Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sergente Maggiore Teresio Vittorio Martinoli Medaglia d'oro al valor militare


26 March 1917 – 25 August 1944

Teresio Martinoli was born at Novara on 26 March 1917.

In 1937 he gained his glider pilots’ license and the following year he received his ‘wings’ on powered aircraft.

When Italy mobilised he was drafted into the Regia Aeronautica and he undertook a military flying course at Ghedi and graduated as a Sergente Pilota.

He was assigned to the 366a Squadriglia, 151o Gruppo, 53o Stormo, but just prior to Italy’s entry into the Second World War he was transferred to Trapani, Sicily, to serve with the 384a Squadriglia, 157o Gruppo. This unit was at the time equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 13 June 1940, bombers from the 30o and 36o Stormi attacked the airfields in Tunis area escorted by the 1o Stormo’s fighters. The SM 79s of the 108o and 109o Gruppi under command of Generale Giuseppe Barba and Colonnello Carlo Drago took off from Castelvetrano at 07:05 in two formations. In the meantime 15 SM 79s of the 30o Stormo (five each from the 193a, 194a, and 195a Squadriglie) took off from Sciacca and formed with the 36o Stormo’s formation. On take-off, Tenente Arrighi’s bomber crashed but the crew was unhurt. The bombers then met 15 CR.42s from the 157o Gruppo, which had taken off from the island of Pantelleria on seeing the bombers passing overhead. The Italian fighters had taken off from Trapani at 04:40 and had landed at Pantelleria at 05:10. They were three fighters from the 385a Squadriglia (Capitano Aldo Li Greci (CO), Sottotenente Giacomo Cremona and Maresciallo Marcello Baccara), six fighters from the 386a Squadriglia (Capitano Gustavo Garretto (CO), Sottotenente Angelo Carminati, Sergente Fausto Fiorani, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Tomasi, Sergente Giuseppe Gullà) and six from the 384a Squadriglia (the war diary of the Squadriglia isn’t available but it seems that Sergente Martinoli, Sottotenente Luigi ’Gigi’ Caneppele and Maggiore Guido Nobili (CO of the 157o Gruppo) were part of the formation together with three other pilots).
At around 08:35 when the fighters were flying towards Tunis, Sottotenente Carminati was suddenly taken ill and collided with Sergente Fiorani, both pilots crashed from 6000 metres. The 386a Squadriglia’s formation became totally uncoordinated with Dalla Pasqua, Tomasi and Gulla returning to Pantelleria after searching for wreckage after their comrades’ aircraft while Garretto went on, lost contact with the bombers and flew alone over Tunis at 6000 metres, finally returning at 09:50.
Over the target, the 36o Stormo pilots reported being attacked by French fighters tentatively identified as Curtiss that were immediately attacked and dispersed by the escorting CR.42s. Only the SM 79 of Tenente Poggi of the 259a Squadriglia was slightly damaged in the tail and in a fuel tank.
Two Moranes was damaged and one of them as seen to dive away trailing smoke. Sergente Martinoli, Sottotenente Caneppele and Maggiore Nobili each fired their guns at an enemy fighter. Sergente Martinoli claimed a French twin-engined aircraft over Tunis during this mission (it seems that the claim was only made in his personal logbook) while the 385a Squadriglia’s fighters returned with nothing to report so it seems that only the 384a Squadriglia’s made contact with the French interceptors.
The 36o Stormo attacked Ksar-Said and Menzel-Temime airstrips with 50 and 100 kilos bombs while the 30o Stormo hit El Aouina from 4000 metres with 120 50 kilos and 40 100 kilos bombs. Colonnello Serra’s SM 79 was hit and damaged by AA.
All bombers were back at around 10:00 but on landing at Sciacca the Savoia of Tenente Mazzotti (‘194 – 5’) run into a grove of olive trees and was written off.
The French fighters were almost surely Morane Saulnier MS.406s and Potez 630s (perhaps the twin-engined aircraft engaged by Martinoli) from 2ème escadrille GC I/9 but no other detail regarding this combat is known from French sources (and no losses or claims were recorded). It is also possible that first Escadrille of GC III/5 took part in the action.

On 7 September 1940, eleven CR.42s from the 157o Gruppo arrived from Comiso to Castel Benito in North Africa and nine of the pilots were posted to the 2o Stormo. Posted to the 77a Squadriglia were Sottotenente Mario Nicoloso, Sottotenente Carmelo Catania and Sergente Renato Gori. Posted to the 78a Squadriglia were Sottotenente Luigi Cannepele, Sergente Martinoli and Sergente Francesco Merana. Posted to the 82a Squadriglia were Tenente Gianfranco Perversi and Sergente Nino Campanini (from 385a Squadriglia) while Tenente Vittorio Gnudi was posted to the 94a Squadriglia.

