Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Orlando Mandolini

24 October 1915 - June 1996

Date Decoration Note
??/??/43 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare 1940-43
??/??/40 Croce di guerra al valor militare O.M.S.
??/??/?? Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse 1940-43

Orlando Mandolini was born on 24 October 1915 and was from Magione (Perugia).

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

On 7 July 1940, Sottotenente Orlando Mandolini was officially posted to the 93a Squadriglia, 8o Gruppo, 2o Stormo C.T., from the 52o Stormo. It seems however that he had arrived earlier since he flew a combat mission with the Squadriglia on 3 July.
The 93a Squadriglia was operating in North Africa and equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 3 July, three CR.42s from the 94a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Tadini, Sergente Maggiore Trento Cecchi and Sergente Maggiore Danilo Billi) and three from the 93a Squadriglia (Tenente Gioacchino Bissoli, Sottotenente Mandolini and Sergente Roberto Lendaro) scrambled from T2. They intercepted a Short Sunderland, which was heading for Tobruk. The three 93a Squadriglia pilots returned, claiming to have damaged the aircraft with the use of 650 rounds of ammo and that the same aircraft was immediately after attacked by one of the three planes of the other Squadriglia and shot down off Bardia. Tenente Tadini on the other hand claimed the destruction of this aircraft in collaboration with the 93a Squadriglia pilots.
It seems that they had intercepted Sunderland L5807/R from 228 Squadron piloted by Flight Lieutenant D. C. McKinley DFC and Pilot Officer J. C. J Lylian, which had taken off at 14:15 for an anti-submarine sortie around Tobruk. The flying-boat returned at 20:15, reporting being attacked by Italian aircraft, one of which was believed hit by return fire. The Sunderland reported no damage at all but the day after, back at Alexandria, it was taken up the slip for maintenance operations.

At 17:10 on 19 July, six CR.42s scrambled from T2. Three were from the 93a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Mandolini, Sergente Maggiore Italo Bertinelli and Sergente Maggiore Roberto Lendaro) and the other three were from the 78a Squadriglia (Tenente Ippolito Lalatta, Sottotenente Natale Cima and Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli). They intercepted a formation of four British Blenheims. The three CR.42s from the 78a Squadriglia claimed damage to one of the Blenheims with the use of 500 rounds of ammunition. The Blenheim was later assessed as shot down over the sea off Marsa Lugh by land observers. Sottotenente Mandolini claimed damage to a bomber with the use of 150 rounds but it is not clear if it was the same as claimed by Tenente Lalatta, Sottotenente Cima and Sergente Maggiore Mechelli.
It seems probable that they had intercepted four aircraft of 211 Squadron since Blenheims from 202 Group were mounting a series of raids aimed at sinking the Italian cruiser Giovanni Dalle Bande Nere, which was believed to be in Tobruk. 211 Squadron participated in the day’s actions with nine Blenheims that took off in independent flights without being able to discover the Italian cruiser and instead bombed Tobruk harbour from 18:13 to 18:30. After that the enemy AA fire had stopped firing on them, the last flight of four aircraft was attacked by three CR.42s, which were 1000 feet above them. Two of the Italian fighters dived at the British leader in wide vic formation out of the sun from port quarter and appeared to overshoot. They continued their dive and lost so much height that they could not catch up again. The Italian leader (possibly the Spanish Civil War veteran Lalatta) did a very pretty half roll and dived vertically to the attack. Interestingly, the returning British pilots reported that in their opinion, this half-roll had been not necessary to bring the CR.42 on his target. The Italian leader didn’t continue his downward dive but zoomed sharply to a position under the wing of the No.2 machine. The gunner of No.3 Blenheim reported that it would be impossible to shoot down this enemy aircraft without grave risk of shooting down No.2 aircraft, and despite all efforts to dislodge the CR.42, it succeeded in staying in this spot. The face of the Italian pilot could be seen quite plainly. His intention obviously was to tilt the nose of his machine up so as to give the leader of the formation a burst, but the high speed of the Blenheims made this impossible without falling off into the range of the rear gunners. Finally, when Bardia was passed, he disengaged.
Another unit participating in attacks over Tobruk at around this hour was 55 Squadron (with eight aircraft), which didn’t record losses nor interceptions (four or five enemy fighters were seen taking off). It could also be possible that Blenheims from 113 Squadron were present.

