Biplane fighter aces


Sottotenente Armando Marini

In May 1942, Marini belonged to 391a Squadriglia of 159o Gruppo, 50o Stormo Assalto, which was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 20 May, the unit transferred from Aviano to Ciampino Sud. While landing here Marini damaged CR.42 MM8860 and had to remain there until two days later when he on 22 May made a fifteen minutes long test flight to 1000 meters altitude with CR.42 MM8891.

The unit reached North Africa in the end of May 1942.

On 14 June four CR.42s (Tenente Vodret, Maresciallo Scarpa, Sergente Maggiore Della Valle, Sottotenente Marini) attacks motor vehicles in the Acroma - El Gazala area meeting weak light anti-aircraft fire. Marini’s aircraft is however hit and damaged but he manages to return to base.

At 10:10 on 5 July five CR.42s from the unit attacks motor vehicles in the Gebel Kalakh area.
Marini in MM8891 became lost and was forced to make an emergency landing with a damaged engine. Fortunately this one was made behind Italian lines and he returned on foot.

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.
Between 11:05-12:40, twelve MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo led by Maggiore Roberto Fassi escorted five CR.42s from the 50o Stormo out to attack enemy troops in the El Alamein area and 30km south of El Daba. The fighters were two from the 73a Squadriglia, four from the 96a Squadriglia and six from the 97a Squadriglia. In the target area, they spotted three stepped up enemy formations with eight P-40s at 2,000 meters altitude protected by 10 Hurricanes and 6 Spitfires at 5,000 meters.
Capitano Luigi Mariotti (96a Squadriglia) attacked and claimed one P-40 while Tenente Alvaro Querci and Maresciallo Rodolfo Stoppani (both from the 73a Squadriglia) claimed three shared damaged P-40s. The last duo couldn’t finish the attacks since they were attacked by more enemy fighters. The combat last for 20 minutes and the pilots from the 9o Gruppo returned claiming six enemy aircraft; four P-40s and two Hurricanes. The claims were made by Luigi Mariotti, two P-40s by Capitano Fernando Malvezzi (97a Squadriglia), one P-40 by Sergente Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia), one Hurricane by Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia) and one Hurricane by Tenente Antonio Canfora (97a Squadriglia). One Hurricane and one P-40 were claimed as probables by unknown pilots. Five MC.202s were damaged but not seriously.
The five CR 42s of 50o Stormo had taken off from Abar Nimeir at 11.00 to attack Commonwealth troops between the coast road and El Alamein with 50T bombs. The 391a Squadriglia was down to one operational CR.42 (MM5046) and two more were borrowed from the 389a and 390a Squadriglie for the sortie, which was flown by Sottotenete Marini (MM5046), Sottotenente Francesco Jadanza and Sergente Pasquale Rivolta (MM8847) and the target was motor vehicles east of El Alamein.
After the bomb release the Italian pilots reported being attacked by twenty enemy fighters over the railway station of Alamein and Sergente Rivolta was shot down and killed. In the combat Jadanza claimed one P-40, one probable and one shared damaged with Marini, who also claimed a probable. Another probable was claimed by Tenente Mariano Monaldi (390a Squadriglia). The four surviving fighter-bombers landed at 12:20.
At 11:55 eleven Hurricane IIcs from 73 Squadron had taken off for a free sweep over the front. The British fighters met five CR.42s at very low height (100 m) and Flight Sergeant Ernest Joyce (BP167/QO-L) and Flight Sergeant H. W. E. Packham (BN415) claimed one CR 42 each while Flying Officer John Pain (BN566) claimed to have damaged one more. It seems that, at 12:10, 73 Squadron in fact lost Hurricane BN557 piloted by the ace Flight Lieutenant John Selby, who was obliged to force land (CAT II), after having been hit by the CR.42s (it was reported that he had been shot down by some Bf 109s but there are no German claims of this).
It seems that the MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo had met six Kittyhawk Ias of 250 Squadron that had taken off at 12:20 to bomb an area north of the Gazala railway station. They reported being attacked two times by Macchi fighters at 12:20 and losing Sergeant Walter John Mortimer (AK962/E) and Sergeant John Alastair Seabrook (AK657/V), both KIA.

Between 14.10 and 15.05 on 27 October a formation of five CR.42s from the Squadriglia (equipped with three aircraft of their own and two borrowed from 389a and 390a Squadriglie) attacks armoured vehicles in the Tell el Tisa area. In this area the 9th Australian Division with support from 51st British Division and 1st British Armoured Division was attacked by the 164th German division at the Kidney Ridge. The 15th Panzer Division and the Littorio Division supported the German division.
The Squadriglia became heavily engaged by enemy fighters and in the ensuing combat one P-40 is claimed by Tenente Vodret who also claimed a second as a damaged. His aircraft was then hit in the oil cooler and he is forced to make an emergency landing at El Ostegia. Tenente Jadanza claimed a P-40 and a second as a damaged while Sottotenente Marini claimed a damaged.

This was the last successful combat of the Squadriglia, which was withdrawn to Italy on 15 January 1943 to be re-equipped with Fiat G.50bis

Marini ended the war with 1 probable biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  10/07/42 11:00-12:20 1 P-40 (a) Probable Fiat CR.42 MM5046 E El Alamein 391a Squadriglia
  10/07/42 11:00-12:20 1/2 P-40 (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42 MM5046 E El Alamein 391a Squadriglia
  27/10/42   1 P-40 Damaged Fiat CR.42   Tell el Tisa area 391a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 probable, 1 and 1 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 1 probable, 1 and 1 shared damaged.
(a) Probably claimed in combat with Hurricane IIcs from 73 Squadron, which claimed 2 CR.42s and 1 damaged while losing 1 Hurricane (pilot safe). The 159o Gruppo claimed 1 P-40, 2 probables and 1 damaged while losing 1 CR.42 (pilot KIA).

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
Ali d’Africa - Michele Palermo and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 IBN Editore, ISBN 88-7565-060-8
La 391a Squadriglia Assalto da Bir Hacheim ad Augusta (1942-1943) - Ferdinando Pedriali, 1980 Aerofan Lug./Set. 1980.
Additional information kindly provided by Giovanni Massimello.

Last modified 27 February 2022