After some days of inactivity due to the incessantly blowing Ghibli wind, a big coordinated Italian action against Mersa Matruh was planned for 31 October. It was planned to use at least 50 SM 79s from the 9o Stormo, 14o Stormo and 33o Gruppo with an escort of 40 CR.42s from the 2o Stormo and 151o Gruppo to attack the British base and its different targets.
At 10:10, Menastir M was attacked by British bombers reported as ten Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys (in fact seven Blenheims from 55 Squadron and three from 84 Squadron). The bombers arrived from a northerly direction completely undetected and hit the parking area of the 93a Squadriglia with many small and medium calibre bombs launched from 3000 metres. The Squadriglia HQ hut was completely destroyed by a direct hit while four CR.42s were lightly damaged by splinters (RS) and one was heavily damaged (RD). The heavy damaged CR.42 was immediately taken to the S.R.A.M. of El Adem (according to other sources the RD Fiats were three and the RS Fiats were two). Luckily no losses were suffered by the personnel of 8o Gruppo.
At 10:15 (09:40 according with other sources), while the 9o Stormo formation was taxiing on Gambut airstrip, a formation of seven Blenheims from 211 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Gordon-Finlayson and two others from 84 Squadron suddenly appeared overhead. The British bombers had managed to approach undetected by gliding down from 3000 metres with turned off engines and bombed with extreme precision, destroying three bombers while three others remained RD and many others were less seriously damaged. Heavy were also the losses among 9o Stormo’s personnel, with two dead among 63a Squadriglia (Sergente Armiere Carlo Marchi and Primo Aviere Radiotelegrafista Eugenio Bonino).
Three fighters of the resident 82a Squadriglia scrambled after the bombers had turned on their Mercury engines. They were flown by Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Maggiore Dante Davico and Sergente Nino Campanini but they were unable to intercept.
Three fighters of the 78a Squadriglia also scrambled at 10:00. These were flown by Tenente Ippolito Lalatta, Sottotenente Luigi Cannepele and Sergente Ernesto Taddia. These were also unsuccessful and they landed back at base at 10:45.
Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi and Sottotenente Carlo Albertini of the 366a Squadriglia scrambled from the nearby Amseat A3 for the British bombers. While in pursuit an enemy fighter, identified as a Hurricane, crossed the path of Albertini, who spent 420 rounds on it. The aircraft escaped smoking heavily and Albertini, who landed at 10:45, was credited with a probable victory.
At 10:25, three CR.42s from 92a Squadriglia, 8o Gruppo, scrambled from Menastir M. The three fighters were flown by Sottotenente Luigi Uguccioni Sergente, Mario Veronesi and Sergente Marcello Mosele. Veronesi intercepted a Hurricane which he claimed damaged with 150 rounds of ammunition. The three aircraft returned to base at 10:45.
It seems that both scrambles from 366a and 92a Squadriglie had been involved in combat with Hurricanes escorting the British bombers and in fact, 80 Squadron had put up eight Gladiators and two Hurricanes between 9.00 and 11.00 to patrol off Bardia at 15,000 feet and to cover bombers attacking Menastir and a target 38 miles west of Bardia (Gambut). The returning pilots didn’t report any encounter with Italian aircraft while returning 211 Squadron crews reported that an Italian CR.42 tried to follow them but after firing two bursts from 500 yards was set upon by a Gladiator and a Hurricane and last seen diving towards the ground with smoke trailing from it.
The Italian mission against Mersa Matruh was not cancelled and at 10:50 only ten SM 79s of 9o Stormo (that in the original intentions were to constitute the bulk of the formation) took off together with 11 SM 79s of the 14o Stormo and five from the 33o Gruppo. The bombers were escorted by 18 CR.42s from the 13o Gruppo, which flew as close escort, and 18 more from the 151o Gruppo, which was to fly an indirect support sweep.
At 11:45 two sections with six CR.42s of the 78a Squadriglia took off from Gambut G with Capitano Giuseppe Dall’Aglio leading Sottotenente Luigi Cannepele (a future posthumously Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare winner and inspirer of the famous “Gigi tre osei” symbol of the 150o Gruppo C.T.), Sergente Rovero Abbarchi, Tenente Ippolito Lalatta (leading the second section), Sergente Ernesto Taddia and Sergente Teresio Martinoli. They were followed at 11:55 by two sections from the 82a Squadriglia. The first section included Tenente Guglielmo Chiarini (section leader), Sottotenente Giuseppe Timolina and Sergente Maggiore Dante Davico while the second section included Tenente Gianfranco Perversi (section leader), Sergente Francesco Nanin and Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan. Together with these six CR.42s, six more of the 77a Squadriglia took off with Capitano Domenico Bevilacqua leading Tenente Eduardo Sorvillo, Sottotenente Carmelo Catania, Sergente Maggiore Ernesto Scalet, Sergente Ernesto Paolini and Sergente Renato Gori. Capitano Giuseppe Dall’Aglio took command of the whole formation.
For the 151o Gruppo this was the first long range escort mission since arriving in Libya and they received the order to move at 11:00 and at 12:10 they took off from Amseat A3 to arrive over Mersa Matruh at the same time as the bombers. Participating pilots were from all three Squadriglie - 366a Squadriglia (Capitano Bernardino Serafini, Tenente Mario Ferrero, Tenente Piero Veneziani, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella, Sergente Maggiore Roberto Marchi and Sergente Rosario Di Carlo), 367a Squadriglia (Capitano Simeone Marsan, Sergente Maggiore Renato Mingozzi, Sergente Maggiorino Soldati, Tenente Irzio Bozzolan, Sergente Maggiore Gino Bogoni and Sergente Bruno Celotto) and 368a Squadriglia (Capitano Bruno Locatelli, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Mario Turchi, Tenente Giuseppe Zuffi, Sergente Piero Hosquet and Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi).
The bombers gathered over Tmimi and then headed east in groups of five in arrow formations. The fighters from the 13o Gruppo flew in flights of three in echelon right formation at 5000 meters, directed to a rendezvous point 20 kilometres south-west of Mersa Matruh along the road that connected this base with Bir Kenayis, which they reached at 12:56.
After the bombers arrived over Mersa Matruh, each formation went for different targets but was attacked by British fighters while aiming for their targets.
At 12:46, the 14o Stormo, led by Tenente Colonnello Lidonici, attacked the airfield of Bir Kenayis but finding it empty they headed for an alternative target of enemy troops south-west of Mersa Matruh, who were hit at 13:01. In fact, 80 Squadron pilots on the ground noticed Italian bombers attacking the aerodrome of Bir Kenayis at 12:45 and reported that bombs fell to the south-west and some distance away, obviously they thought that the Savoias had missed their intended target of some miles. Gunners of the 14o Stormo claimed two Hurricanes and a Gladiator destroyed, and another Gladiator probable. One SM 79 crash-landed near Sidi Barrani and was written off while a second crash-landed in the desert near Tobruk and was also written off. Three more SM 79s returned at 14:40 so badly damaged that they were classified RD and another one went to the SRAM for major repairs. Among the crews there were three dead (Sottotenente pilota-puntatore (pilot aimer) Federico Tonizzo, Primo Aviere Montatore Mario Padalino, Primo Aviere Armiere Guerino Invorti) and two wounded (Tenete Beltramini (another aimer) and Tenente Martinelli (observer)). Of its 11 SM 79s, in the evening only five were still fit for further operations.
At 12:55 the 9o Stormo, led by Tenente Colonnello Italo Napoleoni, released its bombs on the railway near El Qasaba airfield. The diarist of 6 Squadron noted that Quasaba had been bombed at 13:05 by five Savoia SM 79s, dropping approximately 30-40 100kg bombs and that no casualties nor damage had been suffered by the Squadron’s detachment while the diarist of 208 Squadron reported that around 40 bombs of the 100kg type were dropped by 15 SM 79s and that four of them fell in the camp damaging three lorries and three tents while the remainder fell around the railway siding. Two SM 79s from the 11a Squadriglia, 26o Gruppo B.T. were shot down. The Squadriglia flew in a ‘V’ formation led by Tenente Giovanni Ruggiero and it was the two outer SM 79s that were shot down in flames by a Hurricane (Sottotenente Fulvio Fabiani, Sergente Arturo Bigliardi, Primo Aviere Fotografo Adorno Antonini, Primo Aviere Motorista Francesco Farina and Primo Aviere Armiere Vincenzo Scarinci) (Tenente Roberto Di Frassineto, Sergente Maggiore Armando Zambelli, Aviere Scelto Motorista Camillo Caiazzo, Primo Aviere Armiere Alfredo Pacifici and Aviere Scelto Radiotelegrafista Giuseppe Costa); all but Zambelli (POW) were killed. In an aircraft of the 13a Squadriglia was Primo Aviere Motorista Tommaso Giorgio killed and Aviere Scelto RT Canaponi was wounded by Hurricane bullets. A gunner in the SM 79 to the left of Tenente Ruggiero, at the time 22-years-old Aviere Scelto Armiere Cherubino Mariotti recalled, of this his first combat mission:

“On 31 October 1940 I was on a S79, first left wingmen of a five planes formation that was attacked by British fighters after bombing enemy troops near Mersa Matruh. We, gunners, were returning fire when I noticed that the two end wingmen of our formation were hit and were losing height in flames. Suddenly I centred in my gun sight a Hurricane that was closing to the last three planes shooting continuously at us. Arrived at the distance suitable to start the “famous” turn that permit it to fan with its eight guns its target, I was able to aim at its belly and saw my tracers entering it. Obviously hit, the plane directed towards the ground leaving a thick cloud of black smoke. In this way I avenged the ten dear friends lost in the two planes fell in flames.”
Sergente Pilota Armando Zambelli who was the only survivor of the SM 79 flown by Tenente Di Frassineto recalled:
“It was 31 October 1940, I was hospitalised in Derna infirmary when I heard that we were going to start for an important bombing mission. Today it can seem a bit excessive all the enthusiasm with which we wanted to take part in war missions, but twenty years old and with the high spirit of those days all seemed normal for us. I left the infirmary and reached the Squadriglia. When my Commander Capitano Giovanni Ruggiero asked me how I felt I told him: “Perfectly and I’m ready to start” [in fact, Tenente Ruggiero wasn’t promoted to Capitano until 15 November 1940].
My crew was composed by: Tenente Di Frassineto, me, Primo Aviere Fotografo Antonini, Primo Aviere Motorista Stramccioni and Aviere Scelto Armiere Costa
[Strangely enough, Zambelli here quotes among his crew, a member of the crew of Sottotenente Fabiani and an airman: Stramaccioni that neither is recorded among the casualties of 9o Stormo in WWII]. The action was one of the most important of the war so far and our forces were fifty S 79s with the escort of forty fighters started from an airstrip near Derna [It appears that the 9o Stormo was divided in two formations - one from the 26o Gruppo (11a and 13a Squadriglie), which started from Derna and the other from the 29o Gruppo (62a and 63a Squadriglie), which was surprised by the Blenheims at Gambut and was prevented to take part in the action] and after around an hour of flight we arrived over the airbase of Matruh.
Our section was composed by five planes disposed in arrow formation under command of Capitano Ruggero. We were almost on the target when a hand on my shoulder made me turning the head. It was the Motorista that told me that we were attacked by enemy fighters of which we had already shot down one
[the aircraft claimed by Mariotti], sadly the Hurricanes and Gloster Gladiators from a superior height continued to fire without respite and after a short while I saw the end wingman opposite to my position falling in flames; pilots were Tenente Fabiani from Rome and Sergente Bigliardi from Bologna. We succeeded in bombing the target but following another enemy’s burst of fire our plane started to burn and being made of wood and fabric it burned like a wax match.
I told the members of the crew to bale out but without avail because they tried to fight the fire. Enemy bullets continued to enter the plane and I saw the poor crewmembers hit by the bullets and reached by the flames. We decided to leave the plane, I opened the exit door on the top of the cockpit and immediately air suction threw me against the tail of the plane that was burning; I lost consciousness and I woke up when the parachute opened. I was descending under the area where our CR 42s and the Hurricanes were fighting. Moving my legs I tried to move towards the land to avoid falling into the sea but in that moment I lost consciousness again. When I woke up for the second time I was on a British vehicle between a bearded Shik driver and an English officer that pointed his gun on me. I was taken to the infirmary because I was burned in the face and in the hands and had a dislocated ankle; there I was left resting for a while. Subsequently I was examined by a General that told me that he was Canadian and that he had fought as our alley during the First World War
[Raymond Collishaw!]. He asked me, in an approximate Italian, if in Italy we thought that they killed the aviators that jumped with the parachute. […].”
An anonymous crewmember of a 13a Squadriglia SM 79 (the 13a Squadriglia composed the second arrow of the 9o Stormo) described the combat:
“Immediately after the bomb release a hard attack of Hurricanes […] immediately the plane took 116 hits […] one wing damaged, engines nacelles damaged, flaps and empennages damaged, bomb bay damaged, the three propellers hit, […] 1o Aviere Motorista Tommaso Giorgio, that was shooting back with the gun in the “hunk” died, […] his place was taken by Aviere Scelto Marconista Canaponi but after a short while he was wounded too […] finally Primo Aviere Fotografo Marcucci took the gun […].”
In the end the gunners of the SM 79 expended 1337 gun rounds, notwithstanding the damage suffered, the aircraft was back at base at around 15:00.
The first formation of five SM 79s from 33o Gruppo, led by Tenente Colonnello Ferri Forte was able to repel the attack of a reportedly three Gladiators. At 13:03 they hit with precision the new railway station of Mersa Matruh, built after the old one was definitely put out of action by the last months bombing attacks.
Totally the Italian War Bulletin reported that seven enemy planes were shot down by return fire from the bombers while in exchange for two bombers that failed to return. It is known that the 14o Stormo claimed two Hurricanes and a Gladiator plus another Gladiator as a probable. It seems that 33o Gruppo didn’t claim anything and so the other four claims should be credited to the 9o Stormo, one of them by the gunner Mariotti of the 11a Squadriglia (and following this deductive argument the other three were probably claimed by the gunners of the 13a Squadriglia).
The Italian escorting fighters arrived over Mersa Matruh at around 13:00 and immediately entered combat with enemy fighters that were already attacking the SM 79s.
The formation of the 368a Squadriglia first attacked three Hurricanes. One of them was claimed shot down in flames by Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi while a second one was claimed by Sergente Mario Turchi. The third one, attacked by Capitano Bruno Locatelli was hit by a precise burst in the cockpit area and seen abandoning the fight (the pilot was reputedly wounded). Locatelli then headed towards the sea and encountered a lone Gladiator. He closed in on its tail and from close distance he hit it with a short burst. The Gladiator first emitted a cloud of black smoke and then exploded in mid air. The other section of the Squadriglia (Zuffi, Hosquet and Ambrosi) didn’t entered the combat since the fighters from the 13o Gruppo that were flying higher waded in and split the 368a formation, excluding Zuffi and his men from the ensuing combat. At 14:10, all the CR.42s were back at base.
The formation of the 367a Squadriglia didn’t obtain concrete results in the combat, which they described as started at 5500 metres of height. All its pilots were back at base at 14:10.
The 366a Squadriglia were more successful. Immediately after the arrival over Matruh at 13:00, Capitano Serafini attacked a Gladiator that, damaged, escaped by diving. Sergente Maggiore Marchi followed it shooting until they were down at 2000 metres and the British fighter was considered shot down. Then Serafini discovered an “arrow” of five SM 79s with a Hurricane that was following at close distance. He gave full throttle trying to cut the path of the Hurricane but had to witness one of the Savoias being hit and falling in flames. Finally, he managed to overtake the Hurricane and hit it in the side. The RAF fighter went down immediately. AA fire at this moment was extremely intense and Serafini saw another SM 79 of the same formation that suddenly was engulfed by flames and went down. He was unable to understand if the aircraft was previously hit by the Hurricane or if it was hit by flak. Another Hurricane tried to attack the SM 79s but this time Serafini was quick in reacting and hit the Hawker that dived away smoking; Sergente Maggiore Colauzzi also took part in this last attack. In the meantime, Tenente Ferrero hit and damaged three Hurricanes before being forced to disengage with the guns jammed. While coming back he was attacked by another enemy plane but was able to outmanoeuvre it and land safely at base. The 366a Squadriglia were back at 14:00. It also seems that the 151o Gruppo claimed a probable Gladiator (possibly recorded as a Gruppo claim).
The CR.42 of the 13o Gruppo following the road between Bir Kenayis and Mersa Matruh arrived over the target at 13:00 and discovered the 151o Gruppo some 500 metres higher and then at a distance of 4 to 5 kilometres to the west, two formations of Italian bombers heading towards the frontier. The 78a Squadriglia opened the formation followed by the 77a Squadriglia and the 82a Squadriglia. A Gloster Gladiator was seen to heading towards the 78a Squadrigla fighters and was immediately counter-attacked by Capitano Bevilacqua and his section. In the meantime, the 78a Squadriglia was crossing the path of the bombers and discovered a Hurricane that was following them, but this aircraft escaped diving before the arrival of the Fiats. Meanwhile more fighters from the 78a and 82a Squadriglie joined the fight. Those of the 78a Squadriglia endeavoured to protect their comrade Sottotenente Luigi Canneppele, who because of problems with his propeller only was able to fly straight and level. Sergente Taddia was damaged in the process but remained in fight being credited with a probable Gloster while Sergente Martinoli (claimed as a destroyed in his logbook), Tenente Ippolito Lalatta and Sergente Abbarchi claimed damaged Gladiators. Bevilacqua in the meantime fought down to ground level, claiming two Gladiators in the process and while pursuing a third British machine witnessed another CR.42 that while trying to close on the same aircraft collided with it. It was the Fiat of Tenente Perversi of the 82a Squadriglia, who was killed. Before leaving the area, Bevilacqua saw two British parachutes (bright white in colour and hemispherical in shape) so he argued that Perversi had possibly shot down another British aircraft before colliding with the other. The rest of the 77a Squadriglia under Tenente Sorvillo and the 82a Squadriglia under Tenente Chiarini remained high and attacked British Hurricanes that were attacking the SM 79s. Sergente Gori damaged a Hurricane and Sergente Paolini a Gloster, which he left to other Falcos to finish it off. Tenente Chiarini and Sergente Nanin claimed a shared Spitfire that was attacking the SM 79s while Sergente Maggiore Davico claimed a second as a damaged. All the pilots were back between 14:05 and 14:20.
The Italian aircraft had been in combat with at least nine Gladiators from 112 Squadron and twelve Hurricanes from 33 Squadron.
112 Squadron’s Gladiators from Sidi Haneish carried out many patrols over Mersa Matruh during the morning, participating pilots were: Flight Lieutenant R. J. Abrahams, Flying Officer Joseph Fraser (Gladiator K7973), Flying Officer Robert Hugh Clark, Pilot Officer B. B. E. Duff and Second Lieutenant E. R. Smith (SAAF).
At 13:00, Pilot Officer Duff sighted a reported ten SM 79 and gave chase However, he failed to see the escorting fighters; six CR.42s, which was part of an 18 strong escort formation, dived on him and shot him down. Fortunately, he managed to escape by parachute, suffering only slight burns. The fighters were engaged by Flying Officer Lloyd Schwab, Second Lieutenant Smith and Pilot Officer Richard Acworth (who had just joined the patrol scrambling from readiness). Schwab claimed two CR.42s shot down after which he reported that his engine failed and he force-landed, later returning to his unit by a N.Z. Staff car. Acworth claimed a third CR.42. Acworth and Smith then collided and both had to bale out. Acworth being unhurt and Smith suffering from a dislocated collarbone (possibly after having been engaged by Bevilacqua’s and Perversi’s sections). Flying Officers Fraser and Clark (both also ordered on patrol from readiness) also engaged the bombers and Fraser managed to put one engine of an SM 79 out of action (from Fraser’s logbook it appears that this Savoia was credited to him as a “confirmed” victory). 24-year-old Clark (RAF no. 40513) was posted missing at the end of this engagement. When last seen he was engaging three SM 79s and he was presumed killed by return fire coming from them. Squadron Leader Harry Brown, Flight Lieutenant R. J. Abrahams, and Flying Officer Edwin Banks also took off but were unable to intercept.
33 Squadron with its new Hurricanes, which had taken off at 13:15 from Fuka, also encountered the Italian aircraft over Mersa Matruh and they reported meeting SM 79s escorted by 12 CR.42s, which caused the Hurricanes some inconvenience since they were intercepted during the climb up. Three of the bombers were claimed shot down. Two of them were seen to be shot down (“witnessed and confirmed by land troops”) by the 26-year-old Canadian Flying Officer Edmond Kidder Leveille (RAF no. 40837) who was then attacked by a reportedly four CR.42s. Leveille was forced to bale out but was killed when his parachute failed to deploy completely. The third SM 79 was claimed by Flying Officer Perry St Quintin (Hurricane P3724), who claimed a second as a probable, reportedly with the starboard engine on fire. St Quintin was however also shot down by the escort and he was forced to make a forced landing at Qasaba with a holed fuel tank. These victories were the CR.42s first over Hurricanes in the Western Desert. Flying Officer Frank Holman (Hurricane P3725) claimed a CR.42 between Matruh and Barrani after a running fight (possibly Tenente Ferrero) and another probable SM 79 was claimed Flying Officer Henry Starrett (Hurricane P3729). Flying Officer Littler’s Hurricane was considerably shot up and forced to turn back during the combat.
The combat was the most important since many weeks and received the press honours. An Egyptian newspaper reported:
Eight Italian Planes Down – Air Battle over Mersa Matruh. Cairo, Saturday.