On 20 Decmber, Tenente Arnoldo Laurenzi, Tenente Camillo Luglio, Sottotenente Mandolini and Sottotenente Ennio Grifoni were assigned to the 91a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo.

On 25 December, Sottotenente Mandolini of the 91a Squadriglia carried out a strafing attack of British armoured cars, stopping four of them.

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 Franco 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 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.

At around 16.00 on 28 December, three CR.42s of the 91a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Camillo Luglio, Sottotenente Mandolini and Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali carried out a strafing attack against British armoured vehicles in the Gasr El Arid area (between Tobruk and El Adem). Sottotenente Mandolini was the first to discover some camouflaged armoured vehicles and dived to attack. While coming back for a second pass he saw the plane of Sottotenente Caporali flying overturned very close to the ground, with the pilot struggling to recover a normal attitude of flight. Caporali didn’t succeed and his fighter crashed into the ground. Mandolini remained flying over the wreck to see if Caporali was able to come out of it and then, after a while, continued the strafing attack burning an armoured vehicle from which four soldiers were seen to escape.
Back at base Caporali was presumed hit by AA and KIA.
They had attacked 3Tp of “B” Sqn. 11th Hussars which lost Tpr. Sutton and had two men wounded claiming the shooting down of a fighter. Earlier an unidentified attack by three CR 42 had already destroyed the two armoured cars of 5 Tp.

At 07:00 on 29 December, Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Camillo Luglio and Sottotenente Mandolini of the 91a Squadriglia, performed an armed reconnaissance in the Gasr El Arid area discovering the remains of Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali’s CR.42. Such were its conditions that it was reputed impossible that Caporali had survived.
Near the wreck, there were still some armoured vehicles. Two of them were stopped by the CR.42s and a truck was burned (with the use of 1100 rounds). They were Tp.1 with a Ford utility that was damaged but not destroyed. At 08:20, the three pilots were back.
A rescue mission had been planned the day before by Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, who, flying a Ca.133, would have landed in the desert to save Caporali if the reconnaissance had been able to locate him. Following the report from Guiducci and Mandolini, the mission was cancelled.

At 15:00 on 3 January 1941, Maggiore Tito Falconi led four CR.42s of the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Claudio Solaro, Tenente Gino Battaggion, Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani and Sergente Cesare Sironi), five of the 74a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Pinna, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca and Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli) and seven of the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Maresciallo Luigi Pasquetti and Sergente Leo Mannucci) in an escort mission for SM 79s attacking mechanized vehicles around Bardia. Fighters from the 10o Gruppo were also present including Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Mario Veronesi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi and Sergente Luciano Perdoni of the 84a Squadriglia and Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sottotenente Mandolini, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Alfredo Sclavo of the 90a Squadriglia. Hurricanes were intercepted and two of them were claimed damaged by the 70a Squadriglia’s pilots. During the return journey, the CR.42s went down to strafe, claiming three armoured vehicles.
They landed back at 17:20.

On 22 December 1941, Mandolini was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo) with the rank of Sottotenente.

On 15 May 1942, Tenente Mandolini took temporarily command of the 91a Squadriglia, after Capitano Alberto Argenton.

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 Franco Lucchini (84a Squadriglia), Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (90a Squadriglia) and Tenente Mandolini (91a Squadriglia).

