Biplane fighter aces


Maresciallo Raffaele Novelli

12 December 1915 – 6 December 1941

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.
??/??/41 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (3rd) 1940-43
??/??/38 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare O.M.S.

Raffaele Novelli was born in Udine on 12 December 1915.

He served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, where he served in the XXIII Gruppo and the 26a Squadriglia, XVI Gruppo.

During his time in Spain, he claimed 4 victories with the Fiat CR.32.

On 12 July 1940, the 9o Gruppo C.T. arrived at Tripoli from Comiso with 33 Fiat CR.42s under the command of Maggiore Ernesto Botto. The Gruppo consisted of 73a, 96a and 97a Squadriglie.
The 97a Squadriglia included Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO), Capitano Giuseppe Mauriello, Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio, Sottotenente Riccardo Vaccari, Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro, Maresciallo Vanni Zuliani, Sergente Maggiore Novelli, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Francesco Putzu, Sergente Franco Sarasino, Sergente Alcide Leoni and Sergente Angelo Golino (assigned on 22 July).

At 09:45 on 13 December, Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio and Sergente Maggiore Novelli of the 97a Squadriglia took off for a patrol over the Sollum-Sidi Azeiz area together with eight aircraft from the 96a Squadriglia. The fighters from the 9o Gruppo were attacked from astern by a Hurricane, which succeeded in disengaging before being counter-attacked.
Later, during the same patrol another Hurricane was met in the Capuzzo-Halfaya area and claimed hit by Novelli. The fighters returned at 11:45.

At 15:05, the same day, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni again led a patrol with four CR.42s from the 97a Squadriglia (Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sergente Maggiore Novelli and Sergente Alcide Leoni), eight from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari, Sergente Maggiore Sergio Stauble, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Valle and Sergente Santo Gino) and eight from the 96a Squadriglia to make a ground strafing against a British convoy in the Sollum-Buq-Buq area. While returning one Hurricane was attacked and claimed damaged, apparently by a 73a Squadriglia pilot. They returned to T3 at 17:05 claiming nine armoured vehicles (five in flames and four damaged).

The Stormo was sent back to Italy on Christmas Day 1940 in order to commence its re-equipment with MC.200s.

On 4 April 1941 the 73a Squadriglia (Capitano Mario Pluda (CO), Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, Maresciallo Mario Ruffilli, Sergente Antonio Valle, Sergente Santo Gino, Sergente Rossi, Sergente Mario Guerci, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Gallerani (96a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Novelli (97a Squadriglia)) was transferred to Alture di Pola.

In late afternoon on 10 April, Capitano Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Giulio Reiner, Tenente Emanuele Annoni (96a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Novelli (97a Squadriglia) made an offensive recon mission over the flying-boat station of Slosella (now Pirovac in Croatia), where they spotted some seaplanes, that were strafed. Reiner claimed the destruction of three of them while two more were damaged by the other pilots. Soon after they hit and burned the fuel storage of the station.

Serie I and II MC.202s were delivered to the 9o Gruppo at Gorizia from 30 June 1941 through to early August 1941, with pilots quickly transitioning to the aircraft.

On 24 September, 31 C.202s of the 9o Gruppo departed Gorizia for Comiso, near Ragusa on Sicily. During the unit’s long journey south, its MC.202s made a brief stopover at Rome-Ciampino Sud airport so that they could be reviewed by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini on 29 September. Later that same day, the 9o Gruppo, led by the 4o Stormo CO, Colonnello Eugenio Leotta, reached Comiso. Within 24 hours of their arrival, the MC.202 pilots would enter combat against the fighter force on Malta.

On 30 September, shortly after 11:00, 11 Hurricane IIs from Malta-based 185 Squadron targeted Comiso airfield. Three MC.202s of the 9o Gruppo’s 97a Squadriglia were scrambled to intercept them, the MC.202s being flown by Tenente Luigi Tessari, Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio (MC.202 MM7712/97-2) and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore. Five of the attackers were “Hurribombers”, each armed with six 40-lb bombs and two 25-lb incendiaries, and they made a single pass over the airfield at low level while the six remaining fighters provided top cover. Having expended their bombs the enemy aircraft headed for home, although they were toon chased down by the appreciably faster C.202s. Sottotenente Frigerio shot down 27-year-old Pilot Officer Donald William Lintern (RAF no. 60079), who was seen baling out of Z5265/GL-B just north of Gozo. This was the first claim by the Macchi MC.202.
After returning home and hastily refuelling five of the Hurricanes got airborne once again to escort a Royal Navy Fulmar (flown by Lieutenant (A) Eyres) of the Kalafrana Rescue Flight that was tasked with locating the downed pilot for possible retrieval by one of the flight’s Swordfish floatplanes. This rescue force then encountered more MC.202s from the 97a Squadriglia as they patrolled the area. Although not a single Hurricane was damaged in the brief engagement, the Fulmar was effectively targeted by Tenente Luigi Tessari and Maresciallo Novelli, who claimed it shot down (they claimed it as a fighter). The doomed aircraft ditched and its crew managed to clamber into their dinghy, and they were subsequently rescued by a Swordfish floatplane. No trace of Pilot Officer Linter was ever found.
During the clash with the Fulmar, Tenente Tessari’s MC.202 had been bounced by Flight Lieutenant Charles ‘Porky’ Jeffries (BD702), and he holed it so severely that he claimed the aircraft as a probable kill. Trailing smoke, the Italian fighter managed to land back at Comiso. Jeffries claimed this probable 8 kilometres off Scalambria and reported:

“I, Red 1, was leading a formation escorting one Fulmar to try to locate P/O Lintern. We approached the Sicilian coast at 2,000 feet. When about ten miles off the coast I sighted one floatplane. Black 1, Sgt Jolly, went to investigate. We were engaged by five enemy fighters. I fired several bursts at close range. I then concentrated on one aircraft. He tried every evasive action but my machine was more manoeuvrable and had better performance. I broke off the engagement over the Sicilian coast and returned with the Fulmar. I last saw the enemy aircraft going down at 800 feet with smoke and bits trailing behind.”

At 07:15 on 21 November 1941, five MC.200s of 54o Stormo and ten 9o Gruppo MC.202s strafed Hal Far, presumably attracted by the presence of 242 and 605 Squadron’s Hurricanes based there. Seven Hurricanes from 185 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Pike were scrambled to intercept. They attacked five Macchis initially (probably the MC.200s), five more then jumping the British fighters (probably some of the MC.202s). No firm claims were made by the Hurricane pilots, but it was believed that three of the Italian fighters had been damaged. Sergeant Bill Nurse’s Hurricane was badly hit in return.
The Italians reported fighting twelve Hurricanes and ‘Spitfires’, and claimed two ‘Spitfires’ shot down, one by Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio, Sergente Maggiore Novelli and Sergente Angelo Golino, and one by Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro and Sergente Massimo Salvatore (all of them from the 97a Squadriglia), while two more were claimed as probables. Four were claimed destroyed on the ground plus a Blenheim, damage to the latter being credited to Maresciallo Rinaldo Damiani. Two Macchis returned damaged.

In the afternoon on the same day, 18 MC.202 from the 9o Gruppo were out to strafe Hal Far. On their way, they met four Hurricanes from 185 Squadron, which were engaged in a convoy patrol. The Italians reported meeting twelve Hurricanes and claimed five of these shot down into the sea, one each by Maggiore Antonio Larsimont, Sergente Maggiore Novelli, Maresciallo Rinaldo Damiani, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci and Sergente Maggiore Pasquale Rossi, plus two probables by Tenente Pietro Bonfatti and Tenente Jacopo Frigerio. They then carried on completing their strafe, returning without loss.
One Hurricane was in fact lost, 20-year-old Flight Sergeant Richard Cousens (RAF no. 970365) being killed in Hurricane Z2813 “GL-L”.

On 25 November, the 9o Gruppo (minus the 73a Squadriglia) returned to North Africa.