It was announced from Headquarters, RAF, Middle East on Friday, that a large force of enemy bombers (SM 79s) escorted by a dozen fighters (CR 42s) attempted an attack on targets in the Mersa Matruh area yesterday. Fighter aircraft of the RAF immediately engaged the enemy. In the ensuing battle, four SM 79s were shot down and four CR.42s were destroyed. In addition, four more enemy aircraft were so damaged that it is unlikely that they returned to their base. During the battle, two of our fighter aircraft collided, but the pilots landed safely by parachute. One of our fighters was shot down and one, which was last seen engaging three SM 79s making for home, has so far not returned to its base.

The Italian fighters totally claimed ten victories in this combat (Colauzzi, Turchi, Locatelli, Marchi, Serafini, Bevilacqua (2), Perversi (2) and Chiarini’s and Nanin’s shared) (post war studies raised this number to eleven considering the one claimed by Martinoli, which was not credited to him by his unit)while the bombers claimed seven for the loss of one CR.42 and two SM 79s (two more where write-offs after forced-landings). The British fighters claimed four CR.42s and three SM 79s (and one probable) for the loss of five Gladiators and two Hurricanes. 33 Squadron’s ORB in recording the presence of 112’s Gladiators claimed that they had shot down three CR.42s and two SM 79s.
The killed Tenente Di Frassineto was son of a senator, count Alfredo Di Frassineto, thus the notice of his loss required special cares. Therefore, on 21 November 1940 Generale Urbani, Chief of cabinet of the Air Ministry, wrote a personal letter to marquise Pierfranco Citterio, son in law of the father of the missing pilot:
“On 31 October, two S 79s of 11a Squadriglia failed to return from a bombing action done at 12.57 over enemy positions.
Crew chief of one of those planes was Tenente Di Frassineto.
It seems that coming back from the action the two planes were attacked by numerous enemy planes, together with them other eight planes of the same Gruppo; the two S 79s were seen to fall near Mersa Matruh, one of them presumably hit by the AA fire.
The other crewmembers were Sergente Maggiore Armando Zambelli, Aviere Scelto Motorista Camillo Caiazzo, Primo Aviere Armiere Alfredo Pacifici, Aviere Scelto Radiotelegrafista Giuseppe Costa.
All this personnel until now is considered missing in action.
We already started the procedures on the Red Cross, necessary to know the names of possible prisoners.”
The Italian fighters were rightly quite pleased with their performance, the 151o Gruppo started well and the 13o Gruppo confirmed that it was the best Italian unit in theatre. However, considering the ordeal of the SM 79s their Commander, Generale Matricardi, Commander in Chief of Va Squadra Aerea awaiting Felice Porro return from Italy, wasn’t satisfied. In a reserved note regarding the 31 October engagement Matriciardi commented:
“Indirect protection in the sky over the target was not reliable for the protection of big formations of S79s (…) so, it happened that the S79 had to fight hardly (…) while the fighters, in areas far from the fighting, (…) didn’t do nothing!”.
Looking at RAF losses the judgement of Matriciardi seems to be (undeservedly) too hard. But indeed, such were the losses of the bomber force that for some weeks after the 31 October daylight operations had to be curtailed.
This remarkable combat was remembered by Joseph Fraser and Richard Acworth with two short poems.
In the late 1960’s, Acworth wrote an unpublished short story about this combat as seen by him: The Unfinished Game by Richard Acworth DFC.

On 21 December, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Marescaillo Italo Bertinelli and Sergente Martinoli were transferred from the 13o Gruppo to the 84a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo.

On 5 January 1941, it is reported that Sergente Maggiore Martinoli claimed his third individual victory when he claimed a Bristol Blenheim over Bardia at an unknown time. The identity of his opponent remains unknown.
This was the last claim by the 4o Stormo during the first North African Campaign.

He didn’t claim any more victories during his first African tour.

In early 1941, his unit returned to Italy for re-equipment with the Macchi MC.200.
He didn’t claim any victories with this type and in the autumn the 73a Squadriglia, 9o Gruppo, 4o Stormo, to which he had been transferred, converted to the MC.202.

