Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Colonnello Guido Nobili

5 May 1908 – 10 July 1943

Guido Nobili was born on 5 May 1908.

He was commissioned in (Servizio Permanente Effettivo) on 1 October 1929.

Nobili took part in the Spanish Civil War.

On 13 October, a further dozen CR.32s, and their pilots, reached Cadiz, these new arrivals being led by Capitano Nobili (’Notabili’). The latter had previously served with the Scuola Caccia Terrestre (Fighter School) of the Regia Aeronautica.
Nine more CR.32s, and pilots, were disembarked at Seville under the command of Capitano Goliardo Mosca (’Massa’) from the 6o Stormo CT.

In response to the appearance of the new Soviet aircraft types over Madrid, the Nationalist air force officially formed the first Fiat fighter group on 11 November. Designated Gruppo Caccia di Torrijos or Primo Gruppo Caccia Fiat (First Fiat Fighter Group), its CO was Maggiore Tarcisio Fagnani. The group included 2a and 3a Squadriglie on the Madrid front, these units being led by Capitani Nobili and Goliardo Mosca, respectively, while Capitano Vincenzo Dequal’s 1a Squadriglia remained at Seville, in Andalusia.

On 13 November, 14 Fiat CR.32s escorted five ”Junkers” and three ”Romeos”. Over the Paseo de Rosales (Madrid) they were surprised by 16 I-15s led by Starshiy Leytenant Pavel Rychagov, which dived on them from above out of the sun. Despite immediately being on the defensive, the Fiat pilots managed to protect the bombers as the air battle broke up into a series of individual combats.
The Soviet pilots claimed six victories (three of them fell in Republican territory) while two I-15s were lost when Karp Kovtun and Petr A. Purtov were shot down by Fiats and killed. Kovtun’s death was witnessed by Starshiy Leytenant Georgiy Zakharov, who also took part in this combat.
On their return flight, the Nationalist pilots encountered five Katiuskas, bombing Getafe and Cuatro Vientos from a height of 5000m. Capitán Ángel Salas damaged one so severely that the crew had to take to their parachutes, and capitán Joaquín García Morato damaged three others.
Totally the CR.32 pilots were credited with ten victories (nine “Curtisses” and one SB). Sergente GianLino Baschirotto (who reported that the I-15 was seen falling out of the sky smoking) and Corrado Ricci were among the Italians to be awarded a “Curtiss” each while Capitano Nobili was credited with a probable. A Soviet fighter, whose pilot escaped by parachute, was shot down by Capitano Goliardo Mosca. The latter was in turn badly wounded in his right thigh and forced to limp back to Talavera, where he crash-landed. Capitano Mariotti force-landed outside the airfield at Getafe, but without damaging his aircraft. Capitán Morato claimed one I-15 (plus three damaged SBs), capitán Salas damaged three I-15s (plus one SB destroyed) and Julio Salvador claimed another I-15.
Capitán Morato recounted:

“Fiat Squadriglia. Bomber escort. “Junkers” and “Romeos” bombing Rosales (Madrid) clashed with 13 “Curtiss fighters”. I shot down one that caught fire in the air, and then machine gunned three “Sophias” till my ammunition ran out. Saw Anti-aircraft fire.
Total flying time 1 hour 30 minutes.”
Capitán Salas recalled:
“Fiat number 128. 1 hour 30 minutes.
Torrijos to Madrid, escorting five Junkers. Fourteen Fiats attacked 13 “Curtiss fighters” – three combats, one frontal, fired on the second while banking, and on the third from behind. Noticed several hits on the fuselage of one aircraft, but could not follow him due to the presence of others. Remained alone throughout, and eventually saw five “Martin bombers” attacking Getafe and Cuatro Vientos from 5000 metres. I fired at them twice until my guns stopped. On landing, Noreña, Celier and Betancour told me that one of the bombers I had attacked lost a wing and fell to the ground, its crew escaping by parachute.”

In the afternoon on 19 November, four S.81s, 12 Ro.37s and 18 Ju 52/3ms dropped about 40 tons of bombs on Madrid. Escorting nine He 51s and 16 Fiats fought against a large number of ’Ratas’ and ’Chatos’ (reportedly 33 Republican fighters were counted).
One Ju 52/3m was lost although its Spanish crew survived. Seven Soviet fighters were claimed as destroyed. Capitán Ángel Salas fired off practically all his ammunition against one I-16, which was last seen in a dive behind its own lines (credited as a damaged). Tenente Corrado Ricci of the 3a Escuadrilla claimed an I-16. Capitano Nobili and Sergente Maggiore Vittorino Daffara claimed two I-15s each.
The Republicans claimed four aircraft destroyed (three fighters and one Ju 52/3m) with two more damaged Ju 52/3ms for the loss of two fighters. Sargento Fernando Roig Vilalta was shot down and killed in an I-15s as was Kapitan Dimitriy I. Zedanov, who crashed to his death in his heavily damaged I-16 two kilometres short of his airfield.
Zedanov, who was leading a section of I-16s, was probably shot down between Madrid and Barajas by Tenente Ricci.