In poor weather conditions between 05:05-06:30 on 6 June, Tenente Mandolini was at the head of seven MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo (two from the 84a Squadriglia, one from the 90a Squadriglia and four from the 91a Squadriglia) on a free sweep between Acroma and Bel Harmat. Before arriving over the objective at an altitude of 3,500m, Mandolini spotted a formation of about twelve enemy fighters 1,000m lower. These were attacked from behind and the air combat lasted for five minutes with two enemy fighters claimed shot down, one probably and three damaged (780 rounds fired).
Tenente Mandolini (91a Squadriglia) claimed one P-40 over Bir Hacheim and fired on another (80 rounds)
Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli (91a Squadriglia) claimed one P-40 over Bir Hacheim
Tenente Italo Alessandrini (90a Squadriglia) fired on three Spitfires
Maresciallo Luigi Bignami (84a Squadriglia) fired on a P-40
Between 06:10-07:05, eleven Kittyhawks of 250 Squadron (one had returned early) were on a reconnaissance mission between Acroma and Knightsbridge. They came up against a reported four Bf 109s and eight MC.202s. In the ensuing combat over Acroma, Squadron Leader Michael Judd (Kittyhawk Ia AL157/LC-B) claimed one damaged Bf 109 while Sergeant Desmond Cormack (AK799) and Sergeant F. M. Twemlow (AK921/T) claimed a damaged MC.202 each. No fighters from 250 Squadron was damaged.
Sergeant Twemlow (AK921) was on top cover at 4500 feet flying right under the clouds. Proceeding west, he saw a single MC.202 coming out of the clouds and flying on his starboard slightly below heading east. It seems that it was a decoy that had not been attacked, and so the latter pulled up into the clouds. Immediately four MC.202s (though their identity was not ascertained) came down approximately from the same position and attacked in pairs. The Kittyhawks made a turnabout and the attack was broken off. They then turned west again. Another attack of four MC.202s followed and again the British pilots turned about. Twemlow saw a Macchi attacking a Kittyhawk and turned on him for a frontal quarter attack, hitting him on the fuselage. The Macchi turned and dived, presenting its belly; Twemlow delivered two more short bursts, seeing strikes on its underside, and the Macchi broke off the engagement, diving slightly. Following this, a general dogfight developed.
Squadron Leader Judd was flying at 3000 feet when enemy fighters were reported at 6 o’clock. He saw the engagement of the top cover and attacked a Bf l09, shooting from 400 yards with no visible effects. Then he was attacked from above by a MC.202 which followed him for two complete turns. Finally, the Macchi dived, tightening its turn and opening fire, with its bullets going behind the Kittyhawk’s tail. As the Macchi straightened out, Judd turned the other way so the Macchi crossed behind his tail. He got in a two second burst while he was climbing away almost vertically and was hit on the starboard wing. Then the Macchi entered the clouds.

On 15 June, Capitano Carlo Ruspoli replaced Tenente Mandolini as commander of the 91a Squadriglia.

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 Franco 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 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.
Lieutenant Sydney Reinders (Tomahawk IIb AN394/KJ-N) reported:
“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.
It seems that about the same moment that 5 SAAF Squadron was attacked, 260 Squadron was also attacked by six Bf l09s but to no effect.
Two 145 Squadron pilots who were patrolling over the airfield were also involved (09:25-10:35). Pilot Officer Weber pursued a MC.202 from Gambut up to Rezegh, and then he saw two Bf l09s near Anarid and fired at them but to no effect.
It seems that the section of Macchis at an altitude of 4000/4,500 metres attacked the bombers and 4 SAAF Squadron, while the one higher up would have attacked 5 SAAF Squadron and presumably 260 Squadron. Maggiore Maddalena, Capitano Lucchini, and Sergente Buttazzi fired at the bombers, though with little success. In this case they should have managed to reach them due to the small size of the 233 Wing escort. At a certain point the two Spitfires intervened.
It is more difficult to explain the involvement of the Germans, either because the Italian sources do not mention their presence or due to the number of Axis planes reported by the Commonwealth pilots that matches only the number of the Italian formation. Nevertheless, we cannot rule out their presence possibly against 5 SAAF and 260 Squadrons. There is also the significant discrepancy in the estimate of the planes encountered by pilots of the 10o Gruppo and the enemy fighters recorded. 2 SAAF Squadron did not report the time of the missions during the day, and so they could have been present even if the notes were limited to just seeing a MC.202.