On 27 September the whole 9o Gruppo, now equipped with brand new Macchi MC.202s, left Gorizia and flew to Rome-Ciampino, where they two days later met Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, which greeted them. Later the same day they went to Comiso (Sicily) for a new tour of duty, this time against Malta.
At this time the 73a Squadriglia was composed of Capitano
Mario Pluda (CO), Capitano Carlo Ivaldi, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sottotenente Felice Bussolin, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari, Sergente Santo Gino, Sergente Rossi, Sergente Mario Guerci, Sergente Maggiore Martinoli and Sergente Armando Angelini.

During the afternoon on 19 October, five Hurricanes attacked Comiso with bombs. As they returned to Malta five MC.202s attacked the escort, which had been drawn from 126 Squadron, and managed to inflict damage on two of the Hurricanes. The Macchis were from 9o Gruppo, Sergente Martinoli claiming two Hurricanes shot down while two more were claimed damaged by Tenente Bussolin and Sergente Maggiore Rossi.

During the afternoon on 22 October, six 73a Squadriglia MC.202s, escorted by eight more, strafed Luqa twice. Nine Hurricanes of 249 Squadron were sent off to intercepts, the Macchis diving on them as they were climbing up over St. Paul’s Island. Sergeant Dave Owen (‘GN-R’), was shot down in flames, but managed to bale out before the fighter hit the sea. Pilot Officer R. H. ‘Bob’ Matthews (Z3756) was also hit, the wing of his Hurricane and the fuselage near the glycol tank suffering damage. Sergeant Alf Branch (Z4016) noted in his logbook: ”Sgt Owen shot down into sea – circled him until picked up. Gave two short bursts head-on at a 202 – did not claim anything.”
The 73a Squadriglia pilots claimed heavily; two Hurricanes were credited to Tenente Pietro Bonfatti and one each to Capitano Mario Pluda, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci (according to some sources he was credited with two victories), Sergente Maggiore Martinoli and Sergente Mario Guerci, while probables went to Maggiore Antonio Larsimont and Capitano Carlo Ivaldi. One Macchi was damaged in the combat.

On 1 November, three Blenheims from 18 Squadron and three more from 107 Squadron attacked an Axis convoy. Twelve MC.202s of the 9o Gruppo, led by the 4o Stormo’s new temporary commander, Tenente Colonello Marco Minio Paulello, intercepted the bombers, Sergente Martinoli claiming one shot down while Sergente Mario Guerci claimed a second, which he reported fell with one engine on fire.
In fact, the Blenheim’s crews saw only six Macchis, which carried on a running fight with them, but did not really press home their attacks. One Blenheim flown by Sergeant H. R. Leven was damaged, and the observer, Sergenat M. J. Nolan, was wounded, but one of the gunners was able to claim and attacking fighter probably destroyed. His victim was Tenente Felice Bussolin, who did in fact fail to return.

9o Gruppo then enjoyed a brief winter rest from fighting, before returning to operations over Malta in the spring and early summer of 1942.


Campoformido in February - March 1942.
From left: Petrosellini, Giuseppe Oblach, Tenente Vittorio Squarcia, Aldo Gon, Generale Piacentini (who had flown S.79s in the Italian East Africa (A.O.I.)), Sergente Maggiore Rossi, Martinoli, Gino and Alvaro Querci.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO.

Seeing action on a near daily basis, Martinoli was credited with three Spitfires and one probable between 4 and 12 May.

In the afternoon on 4 May 1942 five Cant Z.1007bis from 211a Squadriglia, escorted by five 9o Gruppo MC.202s and ten Bf 109s, bomber Grand Harbour.
The Italians reported that three Spitfires attempted to attack the bombers, and that two of these were claimed shot down by Sottotenente Alvaro Querci and Sergente Martinoli of 73a Squadriglia, one of which they believed crashed into the sea. They may have attacked Sergeant J. N. McConnell’s BR187/O, one of four 601 Squadron Spitfires which had taken off. McConnell crash-landed at Luqa after the radiator of his aircraft sustained damage – though reportedly following an attack by a Messerschmitt.

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.200s, 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 Franco Lucchini (10o Gruppo), Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi (91a Squadriglia) and Sergente Martinoli, 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 18.10 on 10 May 1942, five Z.1007bis again were out to attack Malta. The Italian bombers, which came from 50o Gruppo B.T., were escorted by twenty MC.202s from 4o Stormo and ten Re.2001s from 2o Gruppo (making their combat debut over Malta). Twenty Ju 87s of III/StG3 and Ju 88s followed the Italian aircraft with a large escort of Bf 109s.
At 17.40 ten Spitfires from 601 Squadron had been scrambled to intercept the incoming raid and these aircraft attacked the Italian aircraft.
In the ensuing melee, Squadron Leader Bisdee leading an attack on Tenente Domenico Robillotta’s 211a Squadriglia bomber (MM23417), which blew up, the wreckage crashing into a field near Kalkara; three of the crew were killed and one injured, whilst a fifth was seen to bale out and fall into Grand Harbour when his parachute failed to open properly. Sergeant Farfan claimed a second bomber as probably destroyed, and Sergeant Jim Innes damaged a third; one of these, MM23400, was hit hard and landed at Gela airfield with two members of the crew wounded, one dying later in hospital. One of the Macchis was shot down by Pilot Officer Wally Caldwell (BR344/4-H), in which Capitano Roberto Dagasso, commander of 97a Squadriglia lost his life. Two Re.2001s sustained combat damage but were able to return to Sicily. 601 Squadron suffered no losses despite claims by the Italian pilots for six enemy fighters shot down.
The Italian aircraft claimed six fighters, two probables and two damaged as well as one Beaufighter. Pilots of 4o Stormo claimed three, one by Sergente Martinoli, another by Tenente Mario Massa (identified as a Defiant!), the third (also identified as a Defiant) jointly by Sottotenente Alvaro Querci (73a Squadriglia), Tenente Emanuele Annoni (96a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Leo Boselli (97a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore (97a Squadriglia). According to some sources is Capitano Dagasso also included in this shared. 2o Gruppo pilots claimed the remainder. Tenente Remo Cazzolli and Maresciallo Olindo Simionato each claimed one, while a third was shared by Capitano Roberto Fassi and Maresciallo Antonio Patriarca, the latter also claiming a probable; Tenente Carlo Seganti claimed the Beaufighter (probably a transit aircraft encountered over the sea) while two Spitfires were reported damaged by Capitano Salvatore Teja and Sergente Giuseppe Baraldi, and another pilot was awarded a probable.

In the afternoon on 12 May 1942 fifteen MC.202s from 4o Stormo and fifteen Re.2001s from 2o Gruppo provided escort for S.84s of 4o Gruppo Autonomo AS, which were out to bomb Takali were two Spitfires were damaged and two airmen wounded.
36 Spitfires and six Hurricanes were scrambled. During the ensuing combat Sergente Mario Veronesi attacked a Spitfire, which was following a damaged Savoia and reported that it force-landed at Luqa. This was possibly Sergeant C. F. Bush of 126 Squadron in Spitfire Mk.Vc BR346, who was wounded in both legs and belly-landed at Luqa, crashing through some stonewalls at the perimeter of the airfield. Sergente Martinoli’s Macchi was hit in the tail by a Spitfire, although he was able to claim another shot down (this claim isn’t included in his logbook).
Italian fighters claimed five Spitfires, three probables and two damaged. RAF seems to have lost only two Spitfires in this combat.

On 16 May, Martinoli claimed a probable Spitfire over Malta.

