Biplane fighter aces


Maresciallo Paolo Montanari

In July 1941, Maresciallo Paolo Montanari served in the 366a Squadriglia of the 151o Gruppo. This unit operated in North Africa and was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 9 July 1941, seven Blenheim IVs from 110 Squadron took off from Luqa, Malta, to attack Axis shipping in Tripoli harbour. The Blenheims claimed direct hits on four merchant vessels, one which was estimated to be 12,000 tons, two of 10,000 tons and one of 7,000 tons. Losses were heavy however, four Bleheims failing to return. Squadron Leader D. H. Seale (Z6449; crew Flight Sergeant F. B. Mulford and Flight Sergeant W. H. McDougall) was seen to force-land in the sea while Pilot Officer W. H. Lowe (Z9578; crew Sergeant R. E. Baird and Sergeant H. Lummus) was short down and they were reported missing and KIA with their crews. Flight Lieutenant M. E. Potier (Z9537) was shot down and killed while his crew of Pilot Officer T. Griffith-Jones and Sergeant D. H. Wythe became prisoners. Sergeant W. H. Twist (Z9533) was shot down a few miles north of Tripoli, he and his crew (Sergeant D. W. Allen and Sergeant S. W. Taylor) becoming prisoners.
Italian fighters had been scrambled in time and managed to intercept the bombers effectively. Flying at 1,500m at about 16:00 Maresciallo Aldo Buvoli (G.50bis MM6384) from the 378a Squadriglia spotted a formation of four Blenheims, followed at a distance by a fifth. He shot down one over the port and a second over the sea after a long chase. Two CR.42s from the 151o Gruppo flown by Maresciallo Montanari of the 366a Squadriglia and Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi of the 368a Squadriglia also intercepted the bombers claiming one shot down each.
Ambrosi was later awarded the Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare.

On 31 July 1941, the 151o Gruppo's first operational tour in North Africa ended.

Once back in Italy, the 151o Gruppo was deployed to Treviso airfield, where it flew CR.42s and MC.200s.

After a short spell in Sardinia, the unit was ordered back to Africa on 18 November 1941, reaching Agedabia airfield on 25 November.

Nine CR.42s of the 151o Gruppo (four from the 366a Squadriglia and five of the 367a Squadriglia) took off from Agedabia at 15:15 on 26 November to escort CR.42 fighter bombers of the 160o Gruppo that were to attack the enemy’s motorised troop transports near the Oasis of Augila (Gialo area). One the CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo had reached the target, they dropped their bombs and went down to strafe the enemy vehicles.
Two 33 Squadron Hurricanes patrolling the area spotted the fighter bombers. Pilot Officer D. S. F. 'Bill' Winsland dived down for an attack but was immediately intercepted and shot down by the patrol from the 366a Squadriglia. The Hurricane went down in flames while Winsland (a veteran of the fighting in Greece and the Desert) parachuted. Flying Officer Clostre was also attacked and forced to abort his attack.
The Italian pilots thought that they had shot down both Hurricanes and were thus credited with both; the first was credited to Capitano Bernardino Serafini and Sergente Maggiore Antonio Camerini and the second to Tenente Amedeo Guidi and Maresciallo Montanari. 250 rounds had been fired.
The pilots of the 367a Squadriglia didn’t intervene in view of the small numbers of attackers and the quick resolution of the clash.
Pilot Officer Winsland returned to base the following day with a Blenheim from El Eng.
Winsland’s aircraft may well have been the last Hurricane Mk.I to be shot down by a CR.42. Victor and vanquished were reunited in 1984, due to the efforts of British air historian and writer Brian Cull and Italian air historian Nicola Malizia, and Serafini and Winsland have remained firm friends ever since.

Montanari ended the war with 1 biplane victory, this one claimed while flying the Fiat CR.42.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 09/07/41 16:00 ca 1 Blenheim (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Tripoli area 366a Squadriglia
  26/11/41 15:15- 1/2 Hurricane (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Augila area 366a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 and 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 and 1 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Blenheims from 110 Squadron, which lost four Blenheims corresponding with four Italian claims.
(b) Claimed in combat with 2 Hurricanes from 33 Squadron of which 1 was shot down. 366a Squadriglia claimed 2 shot down.

53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume One – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN 978-1908117076
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
La Battaglie Aeree In Africa Settentrionale: Novembre-Dicembre 1941 – Michele Palermo, IBN, ISBN 88-7565-102-7
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Additional information kindly provided by Gianandrea Bussi.

Last modified 18 April 2017