Aniene delivered 12 more CR.32s to Spain during a voyage from La Spezia that ended on 4 February. With this shipment arrived squadriglia commander Capitano Mario Viola (’Viotti’) and an additional 11 pilots – five Sottotenenti and six Sottufficiali.

With the arrival of these new fighters there were now sufficient aircraft in-theatre to organise the CR.32 stormo into two gruppi of three squadriglie each. These took the form of the already established I Gruppo (formerly Gruppo Caccia di Torrijos) (CO Maggiore Tarcisio Fagnani) and including the reformed:

1a Squadriglia (CO Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti from 15 January)
2a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Nobili)
3a Squadriglia (CO Tenente Corrado Ricci (followed by Capitani Luigi Lodi and Mario Viola)
The newly formed II Gruppo (CO Tenente Colonnello Alberto Canaveri) and including:
4a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Vincenzo Dequal)
5a Squadriglia (CO Capitano Armando François from 19 January)
6a Squadriglia (initially remained in reserve, although it was later commanded by Tenente Antonio Larsimont Pergameni)

During the afternoon on 14 February, the appearance of 40 Soviet fighters on the Jarama front was enough to deter the Spanish crews of six Ju 52/3ms from completing their bombing mission on Arganda to bomb enemy troop concentrations in spite of the tri-motors being escorted by 15 CR.32s and 18 He 51s of the Legion Condor. Capitano Nobili and his squadron mates fired at I-15s and I-16s as they attempted to attack the bombers, and crewmen from the latter reported seeing one of the Republican fighters falling to the ground.

In the evening on 18 February, two I-16s were shot down. Capitano Nobili and Sergente Maggiore Vittorino Daffara shared one between them and teniente Julio Salvador was credited with the second.

During the morning on 20 February, Capitano Nobili shot down an I-15 near Morata del Tajuna, his victim almost certainly being teniente Luis Bercial Rubero, who was the leader of the 3a patrulla from Escuadrilla La Calle.

In April 1937, the Aviazione Legionaria CR.32 units were reorganised and increased in size. I and II Gruppi were disbanded, re-designated and replaced by two Gruppi that each controlled three Squadriglie as before. A third new gruppo the VI, was also formed.
The XVI Gruppo Caccia under the command of Maggiore Giuseppe Casero (’Casetti’) included:

24a Squadriglia (formerly 4a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Bruno Brambilla)
25a Squadriglia (formerly 5a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Armando François)
26a Squadriglia (formerly 3a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Mario Viola)
The unit adopted the name Gruppo Cucaracha, which it inherited from the first Tercio CR.32 squadriglia in Spain. Its insignia was a winged Moroccan cockroach (synonymous with a popular song of the period), which was applied to the fuselage sides of the gruppo’s aircraft.
The XXIII Gruppo Caccia was formed on 22 April under the command of Maggiore Andrea Zotti (’Biondi’) and included:
18a Squadriglia (formerly 2a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Nobili)
19a Squadriglia (formerly 1a Squadriglia, CO Tenente Enrico Degli Incerti)
20a Squadriglia (formerly 6a Squadriglia, CO Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni)
The gruppo was named Asso di Bastoni (ace of clubs) and its CR.32s were adorned with a marking adapted from Neapolitan playing cards showing a weapon used by the squadre d’azione fasciste (fascist action squads).

When the Republican offensive towards Brunete started on 6 July 1937, the defence of the central front was supported by just the two CR.32 squadriglie present in this area at Torrijos-Barcience; the 19a and 20a Squadriglie from XXIII Gruppo, commanded by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, with squadriglia commanders Capitani Enrico Degli Incerti and Antonio Larsimont Pergameni.
Capitano Nobili’s 18a Squadriglia was transferred in from Soria to reinforce these units, thus completing the makeup of the gruppo. The XXIII Gruppo now had 29 CR.32s available, but only 17 of these remained serviceable following a series of actions on 6-7 July.
Maggiore Giuseppe Casero’s XVI Gruppo (24a, 25a and 26a Squadriglie, led by Capitani Bruno Brambilla, Armando François and Mario Viola, respectively, although the latter was recalled to Italy and replaced by Tenente Corrado Ricci on 11 July) arrived at Torrijos-Barcience from Ávila three days later, as did six CR.32s from capitan Morato’s Grupo 2-G-3.