On 20 May, the 9o Gruppo, with 28 MC.202s, took off for a third tour of duty in North Africa. After a call in Pantelleria, they reached Castel Benito.
The following day, after intermediate landings at Tamet and Benghasi K3, they reached their new base at Martuba 4.

On 29 May, Sergente Martinoli claimed a P-40 and Sottotenente Alvaro Querci claimed a P-40 badly damaged over Acroma.

On 9 June, Sergente Martinoli claimed two P-40s and Sottotenente Alvaro Querci claimed a P-40 destroyed and another one badly damaged over Bir Hacheim.

Following the Axis advance, the 9o Gruppo transferred to El Adem on 23 June, then to Sidi el Barrani two days later and finally to Fuka on 1 July.
The aces of the 4o Stormo - Franco Lucchini, Leonardo Ferrulli, Luigi Giannella, Mario Veronesi, Fernando Malvezzi, Giulio Reiner, Emanuele Annoni and Giovanni Barcaro, along with Martinoli - claimed the lion’s share of their victories during this period of near-constant retreat for the Allies.

Martinoli claimed a probable P-40 over Mersa Matruh on 26 June.

On 29 June, he claimed a P-40.

On 3 July, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci and Sergente Martinoli claimed a shared probable P-40 over Il Imayid.

During a second mission on 10 July, the 9o Gruppo again was over the front with ten MC.202s from the three squadriglie in the Gruppo. They sighted around 20 P-40s and Spitfires 1,500 meters higher. The Allied fighters didn’t spot the Italian formation, which unobserved climbed and manoeuvred themselves into position for a surprise attack. A short combat followed.
Only Sergente Martinoli, who as usual flew as tail-end Charlie due to his awareness and reactions, was able to use the situation and shot down an enemy fighter in flames. He fired on other enemy aircraft but without being able to claim anything more. Over Italian-German troops, a total of two enemy fighters were claimed, which both fell within Axis territory and six more fighters were damaged.
Two MC.202s returned to base slightly damaged.

On 19 August, Martinoli claimed a Spitfire over El Alamein.

In the morning of 31 August, Tenente Giulio Reiner led seven MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo and four from the 10o Gruppo on a free hunt mission over the Qaret el Shirab area. At 7000 m they were jumped by twenty-five Spitfires diving out of the sun from above. The Italians split their formation and counter-attacked; Sergente Maggiore Alessandro Bladelli and Sergente Martinoli claimed a Spitfire each while Tenente Mario Mecatti (73a Squadriglia) claimed one probable. Reiner and Sergente Mario Guerci (73a Squadriglia) together with the pilots from the 10o Gruppo damaged five. Reiner’s and Guerci’s fighters were both slightly damaged in this combat.
The RAF reported the loss of three Hurricanes during the morning’s fights (one of them to AA fire), plus a Spitfire in the evening and a Hurricane and a Spitfire at an unknown time during the day. It is known that the German pilots claimed four Hurricanes in the morning and a Spitfire plus two fighters of unrecorded type in the evening, additionally Capitano Franco Lucchini claimed a Spitfire over Dein El Hima in the afternoon during an escort mission to CR.42s on an assault sortie. So it is not clear if Reiner’s formation obtained concrete results during his combat.

On 16 September, sixteen aircraft of the 9o Gruppo (seven from the 73a Squadriglia, one from the 96a Squadriglia and eight from the 97a Squadriglia) led by the CO Maggiore Roberto Fassi were flying a free hunt mission at 6500 meters east of El Alamein when they spotted a huge formation of P-40s. As they were manoeuvring for an advantageous position they were jumped from above by twenty Spitfires. In the following dogfight, which lasted about ten minutes, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli (73a Squadriglia) claimed a Spitfire destroyed, Maresciallo Paolo Perno (96a Squadriglia) another probable and Sergente Maggiore Martinoli severely damaged a P-40. Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia), Maresciallo Rodolfo Stoppani (73a Squadriglia) and other pilots claimed several Spitfires and P-40s damaged. Four MC.202s were damaged in this combat but all returned to base.

At 09:00 on 9 October, 18 fighters of the 73a and the 96a Squadriglie, led respectively by Tenente Giulio Reiner and Capitano Emanuele Annoni (CO of the 96a Squadriglia), took off to escort some Ju 87s.
The weather was cloudy and at 09:15, at 5500 m over the El Quteifiya area (the Italian name of the airfield base of the Stab and II/JG 27 in the Daba area), they spotted eighteen Bostons escorted by 20 P-40s and 20 Spitfires. The 73a Squadriglia initially attacked the Bostons, but was chased by the P-40s, while the 96a Squadriglia engaged the Spitfires. After a hard and long combat, the fighters disengaged low on ammunition. Reiner claimed a Boston in flames and a P-40 while Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Martinoli (who claimed one additional as a shared) and Maresciallo Paolo Perno (96a Squadriglia) claimed a Spitfire each. Seven more P-40s were credited to Sergente Armando Angelini (73a Squadriglia), Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Annoni, Tenente Enrico Moretto (96a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Zardini (96a Squadriglia) (two). Four more P-40s were claimed probably destroyed by Reiner, Oblach, Squarcia and Annoni, who also claimed a Spitfire was probably shot down. Five enemy bombers and nine fighters were damaged. The Italian fighters didn’t suffer any losses but the aircraft of Reiner, Oblach, Angelini, Martinoli and three of the 96a Squadriglia were damaged (one of them made a wheels-up landing).
German claims in the morning’s combats were the following: Hauptman Erich Woitke (5./JG 27) one Airacobra south-east of El Daba at 09:25, Hauptman Gustav Rödel (Stab II/JG 27) three Airacobras (one 09:23 north of Türbiya, one 09:27 north north-east El Daba and one 09:35 at 4000 m 25 km north-west of Sanyet Quotaifiya), Unteroffizier Otto Monska (5./JG 27) one Curtiss P-36 at 09:24 north-west of El Daba. Leutnant Werner Schroer (8./JG 27) one Boston at 09:25 north-east of El Daba, Unteroffizier Erich Krainik (8./JG 27) a Hurricane II north of El Daba, Leutnant Erich Schöfböck (7./JG 27) one Hurricane north-east of El Daba, Leutnant Jürgen Harder (7./JG 53) two P-40s at 09:15 and 09:25. Totally nine fighters and one bomber were clamed by the Luftwaffe for the loss of three fighters, one pilot killed, one POW and one wounded.
The RAF formations were composed of 67 Kittyhawks of 112, 250,450, 3 RAAF, 2 SAAF and 4 SAAF Squadrons plus an unknown number of Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron, backed by P-40Fs of 66th US FS, 16 Spitfires Mk Vc of 601 and 92 Squadrons and Hurricanes. They escorted a formation of 18 Bostons and six Baltimores of 223 Squadron in an all-out effort to destroy the Axis air forces on the ground.
The Allied formation lost one Baltimore (victim of Reiner, Schroer or both?), two Kittyhawks and two Tomahawks with two more Kittyhawks badly damaged. The RAF fighters claimed “only” nine victories in the morning, which considering the four actual losses was a quite accurate assessment.
This was the day of the so called “Daba Prang”; a day of heavy overclaiming with at least 28 victories claimed by the Luftwaffe and 20 victories claimed by the Regia Aeronautica (nineteen by the 4o Stormo and one by the 23o Gruppo of the 3o Stormo). In exchange only 16 RAF planes were lost, mostly fighters. During the morning, in particular, against ten claims made by the Luftwaffe and twelve by the Regia Aeronautica, only four fighters and a bomber were reported lost by the Desert Air Force. The Desert Air Force claimed ten victories during the day and at least 50 aircraft destroyed on the ground. The Luftwaffe reported that four aircraft were lost in combat, ten aircraft was destroyed on the ground and 20 damaged.

