Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Ezio Maria Monti

Ezio Monti was born on 16 March 1917.

On 1 October 1938, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo).

Monti served in the 75a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo, 3o Stormo. This unit was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

When the war started on 10 June 1940, the 3o Stormo was sent to the French border to take part in the attacks on southern France.

Monti took part in the big attack on French airfields on 15 June.

In July 1940 the 23o Gruppo moved to Sicily and took part in the attacks on Malta.
On 9 July the 23o Gruppo became Autonomo and the first escort missions over Malta was flown on 12 July.

On 24 August, six S.79s of 192a and 193a Squadriglia, 87o Gruppo, 30o Stormo B.T., led by Tenente Colonello Schiaretta and Capitano Verrascina, again raided Hal Far and Kalafrana, escorted by 17 CR.42s of the 23o Gruppo. Four Hurricanes of 261 Squadron was once more scrambled led by Flight Lieutenant George Burges (P3731), who attacked three of the bombers. He saw a few bits fly from one of these, which headed for Sicily losing height rapidly. He was then set upon by CR.42s and his aircraft was hit by fire from Tenente Mario Rigatti of the 75a Squadriglia. Visibility was poor and Burges managed to escape, but on landing, the undercarriage of his Hurricane collapsed (due to combat damage?). Of the British pilots, Flying Officer Frederick Taylor claimed one CR.42 shot down and Pilot Officer Thomas Balmforth a second as a probable. Sergente Maggiore Renzo Bocconi of the 75a Squadriglia baled out of his stricken CR.42 and was rescued from the sea to become a prisoner of war. Taylor probably shot him down. Tenente Rigatti was also hit after attacking Burges’s Hurricane, returning to Comiso seriously wounded and with his aircraft (MM4382) badly damaged, claiming one British fighter shot down. He was later awarded the Medaglia d’Oro. It seems almost certain that he had been flying the aircraft attacked by Balmforth.
The returning Italian pilots claimed three more victories in this combat. One was claimed by Maresciallo Luigi Pasquetti, one by the shot down Sergente Maggiore Renzo Bocconi and finally one shared between Tenente Monti and Sergente Leo Mannucci.

1 November 1940 was the blackest day of war for 228 Squadron when Sunderland N9020/W was intercepted and shot down off Sicily by a couple of Macchi MC.200s from the 88a Squadriglia, 6o Gruppo C.T. piloted by Tenente Luigi Armanino and Sergente Maggiore Natalino Stabile. The experienced crew of the Sunderland disappeared with it (Squadron leader Guy Lambton Menzies, Flying Officer Stuart Maxwell Farries, Sergeant Elias Dawes, Sergeant Frederick Harris, Sergeant George Arthur Stamp, Sergeant Edward Louis Setterfield, Leading Aircraftman Benjamin Edwin Nicholas, Leading Aircraftman Leslie Charles Major Hale and Leading Aircraftman Ronald Fletcher).
At 15:30 on the same afternoon, Sunderland L5806/Q piloted by Flight Lieutenant E. M. Ware was intercepted when only 32 miles from Malta by two more 6o Gruppo Macchis piloted by Tenente Pesaola and Tenente Pio Tomaselli and a couple of CR.42s of the 75a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo piloted by Tenente Monti and Sergente Francesco Cuscuna. Two men of the Sunderland’s crew were wounded. Mattresses and clothing in aircraft were set on fire by the Italian’s explosive bullets and burning articles were thrown out from the rear door. Flame floats and practise bombs (four of each) were set off by explosive bullets and caused the aircraft to fill with smoke, hindering the amidships gunners in their firing. The rear turret was put partially out of action by having the starboard control handle shot away. The Sunderland was badly holed below waterline and was taken up slip immediately on return to Kalafrana to avoid its sinking. Despite all this damaged the aircraft was back in action on 22 November. The Italian pilots came back reporting that the big flying boat had adsorbed hundreds of rounds apparently without suffering particular problems even if Tenente Tomaselli in one of his attacks had gone so close to it that had almost collided with its empennages. The Sunderland was finally seen to land in Marsaxlokk Bay, without particular problems. Back at base, the Italian pilots argued that the plane had been fitted with some sort of special armour.
Flight Lieutenant Ware later received the DFC for this and other sorties, whilst one of the air gunners, L. A. C. Barton received the DFM. Although wounded in the leg, Barton had continued to operate his gun throughout. With these two losses 228 Squadron practically ceased to exist having no operational plane left. Reinforcement were on their way however and would soon taken to full strength the Squadron.