In order to support Rommel’s last advance, at 05:25 on 31 August 1942, 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 Franco 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 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 09:30 on 11 September, twelve MC.202s from the 90a and the 91a Squadriglie (six from each squadriglia), led respectively by Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini and Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, were scrambled and vectored to the El Imayid area. They intercepted 15 bomb-laden P-40s at 2000 m, covered by ten Spitfires at 4000 m over El Alamein-El Hammam. While the 91a Squadriglia attacked the P-40s (which jettisoned their bombs in the sea) and the 90a Squadriglia attacked the Spitfires, eight other Spitfires dived unseen on them from 6000 m. A hard fight began and lasted for over twenty minutes until 60 km east of El Alamein. Piccolomini, Sergente Maggiore Guerriero Silvestri (91a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Luciano Barsotti (91a Squadriglia) claimed a P-40 each, while Sottotenente Mandolini (91a Squadriglia) claimed a Spitfire. Another Spitfire was claimed as a shared probable by Tenente Luigi Padovani, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini, Sottotenente Sforza Libera and Sergente Maggiore Bruno Bortoletti (all from the 90a Squadriglia). Many others were claimed damaged. Five Macchis were hit, but returned back to base; Savini’s and Libera’s (MM7801/90-10) aircraft were damaged, as was Barsotti’s (MM7907/91-7), who also was lightly wounded, as was Padovani (MM7894), who received a bullet in his left leg. Bortoletti, with his Folgore riddled by a Spitfire, made an emergency landing near Hisiyet Busata. The Italian fighters were back at base at 10:45.
At 10:05 eight Spitfire Vbs of 601 Squadron and four of 145 Squadron again provided cover to 33 Squadron, this time the unit’s Hurricanes escorting a TacR aircraft over the front. The formation was attacked by Axis fighters south of El Alamein, Squadron Leader ‘Pete’ Matthews and Flight Lieutenant C. H. Saunders of 145 Squadron each claiming an MC.202, while Flying Officer R. G. Bates (BP847/Z) and Flying Officer P. B. Laing-Meason (AB186) each claiming damage to two Macchis. 601 Squadron’s Flight Lieutenant J. H. Curry (BR481/K) claimed a Bf 109 as a probable and a Macchi damaged, with a further claim for a Macchi damaged also submitted by Flight Sergeant E. G. Shea (BP988/N). The WDAF formation appears to have been engaged with the Macchis of the 10o Gruppo. Amongst the Allied units, Sergeant W. E. Douglas of 33 Squadron crash-landed in flames with BP474/N and he was wounded, whereas Flight Sergeant R. Downing’s 601 Squadron Spitfire Vc (BR113) was damaged as was Flight Lieutenant Lance Wade’s Hurricane (HL661/J).

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 Mandolini (91a Squadriglia), one P-40 was claimed by Capitano Franco Lucchini and a second P-40 was claimed by Tenente Paolo Berti.
The fighters landed again at 10:20

The 9o and 10o Gruppi flew another mission over Fuka between 15:15 and 16:30 on 20 October, claiming six enemy aircraft without losses. Tenente Mandolini (91a Squadriglia) claimed one Spitfire and a Boston shared with Tenente Antonio Canfora (97a Squadriglia) and Tenente Giovanni Barcaro (97a Squadriglia). Tenente Barcaro also claimed a P-40 while two Spitfires were claimed by Tenente Canfora. A second Boston was claimed as shared among four pilots: Maresciallo Antonio Sacchi (96a Squadriglia), Maresciallo Fiorenzo Milella (96a Squadriglia), Maresciallo Manlio Olivetti (96a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Alfredo Bombardini (97a Squadriglia).