On 19 October the pilots of the 9o Gruppo scrambled to intercept a formation of eighteen Hudson escorted by 25 Spitfires. Having no time to join and plan an attack, Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sergente Armando, Tenente Mario Mecatti (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Antonio Canfora (97a Squadriglia), Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Martinoli and others chased and scattered the bombers, which jettisoned their bombs and escaped home. The Spitfires intervened in a harsh melee, which was so confusing that no results were claimed but all the MC.202s returned to base even if Oblach’s and Angelini’s aircraft were slightly damaged.
Later in that same day, 16 fighters (eight from the 73a Squadriglia and eight from the 91a Squadriglia), led by Oblach, fought against four Spitfires over El Quteifiya. As a result, one Spitfire was hit and one MC.202 was badly damaged.

On 22 October, Martinoli claimed a shared Spitfire over Bir Sarahat.

During the morning on 23 October, after an uneventful scramble with six MC.202s, Tenente Giulio Reiner took off again with ten Macchis and, being radio-guided by Freya radar, met thirty P-40s heading west at 5500 meters north-east of Ras Gibeisa. The Italian fighters attacked them head-on and Sergente Armando Angelini (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi (73a Squadriglia) claimed one each, which both exploded when hitting the ground north El Sawany el Samalus. Three more were claimed probably destroyed by Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Angelini (two). All MC.202s returned to Fuka, those of Sergente Martinoli and Rinaldi slightly damaged.
There was just time to refuel and rearm the fighters before Reiner scrambled again with twelve Macchis. This time they had the opportunity to surprise the enemy and attack them out of the sun from behind. They surprised twenty P-40s and five P-39s heading west at 4000 meters, escorted by ten Spitfires, coming from Sidi Abd el Raman. When attacked the P-40s and P-39s scattered while the Spitfires tried to intervene, but were chased by Tenente Giuseppe Oblach and his three wingmen. The fight moved over El Dabà and Reiner and Squarcia claimed a Spitfire each while Martinoli claimed a P-39 and Tenente Mario Mecatti (91a Squadriglia) a P-40. Two Spitfires were claimed as probables by Reiner and Mecatti while a P-40 was claimed as a probable by Squarcia together with Rinaldi. Oblach, Rinaldi, Angelini, Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni (90a Squadriglia) and others damaged several enemy fighters. Two of the MC.202s were damaged in this combat.
Martinoli’s claim was probably a Kittyhawk from 260 Squadron, although it was officially, and incorrectly, identified as a P-39 Airacobra.
It seems that the 9o Gruppo formation intercepted a mixed group of twelve Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron that were covering Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron with a top cover of nine Spitfires of 145 and nine Spitfires of 601 Squadrons doing a sweep over El Daba around midday. They were reportedly intercepted by four Bf 109s. Flight Lieutenant Curry claiming to have damaged one while Warrant Officer Tomlinson of 260 Squadron failed to return and Sergeant Colley force-landed. No Luftwaffe records seem to correlate with this combat.
This was Martinoli’s final victory in North Africa.

During 1943, he took part in the defence of Sicily and Italy.

On 4 July, he claimed a P-38 and a shared B-17 over Sicily.

In the morning on 6 July, in spite of the intense activity and the losses of the previous days, a good number of Macchis from the 4o Stormo were combat ready. After some scrambles from the three airstrips without contact with the enemy, Capitano Luigi Giannella (CO of the 84a Squadriglia) together with five others pilots of the 84a and the 90a Squadriglie scrambled. One of the pilots had to return due to a failing engine but the remaining intercepted a formation of bombers, which they attacked. Capitano Giannella, Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini and Sottotenente Francesco Palma (84a Squadriglia) together attacked a four-engined bomber and jointly claimed it probably shot down when they saw it leaving its formation streaming smoke. Another four-engined bomber was claimed as a probable shared victory by Tenente Fabio Clauser (90a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta.
While the Italian fighters were up, the airstrip at S. Salvatore was attacked.
Later in the morning, Capitano Giulio Reiner scrambled from Finocchiara with five MC.202s and four MC.205s from the 73a and the 96a Squadriglie and intercepted an estimated 60 aircraft (two formations of four-engined bombers and one of Marauders) over Scordia escorted by many Spitfires and P-38s.
The Macchis attacked and Reiner, while firing on a damaged four-engined bomber, was hit in an oil pipe by return fire and he was forced to return to base. Tenente Alvaro Querci claimed a four-engined bomber, Sottotenente Pier Ugo Gobbato (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Ettore Chimeri (73a Squadriglia) damaged two others, while Sergente Martinoli and pilots of the 96a Squadriglia damaged two P-38s and two Spitfires.
When the Macchis from the 73a and 96a Squadriglie returned to base, it had been attacked by Marauders, which due to the strong wind fortunately hasn’t hit the centre of the airstrip at Finocchiara.
In the evening there was another scramble from Finocchiara and Tenente Querci, Sottotenente Bruno Paolazzi, Sottotenente Gabbato took off followed by Capitano Reiner, Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Martinoli. The fighters, however didn’t make contact with any enemy bombers and Reiner, Martinoli and Squarcia were first to return and land. They have just landed when the airfield was attacked again and Reiner and Martinoli dived into a trench together with the ground crew with bombs exploding nearby. Reiner’s Macchi was hit by falling debris from the bombers and the engine was torn away while two more Macchis also were damaged. Squarci managed to land clear of danger. The three remaining pilots returned after a few minutes and Paolazzi and Gobbato landed in the area hit during the morning’s raid but managed to stay away from any damage to the airstrip. Querci, however, hit a bomb crater in speed while landing and his aircraft turned over. Gobbato and Paolazzi extracted the unconscious Querci from the wreck and he was taken to hospital.

On 8 July the 73a Squadriglia was still at Finocchiara. At this time the pilots (Capitano Giulio Reiner, Sottotenente Pier Ugo Gobbato, Sottotenente Paolo Voltan, Sottotenente Armando Dal Molin, Sergente Martinoli, Sergente Ettore Chimeri, Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi, and Sottotenente Enrico Dallari) had just two Macchis serviceable!

Shortly after 09:00 on the morning of the invasion of Sicily, 10 July 1943, a flight of seven MC.202s from 73a Squadriglia led by Tenente Vittorio Squarcia took off from Finocchiara and reported meeting 40 Spitfires, of which two were claimed by the combined fire of Tenente Squarcia, Sottotenente Arnando Dal Molin and Sergente Martinoli. The Spitfires had also shortly before been engaged by more fighters from 4o Stormo. Three Macchis sustained damage in the combat.
It seems that 4o Stormo claimed four Spitfires in this combat while losing one MC.202. One Spitfire from 40 SAAF Squadron was lost while Spitfires from 93 Squadron claimed one MC.202.
The lost Spitfire (EP690) was flown by Captain G. C. le Roux DFC.

On 15 August, Capitano Emanuele Annoni led ten MC.205Vs from 4o Stormo to patrol over the Messina Straits. A mixed force identified as Spitfires, ‘P-46s’ and P-38s were sighted in company with two Beaufighters, and of these four Spitfires were claimed by Tenente Vittorio Squarcia, Sottotenente Dal Molin, Sergente Alfredo Bombardini and Sergente Martinoli. A fifth was claimed jointly by Capitano Annoni and Sottotenente Ferdinando Cima, and a sixth by Sottotenente Piero Gobbato, whose aircraft was damaged in the action and crash-landed near San Ferdinando. Three of the ‘P-46s’ were claimed as probably destroyed, two being credited to Annoni and the other to Squarcia. Despite the number of claims for Spitfires, this action was apparently fought with US P-40s.