In the morning on 24 November, Tenente Monti and Sergente Germano Gasperoni claimed a Wellington intercepted when flying alone 40-50 kilometres from Malta. The machine seemed possibly a bomber from 38 Squadron that during the day was transferring its “B” Flight in Egypt while “A” Flight was arriving from England but the British unit’s records don’t report any engagement with enemy fighters.
At sunset on the same day, six CR.42s of the 23o Gruppo C.T. from Comiso attacked the airfield of Luqa (called Mikabba by the Italians) on Malta. The pilots participating in the attack had been selected among the best of the unit (Maggiore Tito Falconi (Gruppo CO), Tenente Claudio Solaro, Capitano Guido Bobba (CO 74a Squadriglia), Capitano Ottorino Fargnoli (CO 70a Squadriglia), Tenente Monti and Sottotenente Domenico Tessera). They strafed from very low altitude, claiming one plane in flames for sure and additional damage. Back at base, the Italian War Bulletin credited them of three ground victories. They had in fact managed to burn Wellington “F” of 38 Squadron (the machine of Pilot Officer Timmins) in transit from Marham to Egypt, and according to post war British studies, they had possibly destroyed an additional machine of 148 Squadron. During the return journey, Tenente Monti became disoriented while escaping the attentions of a British night fighter and used all its fuel before reaching Comiso, being obliged to bale out over Stagnone di Marsala.
Pilot Officer Timmins was immediately sent back to England to collect a replacement machine.

On 16 December 1940, the 23o Gruppo (previously part of 3o Stormo but now Autonomo) with 20 Fiat CR.42s (70a, 74a and 75a Squadriglie) and three hack Caproni Ca.133s arrived in Tripoli to help trying steam Operation Compass, which was mauling the Italian forces. The Gruppo had experienced brief (and quite unlucky) action at the beginning of the war against France, and then it had moved to Sicily where they had seen extensive action against Malta.
They were led by their CO, Maggiore Tito Falconi (a famous aerobatic pilot that had held the world record in inverted flight going in a Caproni 113 biplane racer from St. Louis to Chicago in 1933 and a veteran of the Abyssinian Campaign where he had gained some ground victories and of the Spanish Civil War where he had claimed many (mostly shared) aerial victories) in a 70a Squadriglia fighter.
Pilots in the 70a Squadriglia were Tenente Claudio Solaro (acting CO), Tenente Gino Battaggion, Sottotenente Oscar Abello, Sergente Ubaldo Marziali, Sergente Balilla Albani, Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella and Sergente Cesare Sironi.
Pilots in the 74a Squadriglia were Capitano Guido Bobba (CO and already credited with one over Spain and three individual and a probable Hurricanes over Malta, which made him one of the top scoring Italian pilots up to that moment), Tenente Mario Pinna, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca, Sergente Emilio Stefani, Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli and Sergente Manlio Tarantino.
Pilots in the 75a Squadriglia were Tenente Pietro Calistri (CO), Monti, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello and Maresciallo Carlo Dentis.
The pilots in the Ca.133s were Tenente Marino Commissoli, Sergente Pardino Pardini (70a Squadriglia), Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni (74a Squadriglia), Tenente Milano Pausi, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni (brother in law of Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli) and Sergente Leo Mannucci (75a Squadriglia)).
The Gruppo landed at Tripoli-Castel Benito at 17:15. Celso Zemella’s fighter was left behind at Pantelleria after an engine breakdown.

On 19 December, the 23o Gruppo moved to Z1 landing ground at Ain el Gazala.

