Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sottotenente Giorgio Moretti

25 July 1917 - 13 August 1943

Sottotenente Moretti in front of the 354a Squadriglia headquarters' tent at Devoli airfield in April 1941.
Image kindly provided by Manlio Palmieri

Giorgio Moretti was born in Roma on 25 July 1917.

In December 1940, Moretti belonged to the 24o Gruppo C.T. taking part in the Greek campaign.
During this month he was however temporarily flying with 160o Gruppo, which was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 3 December 1940 six 23 Mira PZL P.24s engaged 18 CR.42s of 160o Gruppo led by Maggiore Oscar Molinari, south-west of Moschopoles. Three of the Greek fighters were claimed shot down by Molinari, Sottotenente Moretti and Sergente Luciano Tarantini, while a fourth and two probables were claimed shared by several pilots. Greek aircraft losses are not known in detail, but one pilot - Hiposminagos (1st Lieutenant) Constantine Tsitsas - was killed in the combat.
23 Mira pilots claimed one CR.42.

He was later posted to 24o Gruppo C.T. equipped with the Fiat G.50bis operating from Albania.

On 23 March 1941 Squadron Leader 'Pat' Pattle led 33 Squadron for the first time when led 13 Hurricanes from Larissa, rendezvousing with 11 Gladiators of 112 Squadron to escort six Blenheims from 84 Squadron to attack Berat airfield. Approaching at low level due to heavy cloud, the Blenheims bombed from only 1500 feet, but the AA defences caused only minor shrapnel damage. Two Hurricanes were harder hit, and were forced to return to Larissa under escort by Flying Officer Frankie Holman’s section. The remaining Hurricanes regrouped close around the bombers, but near the border a 24o Gruppo G.50bis attacked Flying Officer Charles Dyson’s V7415, hitting the glycol and fuel tanks, escaping fluid almost blinding the pilot. He managed almost to reach Larissa before baling out when the engine seized up; he was soon picked up by Greek troops and returned to the airfield. The result of the raid was two Ro.37bis and a G.50bis damaged on the ground.
During this interception Tenente Enrico Giordanino and Sottotenente Moretti of the 24o Gruppo claimed one Hurricane shot down and one probable.

After the Greek campaign 24o Gruppo C.T. moved to Sardinia, where they arrived in July 1941.
Here they were equipped with Fiat G.50s and CR.42s. The biplanes were used for convoy escort duties and long rang escorts of S.79 and S.84 torpedo-bombers.
At this time Moretti served in the 354a Squadriglia.

On 20 March 1942, four boats of the 3rd Motor Launches Flotilla (ML126, ML129, ML130 and ML132) left Gibraltar towards Malta. The following day they were spotted by an Italian recon aircraft.
At 11:50 on 21 March, six CR.42s of the 24o Gruppo took off from Monserrato led by Capitano Alberto Brondi (CO of the 355a Squadriglia) and armed with bombs. As they found the boats in the Gulf of Bona, they dive-bombed them. The CR.42s didn’t score any direct hits due to evasive manoeuvres by the boats, but the bombs exploded close to their targets and damaged two of them. The CR.42s then strafed the boats before returning and landing safely at 15:10.
At 15:30, Capitano Corrado Santoro of the 370a Squadriglia took off with six CR.42s (Tenente Moretti and Tenente Francesco Rocca of the 354a Squadriglia, Sottotenente Franco Mazzariol and Sergente Maggiore Edoardo Lion of the 355a Squadriglia and Sottotenente Renato Luziani of the 370a Squadriglia).
They found two of the motor-boats (ML129 and ML132), which probably had been damaged by the previous attack. As they strafed them, ML129 exploded and sunk, while ML132 reached the Tunisian coasts and stopped near the Bona pier.
Santoro’s aircraft was hit in the engine by defensive fire and he had to land at Bona. The others landed safely at 18:15.
Italians claimed a boat sunk and another damaged. Actually, ML132 was so damaged that it was declared damaged beyond repair.

During Operation “Harpoon” between 12 to 17 June 1942 a British convoy sailed from Gibraltar with supplies for Malta. This convoy was heavily escorted by British Naval units including two carriers – HMS Eagle and HMS Argus.
The convoy became heavily attacked by German and Italian air and sea units including 24o Gruppo C.T.
At 10.20 on 14 June 19 CR.42s from 24o Gruppo C.T. took off from Sardinia together with MC.200s from 7o and 16o Gruppi to escort Italian bombers attacking the convoy for the second time of the day.
Over the convoy the escort became involved in combat with British carrier based fighters and Sottotenente Moretti claimed one Hurricane while Tenente Italo Marchi and Sergente Renato Casalini claimed a shared. Marchi and Casalini was also credited with a shared probable. Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Corti and Sergente Angelo Rizzardo were also credited with one probable each.
The Italian fighter totally claimed three Hurricanes destroyed and three probables and one Defiant (probably a Fulmar) while the bombers claimed 14 Hurricanes shot down and six probables! It seems that two Fulmars from 807 Squadron was lost and one Sea Hurricane from 801 Squadron was lost and one was damaged.
The cruiser HMS Liverpool were damaged and the Dutch freighter Tanimbar was sunk during the attack.
807 Squadron claimed two S.79s while 801 Squadron claimed one S.79 shot down, one probable and four damaged. They also claimed two MC.200s and one CR.42 (MM7594). AA fire on the ships claimed five bombers. It seems that two MC.200s, one CR.42, two S.79, six S.84s and one Z.1007bis were lost while three S.79s were damaged.

On 19 August 1942, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo) due to war merits and received the rank of Sottotenente.

In 1943, Moretti still served in the 24o Gruppo.

Moretti was killed on 13 August 1943.

At the time of his death, Moretti was credited with 2 victories, these being claimed while flying Fiat CR.42s.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940              
1 03/12/40 1 PZL P.24 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   SW Moschopoles 160o Gruppo
  1941              
  23/03/41 ½ Hurricane (b) Shared destroyed Fiat G.50bis   Greek-Albanian border 24o Gruppo
  23/03/41 ½ Hurricane (b) Shared probable Fiat G.50bis   Greek-Albanian border 24o Gruppo
  1942              
  21/03/42 1 Torpedo boat (c) Shared destroyed on the water Fiat CR.42   Gulf of Bona 354a Squadriglia
  21/03/42 1 Torpedo boat (c) Shared destroyed on the water Fiat CR.42   Gulf of Bona 354a Squadriglia
2 14/06/42 1 Hurricane (d) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   off Sardinia 354a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed, 2 shared destroyed on the water.
TOTAL: 2 and 1 shared destroyed, 1 shared probable, 2 shared destroyed on the water.
(a) Claimed in combat with 23 Mira.
(b) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which lost one aircraft when Hurricane V7415 was shot down. The pilot Flying Officer Charles Dyson baled out safely. 24o Gruppo claimed one Hurricane shot down and one probable.
(c) ML129 and ML132 of the 3rd Motor Launches Flotilla sunk.
(d) In this combat the Italian fighter totally claimed three Hurricanes destroyed and three probables and one Defiant (probably a Fulmar) while the bombers claimed 14 Hurricanes shot down and six probables! It seems that two Fulmars from 807 Squadron was lost and one Sea Hurricane from 801 Squadron was lost and one was damaged.

Sources:
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-16-X
Ministero della Difesa - Banca Dati sulle sepolture dei Caduti in Guerra
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Manlio Palmieri.




Last modified 29 June 2010