After the Italian surrender in September 1943 he joined, together with most of the pilots from 4o Stormo, the Aeronautica Co-Belligerante.

On 1 November he claimed a German Ju 52/3m over Podgorcia, Yugoslavia, after a dogfight with two escorting Bf 109s. Involved in this combat was also nine-kill ace Emanuele Annoni.

On 25 August 1944, he was killed during a training accident while converting from the MC.205V to the P-39 Airacobra, which had been delivered to the Aeronautica Co-Belligerante.

He was posthumously decorated with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare.
Also during the war he had been decorated with two Medaglie d'argento al valor militare and the German Iron Cross Second Class.

At the time of his death Martinoli was credited with 3 biplane victories and a total of 22 destroyed.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
1 13/06/40   1 Twin-engined fighter (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Tunis 384a Squadriglia
2 31/10/40 13:00-14:20 1 Gladiator (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Mersa Matruh area 78a Squadriglia
  1941                
3 05/01/41   1 Blenheim Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Bardia area 84a Squadriglia
4 19/10/41   1 Hurricane (c) Destroyed MC.202   Malta channel 73a Squadriglia
5 19/10/41   1 Hurricane (c) Destroyed MC.202   Malta channel 73a Squadriglia
6 22/10/41   1 Hurricane (d) Destroyed MC.202   St. Paul’s Island 73a Squadriglia
7 01/11/41   1 Blenheim (e) Destroyed MC.202   Malta channel 73a Squadriglia
  1942                
8 04/05/42   1 Spitfire (f) Destroyed MC.202   Grand Harbour 73a Squadriglia
9 09/05/42   1 Spitfire (g) Destroyed MC.202   Malta 73a Squadriglia
10 10/05/42   1 Spitfire (h) Destroyed MC.202   Malta area 73a Squadriglia
? (i) 12/05/42   1 Spitfire (j) Destroyed MC.202   Malta area 73a Squadriglia
  16/05/42   1 Spitfire Probable MC.202   Malta area 73a Squadriglia
11 29/05/42   1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   Acroma 73a Squadriglia
12 09/06/42   1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   Bir Hacheim 73a Squadriglia
13 09/06/42   1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   Bir Hacheim 73a Squadriglia
  26/06/42   1 P-40 Probable MC.202   Mersa Matruh 73a Squadriglia
14 29/06/42   1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   Mersa Matruh 73a Squadriglia
  03/07/42   ½ P-40 Shared probable MC.202   Il Imayid 73a Squadriglia
15 10/07/42   1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   El Alamein area 73a Squadriglia
16 19/08/42   1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   El Alamein 73a Squadriglia
17 31/08/42   1 Spitfire Destroyed MC.202   Qaret el Shirab area 73a Squadriglia
  16/09/42   1 P-40 Damaged MC.202   E El Alamein 73a Squadriglia
18 09/10/42   1 Spitfire Destroyed MC.202   El Quteifiya area 73a Squadriglia
  09/10/42   1 Spitfire Shared destroyed MC.202   El Quteifiya area 73a Squadriglia
  22/10/42   1 Spitfire Shared destroyed MC.202   Bir Sarahat 73a Squadriglia
19 23/10/42   1 P-39 (k) Destroyed MC.202   El Dabà area 73a Squadriglia
  1943                
20 04/07/43   1 P-38 Destroyed MC.205V   Sicily 73a Squadriglia
  04/07/43   1 B-17 Shared destroyed MC.205V   Sicily 73a Squadriglia
  06/07/43   1 P-38 Shared damaged     Scordia area 73a Squadriglia
  06/07/43   1 P-38 Shared damaged     Scordia area 73a Squadriglia
  06/07/43   1 Spitfire Shared damaged     Scordia area 73a Squadriglia
  06/07/43   1 Spitfire Shared damaged     Scordia area 73a Squadriglia
  10/07/43   1/3 Spitfire (l) Shared destroyed MC.202   S Syracuse 73a Squadriglia
  10/07/43   1/3 Spitfire (l) Shared destroyed MC.202   S Syracuse 73a Squadriglia
21 15/08/43   1 Spitfire (m) Destroyed MC.205V   Messina Straits 73a Squadriglia
22 01/11/43   1 Ju 52/3m Destroyed MC.205V   Podgorcia  

Biplane victories: 3 destroyed.
TOTAL: 22 and 14 shared destroyed, 2 and 1 shared probably destroyed, 1 and 4 shared damaged.
(a) This claim is only confirmed in his own logbook. Probably claimed in combat with Morane MS.406s or Potez 630s from 2ème escadrille GC I/9, which didn’t suffer any losses.
(b) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 112 Squadron and Hurricanes from 33 Squadron. 112 Squadron and 33 Squadron claimed 4 CR.42s, 3 S.79s, 2 probable S.79s and 1 damaged S.79 while losing 4 Gladiators and 2 Hurricanes. The Italian fighters totally claimed 11 victories while the bombers claimed 7, while losing 1 CR.42 and 2 S.79 (2 more S.79 being damaged beyond repair).
(c) Claimed in combat with 126 Squadron. 9o claimed two Hurricanes shot down and two more damaged. RAF only got two Hurricanes damaged.
(d) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 249 Squadron. 73a Squadriglia claimed 6 destroyed and 2 probables while 249 Squadron lost 1 aircraft and got a second damaged.
(e) Claimed in combat with Blenheims of 18 and 107 Squadrons. 9o Gruppo claimed two bombers while losing one MC.202. RAF got one Blenheim damaged while claiming one probably destroyed fighter. According to Italian records, this combat occurred on 31 October.
(f) Claimed in combat with 601 Squadron. 73a Squadriglia claimed two Spitfires while 601 Squadron lost one aircraft (Spitfire BR187/O) in a crash-landing. The pilot Sergeant J. N. McConnell was unharmed.
(g) 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.
(h) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 601 Squadron, which claimed one Italian fighter withour suffering any losses. The 4o Stormo and the 2o Gruppo claimed six fighters, two probables and two damaged for the loss of one MC.202.
(i) Not included in his logbook.
(j) Italian fighter claimed five Spitfires, three probables and two damaged. RAF seems to have lost only two Spitfires in this combat.
(k) Probably claimed in combat with Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron, Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron and Spitfires of 145 and 601 Squadrons, which lost one Kittyhawk and a second force-landed while claiming one enemy fighter damaged. 9o Gruppo claimed four enemy fighters destroyed and three probables for two damaged MC.202s.
(l) It seems that 4o Stormo claimed four Spitfires in this combat while losing one MC.202. One Spitfire from 40 SAAF Squadron was lost while Spitfires from 93 Squadron claimed one MC.202.
(m) No Spitfires was lost in this combat but it is possible that the combat was fought against American P-40s.

Sources:
30o Stormo A/S Note Storiche dal 1931 al 1974 – Maurizio Circi, 1974 Editore Bizzarri, Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
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
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
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 Savoia Marchetti S.M. 79 nel Secondo Conflitto Mondiale - Bombardamento Terrestre - Ricognizione Strategica - Aviazione Sahariana – Cesare Gori, 2003 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
La campagne de France, les combars franco-italiens 10 juin-25 juin (Batailles Aeriennes nr. 11) - Matthieu Comas, January 2000 Le La Presse, Boulogne sur Mer, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
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
Regia Aeronautica e Armée de l'Aire - Giancarlo Garello, 1975 Editore Bizzarri, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Spitfires over Malta – Brian Cull with Frederick Galea, 2005 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904943-30-6
Spitfires over Sicily - Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia and Frederick Galea, 2000 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-32-2
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Ian Acworth, Stefano Lazzaro, Tomáš Polák and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 05 March 2012