On 26 November, the MC.202s of the 9o Gruppo made their combat debut in the Gruppo’s second African tour. At 11:00, a formation of 10 MC.202s took off, led by Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni, for a free sweep over the Sidi Rezegh-Gambut area. They were split into two patrols of five aircraft each (one patrol from the 96a Squadriglia and one from the 97a Squadriglia).
After about 25 minutes of flight and at an altitude of about 5,000m, two enemy formations were seen; one composed of 12 Hurricanes at altitude of 3,500m and a second of P-40s (in fact Hurricanes also) at an altitude higher than 5,000m, which escorted the former. Both Macchi patrols attacked the lower formation, breaking it up. The higher formation intervened in the battle, which lasted about 10 minutes.
Capitano Larsimont got on the tail of an enemy aircraft and attacked it (firing 94 rounds) but was immediately set upon by another enemy fighter which hit him from behind. He managed to get away and bring home his damaged fighter. Maresciallo Novelli (97a Squadriglia) fired on some enemy fighters in successive actions and claimed one shot down using a total of 675 rounds. Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro fired on eight enemy aircraft in successive action. He got on the tail of a P-40 and hit it with a long burst. The aircraft came down and crashed into the ground. His MC.202 was shot on fuel so he landed at Tmimi to refuel before returning to base. He had used 275 rounds in the combat. Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio (97a Squadriglia) fired on three enemy fighters over several clashes without being able to notice any visible effects, using 102 rounds. Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore (97a Squadriglia) got on the tail on an enemy aircraft and shot it down after hitting it with a long burst. Then he fired on a second one, shooting this down as well. Totally he used 575 rounds before returning to base with the windshield of his fighter smeared with oil from the oil tank of one of the Hurricanes, he had shot down.
In the end of the combat, the Italian pilots claimed eight enemy fighters destroyed and an additional as probably destroyed using 3000 rounds of ammunition with two MC.202s damaged (Capitano Larsimont and Capitano Ezio Viglione Borghese). Four P-40s and a probable Hurricane were credited to the 96a Squadriglia; Capitano Viglione, Tenente Emanuele Annoni, Tenente Fernando Malvezzi, Maresciallo Manlio Olivetti and Maresciallo Dante Labanti (1 probable Hurricane).
Four enemy fighters were credited to the 97a Squadriglia; Sottotenente
Barcaro (1 P-40), Maresciallo Novelli and Sergente Maggiore Salvatore (2 enemy fighters).
They had been in combat with Hurricanes from 229 and 238 Squadrons. The higher formation seems to have been 229 Squadron, which was carrying out a defensive patrol for the ground forces with 12 Hurricanes over Sidi Rezegh. They had taken off at 11:45 (landing 13:30). They encountered a reportedly 12 enemy fighters, thought to be Bf 109s, without losing any Hurricanes but claiming to have shot down two of the enemies; Pilot Officer J. H. Penny (Hurricane Z5302) and Sergeant Warminger (Z3146). Presumably they thought that they had shot down Capitano Larsimont and Capitano Viglione.
The lower formation seem to have been 238 Squadron (take off 11:45 and landing 13:15), which reported being attacked by 6-7 enemy fighters and suffering losses when 21-years-old Australian Sergeant Robert Arthur Knappett (RAAF no. 400146) (Hurricane Z2355/L) was KIA at 13:15, Flying Officer Kings (G) crash-landed (King removed the overcoat from a dead Italian soldier and then drove an abandoned tank all through the night to reach Tobruk!) while Sergeant Kay (BV170/N) was shot down (Kay returned on foot). Pilot Officer H. G. Currie’s Hurricane (Z5222/Y) was wrecked on landing at Tobruk while Sergeant Fairbairn landed at Tobruk wounded and with his Hurricane (E) badly damaged.
It is possible that the RAF units also claimed two additional aircraft damaged in this combat.

On 6 December, the 9o Gruppo escorted Ju 87 (11:15) to Bir el Gubi together with Bf 109s of l./JG 27. Two MC.202s from the 97a Squadriglia suffered a mid-air collision. Sergente Maggiore Anselmo Andraghetti (MM7745) was able to parachute but Maresciallo Novelli (MM7738) was killed.

At the time of his death, Novelli was credited with 4 biplane victories and a total of 7.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain  
2 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain  
3 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain  
4 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain  
  13/12/40 09:45-11:45 1 Hurricane Damaged CR.42   Capuzzo-Halfaya area 97a Squadriglia
  10/04/41 p.m. 1/4 Seaplane Shared damaged on the ground MC.200   Slosella 97a Squadriglia
  10/04/41 p.m. 1/4 Seaplane Shared damaged on the ground MC.200   Slosella 97a Squadriglia
  30/09/41 p.m. 1/2 Fulmar (a) Shared destroyed MC.202   Malta - Sicily 97a Squadriglia
  21/11/41 07:15- 1/3 ’Spitfire’ (b) Shared destroyed MC.202   Hal Far area 97a Squadriglia
5 21/11/41 p.m. 1 Hurricane (c) Destroyed MC.202   off Malta 97a Squadriglia
6 26/11/41 11:25- 1 Enemy fighter (d) Destroyed MC.202   Sidi Rezegh 97a Squadriglia
7 ??/??/4?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed       97a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 4 destroyed, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 7 and 2 shared destroyed, 1 damaged, 2 shared damaged on the ground.
(a) Fulmar from Malta Kalafrana Rescue Flight shot down.
(b) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 185 Squadron. The 97a Squadriglia claimed 2 ‘Spitfires’ and 2 probables while 2 Macchis were damaged. 185 Squadron claimed 3 damaged Macchis while Sergeant Bill Nurse’s Hurricane was badly hit in return.
(c) Claimed in combat with four Hurricanes from 185 Squadron. 9o Gruppo claimed 5 Hurricanes and 2 probables without losses. 185 Squadron lost 1 Hurricane (Flight Sergeant Cousens KIA) but didn’t claim any opponents.
(d) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 229 and 238 Squadrons, which claimed 2 destroyed enemy fighters (and perhaps 2 more damaged) while losing 4 Hurricanes. 9o Gruppo claimed 8 enemy fighters and 1 probable while suffering 2 damaged MC.202s.

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
Air War over Spain - Jesus Salas Larrazabal, 1974 Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0521-4
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - Giovanni Massimello, 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan
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
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Hurricanes over Malta - Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2001 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-91-8
Macchi C.202/C.205V Units In Combat – Marco Mattioli, 2022 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-4728-5068-3
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1

Last modified 09 August 2022