After the end of the battle of Brunete on 26 July, the XXIII Gruppo Caccia was awarded the Medalla Militar Colectiva (Collective Military Medal) by general Franco following its performance during the first few days of the Republican offensive. Two pilots from the unit had lost their lives in combat and three had been wounded, yet the gruppo continued to engage a numerically superior enemy until reinforcements were brought in.

On 28 September, XXIII Gruppo transferred to Almaluèz, near Belchite.

On 12 October, the Republican Air Force intervened heavily to support International battalions and tanks in an attempt to break through the enemy lines at Fuentes del Ebro.
During the day, the VI Gruppo lost a good part of numerical, considering that part of the 31a Squadriglia had previously been detached to Córdoba. Therefore, immediately the same morning, the Comando dell’Aviazione Legionaria ordered the XXIII Gruppo to transfer to Sanjurio (Zaragoza).
At 10.30, 29 CR.32s led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, took off from Almaluèz and arrived over Sanjurio around noon. However, before landing, Maggiore Zotti decided to lead his pilots to explore the area between Villafranca and Fuentes del Ebro. Here they spotted four Polikarpov RZ “Natachas” escorted by nine I-16s “Ratas” (above them) and 15 I-15 “Curtiss” (below them). The Italian fighters attacked the Republican aircraft and at the end of the dogfight, that lasted about fifteen minutes, the Italians claimed seven (eleven according to other sources) fighters destroyed for no losses, although several CR.32s were hit and damaged. Combat was very hard for the Italians because their fighters were weighted by pilots’ personal luggage. Pilots that scored, either individually or jointly, were Maggiore Zotti (1 I-15), Sergente Giuseppe Mottet (20a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Giampiero Del Prete, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO of the 20a Squadriglia), Sergente Francesco Penna, Sottotenente Aldo Felici, Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti (CO of the 19a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Pio Tomaselli (19a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Franco Lucchini (19a Squadriglia), Capitano Nobili (CO of the 18a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Carmello, Sergente Carlo Dentis, Sottotenente Giuseppe Enrico Zuffi, Sergente Federico Tassinari (19a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Alfonso Mattei and Sottotenente Bruno Trevisan (19a Squadriglia). It seems that Lucchini’s, Tassinari’s and Mattei’s claims was a shared between these three pilots.

Capitano Nobili was replaced as CO of the 18a Squadriglia by Capitano Marco Larcher (’Lenzi’) on 3 December 1937.

In the afternoon on 5 January, Maggiore Andrea Zotti led 16 CR.32s from XXIII Gruppo on a surveillance patrol over Teruel. The aircraft intercepted a formation of R-Zs and claimed five shot down. One was credited to the gruppo’s second-in-command, Capitano Nobili.

During the winter of 1937-1938 he was promoted to Maggiore and was assigned to the staff of the XXIII Gruppo. During this time, he continued to use CR.32 NC 29 (3-2) from the 18a Squadriglia as his personal aircraft.

On 16 June 1938, the pilots of the first fighter course held in the Nationalist zone were graduated. The large number of accidents caused by new and inexperienced Fiat pilots in December and January had showed that it was essential to set up a school of this type.
Gallur was chosen as the aerodrome and Maggiore Nobili and teniente Ramón Senra Àlvarez (from Group 2-G-3), were posted there as instructors.
The first fighter course lasted for two months and was attended by 22 pupils. Of these, six were sent to 2-G-3 (José Luis Bernal de Mérida, José M.a Etayo Elizondo, Luis Alcocer Moreno Abellá, Antonio Manrique Garrido, Abundio Cesteros García and Diego Vigueras), eight to 3-G-3 (Heraclio Gautier Larrainzar, Enrique Munaiz de Brea, Fernando Arrechea Belzunce, Carracido, Acuña, Alonso Fariña, P. Téllez Rivas and Epelde), and of the remainder four were posted to fly He 51s, three to the He 45s and one to the Aero 101s.

During the Spanish Civil War, he totally claimed 9 victories.
During his time in Spain, Nobili was held in great esteem by Spanish pilots and commanders alike.

It seems that Nobili stayed in Spain after the end of the Civil War and when the only Fiat CR.42 was sent to Spain in the first weeks of 1940, it went to the Escuela de Caza, then based in Reus airport and commanded by Maggiore Nobili.

On 8 June 1940, Maggiore Guido Nobili became CO of the 157o Gruppo. The three squadriglie commanders were Capitani Mario Frulla (384a Squadriglia), Aldo Li Greci (385a Squadriglia) and Gustavo Garretto (386a Squadriglia).
The Gruppo operated Fiat CR.42s and belonged to the 1o Stormo until 25 July 1940.

