Biplane fighter aces


Capitano Bruno Mondini

15 December 1914 –

Date Decoration Note
??/??/39 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st) O.M.S.
??/??/39 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd) O.M.S.
??/??/42 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (3rd) 1940-43
??/??/40 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (1st) O.M.S.
??/??/42 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (2nd) 1940-43
??/??/?? Croce al merito di guerra 1940-43
??/??/?? Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna (1936-1939) O.M.S.
??/??/?? Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse 1940-43

Bruno Mondini was born on 15 December 1914 and was from Caprino Veronese (Verona).

On 1 October 1936, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo).

He served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War.

Mondini was promoted to Capitano on 12 October 1939.

On 23 December 1940, the 358a Squadriglia, 22o Gruppo C.T. commanded by Capitano Annibale Sterzi (a veteran from the Spanish Civil War with one confirmed victory in that conflict) arrived from Italy to Castel Benito with nine Fiat G.50bis. Pilots of the Squadriglia were, apart from Sterzi, Tenente Mondini, Maresciallo Ottorino Muscnelli, Sergente Enzo Falcinelli, Sottotenente Leonardo Venturini, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Patriarca, Sottotenente Francesco Vichi, Sergente Alvinio Marinucci, Sergente Alfredo Di Spiezio. Three more pilots followed in the Caproni Ca.133 of the Squadriglia (Tenente Angelo Merati, Maresciallo Marco Aicardi and Sergente Fernando Giordano). Other pilots of the unit (Tenente Giorgio Gasperoni and Sergente Gastone Gambari) suffered accidents during their transfer. The Fiat G.50 of Gambari was written off while Gasperoni was forced to land back at Palermo.

On 25 January, four Gladiators of 3 RAAF Squadron flown by Flight Lieutenant D. Campbell (N5857), Flight Lieutenant Alan Rawlinson (K7963), Flying Officer Peter Turnbull (L9044) and Pilot Officer J. C. Campbell (K8022) took off from Tmini at 07:30 to carry out a protective patrol over the Armoured Brigades operating in the Mechili area. Whilst flying at 2,000 feet, 8 miles south-east of Mechili, five G.50s, which were flying at 10,000 feet, attacked and broke the Gladiators formation. During the combat was 22-year-old Pilot Officer James Chippindall Campbell (RAAF no. 634) shot down and killed, while D. Campbell was forced to make an emergency landing in the desert and the other two biplanes were damaged. Flying Officer Turnbull recalled:

“My position in the flight was astern of the vic formation. Each time I was attacked from astern and above, to avoid being hit I made a side-slipping turn back underneath. As the E/A passed overhead, it made a climbing turn to the left, and I was able to get well within range by turning right. I was attacked nine times, and each time I carried out the above action, but three of my guns ceased to fire owing to stoppages during the first attack and the fourth after the fifth attack. I could see bullets hitting E/A during the third, fourth and fifth attacks, which were at close range.

The E/A appeared to be similar to that of a Breda 65 but the pilots cockpit was well back near the trailing edge of the main planes. This being the only outstanding point which could be seen at the time. They were very fast, and by the dust made by their fire on the ground, they appeared to be armed with two.5's."

Rawlinson claimed two more G.50s damaged. These three claims for damaged aircraft are, however, not officially credited in the unit’s ORB. After the smooth force landing, D. Campbell was able to inspect the plane and assessing the damage suffered as light, took off again and landed back in Tmini. The Gladiators were all back by 08:45.
The Italians were in fact four Fiat G.50s from the 358a Squadriglia, which had taken off from Maraua at 07:30 to fly a protective patrol over El Mechili. Capitano Annibale Sterzi (G.50bis MM6335) led the formation with Tenente Mondini (MM6346), Tenente Giorgio Gasperoni and Maresciallo Marco Aicardi (MM5455). Over Mechili they discovered four Glosters flying lower and bounced them claiming two by Tenente Mondini, one by Maresciallo Aicardi and one by Capitano Sterzi. The Italian fighters were back at 09:30 after having used 1130 rounds of ammunition. Damage suffered by the three surviving Gladiators should had been light indeed because they were repaired during the day and were able to fly to Martuba during the evening.

Later in the year he was promoted to Capitano and appointed to the 386a Squadriglia, 21o Gruppo CT, which was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 27 September 1941, CR.42s from the unit were despatched to Sardinia on temporary duty from Caopdichino, Italy. On the 28th they reportedly intercepted three strafing Blenheims over Elmas. Capitano Mondini claiming one shot down. This was probably Beaufighters from 272 Squadron, which had strafed Cagliari airfield, Sardinia. No losses were reported by the British formation.

In 1942/43 he was part of the Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia (CSIR) (the Italian Expeditionary Force to Russia) as CO of 386a Squadriglia, 21o Gruppo C.T. This unit was at first equipped with MC.200s and later with a few MC.202s.

The 21o Gruppo (356a, 361a (arriving in June), 382a and 386aSquadriglie) gradually replaced the 22o Gruppo in Russia during April-May 1942.

On 8 May1942, the 21o Gruppo had their “baptism of fire”. In the morning the fighters carries out a general attack cruise over the Slawjansk area. Nothing was seen over the area and the fighters return to Stalino airfield.
Three hours later, three C.200s from the 386a Squadriglia led by Capitano Mondini took off to escort a German Hs 126 on a reconnaissance mission over Slawjansk and Majaki. Over Majaki, the three Italians found themselves face to face with a reported twelve “Super Ratas”, which attacked. In a short engagement, Sergente Maggiore Pietro Greco was shot down and killed but the two remaining pilots returned claiming two enemies shot down. In fact, it seems that one Soviet aircraft was lost in this combat.

On 12 June, the 21o Gruppo moved from Stalino to Berwenkowo airfield with 23 Macchi C.200s.

In the beginning of July, the CSIR was transformed into the ARMIR (Armata Italiana in Russia).
On 9 July, the Italian fighters moved to Makejewka airfield, the first to arrive were the aircraft of 382a and 386aSquadriglie. This was to take part in the advance across the Don.
The advance was so rapid that the 382a and 386aSquadriglie were moved still further forward and on 24 July they moved to Tanziskaja airfield.
Later they moved forward to Obliskaja.

The 21o Gruppo was back in Italy by April 1943.

In 1943, he served in the 52o Stormo.

For his service in Russia, he was awarded with the German Iron Cross 2nd Class together with six other pilots.

After Capitano Domenico Bevilacqua had been killed on 10 June 1943, Capitano Giuseppe Costantini shortly took (temporary) command of the 151o Gruppo.
Capitano Costantini left the command of the Gruppo later in the month, when Maggiore Mondini took over the command.
Maggiore Mondini where to remain in command of the Gruppo until the end of the war in September 1943.

Mondini ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 3.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 25/01/41 07:30-09:30 1 Gladiator (a) Destroyed Fiat G.50bis MM6346 Mechili area 358a Squadriglia
2 25/01/41 07:30-09:30 1 Gladiator (a) Destroyed Fiat G.50bis MM6346 Mechili area 358a Squadriglia
3 28/09/41   1 Blenheim (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Elmas 386a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 3 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron, which claimed three G.50s damaged while losing one Gladiator and getting three lightly damaged. The 358a Squadriglia claimed four Gladiators without losses.
(b) Probably Beaufighters from 272 Squadron, which didn't suffer any losses.

53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
Ali Sulla Steppa: La Regia Aeronautica nella campagna di Russia – Nicola Malizia, 2008 IBN Editore, Roma, ISBN 88-7565-049-7
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
National Archives of Australia
Additional information kindly provided by Ondrej Repka and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 26 September 2022