laden with 1750lbs of bombs and small containers of 20lbs “F” bombs, and 4 and 25lbs incendiary bombs. In what was the first operational sortie in the Middle East for the newly arrived bombers of 37 and 38 Squadrons, negligible AA opposition was recorded and in fact no losses were suffered and all the bombers were back at bases at between 23:00 and 00:15. Only an aircraft from 38 Squadron (“E” piloted by Pilot Officer Pascall) broke its tail wheel while landing at ALG 60 and was left there.
In the end, the 90a Squadriglia suffered five planes RS (apart from the RD fighter of Aurili). The SM 79s of the 33o Gruppo suffered heavily with one bombers written off and seven slightly damaged (RS) together with an S.81 (possibly an aircraft from the 54o Gruppo). Two hangars were also hit and two men wounded.
Aurili received a written commendation for his behaviour during this attack and his scramble under the bombs (curiously while trying the same kind of action his predecessor, Capitano Maggini, suffered the wounds that finally prevented him to take part in the campaign).
At 21:30, Capitano Maggini and Capitano Aurili started from Benina to reach Benghazi in a Fiat 1100 staff car of the Army and suffered a serious car accident in the process. Maggini died on the night between the 9 and 10 December because of the fractures suffered during this accident, while Aurili remained critically wounded (but eventually survived).

At the time of his death Maggini was credited with 1 shared victory, this one claimed while flying the Fiat CR.42.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940              
  14/06/40 1/4 Gladiator (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Buq Buq 90a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed.
(a) Actually shot down by Tenente Giovanni Guiducci. This loss has not been possible to verify with RAF records.

Sources:
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
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
Gli Assi Italiani Della Caccia - Santi Corvaja kindly provided by Santiago Flores
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
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
Le giovani aquile – Antonio Trizzino, 1972 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Ministero della Difesa - Banca Dati sulle sepolture dei Caduti in Guerra
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma
The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history – Graham Warner, 2002 Crécy Publishing Limited, Manchester, ISBN 0-947554-92-0
Additional information kindly provided by Ferdinando D’Amico and Ludovico Slongo




Last modified 07 May 2012