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 (MM22128) 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 Teresio Martinoli, Sottotenente Luigi ’Gigi’ Caneppele and Maggiore 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 fighters 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 Terzo Mazzotti (MM21331/‘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.

Colonello Arrigo Tessari left the command of the 53o Stormo on 26 October 1940 when Maggiore Nobili temporarily took command of the unit.

Maggiore Nobili commanded the 53o Stormo temporarily until 25 February 1941.

Tenente Colonnello Nobili took command of the 5o Stormo on 15 May 1942.

On 18 March 1943, he was promoted to Colonnello.

In the evening during the invasion of Sicily on 10 July, the 239a Squadriglia, 5o Stormo, entered action with its newly delivered Re.2002 fighter-bombers for the first time. They attacked and sank the illuminated hospital ship Talamra in Augusta harbour.
Spitfires from 229 Squadron, led by Squadron Leader Graham Cox (LZ820/X-U) were patrolling over shipping in the Syracuse-Cape Passero area when they were directed to go to the stricken vessel’s aid shortly after 19:00, sighting eight radial-engined aircraft, which they identified as MC.200s. In rapid succession, Squadron Leader Cox shot down three – probably including MM7337 flown by Colonnello Nobili, CO of the 5o Stormo, whose aircraft apparently hit the steel cable of a barrage balloon as it fell – Tenente Renato Beverina (MM7353) and Maresciallo Zaccaria Perozzi (MM7361), all of whom were killed. A fourth fighter-bomber was pursued by Flying Officer O. C. H. Stanford-Smith (JK220/X-M), Flying Officer R. H. Small (JK536/X-K) and Flight Sergeant Taylor (LZ808/X-D), which they jointly claimed probably destroyed. This was probably the seriously damaged aircraft flown by Sergente Luigi Banfi, which crash-landed at Reggio di Calabria.
Nobili was decorated with a posthumously Medaglia d’argento al valor militare.

Maggiore Giuseppe Cenni took command of the 5o Stormo after the death of Nobili.

At the time of his death, Nobili was credited with 9 biplane victories.
During his career, he was decorated with two additional Medaglie d’argento al valor militare, one Croce al merito di guerra, one Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna and one Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1936                
  13/11/36   1 I-15 (a) Probably destroyed Fiat CR.32   Madrid area 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
1 19/11/36 afternoon 1 I-15 (b) Dstroyed Fiat CR.32   Madrid area 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
2 19/11/36 afternoon 1 I-15 (b) Dstroyed Fiat CR.32   Madrid area 2a Escuadrilla de Caza del Tercio
  1937                
  18/02/37 evening 1/2 I-16 Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Jarama area 2a Squadriglia
3 20/02/37 morning 1 I-15 (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   near Morata 2a Squadriglia
  12/10/37 10:30- 1/? Enemy fighter Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Villafranca-Fuentes del Ebro 18a Squadriglia
  1938                
6 05/01/38 afternoon 1 R-Z Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Teruel XXIII Gruppo

Biplane victories: 9 and 2 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed.
TOTAL: 9 and 2 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed.
(a) Nationalist forces claimed nine I-15s and 1 SB while losing 1 CR.32 and 1 force-landed. Republican forces claimed 6 CR.42 while losing 2 I-15s (Karp Kovtun and Petr A. Purov) and 1 SB (reportedly to AA fire).
(b) 7 fighters claimed shot down for the loss of 1 Ju 52/3m. The Republicans claimed 4 aircraft destroyed (3 fighters and 1 Ju 52/3m) with 2 more damaged Ju 52/3ms for the loss of 2 fighters.
(c) Probably teniente Luis Bercial Rubero, who was a patrol leader of the 3a patrulla from Escuadrilla La Calle.

Sources:
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
Aces of the Legion Condor – Robert Forsyth, 2011 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-347-8
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
Ali in Spagna - Giuseppe Federico Ghergo and Angelo Emiliani, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Ali nella tragedia - Giulio Lazzati, 1970 Mursia, Milan, ISBN 88-425-2132-9, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Aviatori Italiani - Franco Pagliano, 1964 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Aviobrigada X - Alfredo Lagoluso, 2001 no. 97, 98 and 99 of Storia Militare (October-December 2001), kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Guerra di Spagna e Aviazione Italiana - Ferdinando Pedriali, 1992 USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 5o Stormo - Giuseppe Pesce and Nicola Malizia, 1984 STEM Mucchi, Modena
Il 23o Gruppo Caccia - Nicola Malizia, 1974 Bizzarri, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Le giovani aquile – Antonio Trizzino, 1972 Longanesi Milano, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Spitfires over Sicily - Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia and Frederick Galea, 2000 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-32-2
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 19 May 2017