On 30 October 1942, the 4o Stormo CT and 159o Gruppo Assalto were ordered to move to Martuba. Five pilots of the 4o Stormo led by Tenente Mandolini, ferried five war-weary MC.202s to Bu Amud. There they received the order to fly them to Martuba. Whilst on a truck heading to their parked aircraft, the pilots were strafed by Beaufighters attacking the airfield. Tenente Mandolini suffered serious wounds and was taken to Tobruk hospital; Maresciallo Salvatore Mechelli and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato were also injured.
Five Beaufighters from 252 Squadron strafed El Adem airfield at 18:30, crews reporting twelve Ju 52/3ms and two or three MC.202s on the ground there, six or eight of the transports with their engines running. Four were claimed destroyed on the ground with five more claimed as damaged. These claims were shared between Sergeant A. B. McKeown (with navigator/wireless operator Sergeant W. M. Driscoll in Beaufighter Ic X8068) and Sergeant D. R. Meldrum (with navigator/wireless operator Sergeant F. Hawthorne in Beaufighter Ic T5036). These two pilots also claimed a shared probable Ju 52/3m in the air. Two more were spotted in the air after take-off. One of them was shot down by Sergeant J. M. Stephan (with navigator/wireless operator Sergeant S. R. Whear in Beaufighter Ic T5046) west of El Adem landing ground while the second was shot down by Pilot Officer R. S. Watson (with navigator/wireless operator Sergeant G. D. Hudson in Beaufighter VI T5110) over the airfield. T5046 was damaged by Flak and abandoned north of Edcu.
Italian records noted that three Ju 52/3ms had been set on fire on the ground. Only one Ju 52/3m has been identified when WNr. 6591 from IV./KGzbV 1 was destroyed at El Adem with the pilot Oberfeldwebel Georg Probst and air gunner Unteroffizier Gerhard Schneider were KiA (two more in the crew were safe).
In the meantime, at Fuka, the 4o Stormo handed over its few remaining serviceable MC.202s to the 3o Stormo and prepared to retreat. Both air and ground echelons moved on motor transports towards Martuba, which was reached on 1 November.

In 1943, he served in the 4o Stormo.

Mandolini ended the war with 1 shared biplane victory and a total of 7.

Mandolini passed away in June 1996.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  03/07/40 14:15-20:15 1/3 Sunderland (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Tobruk area 93a Squadriglia
  19/07/40 17:10- 1 Blenheim (b) Damaged Fiat CR.42   Tobruk area 93a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/19 Hurricane (c) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 91a Squadriglia
  28/12/40 ~16:00 1 Armoured car (d) Destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Gasr El Arid area 91a Squadriglia
1 06/06/42 05:05-06:30 1 P-40 (e) Destroyed MC.202   Bir Hacheim 91a Squadriglia
2 17/06/42 08:55-09:35 1 P-40 (f) Destroyed MC.202   Sidi Rezegh 91a Squadriglia
3 11/09/42 09:30-10:45 1 Spitfire (g) Destroyed MC.202   El Alamein – El Hammam 91a Squadriglia
4 20/10/42 09:15-10:20 1 Hurricane Destroyed MC.202   Fuka 91a Squadriglia
5 20/10/42 15:15-16:30 1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   Fuka 91a Squadriglia
  20/10/42 15:15-16:30 1/3 Boston Shared destroyed MC.202   Fuka 91a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed, 1 and 1 shared damaged, 1 armoured car destroyed on the ground.
TOTAL: 7 and 2 shared destroyed, 1 and 1 shared damaged, 1 armoured car destroyed on the ground.
(a) Possibly claimed in combat with Sunderland L5807/R from 228 Squadron, which returned safely to base.
(b) Probably claimed in combat with Blenheims from 211 Squadron, which didn’t suffer any losses.
(c) 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.
(d) Armoured car from 3Tp of “B” Sqn. 11th Hussars destroyed.
(e) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 250 Squadron, which claimed 3 damaged fighters without sustaining any damage. The 10o Gruppo claimed 2 fighters destroyed and 1 probable and 3 damaged without losses.
(f) 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.
(g) Probably claimed in combat with Spitfires from 601 and 145 Squadrons and Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed 2 fighters destroyed, 1 probable and 7 damaged while losing 1 Hurricane (pilot safe) and getting 2 fighters damaged. 10o Gruppo claimed 4 and 1 probable fighters while getting 5 MC.202s damaged.

2o Stormo - Note storiche dal 1925 al 1975 - Gino Strada, 1975 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
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
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
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
Deutsche Luftwaffe Losses & Claims -series - Michael Balss
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
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo

Last modified 20 January 2023