At 09:15 on 26 December, eight Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron took off from the LG south-west of Sollum to escort a Lysander doing artillery reconnaissance over Bardia. The Lysander failed to appear. At approximately 14:05 (obviously during a third patrol) two flights of five SM 79s escorted by a number of CR.42s were observed a few miles north-east of Sollum Bay. A separate formation of 18 CR.42s was following the bomber formation and escort 2,000 feet higher as top cover. Two Gladiators attacked the bomber formation whilst the remainder climbed to meet the higher formation. The attack on the bombers was broken off when the higher formation attacked the Gladiators. In the ensuing combat, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege and Flying Officer Wilfred Arthur each claimed a destroyed (seen to fall into the sea) and a damaged CR.42. Flying Officer Peter Turnbull, Flying Officer John Perrin and Flying Officer Alan Rawlinson each claimed one probable.
The CR.42s were 14 fighters from the newly arrived 23o Gruppo led by the CO, Maggiore Tito Falconi and 22 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo. The CR.42s from the 23o Gruppo included three from the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sergente Pardino Pardini and Tenente Gino Battaggion), five from the 74a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Bobba, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca (forced to return early due to a sudden illness) and Sergente Manlio Tarantino) and five from the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Monti, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni and Maresciallo Carlo Dentis). The fighters from the the 10o Gruppo included seven from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Capitano Mario Pluda, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato and Sergente Elio Miotto), nine from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Mario Veronesi) and six from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta), which had taken off at 13:00.
They were escorting ten SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello Draghelli and five SM 79s 216a Squadriglia, 53o Gruppo, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Stringa. The SM 79s had taken off from M2 at 12:25 and attacked Sollum harbour’s jetty (reportedly hit) and two destroyers inside Sollum Bay (with poor results because of the heavy AA fire). AA from the ships hit four bombers from the 34o Stormo; one of them, piloted by Sottotenente Bellini had to force land close to Ain El Gazala with the central engine out of action. Returning pilots reported an attempt to intercept by some Gladiators but the escort repulsed the British fighters. They landed without further problems at 15:15.
Over the target, immediately after the bombing, the Italian fighters reported the interception of “enemy aircraft” alternatively “many Glosters” or “Hurricanes and Glosters”. The 70a Squadrigli pilots claimed a shared Hurricane, this was possibly an aircraft from 33 Squadron. This unit’s ORB reported that during the day’s patrols many SM 79s and CR.42s were intercepted with one CR.42 believed damaged. Two Gladiators confirmed and two probables were shared between the whole 10o Gruppo. Another Gladiator was assigned to the 23o Gruppo (in the documents of 75a Squadriglia but this is not confirmed by the other two Squadriglie). Many Glosters were claimed damaged by Tenente Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Schiroli, Sergente Tarantino, Sottotenente Marangoni, Tenente Calistri, Tenente Monti and Sottotenente Villa. The CR.42s were back between 14:30 and 15:05.
No Gladiators were lost even if three of them were damaged (all repairable within the unit). The Australians had done a very good job indeed, facing a formation four times more numerous (even if it seem improbable that all the Italian fighters were able to join the combat). From the Italian reports it seems that only the front sections of the escort (including the 74a, 75a and the 84a Squadriglie) were engaged in a sharp dogfight with the Gladiators. The Australians were able to shot down the CO of the 74a Squadriglia, Capitano Guido Bobba, who was killed when his fighter fell in flames into the sea and damaged Tenente Lorenzoni’s fighter, who landed at T2 (and came back to Z1 the day after). Three more CR.42s were damaged when Tenente Angeloni was forced to land at T5 before reaching Z1, Sergente Veronesi’s fighter was damaged and Sottotenente Prati was forced to make an emergency landing short of T2 (his fighter was reportedly undamaged and only suffering for a slight engine breakdown). Maggiore Falconi’s fighter was also heavily damaged but managed to return. The morning after Angeloni was able to return to Z1 with his aircraft.
Capitano Guido Bobba was awarded a posthumously Medaglia d’Argento al valor militare. He was replaced as CO of the 74a Squadriglia by Tenente Mario Pinna.

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 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 Orlando 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 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 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 Orlando 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 4 November 1942 he took command over the 75a Squadriglia. The unit was at the time based at Abu Smeit, Egypt and equipped with Macchi MC.202s.

After this the 3o was transferred from Abu Smeit to Bir el Astas and then to Bu Amud.

Monti was promoted to Capitano on 26 February 1943.

In 1943, he still served in the 3o Stormo.

Monti ended the war with 4 shared biplane victories.
During his career, he was decorated with one Medaglia d’argento al valor militare, one Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare and one Croce di guerra al valor militare.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  24/08/40   ½ Hurricane (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Malta 75a Squadriglia
  01/11/40 15:30 1 Sunderland (b) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   off Malta 75a Squadriglia
  24/11/40 morning ½ Wellington (c) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   off Malta 75a Squadriglia
  24/11/40 sunset 1/6 enemy a/c (d) Sh. destr. on ground Fiat CR.42   Luqa 75a Squadriglia
  24/11/40 sunset 1/6 enemy a/c (d) Sh. destr. on ground Fiat CR.42   Luqa 75a Squadriglia
  24/11/40 sunset 1/6 enemy a/c (d) Sh. destr. on ground Fiat CR.42   Luqa 75a Squadriglia
  26/12/40 -15:05 1/13 Gladiator (e) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 75a Squadriglia
  26/12/40 -15:05 1 Gladiator (e) Damaged Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 75a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30-16:55 1/5 Hurricane (f) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 75a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30-16:55 1/5 Hurricane (f) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 75a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30-16:55 1/5 Hurricane (f) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 75a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30-16:55 1/5 Hurricane (f) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 75a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30-16:55 1/5 Hurricane (f) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 75a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 4 shared destroyed, 1 and 5 shared damaged, 3 shared destroyed on the ground.
TOTAL: 4 shared destroyed, 1 and 5 shared damaged, 3 shared destroyed on the ground.
(a) 75a Squadriglia claimed four aircraft in this combat but 261 Squadron only got one damaged.
(b) Sunderland L5806/Q of 228 Squadron, flown by Flight Lieutenant E. M. Ware damaged.
(c) Possibly claimed against a Wellington from 38 Squadron, which didn't report any engagements.
(d) The 23o Gruppo claimed three destroyed on the ground but only one Wellington of 148 Squadron was destroyed.
(e) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron, which claimed 2 and 3 probables without any losses, and possibly Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed a damaged CR.42 during the day. The 23o Gruppo claimed 1 Hurricane and 1 Gladiator and the 10o Gruppo claimed 2 and 2 probable Gladiators while losing one CR.42 and getting five more damaged.
(f) 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.

Sources:
3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - C. Lucchini and E. Leproni, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala with translations kindly provided by Birgitta Hallberg-Lombardi
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
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
In cielo e in terra - Franco Pagliano, Longanesi & Co., Milano, 1969 kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso
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 Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 10 June 2012